Eviction/Foreclosure Moratorium

Conferees representing the House and Senate have agreed on the terms of an eviction and foreclosure moratorium. The full House has already accepted the conference report. The conference report does still need final approval by the Senate (which is expected tomorrow) and by the Governor. The full text of the bill can be reviewed here.

Update: Implementing Regulations now appear at this link, including forms for tenants and landlords.

Term of the moratorium

  • Takes effect immediately upon passage.
  • Ends the sooner of
    • 120 days from passage or
    • 45 days after the lifting of the COVID-19 emergency.
  • May be extended by the governor in increments of not more than 90 days, but not further than 45 days after lifting of the emergency.

Features as to evictions

  • Broadly defines the concept of “non-essential evictions” to include evictions
    • for non-payment of rent;
    • resulting from a foreclosure;
    • for no fault or no cause; or
    • for cause that does not involve or include allegations of activity that may impact the health or safety of other residents or others.
  • Imposes a moratorium on court filings or court action on non-essential evictions and tolls all pending deadlines for actions required by parties in non-essential eviction cases.
  • Applies moratorium to both small business or residential evictions, defining small business as in-state privately held companies with less than 150 employees.
  • Prohibits sheriffs and others from enforcing execution of eviction orders.
  • For residential tenants, prohibits landlords even from sending notices requesting that a tenant vacate a premise.
  • Does not relieve a tenant of the obligation to pay the rent due — it just temporarily prevents enforcement of the right to collect past due rent.
  • Allows a landlord to apply a deposit of last month’s rent to cover expenses if tenant is not paying rent. This was the law already, but the bill reconfirms it.
  • Prohibits penalties or negative credit reporting if the tenant provides notice and documentation to the landlord that the non-payment of rent was due to a financial impact from COVID-19.

Features as to foreclosures

  • Applies only to owner-occupied residential properties with 4 or fewer units.
  • Prohibits mortgagees from taking steps to foreclose.
  • Requires forbearance (the restructuring of mortgage obligations to defer payment)
    • for not more than 180 days without penalty;
    • if the mortgagor submits a request to the mortgagor’s servicer affirming that the mortgagor has experienced a financial impact from COVID-19;
    • deferred payments are to be added to the end of the term of the mortgage.
  • Prohibits negative credit reporting for payments subject to forbearance.

Please note, comments below dated before April 15 were in response to any earlier version of the bill. Thank you to all who commented. Many of your comments have been reflected in the final version above.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

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25 Comments

  1. This is a great first step. No penalties for late payment will give some breathing room for those unable to make rent. The additional federal unemployment money could help close the gap, but if you lost your job there’s a chance you’re still in trouble after the freeze ends. I wonder if landlords would rather cut a lease early if you are unable to pay, or hold onto you since the longer this continues, the fewer tenants with jobs there will be to take your place. Good work, curious to see what’s next that will help those who will lose their job permanently.

  2. Hello,
    Thank you for the information, I know families could use initial information support immediately. This month will be tricky am figuring out my situation presently.

  3. I’m concerned about when the moratorium ends. If I’m reading this correctly, then a landlord can evict someone the day after the emergency ends or 90 days after the passage of the bill (which ever comes first)….is that right? It might take people much longer than that to get back on their feet. Can the landlord require all back payments the day after the emergency is lifted? What good does that do people who have lost their jobs? It’s going to take them months to get back on their feet after this. I would extend the moratorium to at least three months after the lifting of the emergency to allow people time to get back on their feet.

  4. Thanks for your leadership on this, Senator Brownsberger! The main question I have is whether another bill will be forthcoming to address issues for housing insecure families? Those who are in EA shelter, seeking EA or non-EA shelter, or who are currently in a situation that is untenable due to covid-19 concerns (such as being doubled up, couch surfing, etc). That is a group that is at very high risk of virus exposure and loss of housing during this crisis. If not, I would strongly recommend including specific protections for them in this bill. Thank you!

  5. I’m concerned that people will not be able to repay the rent they are able to forgo during the crisis. Asking for three or more months rent once the situation returns to some kind of normalcy, while also having to begin paying monthly rent again, is a steep curve for most of us.

    My friends in the movement for housing for all also have these concerns, with which I agree:

    “The current Senate bill fails to address the public health crisis as it would permit dramatically more evictions than the trial court’s standing order. While the bill is effective in halting foreclosures, it fails to effectively halt evictions. In order to address the urgent public health crisis and accomplish the social distancing necessary to slow the spread of the virus and prevent loss of life, evictions must be paused from start to finish – from the notice to quit to the levy on execution.
    1. The definition of ‘non-essential evictions’ would permit many more evictions to proceed than under the trial court’s standing order, including evictions for no fault.
    2. There is no explicit ban on the filing of new eviction cases. When a new case is filed, notices with court dates are automatically sent to tenants, which will continue to confuse and frighten people and cause them to move out
    3. There is no ban on Notices to Quit or termination of tenancy letters. Again, this will cause people to move out.
    4. There is no ban on sheriffs and movers carrying out levies of execution, meaning that landlords can NOW throw tenants on the street for cases that happened before the emergency.
    5. The duration of the moratorium may mean that the bill expires before the state of emergency is lifted, likely leading to confusion among landlords and tenants alike.”

  6. The issue for renters is that in most cases they will not be able to make up the missed rent payments. If people are out of work for two months they will not pay rent for two months. When they finally get back to work they will struggle to pay the current month’s rent for many months. Nothing prevents the landlord from issuing a notice to quit after the emergency is lifted. This situation will set up a real tension between landlords and tenants that the bill does not address.

    1. The only way to completely address the needs of both tenants and landlords is to offer financial relief from the government. We are doing this in a very major way in the form of big increases in unemployment insurance, which should help many tenants pay their bills. For others, this bill freezes the situation during the crisis for those who are unemployed, but for some reason cannot get assistance.

  7. “(d) Nothing in this section shall relieve a tenant from the obligation to pay rent or restrict a landlord’s ability to recover rent”

    There are concerns from my perspective as a landlord as to where the State expects the money will come from during this moratorium to pay my property taxes, water and sewer payments, maintenance fees for the building (which for a typical one bed, if the property is a condo. in an older apt. building in my neighborhood in Allston/Brighton, run $400 per month, and that is for older housing, not the newer higher priced construction) repairs for regular maintenance issues inside the unit (i.e. plumbing, electric), and the remainder of the rent that I rely on to pay for necessary expenses for myself like my own housing, food, utilities, and health care. What kind of assistance is the State willing to offer landlords while they are waiting for the COVID-19 Emergency to end? My tenants do not live paycheck to paycheck, so they will not have trouble paying the rent for a month or two out of savings, and then the relief package the US Congress passed will also aid them in terms of the cash payments to individuals and enhanced unemployment benefits if they do end up losing their job. So I see this new bill as an attempt to offer protection to tenants, to buy them a few month’s time while this COVID-19 crisis plays out, to decide what they can afford, and what will be in their best interest moving forwards. I think there needs to be something in this bill that will offer landlords some rent guarantee from the State if our tenants can not pay their rent during the moratorium. A rent guarantee from the State would protect landlords until the crisis ends, and would also protect tenants who live paycheck to paycheck, who have no savings, and who will not qualify for unemployment (which is likely to happen if they did not file tax returns and document their income prior to this crisis) from being subject to eviction proceedings once the crisis ends. A mortgage moratorium will not help me while I am waiting for the crisis to end because I have worked 32 years to pay off my mortgages on my 3 rental properties, and I depend on my rental income to pay not only expenses related to the rental properties, but for personal necessities. But even for landlord’s who do have a mortgage, and who get a moratorium on that, this bill does not speak to their other property related expenses, which can easily account for 1/2 of the rent they collect. So before you pass a bill suspending a tenant’s obligation to pay their rent for any period of time, you should consider how you can assist landlord’s with the many other expenses related to owning and operating rental property besides just a mortgage. If you do that, you will help both tenants and landlords, and take a lot of the pressure off those who are in most need moving forwards.

  8. I agree with a number of the comments listed above, so I won’t add anything redundant, but one question I have is if 90 days after the passage of the bill comes before the end of the crisis, then wouldn’t we be back at square one assuming people are still not back to work?

  9. There are concerns from my perspective as a landlord as to where the State expects the money will come from during this moratorium to pay my property taxes, water and sewer payments, maintenance fees for the building (which for a typical one bed, if the property is a condo. in an older apt. building in my neighborhood in Allston/Brighton, run $400 per month, and that is for older housing, not the newer higher priced construction) repairs for regular maintenance issues inside the unit (i.e. plumbing, electric), and the remainder of the rent that I rely on to pay for necessary expenses for myself like my own housing, food, utilities, and health care. What kind of assistance is the State willing to offer landlords while they are waiting for the COVID-19 Emergency to end? My tenants do not live paycheck to paycheck, so they will not have trouble paying the rent for a month or two out of savings, and then the relief package the US Congress passed will also aid them in terms of the cash payments to individuals and enhanced unemployment benefits if they do end up losing their job. So I see this new bill as an attempt to offer protection to tenants, to buy them a few month’s time while this COVID-19 crisis plays out, to decide what they can afford, and what will be in their best interest moving forwards. I think there needs to be something in this bill that will offer landlords some rent guarantee from the State if our tenants can not pay their rent during the moratorium. A rent guarantee from the State would protect landlords until the crisis ends, and would also protect tenants who live paycheck to paycheck, who have no savings, and who will not qualify for unemployment (which is likely to happen if they did not file tax returns and document their income prior to this crisis) from being subject to eviction proceedings once the crisis ends. A mortgage moratorium will not help me while I am waiting for the crisis to end because I have worked 32 years to pay off my mortgages on my 3 rental properties, and I depend on my rental income to pay not only expenses related to the rental properties, but for personal necessities. But even for landlord’s who do have a mortgage, and who get a moratorium on that, this bill does not speak to their other property related expenses, which can easily account for 1/2 of the rent they collect. So before you pass a bill suspending a tenant’s obligation to pay their rent for any period of time, you should consider how you can assist landlord’s with the many other expenses related to owning and operating rental property besides just a mortgage. If you do that, you will help both tenants and landlords, and take a lot of the pressure off those who are in most need moving forwards.

  10. I agree with many of the comments listed above that all this does is delay the eventual evictions and offers no relief. Whenever the time is up the tenant will owe months of rent and the fact that many of us are without income or reduced income will mean we still can’t pay. And again the money coming from the federal government is not enough to cover even one month rent for most people in Boston.

  11. Senate Ways & Means should be commended for quickly proposing a housing stability bill for the COVID-19 crisis. Like many others who have posted, I have concerns about whether the bill goes far enough at a time of unprecedented economic crisis. I see two major areas where the bill can be strengthened:

    1. The focus is on freezing actions by the court, while allowing landlords to send notices to quit/termination letters and file complaints. Many tenants will not know their rights and feel forced to leave.
    2. The bill tries to balance the interests of tenants and landlords by narrowing the circumstances that justify a halt in eviction proceedings. In contrast with a bill filed in the House (HD4539), the Senate bill only prohibits “non-essential” evictions. While there is a good argument for creating exceptions for some evictions, it is hard to define exceptions and factually determine who fits into them. Those problems are evident in the Senate bill, which bars evictions for non-payment of rent “due to a financial impact from COVID-19” and requires an agency to develop “forms and recommendations for the provision of notice and documentation to a landlord” that non-payment was directly or indirectly due to COVID-19 financial hardship. Delay and conflict between tenant and landlord are likely. The bill creates another category, “allegations of criminal activity or allegations of lease violation that may impact the health or safety” of certain persons. It makes sense to have a category like this, but there is also risk that landlords can allege minor lease violations have the requisite impact.

    I feel ambivalent about the term—90 days or end of the emergency, whichever is sooner—because of the report from the Fed Reserve bank president yesterday that the economic crisis in Massachusetts will be deeper and more protracted than once thought. I think it is important to reflect on whether it will be difficult to extend the moratorium; if so, then it would be better to consider benchmarking using the state’s unemployment rate.

    One aspect I really like about the bill is that it prohibits late fees and negative credit reporting when an eviction is deemed “non-essential.”

    Thank you, as always, for being so thoughtful and providing opportunities like this to share thoughts.

  12. I would like to join others in commending Ways & Means for moving quickly, but it is clear that this bill is going to be just a first step. I’m going to give some feedback based on looking at what’s needed for renters holistically.

    The unemployment numbers that are coming out — 6.6 million last week nationally — are terrifying. We have a tidal wave of economic suffering headed for us, and it’s clear that elected officials will need to not be constrained by what used to be politically possible, but will need to have imagination and courage.

    I am joining many housing organizations in calling for rent cancellation. As others have noted here, forcing unemployed people to owe months worth of rent at the end of the emergency is not realistic. I would like to address a few objections to rent cancellation here.

    => That it hurts landlords.

    Because of the scale of the problem, landlords are naive if they expect they can just muscle tenants into paying rent during this crisis. If they were smart, they would be pushing for policies that protect everyone all at once. But because they are not doing that, this moment is bringing the greatest growth in tenant unions possible. The crisis means massive amounts of people will eventually not be paying rent because they simply have no choice, and increasing the power of tenant unions, without protections for landlords, will mean the landlords get burned. And to be clear, it’s the position of tenant unions that this is a good thing. We will probably come out on the other side of this in a few years with much more support for public housing and cooperatives. If landlords want to lobby against the interests of tenants and make this an us vs them thing, they better watch out because the if we’re being realistic about how huge this crisis is, conditions are not in their favor.

    => That we should instead be using direct cash transfers so people can keep paying their rent. Okay fine, maybe that could work, but then do it. I realize the work towards solutions is compounded by political immobility in Congress, and I don’t envy state legislative officials right now, but we’ve got to figure this out. Call for Congress to pass UBI, figure out ways for the state to exert pressure on the federal government to get what it wants (this is needed for medical supplies right now too). And if that’s not going to work, pass cash transfers at the state level.

    Also do more to prevent layoffs, the root problem – there was guidance released by the Treasury and the SBA that basically creates grants for small business if they’re using the money for payroll, but it’s been underreported. Inform business owners in the state about that, or expand state level assistance maybe.

    But also – debt relief can be expansionary. Elected officials by the time this is over may need to change their thinking on the feasibility of widespread debt relief.

    ====?

    Feedback on this evictions bill, the immediate matter at hand. We know that means testing results in some people that need relief not getting it, and that universal programs are superior for this reason.

    That this bill would require people to prove financial hardship due to covid-19 means that undocumented people and some gig and hourly workers may end up owing rent and/or facing eviction eventually.

    Because staying home is necessary to quell the outbreak, anything that means people lose their homes or continue working to keep their homes, is not only a matter of unfairness but a hazard to public health.

    Make the moratorium universal, and provide sufficient relief to landlords on the back end. Don’t constrain renters in getting relief.

    ?Some other protections for renters that are necessary:
    * Automatically extend leases
    * Prohibit rent increases above the consumer price index on rent charged on March 1, 2020, for at least 12 months after the state of emergency.

    Thank you for being open to feedback, and please see to it that your colleagues in the senate are aware of the limitations of their current approach.

    1. Thanks, Josh. You are right that there is a very big picture we are all trying to respond to here. There is a lot to do, but we’ll have to keep adjusting. Probably won’t be one big final solution.

  13. I agree that the following are needed:
    * Automatically extend leases, and
    * Prohibit rent increases above the consumer price index on rent charged on March 1, 2020, for at least 12 months after the state of emergency.

  14. Thank you on behalf of my students for this action. My students are all immigrants, some documented and some not. I have students who are living in households with no income. I have students who are the sole provider for their family at a minimum (or less) wage part time job at the same time as trying to manage online learning and being scared for the safety of their health every time they go to work. They are grateful that they will not be evicted now, but are still very scared about what will happen after the emergency lifts.

  15. I would like to see this changed
    “Term of the moratorium
    Takes effect immediately upon passage.
    Ends the sooner of
    120 days from passage or
    45 days after the lifting of the COVID-19 emergency.’ ”
    and replaced with
    “Term of the moratorium
    Takes effect immediately upon passage.
    Ends
    120 days from the lifting of the COVID-19 emergency.”

    This will give people time to at least catch up and gives tenants breathing room – Yes I think this is fair to both parties , after all Landlords are given even longer time period to deal with the banks and in many cases this will take some time for people to become re-employed

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