An Act to prevent and respond to bullying of elderly and disabled residents

To the Honorable Chairs of the Joint Committee on Housing, Senator Lydia Edwards and Representative James Arciero and Members of the Joint Committee on Housing, I respectfully submit testimony in favor of S887/H1329

Jerry Halberstadt, Coordinator of the Stop Bullying Coalition

S887/H1329 “An Act to prevent and respond to bullying of elderly and disabled residents”

The challenges

We who live in public and subsidized housing wish to live in harmony with our neighbors. However, in my role as Coordinator of the Stop Bullying Coalition, I am constantly receiving pleas for help that can not be answered with an effective solution and I am reminded of the discord and pain caused by bullying, mobbing, harassment, and hostile environment harassment.

Hostile environment harassment is severe and pervasive unwelcome conduct which interferes with or deprives the victim of their right to use and enjoy their housing. Tenants of public and subsidized housing seek peaceful enjoyment; fairness; respect; and dignity. They need their rights to be protected and to have agency over their home and community. Today, we have no effective protection.

The Office of the Attorney General has affirmed that the landlord and their agents are legally responsible for assuring the rights of tenants including the right of peaceful enjoyment.

Our rights as tenants are protected by law and our leases, but we have no way to enforce these rights.

Landlords, their agents, and tenants are caught up in thrall to numerous regulations, none of which solves the problems created when an individual or group seeks inappropriate control over others.


We need to provide guidance and support to landlords and their agents to help them apply best practices in their administration of housing developments.

For those landlords seeking to provide a secure, safe, and even a joyful home, the legislation S887/H1329 “An Act to Prevent and respond to bullying of elderly and disabled residents” proposed by Senator Joan B. Lovely and Representative Kevin G. Honan, has the potential to guide best practices and the means to achieve those goals. Michael Kane and all of us who served on the Commission on Bullying (the commission to study ways to prevent bullying of tenants in public and subsidized multi-family) in 2017 developed the framework for this important bill. I urge you to advance this legislation which has the potential for improving the management of housing and creating conditions for healthy community life.

As Coordinator of the Stop Bullying Coalition, I was privileged to work with Senator Joan B. Lovely; Representative Kevin G. Honan; Representative Brad Hill; Representative Tom Walsh; Susan Bonner, Legislative Director of the Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants; Mary Margaret Moore, Executive Director of the Center for Independent Living of the North Shore and Cape Ann; and Michael Kane of the Mass Union of HUD Tenants to help establish the Commission on Bullying.

I was honored to serve as the sole tenant commissioner in 2017 and led extensive research on bullying in housing. I saw that mobbing, where the landlord used and/or supported bullying, needs to be addressed to protect the rights of tenants. Such mobbing is nearly identical to hostile environment harassment. These observations including input from many tenants, including Pamela Goodwin, led me to prepare a minority report addressing mobbing as a major threat to the rights of tenants.

This research shall be used to identify and develop best practices; raise public awareness; and propose public policy recommendations and legislation necessary to protect tenants from harm and preserve their rights.—Resolves of 2016, Chapter 2

The minority report was suppressed because the chair of the commission said, “We don’t want you to advocate for tenants.”

Today, I continue to advocate for tenants. I strongly support S887/H1329 and also seek the oversight and accountability needed to assure tenants’ rights. Currently before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, H3868 [is] an Act to create the office of the tenant advocate in the Office of the Attorney General. The tenant advocate will provide accountability and oversight essential to implementing the benefits promised by S887/H1329.



Harper, Janice, PhD, “Bullying and Mobbing in Group Settings.”

“Office of the Attorney General Advisory: The failure of management and the landlord to assure peaceful enjoyment for all tenants is unlawful, according to the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices Under the Fair Housing Act, Final Rule published in the Federal Register on September 14, 2016, CFR Citation: 24 CFR 100; “A Rule by the Housing and Urban Development Department” 

To submit written testimony, please email it to 

Senator Lydia Edwards<>
Representative James Arciero<>

Please copy your testimony to

Senator Joan B. Lovely: "The Office of Sen. Joan B. Lovely" <>
Representative Kevin G. Honan: Kevin G Honan <>
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