Eviction Moratorium in Massachusetts Extended to October 17, 2020
On July 21, 2020, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker extended a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for two months due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and historic unemployment levels in Massachusetts. The moratorium, originally set to expire on August 18, now remains in place until October 17 and puts on pause “non-essential” eviction cases against residential tenants and small businesses in housing court due to COVID-19. This moratorium includes “no-cause” evictions, non-payment of rent evictions and “for cause” evictions. The only exceptions to the moratorium are evictions due to criminal activity or lease violations threatening public safety. It was estimated that over 20,000 eviction cases would have been filed on August 18, 2020 when the original moratorium was set to expire.
In his letter to House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka, Governor Baker wrote he was “confident that this action, coupled with federal assistance, helped to slow the spread of COVID-19 while minimizing the impact to date on vulnerable families and on our housing market. He further wrote that the extension will “provide residents of the commonwealth with continued housing security as businesses cautiously re-open, more people return to work and we collectively move toward a ‘new normal.”’
The moratorium does not mean tenants or homeowners do not have to stop paying rent or mortgages, but rather prevents them from being forcibly removed during the coronavirus pandemic except in certain cases where a tenant has broken the law. The law also prevents landlords from imposing late fees or from alerting a credit agency if the tenant cannot pay because of COVID-19.
The moratorium also puts a pause on residential foreclosures. The law requires lenders to approve a requested forbearance of up to six months if a homeowner is experiencing hardship due to COVID-19. Mortgage lenders and borrowers can also agree to alternative payment plans for the forbearance payments.
While this is good news for tenants, this does not bode well for small landlords without many residential units that rely on these rent payments to make ends meet, especially in areas of the Commonwealth such as the tip of Cape Cod where many landlords are indeed considered small with four or fewer rental units.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Are all evictions banned in Massachusetts?
No. Only “non-essential” evictions are banned.
What is considered a “non-essential eviction”?
- Nonpayment of rent
- Eviction of a homeowner after a foreclosure sale
- No fault and no cause
Are there exceptions to the moratorium on evictions?
Yes, there are two major exceptions. First, criminal activity that impairs the health and safety of other residents, health care workers, emergency personnel, persons lawfully on the property or the general public (“others”). Second, lease violations that may impact the health and safety of others. There are no other exceptions.
What happens if my renter was in default of the lease prior to the pandemic, can I move forward with eviction?
Can I send a Notice to Quit?
No unless its an essential eviction.
Will the Housing Court accept my eviction papers during the moratorium?
If it is a a non-essential eviction, the answer is no.
Can the Sheriff conduct a physical move out from the rental unit?
No. A physical move out by the sheriff is not allowed. However, if you are pursuing an essential eviction, you can seek the assistance of the Sheriff.
Can a Landlord Conduct a Physical Move Out?
No, this is NEVER allowed. Do not change the locks. Do not lock out the tenant. Do not turn off the utilities.
Does this mean my tenant can live rent free?
Renters are obligated to pay rent. However, judgments based upon breached residential leases are rarely paid.
Can the Security Deposition be applied to unpaid rent?
No. Do not do this. There are some exceptions to this, but you should discuss them with your attorney
Can the tenant stay in the apartment even if the lease is up?
If I sent a Notice to Quit before the moratorium do I need to send a new one when the moratorium is lifted?
No. The notices do not need to be reissued.
Can landlords get foreclosure protection because their tenants are not paying rent?
If it is an owner occupied building with four units or less you are entitled to foreclosure protection. The mortgage holder may not:
- Publish notice of a foreclosure sale
- Sell the property
- Enter the property
- Start foreclosure proceedings
- File a complaint related to the foreclosure.
Can landlords get a mortgage forbearance?
If the property is owner occupied with four units or less, the mortgage service or lender must accept requests for forbearance
- Up to 180 days;
- No additional fees or interest may be charged;
- No negative credit reporting
- No balloon payments due at the end of the forbearance
- Any missed payments will be due at the end of the loan term not at the end of the moratorium.