On Monday, Governor Baker signed into law 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.
“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-Díiaz (D-Boston). “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. Thank you also to Speaker DeLeo, Senate President Spilka, Rep. Honan, Rep. Connolly, Rep. Michlewitz, Rep. Elugardo, Sen. Crighton, and Sen. Comerford for your work ushering through this legislation to keep people safe and provide some financial relief during this crisis.”
"Protecting our renters and homeowners from eviction and foreclosure must always be a priority, especially during this unprecedented pandemic,” said Representative Jon Santiago (D-Boston). “This moratorium will provide critical relief for folks struggling with housing security, helping people remain in their homes and focus on staying healthy."
"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.
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"It’s going to be a game changer," Chang-Díaz said. "I know it's going to take time for the MCAD to fill the staffing shortages that they've been experiencing in recent years, but this is a huge step forward."