T far more forgiving than DCR on rents

MBTA gives 56 tenants a break; DCR only 3 so far

THE STATE’S TWO largest landowners – the MBTA and the Department of Conservation and Recreation – are both forgiving rent of some of their tenants during the coronavirus pandemic, but the T has been far more generous than DCR.

The MBTA so far has forgiven a total of $1.1 million in rent for 56 tenants, mostly merchants operating the concession stands in the stations. Whereas the T was proactive in granting rent relief to tenants, DCR was reactive. DCR offered to consider rent relief for tenants who were forced to shut down during the first surge in March, April, and May. Of 10 requests for rent relief, three were granted, two denied, and five are still under consideration. A total of $138,300 in rent relief was granted.

The group of T small business tenants that normally pays a flat monthly rent was released from paying all rent from April through December of this year.  But starting in January 2021, their rent will began to increase by one-third per month until their regular monthly rent is fully reinstated in March 2021.

T tenants that are franchises pay rent using a combination of base rent plus a percentage of sales.  The rent for this group was initially reduced, but not completely — they still are required to pay a portion of their rent (7 percent of gross sales) for a number of months.  The rent then progressively increases, and in March 2021, these tenants will resume paying their full rent.

The decision of the T to provide rent relief to its tenants was made administratively and not by a vote of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board.

DCR records indicate the agency has moved slowly on granting rent relief. One tenant, for example — the city of Somerville — had to write to DCR three times over a period of three months before it got a decision.

Of the $138,300 in rent relief granted by DCR, $128,750 went to Boston Duck Tours, which uses a DCR ramp in Cambridge to access the Charles River; $5,665 to Somerville, which operates the Blessing of the Bay Boathouse owned by DCR; and $4,900 to the Thoreau Society, which operates the Shop at Walden Pond on DCR property in Concord.

The annual rent of Boston Duck Tours this year would ordinarily have been $515,200; for the Somerville boathouse, $34,000; and for the Thoreau Society, $19,600.

DCR refused to grant any rent relief to LAZ Parking, which operates parking lots on DCR property located directly across the way from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.  The reason given was that the lot remained open during the emergency months.

LAZ has asked DCR for reconsideration, saying its business was “significantly impacted” by the governor’s stay-at-home order during the first surge.  DCR has asked for documentation from LAZ, whose regular annual rent this year is $1.2 million.

DCR also refused to grant any rent relief to Ski Butternut in Great Barrington, saying their skiing season was “minimally affected.”

The five small businesses still awaiting a decision by DCR are Paddle Boston, Pushcart Caterers, Perry’s Last Stand, Guest Services, and Lea’s Boat Rental.

“This season looks to be a disaster,” David Henchy of Lea’s Boat Rental wrote to DCR lawyer David Farrag back in April.   “We would like to ask for an accommodation from you if possible.  We are not asking for a reduction, just a deferment.  Please assist us in this matter.”