BOSTON – On April 17, Representative Joan Meschino and her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and State Senate passed legislation to provide a critical safety net for renters, homeowners, and small businesses grappling with the economic fallout of the coronavirus public health emergency.
The bill, H.4647, 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.
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 the homeowner submits a 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, has now been signed into law by the Governor.