House Passes Legislation to Protect Renters, Homeowners, and Local Businesses from Evictions and Foreclosures during COVID-19 Emergency

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On April 2, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed legislation to set a moratorium on most residential and commercial evictions and residential foreclosures for the duration of the COVID-19 State of Emergency and for 30 days after it ends.

The legislation is based largely on HD.4935, “An Act providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 emergency,” filed by Rep. Mike Connolly and Housing Committee Co-Chair Kevin Honan on March 13, and co-sponsored by over 70 other state legislators, including Cambridge and Somerville Reps. Christine Barber, Marjorie Decker, Jonathan Hecht, Jay Livingstone, Denise Provost, and David Rogers, and Senators Joseph Boncore, Sal DiDomenico, and Patricia Jehlen.

“During these unprecedented times, we need to do whatever we can to keep people healthy, safe and in their homes,” said Speaker DeLeo (D – Winthrop). “This legislation shields tenants and homeowners from economic insecurity during and immediately after the period of the state of emergency. I thank Chairs Honan and Michlewitz for their work with Rep. Connolly and other members and stakeholders in putting together this bill, which will enhance public health and provide relief during this pandemic.”

“I’m pleased the House of Representatives has taken strong action to advance comprehensive protections for renters, homeowners, and local businesses against eviction or foreclosure for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency and beyond,” said Representative Mike Connolly (D – Cambridge). “This is the right thing to do for our constituents who are now facing financial hardship and also for the health and well-being of our entire community, as no one should be put out on the street in the middle of a public health disaster. I’m grateful for the support of Speaker DeLeo, Chairs Honan and Michlewitz, and my Cambridge and Somerville colleagues in passing this bill.”

“I also want to highlight to work of housing justice organizers at City Life/Vida Urbana, the Chinese Progressive Association, and other members of the Homes for All Massachusetts coalition, as well as the work of advocates from Greater Boston Legal Services, the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Lawyers for Civil Rights, Massachusetts Communities Action Network, and dozens of other community, advocacy, and labor groups that provided input and support in the crafting and advancement of this urgently-needed legislation,” Rep. Connolly added.

The legislation passed by the House includes the following provisions:

• Establishes a moratorium on most residential and commercial evictions within the Commonwealth for the duration of the State of Emergency and 30 days after the State of Emergency ends.
• Landlords may not charge late fees or send reports to credit rating agencies if a tenant notifies the landlord within 30 days of a late payment that the non-payment of rent is due to a financial impact related to the COVID-19 emergency.
• Prohibits landlords from sending “notice to quit” letters for the duration of the State of Emergency and 30 days after the State of Emergency is terminated.
• Establishes a moratorium on foreclosure actions for the duration of the State of Emergency and 30 days after the State of Emergency ends.
• Allows for video conferencing during the State of Emergency for reverse mortgage loans. Current mandates require in-person consultations for these loans.
• Emergency evictions may proceed during the moratorium for actions that involve allegations of criminal activity or substantial lease violations that may detrimental to public health or public safety.

“During these difficult times we need to be cognizant of our most vulnerable populations and ensure that people will not lose their homes due to the effects of COVID-19,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “This bill offers much needed relief on this front.”

“The bill passed by the House of Representatives today is not just a housing safety bill, but a collective safety bill,” said Representative Kevin G. Honan, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing (D-Boston). “As residents across the Commonwealth are urged to shelter in place and practice social distancing, housing stability has never been more important. Not only does a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures protect tenants across Massachusetts, but it protects us all as we work together to flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19. No one should have to worry about losing their home during a public health crisis.”

The bill will now go to the Senate.

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