May 20, 2020

In response to the dramatic economic consequences of Covid-19, Governor Baker signed the Massachusetts Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium Act. This act prevents evictions and foreclosures, except for emergency evictions, for 120 days beginning April 20, 2020.

What this Means for Renters

If you rent your home, you cannot be evicted for failure to pay rent, or causes that are not “emergency causes of action”. Emergency evictions are defined as, “Any eviction that involves allegations of criminal activity or lease violations that are detrimental to the health and safety of other residents, health care workers, emergency personnel, anyone who is lawfully on the property, or the general public.”

As long as you are being a law-abiding and responsible tenant, you cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent during these challenging financial times. You will still owe your landlord all the back rent and should make arrangements with them now, so they are clear that you have a plan to catch up on the rent when the moratorium ends. They have maintenance and upkeep of the property and may have a mortgage to pay on it as well, so there is financial hardship for them, too.

What this Means for Homeowners with a Mortgage

The act prevents mortgage holders from initiating any foreclosure procedures, publishing a foreclosure sale or exercising a power of sale or right of entry. Residential borrowers who submit a request to their lender during the moratorium stating that they experienced “financial impact from COVID-19” will be granted a reprieve from all fees, penalties, and interest beyond their scheduled and contractual payments for up to 180 days.

Lenders may not report negative mortgage payment information for late or missed payments during this time to a consumer reporting agency. The Act’s moratorium also allows for mortgage counseling by video conference, rather than in person, during the moratorium.

As with rent payments and collections, the Act explicitly states that no borrower is relieved of their obligation to pay their mortgage, and no creditor or mortgagee is restricted from ultimately recovering mortgage payments

What this Means for Small Business Owners who rent their property

A “small business premises unit” is property occupied by a tenant for commercial purposes, whether the tenant is a for-profit or not-for-profit entity. However, the definition is limited. Tenants who operate in multiple states, operate in multiple countries, are publicly traded or have 150 or more full-time employees are not included in the definition of a “small business premises unit.”

If your small business qualifies as a small business premises unit based on the above definition and exclusions then, just as with residential tenants, you cannot be evicted for failure to pay rent, or causes that are not “emergency causes of action”.

It is important for small business owners to note that the Act’s moratorium does not include evictions of tenants in a small business premises unit if the lease expires or a tenant’s default under the terms of its lease or tenancy that occurred before the Governor’s emergency declaration.

The Act does not cover borrowers or lenders of any commercial property.

What You Need to Do

You will still owe the money to your landlord or mortgage holder. You need to communicate clearly, in writing, with your landlord or mortgage holder your situation and make arrangements to pay the money you owe over that time.

These are challenging times for everyone. The Massachusetts Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium Act is an effort to provide time and peace of mind to address financial issues without worrying about losing your home. We will all get through this together.

What to Do if Your Landlord or Mortgage Holder Violates this Act

You are protected from eviction or foreclosure for 120 days starting April 20, 2020. If eviction or foreclosure proceedings are begun against you, get help. You can reach out to the Massachusetts’ Attorney General’s Office and if their assistance does not stop the eviction or foreclosure, then get legal help. Contact Contant Law. Call or text us at 617-227-8383.

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