Evictions and Foreclosures Halted in Massachusetts during the Pandemic
As most Massachusetts landlords and tenants know, a moratorium on non-essential evictions and foreclosures was enacted during the Covid-19 emergency (the "Act"). It went into effect on April 20, 2020, applies to proceedings that are already pending in court as well as actions that became ripe after the effective date of the Act, and extends through the sooner of:
August 18, 2020 (unless extended); or
Forty-five (45) days after the Governor lifts the COVID-19 state of emergency that began on March 10, 2020.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development issued emergency regulations, forms and guidance in connection with the Act that address missed rent payments, the use of advance rent payments, and related matters.
Tenants who provide a notice and documentation to their landlord within 30 days of a missed payment certifying that the non-payment of rent was due to a financial impact from Covid-19 are insulated from a.) late fees; and b.) an adverse report to credit reporting agencies of the missed payment. See https://www.mass.gov/lists/moratorium-on-evictions-and-foreclosures-forms-and-other-resources#forms,-instructions-and-information-for-tenants for additional guidance for tenants.
Landlords who collected last month's rent in advance can utilize such funds for certain expenses relating to the leased property, including for example mortgage payments, utilities, and repairs as long as the landlord does not deduct any amount owed by a tenant for its non-payment of rent. Landlords who choose to do this must provide notice to the tenant certifying that a.) the funds were used pursuant to the Act; b.) the landlord remains obligated to credit the tenant for paying the last month's rent; and c.) the tenant must be credited the same amount of interest that would have accrued on the last month's rent had the landlord not used those funds before the last month of the tenancy. See https://www.mass.gov/lists/moratorium-on-evictions-and-foreclosures-forms-and-other-resources#forms,-instructions-and-information-for-landlords for the recommended language and other information.
Massachusetts Housing Courts are putting new measures into place for handling cases after the moratorium ends including efiling, emailing documents prior to hearings, and Zoom hearings.