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Massachusetts Places Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During COVID-19 Pandemic

On April 20, 2020, Governor Baker signed into law “An Act Providing For a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During the COVID-19 Emergency.” The law prohibits landlords from evicting residential tenants, or providing a notice of said intent. Courts having jurisdiction over such matters are prohibited from taking certain actions for evictions of residential or small business tenants, such as accepting certain filings, entering judgments or other activities. Late fees cannot be assessed by landlords if the tenant can show that they missed payment due to COVID-19 by submitting notice and documentation to the landlord within 30 days. The landlord may access funds already paid in advance, but may not deduct from a security deposit. Renters will still be obligated to pay rent following the end of the pandemic. The executive office of housing and economic development has been provided the authority to issue emergency regulations as necessary.

Those evictions prohibited under the law are those considered “non-essential evictions.” Non-essential evictions are those for non-payment of rent, resulting from foreclosure, for no fault or no cause, or for a cause that does not involve allegations of criminal activity/lease violations impacting the health or safety of other individuals. Non-essential evictions do not include small business evictions due to a lease expiration/default that occurred before the declaration of the COVID-19 emergency.

Lenders will be prohibited from foreclosing on a residential property unless it has already been vacated/abandoned and shall grant a forbearance to the borrower up to 180 days when the borrower has affirmed that they have experienced financial impact from COVID-19. The lender also cannot issue notice of a foreclosure sale, exercise a sale or a right of entry, or file a complaint to determine the military status of a borrower. For loans covered by the forbearance, fees, penalties, and interest cannot be calculated during the time of non-payment, beyond those that would have otherwise been assessed, and the lender cannot furnish negative information to the consumer reporting agencies. Any skipped payments shall be added to the end of the term of the loan unless otherwise agreed to by both parties.

Finally, the Act permits applicants for reverse mortgages to receive counseling via video conference or telephone instead of in person in order to satisfy requirements under MGL 167E section 7A.

These protections shall be in place for 120 days after the effective date of the law or 45 days after the COVID-19 emergency declaration has been lifted, whichever is sooner. In the event the emergency declaration has not been lifted after the 120 period is over, the Governor has the ability to postpone the expiration in increments not to exceed 90 days, assuming he emergency declaration is still in effect.

Read the full act here.