On April 20, 2020, Governor Baker signed legislation to protect homeowners, tenants, and certain commercial properties from eviction and foreclosure. Entitled “An Act Providing For a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During the COVID-19 Emergency,” the legislation ensures housing stability for residents, families, and certain small businesses. To read our prior article on this issue, please click here.
On July 21, 2020, Governor Baker notified the Massachusetts Legislature of his intent to extend these restrictions through October 17, 2020. The Governor’s notice states, in part:
Section 6 of the Act provides that the limitations on eviction proceedings (as set forth in sections 3 and 4 of the Act) are to expire 120 days after the effective date of the Act, which is August 18. Section 7 of the Acts similarly provides that the restrictions on foreclosures (set forth in subsection (a) of section 5) are to expire on that same date. However, in both cases, the Act provides that “the governor may postpone such expiration in increments of not more than 90 days” as long as the extended expiration date is no later than 45 days after the COVID-19 emergency declaration has been lifted.
I am writing to notify you of my decision to extend sections 3 and 4 and subsection (a) of section 5 for an additional sixty (60) days. These sections of the Act will now expire at 11:59 pm on October 17, 2020.
The full text of Governor Baker’s letter can be read here.
As a result of the extension, the following restrictions will remain in place through October 17, 2020:
Residential Tenants: A landlord/owner of a residential dwelling unit shall not, for the purposes of a non-essential eviction (including foreclosure or non-payment of rent): (i) terminate a tenancy; or (ii) send any notice, including a notice to quit, requesting or demanding that a tenant of a residential dwelling unit vacate the premises. Thus, while a residential landlord could technically send a notice of default for non-payment, the landlord cannot thereafter terminate the lease or suggest in any writing that the landlord might terminate or demand the tenant vacate. There are exceptions, including issues of health and safety, and for expiration of lease term, but residential landlords must otherwise put evictions on hold.
Commercial Tenants: No landlord/owner can evict or foreclose on certain small business tenants, including businesses with less than 150 employees, unless the business is within the common control of a larger multi-state, multi-national, or publicly traded company.
Also in place until October 17, 2020 is the protection of the tenant’s credit rating, which will not be impacted by an inability to pay rent during the COVID-19 emergency. At the same time, the legislation does not forgive debts arising out of the tenant’s non-payment of rent.
The extension prohibits Massachusetts housing courts from accepting any eviction Complaint; entering any default judgment or execution of judgment against a tenant; denying a stay of execution; or scheduling any eviction hearings. Likewise, any Massachusetts sheriff is restricted from enforcing eviction judgments against tenants protected by this legislation.
Gordon & Rees lawyers are available to help you navigate the risks associated with this moratorium or to answer any questions that you may have.
Visit our COVID-19 Hub for ongoing updates.