Current Evictions – Legal Considerations During COVID-19 In Massachusetts
Low-income households have already been severely affected by the pandemic, and the housing insecurity is only adding to their troubles.
According to the Household Pulse Survey Interactive Tool, approximately one out of five people feel insecure when it comes to housing. They have either missed the recent rental payment or are uncertain about their ability to pay rent in the future.
Massachusetts is one of the hardest-hit states, but they lawmakers here have stepped up to set up policies that relieve the tenants from making rental payments during the pandemic while also haling any foreclosure proceedings for the time being.
After all, it is no secret that living in shelters or other group settings can increase the likelihood that individuals will get infected. The moratoria can help provide housing stability in these difficult times and protect people from a debilitating and often deadly illness in the long term.
The enforcement of the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures amidst the coronavirus pandemic is an important measure to avert the spread of contagious disease. It facilitates people who have contracted the virus, are experiencing the symptoms, or are more susceptible to COVID-19 due to some preexisting medical conditions.
Furthermore, the eviction moratoria allow authorities to impose social distancing directives like isolation, quarantine, etc. It mitigates the risk of the spread of coronavirus, and having accommodation makes it easier for individuals to follow the SOPs and reduce the risk of contracting the COVID-19.
What Is The Moratorium Evictions And Foreclosures Act in Massachusetts?
On April 20, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker, signed and passed the legislation “An Act Providing For A Moratorium On Evictions And Foreclosures During The COVID-19 Emergency“. It went into effect immediately.
The statute pauses the evictions of commercial and residential tenants and the conduct of foreclosures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The act was in place until August 18, 2020, to combat the COVID-19 emergency.
Although the law restricts landlords and mortgagees from taking extreme actions, it doesn’t waive off the burden of paying the rent for the tenants. They are still be obligated to make payments but are granted relief to do it at a future date.
The new act of moratorium evictions and foreclosures address the following aspects:
Moratorium On Evictions
Under this law, landowners are prohibited from carrying out “non-essential eviction” of a residential or commercial tenant. This halts all expulsions except in the case of proven criminal activity at the property.
It is also no longer allowed to evict businesses that operate in one state with less than 150 employees and are defined as “small business premises.” However, in case of the breach of lease contract or termination followed before March 10, 2020, the proprietor may proceed with the eviction.
But the law exempts most of the residential and small enterprise evictions, all in an effort to save Massachusetts from future turmoil.
Limit The Termination And Warning Notices To Residential Tenants
In addition to deferring evictions of residential tenants, the law also puts limitations on the number of notices being sent to them.
In case of a non-essential eviction, the landowners cannot:
- Terminate a residential agreement
- Direct any warning or notification to them to quit, demand, or try to compel so that the tenant evacuate the premises
The property owners should refrain from sending in short notices that, in any way, state the termination of tenancy. The restriction clause doesn’t apply to small corporations.
Restrictions On-Court Actions
This statute also restricts court actions on residential and commercial evictions. Under the non-essential expulsion of any residential or small business tenant, the courts cannot:
- File or accept complaints
- Pass a verdict for a possession
- Permit the implementation for proprietorship
- Negate a tenant’s appeal for extending the accommodation period, or a landowner’s request to extend the case date
- Plan a court session
The officials must postpone all such actions as the enforcement of expulsions that come under the non-essential evictions are prohibited.
Late Dues And Credit Report Limitations
The moratorium also restrains the owners from imposing a late or non-payment surcharge on residential or small business tenants.
Besides, if a tenant provides documentation related to the financial impact of the pandemic within 30 days of non-payment, the landlord cannot file a complaint against the residential or commercial tenant to a consumer reporting agency.
Rent Is Still Due
The statute doesn’t waive off the rental payment obligation from the residential or small business tenant and also doesn’t restrict the landholder from recovering the outstanding rent.
Landlord’s Use Of Last Month’s Rents
Landowners can utilize past months’ rental payments to cover expenses such as utilities, mortgage, and essential upkeep.
However, last month’s rent payment cannot be used to compensate for the missed payment, and also, if the landlord plans to use it, then they should notify the tenant beforehand.
It is prudent to be mindful of the penalties that can be imposed in case of violation of the law.
Prohibits Residential Foreclosures
Under the act, creditors cannot publish or issue foreclosure warnings, send legal notices, file a complaint, or make a sale in a mortgage except if the property is unoccupied.
Creditors are also required to be lenient with the mortgagor by giving them up to 180-day time period for real estate loan repayment if they apply, stating that there was an adverse impact of COVID-19 on their financial condition.
Furthermore, the total payments owed throughout the forbearance period will be added to the loan term and are to be paid by the borrowers.
Mortgage Payments Are Still Owed
The bill doesn’t exempt the mortgagor from the loan repayments or prohibits the lender from its right to recover the outstanding dues. It also doesn’t restrict creditors and mortgagors to enter into agreements regarding the payments subject to forbearance.
Moratorium Evictions And Foreclosures Extended
On July 21, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker, declared the extension in the moratoria on evictions and foreclosures for 60 days till October 17, 2020, to assist locals who are having financial difficulty.
However, the tenants are still encouraged to clear their payments, cooperate with the landlords as much as possible, and help them deal with the additional expenditures.
If you feel you need a lawyer who truly represents you and helps you sort out residential or commercial issues Contact The Law Offices of Richard Mucci to book an appointment today.