Marshal House, Inc. v. Rent Control Bd. of Brookline

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Citation358 Mass. 686,266 N.E.2d 876
PartiesMARSHAL HOUSE, INC. v. RENT CONTROL BOARD OF BROOKLINE et al. (and three companion cases 1 ).
Decision Date10 February 1971

James D. St. Clair, Boston (Stephen H. Oleskey, Boston, with him), for Marshal House, Inc., and others.

Roger S. Davis, Framingham, for William W. Goldman and others.

Sarah M. Raney, Boston (John L. Mason, Jr., Brighton, with her), for Esther M. Carroll and another.

John M. Reed, Boston (Phillip Cowin, Town Counsel of Brookline, and Robert J. Muldoon, Jr. Somerville, with him), for Rent Control Board of Brookline and others.

Philip M. Cronin, City Sol., for the Rent Control Administrator of Cambridge and others.

John C. Cratsley, Cambridge, for Mary L. McCloud.

Robert J. Condlin, Deputy Asst. Atty. Gen., for the Atty. Gen.

Sanford Konstadt, Boston, for James Bush.

Kenneth A. Korb, Rudolph Kass, and Carl E. Axelrod, Boston, for Brookline Landowners Association, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.

Herbert P. Gleason, Corp. Counsel, and John M. Hyson, Asst. Corp. Counsel, for the City of Boston, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.

Michael E. Faden, Boston, for Massachusetts Tenants Organizing Committee and others, amici curiae, submitted a brief.


REARDON, Justice.

These four cases consolidated for appeal bring to us questions arising out of two recently enacted Massachusetts rent control statutes. The constitutionality of these statutes is under attack in three principal suits seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. In all three the existence of an actual controversy is admitted by the principal parties.

Marshal House, Inc. (Marshal House) seeks a binding determination against the town of Brookline, its board of selectmen, and its rent control board that St.1970, c. 842, is unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs in the suit of Anna L. Aiello and another against the city of Cambridge, its mayor, its city counsel, its city manager, and its interim rent control administrator also seek a binding declaration that St.1970, c. 842, is unconstitutional.

The suit of William W. Goldman and others against the town of Brookline, its board of selectmen, and its rent control board challenges the constitutionality of St.1970, c. 843, the special rent control enabling act applicable to Brookline, and a by-law adopted by the town thereunder.

A fourth suit, brought by Esther M. Carroll and another against the city of Cambridge, its mayor, its rent control administrator, and Henry J. O'Brien, a Cambridge landlord, also seeks declaratory relief and attacks certain actions of the rent control administrator for Cambridge, notably an order promulgated on October 28, 1970.

All of these suits have been reserved and reported without decision by two judges of the Superior Court upon the pleadings, exhibits and statements of agreed facts.

The constitutional issues which the three principal suits present come to us on the following facts. The Legislature enacted c. 842 on or about August 24, 1970, and the Governor approved it on August 31, 1970. After a declaration of emergency, § 2 provides that the act is to be applicable 'in any city and in any town with a population of fifty thousand or over, on the thirtieth day following acceptance of its provisions.'

The provisions of the act were accepted by the city of Cambridge on September 17, 1970, and by the own of Brookline on September 29, 1970. On October 16, 1970, the day before it was to take effect in Cambridge, the plaintiff Anna L. Aiello and another, Cambridge landlords affected by the act, filed their bill. On October 28, 1970, the day before the act was to tke effect in Brookline, Marshal House, a Brookline property owner affected by the act, filed a similar bill.

On or about August 24, 1970, the Legislature enacted c. 843, designated as 'An Act to provide for the establishment and administration of rent regulation and the control of evictions in housing accommodations in the town of Brookline.' The Governor approved this act on August 31, 1970. On September 29, 1970, the town of Brookline passed a local rent control by-law, in accordance with powers granted to it under c. 843, applicable exclusively to owner-occupied two and three family dwellings in the town. This by-law, art. XXX of the Brookline by-laws, was approved by the Attorney General on October 8, 1970, and after publication it became effective on October 21, 1970. Two weeks thereafter the plaintiff William W. Goldman and six other occupying owners of two or three family houses in Brookline affected by art. XXX filed their bill asking that c. 843 and art. XXX passed pursuant thereto be declared unconstitutional.

We omit as unnecessary a more detailed description of the proceedings which have taken place to date. The case have aroused wide interest, as evidenced by the number of parties who were permitted to intervene and the several amicus briefs which have been submitted to us.

We will consider together the three principal cases, which present parallel issues. The numerous questions they raise can be roughly broken down into procedural objections, which do not bear on the merits of the cases; objections aimed at the various classifications, restrictions and exemptions contained in the coverage provisions of c. 842 and in many instances not present in c. 843; and objections aimed at the mechanism of rent control provided in both statutes and in art. XXX. The issues will be dealt with in that order, with headings to indicate what is the particular feature of the acts under attack. Constitutional provisions relied on by the plaintiffs are in every case the guaranty of due process of law and equal protection of the laws contained in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The Carroll case, being susceptible to relatively summary disposition, will be dealt with separately at the end.


Jurisdiction. It is contended first by the intervener James Bush in the Marshal House case that the Superior Court did not have jurisdiction under G.L. c. 231A, § 1, to entertain the two suits for declaratory relief in which c. 842 is challenged. 2 The argument is based on § 10(a) of c. 842, granting to the District Court exclusive original jurisdiction of complaints filed by any person 'aggrieved by any action, regulation or order of the board or the administrator. These are not such cases, however. The present proceedings challenge the validity of the entire statute on its face, not an isolated order under a valid enabling act. 3 See Mansfield Beauty Academy, Inc. v. Board of Registration of Hairdressers, 326 Mass. 624, 625--626, 96 N.E.2d 145. A review of § 10(a) indicates that it cannot be made applicable to such a situation as this. The original exclusive jurisdiction of which it speaks is to lie in the District Court 'within the territorial jurisdiction of which is located the controlled rental unit affected by such action, regulation or order.' This provision is meaningless in the present context.

As noted above, the principal parties in the Marshal House and Aiello cases admit the existence of an actual controversy. The pleadings demonstrate a 'real dispute caused by the assertion by one party of a legal * * * right in which he has a definite interest and the denial of such assertion by the other party, where the circumstances * * * indicate that, unless a determination is had, subsequent litigation as to the identical subject matter will ensue.' Hogan v. Hogan, 320 Mass. 658, 662, 70 N.E.2d 821; School Comm. of Cambridge v. Superintendent of Schs. of Cambridge, 320 Mass. 516, 518, 70 N.E.2d 298. It appears to us that these cases present constitutional questions of urgency and importance eminently suited for decision by declaratory relief. Levitt v. Maynard, 104 N.H. 243, 244, 182 A.2d 897.

Class action. A second objection to the three principal cases, each of which was brought as a class action on behalf of all landlords affected by local adoption of the statutes challenged, is that they are not properly maintainable as class actions. It is not argued, however, that the plaintiffs do not adequately represent the interests of their class or that this group lacks the necessary element of 'common relationship to a definite wrong' for joinder as a class. The bills allege in essence a 'joint prejudice to all the class whom the plaintiffs seek to represent.' Spear v. H. V. Greene Co., 246 Mass. 259, 266, 140 N.E. 795, 797. The objection raised rather is that tenants affected by cc. 842 and 843 have a right to be notified and heard in these proceedings, since both statutes were passed for their benefit, and that the named defendants do not adequately represent these interests. No authority is cited, however, for the assertion that those who challenge the constitutionality of a statute must join as defendants in addition to, or instead of, the board or agency charged with administering the statute the class for whose benefit it was passed, even assuming that such a class could be identified. This proposition seems to us unsound. 4


Optional luxury housing exemption. Statute 1970, c. 842, § 3(b)(7), provides that a municipality accepting the act 'may exempt those rental units for which the rent charges * * * (exceed) limits specified by said municipality; provided that in no event shall more than twenty-five per cent of the total rental units in said municipality be exempted under this subsection.' This optional exemption has come under two divergent attacks, both stemming from the latitude which the provision allows since it contains no specific guidelines and no requirement that there be any exemption at all in a given locality. On the one hand it is contended by the plaintiffs in the three principal cases that under the provision...

To continue reading

Request your trial
64 cases
  • Haverhill Manor, Inc. v. Commissioner of Public Welfare
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • 4 Junio 1975
    ...Mitchell v. W. T. Grant Co., 416 U.S. 600, 611, 94 S.Ct. 1895, 40 L.Ed.2d 406 (1974). See Marshal House, Inc. v. Rent Control Bd. of Brookline, 358 Mass. 686, 706--707, n. 12, 266 N.E.2d 876 (1971). The statute accords Haverhill Manor the full panoply of due process rights to review of the ......
  • Birkenfeld v. City of Berkeley
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • 16 Junio 1976
    ...the probability that landlords would have records concerning rents on that date readily available. [550 P.2d 1028] Control Board (1971) 358 Mass. 686, 701, 266 N.E.2d 876.) The charter amendment provides that the rollback of rents to base levels is to take effect 90 days after election of t......
  • Birkenfeld v. City of Berkeley
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • 27 Junio 1975
    ...the rule; Russell v. Treasurer & Receiver General (1954) 331 Mass. 501, 120 N.E.2d 388; Marshal House, Inc. v. Rent Control Board of Brookline (1971) 358 Mass. 686, 266 N.E.2d 876; Jamouneau v. Harner (1954) 16 N.J. 500, 109 A.2d 640; Brookchester, Inc. Section 1 v. Ligham (1955) 17 N.J. 46......
  • Zayre Corp. v. Attorney General
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • 21 Abril 1977
    ...401, 412--413, 280 N.E.2d 406 (1972), unjustified by any conceivable set of facts or findings, Marshal House, Inc. v. Rent Control Bd. of Brookline, 358 Mass. 686, 266 N.E.2d 876 (1971), or unless the statute 'trammels fundamental personal rights or is drawn upon inherently suspect distinct......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Price of Diversity: Rent Control and Desegregation of Urban Areas.
    • United States
    • Suffolk University Law Review Vol. 55 No. 1, January 2022
    • 1 Enero 2022
    ...505, 507-08 (Mass. 1974) (holding rent control ordinance did not violate Contracts Clause); Marshal House, Inc. v. Rent Control Bd., 266 N.E.2d 876, 886, 889 (Mass. 1971) (holding Massachusetts rent control statute legitimate use of state police (109.) See Massachusetts Rent Control Prohibi......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT