Changes to Massachusetts Evictions and Foreclosures
via Kevin P Martin & Associates/State of Massachusetts
On April 2, 2020, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts enacted Act No. H4615 to protect the public from evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 Emergency and to give some guidance about non-payment of rent or mortgage due to the impact of COVID-19. The main outlines of the Act are as follow. Act No. H4615 prohibits any landlord or owner of a residential or commercial property, from the date of this Act until 30 days after the termination of the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency, from terminating a residential or commercial tenancy or send any notice of any type demanding for the property to be vacated unless the tenant falls under the “emergency for cause eviction action” terminology as described below. Furthermore, if the tenant provides notice and documentation to the landlord that the non-payment of rent was due to a financial impact related, directly or indirectly, to the outbreak of COVID-19, the landlord shall not impose a late fee for the same period covered by this Act nor report the late payment to a consumer agency if such rental payment is received no later than 30 days late. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and the Department of Public Health is still working on what will have to be provided to a landlord to establish that the non-payment of rent was in fact due to COVID-19 impact. As mentioned above, this Act does not protect tenants if falling under the “emergency for cause eviction action” terminology. This includes: Allegations of criminal activity that are detrimental to the health or safety of other residents, health care workers, emergency personnel, persons lawfully on the subject property or the general public; Allegations of lease violations that are detrimental to the health or safety of other residents, health care workers, emergency personnel, persons lawfully on the subject property or the general public. If a tenant falls under the “emergency for cause eviction action” terminology, a landlord may terminate a residential or commercial tenancy for emergency for cause eviction actions after providing the tenant with 10 days’ notice to quit, in writing, on a form and in a manner prescribed by the chief justice for the housing court department. Section 7A of chapter 167E of the Massachusetts General Laws and Section 65C1/2 of chapter 171 of the Massachusetts General Laws require among other things that a mortgagee receives written certification from a counselor with a third-party organization, and that a mortgagor has received counseling in person relative to the appropriateness of the loan transaction from the third party organization and has completed an approved counseling program offered by the third party organization. Due to the threat of COVID-19, Act No. H4615 enable these requirements to be satisfied via a synchronous, real-time video conference in lieu of counseling in person. Furthermore, no creditor, mortgagee or any person with a power of sale shall for the purposes of foreclosure of a residential property, cause notice of a foreclosure sale to be published, exercise a power of sale or a right of entry; initiate a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure process; or file a complaint to determine the military status of a mortgagor. This Act is not intended to be used to relieve a tenant from the obligation of paying rent or restrict a landlord’s ability to recover rent. It is also not intended to relieve a mortgagor from the obligation of paying their mortgage or restrict the ability of a creditor or mortgagee from recovering mortgage payments.