On Monday, April 20th, Beacon Hill established a full moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, providing some of the strongest protections in the nation for renters, homeowners, and small business owners who have been harmed by the COVID-19 crisis. The legislation, which prohibits all non-essential evictions and foreclosures and provides mortgage forbearance and additional tenant protections, was passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives and State Senate Friday afternoon and signed by Governor Baker on Monday.
“Ensuring people have safe, reliable housing throughout this crisis is one of the most important things we can do to flatten the curve and save lives right now,” said Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston). “This bill will help keep renters, small businesses, and homeowners alike safe and healthy during this crisis. A huge thank you to the dedicated coalition of advocates, including CityLife/Vida Urbana, Massachusetts Communities Action Network, the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, and many others, who fought for such a strong, comprehensive bill. This was also the result of a lot of hard work from many throughout the Legislature, especially Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Karen Spilka, Rep. Kevin Honan, Rep. Mike Connolly, Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, Rep. Nika Elugardo, Rep. Liz Malia, Sen. Brendan Crighton, and Sen. Jo Comerford.”
“An Act Providing for a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During the COVID-19 Emergency launches Massachusetts to the forefront of COVID-19 housing justice response,” said Representative Nika Elugardo (D-Boston). “I am so proud of my House and Senate colleagues and leadership for fighting on behalf of both residential and commercial tenants, as well as homeowners, to help ensure no one will be evicted or foreclosed upon as a result of this crisis. While this bill goes far, protecting against negative credit reporting and providing forbearance for COVID-impacted mortgages, we have so much more to do to help everyone stay in their homes after the crisis transitions. This bill and the advocacy surrounding it form a foundation for the next bold steps required by the Massachusetts Legislature to ensure housing justice for all residents. Our delegation is committed to continuing the fight for housing justice for all. Thank you to the advocates in our district and across the state who will continue the struggle with us.”
“These strengthened tenant and small landlord protections were a necessary buffer in the middle of a public health emergency and unprecedented economic crisis,” said Representative Liz Malia (D-Boston). “Thanks to our community partners; legislative leaders, especially Chair Honan, Rep. Connolly; and colleagues in the Administration for their work on this. It is one small step of many that we will take together to help keep people safe and sheltered during the course of this disastrous disease.”
“Community groups led by City Life and other community, housing, and union groups did a major organizing effort to help move the Legislature to pass the Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium bill,” said Lew Finfer, Co-Director of Massachusetts Communities Action Network (MCAN). “We thank the Legislature for stepping up on this. It will give people at least 4 months protection from eviction and foreclosure and also protects small businesses from foreclosure. Next step is another bill on helping tenants with rent subsidies so they can afford their rents after the moratorium ends.”
Since Governor Baker declared a State of Emergency on March 10, over 600 eviction cases have been filed in Massachusetts housing courts. This law will block eviction proceedings at every stage of the process, including preventing those cases from proceeding and barring future filings. The moratorium prohibits landlords from sending tenants a Notice to Quit, prevents courts from hearing eviction cases or entering judgements, and prevents the enforcement of any judgements by sheriffs or constables. Small business owners are included in those protected from non-essential evictions.
The law also provides additional protections for tenants and homeowners. It prevents landlords from issuing late fees to tenants and negative reports to credit agencies if rent is not paid on time, provided that the missed payment stemmed from a COVID-19-related financial hardship and the tenant notifies the landlord of such within 30 days. For homeowners, mortgage lenders must provide mortgage forbearance for up to 180 days if they submit a request demonstrating financial hardship as result of COVID-19.
The moratorium does not apply to evictions involving allegations of criminal activity or in situations where a tenant has violated the lease in a way that is harmful to public health or public safety. It also does not constitute a rent or mortgage freeze.
As enacted, the moratorium will last for 120 days, or 45 days past the end of the State of Emergency, whichever comes first.