by Rep. Mike Connolly
Massachusetts has been under a State of Emergency for over six weeks now — and April 20 marked an unprecedented Patriot’s Day with no Boston Marathon or late-morning baseball game at Fenway Park due to the ongoing (and still very necessary) COVID-19 physical distancing efforts.
Also on April 20, Gov. Baker signed our Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium bill into law. This emergency law will help ensure housing and community stability during the COVID-19 epidemic in Massachusetts by doing all of the following:
- Stops landlords from attempting to terminate tenancies or sending Notices To Quit for non-payment of rent or no fault evictions.
- Prevents courts from acting on eviction matters; the eviction moratorium extends to all phases of the legal process, preventing courts from accepting filings, entering judgements or default judgements, issuing executions for possession, or scheduling a court event.
- Stops sheriffs and constables from enforcing executions for possession.
- Prevents late fees and negative credit reporting for COVID-impacted tenants. Department of Housing and Community Development will issue documentation to facilitate these protections.
- Establishes a moratorium on residential foreclosures for owner-occupied buildings of four units or less; the moratorium forbids creditors or mortgagees from publishing foreclosure sale notices or exercising any power of sale or entry.
- Requires mortgage forbearance programs for mortgagors impacted by COVID-19 for up to 180 days. Fees and interest may not accrue while mortgage is in forbearance. Excused payments will be tacked on as additional monthly payments at the very end of the mortgage.
- Provides landlords with access to last month’s rent to cover expenses, without any negative impact on tenants. Tenants will be entitled to interest that would have been earned on last month’s rent had it remained in escrow.
- Establishes a moratorium on evictions of small businesses and local non-profits.
- Eviction and Foreclosure protections will run for 120 days (until August 18, 2020) or 45 days after the end of the emergency declaration, whichever is sooner. The protections may also be extended by the Governor if necessary. I will closely monitor situation and advocate for extensions as needed.
It’s been gratifying to see the concerns of housing justice organizers and legal services advocates listened to and acted upon by leaders on Beacon Hill, and I am particularly appreciative of Housing Co-Chair Kevin Honan who worked with me to draft this legislation with the support of 73 colleagues last month, including all of the members of the Cambridge and Somerville state legislative delegation.
Yesterday morning, Massachusetts ranked poorly in terms of tenant protections in response to COVID-19. But within hours of our bill being signed by the Governor, the Princeton University and Columbia Law School analysts at the Eviction Lab moved Massachusetts up to the #1 spot in their rankings of COVID-19 Housing Policy, see: https://evictionlab.org/covid-policy-scorecard/
Many people have publicly congratulated us for our work on this bill, from Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Senator Elizabeth Warren, to Senator Nina Turner and Planned Parenthood, to hundreds of local constituents and progressive activists. That said, with all the coronavirus-related threats that people in our community are still facing, and with widespread economic hardship all around us, I can’t say this is any time for celebration. Simply put: this was the right thing to do — because housing stability is literally a matter of life or death for our most vulnerable constituents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Next up, I will be working on an even more detailed summary of this comprehensive bill, and I will continue to focus on two areas not addressed by this new law: the immediate concerns of people experiencing homelessness, and efforts to ensure housing stability after the COVID-19 emergency ends.
— Mike Connolly represents Cambridge and Somerville in the State Legislature