The Massachusetts House of Representatives and State Senate on Friday passed legislation that will provide a critical safety net for renters, homeowners, and small businesses grappling with the economic fallout of the coronavirus public health emergency.
The legislation prohibits all non-essential evictions and foreclosures and provides mortgage borrowers with forbearance options and protects tenants from late fees as well as other protections.
“Staying home is an essential component to ending this pandemic, and the Massachusetts State Senate is committed to making sure that our residents will be allowed to stay in their homes for the duration of this public health crisis,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “We are also protecting our small businesses and non-profits, which are particularly vulnerable during this pandemic. I would like to thank Speaker DeLeo and the House for their commitment to this issue, and particularly thank Senators Crighton and Rodrigues for working so hard to get this critical legislation across the finish line.”
“Our first priority is protecting those who are most vulnerable, and many homeowners and renters need relief now from the economic strains building as a result of this public health emergency,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D – Winthrop). “We acted to safeguard tenants and homeowners from economic insecurity during and for a period after the state of emergency ends. I am grateful to Senate President Spilka for her partnership on these issues, and I thank Chairs Honan and Michlewitz for their work with members and stakeholders in moving this bill forward.”
“As this public health crisis continues to unfold, we must do everything we can to address the urgent needs of our Commonwealth and ensure families can remain safe in their homes,” said Senator Michael Rodrigues, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means (D – Westport). “Thanks to the leadership of Senate President Spilka, the collaborative efforts of Senator Crighton, and the partnership of Speaker DeLeo, Chair Michlewitz and Representative Honan, the acceptance of this conference committee report demonstrates our commitment to protect renters, homeowners, and small businesses experiencing financial hardship during this uncertain time.”
"This legislation will offer much-needed assistance to thousands of the Commonwealth’s renters, homeowners, and small businesses," said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “During these difficult times, we need to be cognizant of our most vulnerable populations and help ensure that people will not lose their homes and businesses due to the effects of COVID-19. I want to thank Chairman Honan, Senator Crighton, and Senator Rodrigues for their partnership in getting this legislation passed quickly.”
“During these uncertain and extremely difficult times, no one should have to worry about losing their home,” said Senator Brendan Crighton, Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing (D- Lynn). “Thank you to Senate President Spilka, Chairman Rodrigues, my fellow legislators and the many stakeholders who worked to pass this crucial legislation that will protect renters and homeowners alike during this crisis.”
“This is one of the most significant pieces of legislation we will pass during this state of emergency,” said Representative Kevin G. Honan, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing (D-Boston). “It is important to remember that this is more than just a housing justice issue, it is a public health issue. In a time where our collective health and safety depends on the ability of each and every one of us to shelter in place, the need for housing stability has never been greater.”
To address the COVID-19 public health crisis and its adverse impacts on renters, homeowners and small businesses, the bill includes the following components:
• A moratorium on all stages of the eviction and foreclosure processes for 120 days from the enactment of the legislation or 45 days after the State of Emergency has been lifted, whichever period of time is shorter.
• Prohibits all non-essential evictions for residential properties and small businesses.
• Prohibits residential landlords from terminating tenancy and sending a notice to quit.
• Halts landlords from issuing late fees and reports to credit agencies for nonpayment of rent, provided that a tenant offers notice and documentation to the landlord within 30 days of the missed rent payment that the non-payment was related to a financial impact from COVID-19.
• Allows for video or telephone conferencing during the State of Emergency for reverse mortgage loans in lieu of in-person counseling until the State of Emergency order is lifted.
• Evictions may proceed during the moratorium for actions that involve allegations of criminal activity or lease violations that are detrimental to public health or public safety.
• Requires mortgage lenders to grant a forbearance of up to 180-days on required mortgage payments if homeowner submits request demonstrating financial hardship as result of COVID-19.
• Allows landlords to use a tenant’s last month rent for expenses like mortgages payments and property maintenance, while protecting tenant rights regarding rent paid in advance.
The bill, which is the latest action by the Legislature to address the COVID-19 public health crisis and its effects on Massachusetts, now heads to the Governor.
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