When Alpha Management, a Boston real estate firm, closed a $23.4 million deal for four properties in Medford and Malden comprising more than 250 units, dozens of tenants vowed to fight sudden rent increases demanded by the new owner, Anwar Faisal.
Now more than three months later, the residents' resolve is being tested in court, as Alpha is pursuing about 30 evictions, with legal action pending in roughly 17 other cases that haven't yet been filed in Malden District Court, according to the landlord's attorney, Joshua Krefetz, and court documents.
The most recent batch of eviction filings were made Monday against 11 tenants, court records show. Next Thursday, attorneys for both parties are expected to be back in court, with some trials already scheduled into September and October. If settlements can't be reached, both sides are girding for a lengthy battle.
An eviction, known in the court system as a summary process, requires landlords to first serve tenants with a 30-day notice of eviction. Then, after the monthlong notice period, attorneys may file the case in court, which triggers a hearing before a judge.
Until the judge makes a rulling, Krefetz and Alpha have the option to dismiss or withdraw their complaints against tenants who agree to negotiate.The scene in court Thursday was tense, as members of the Tenants Union, clad in bright yellow shirts, demonstrated outside the Summer Street courthouse before packing the gallery of a third-floor court room. District Court Judge Antoinette Leoney heard half a dozen cases related to Alpha Management. Most were continued or dismissed, with a only one finding against a tenant for non-payment of rent in an old case that predated Alpha's takeover, Krefetz said.
"We're here because tenants at will received a 30-day notice to move out, combined with an offer of new tenancy and new rent," Krefetz said. "Some accepted, some moved out, and some did neither."
At the hearings Thursday, a half-dozen cases were either dismissed, continued, or settled out of court. Krefetz said he had planned to bring more cases before a judge, but some were resolved before the hearings.
Lauren Song, an attorney from Greater Boston Legal Services who has been advising the Medford/Malden Tenants United and individually representing some of the residents, has urged the residents to stay together and negotiate with Alpha.
"We want to see if we can engage in some communications to see if we can resolve some of these litigations collectively," Song said Monday. "It's up to Mr. Faisal."
Matt Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.