In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed an eviction and foreclosure moratorium bill (H.4647) on April 20 creating some of the strongest protections for tenants and homeowners in the nation. This law means that Massachusetts residents will not have to worry that they will be evicted or lose homes to foreclosure during this unprecedented emergency. Organizations driving the moratorium included Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), an NLIHC state partner; the Renters Rising Campaign; and Homes for All Massachusetts, a state-wide grassroots coalition that includes the community organization City Life/Vida Urbana.
Chief Justice Timothy Sullivan of the Massachusetts Housing Court had previously ordered the postponement of most eviction cases during the emergency, beginning on March 14. “The decision was only a partial victory,” said Lisa Owens, executive director for City Life/Vida Urbana, “since the order did not cover those who were evicted by a judge prior to the order.” City Live/Vida Urbana received more than 500 calls to its hotline from tenants in the Metro Boston area worried about how they would be able to pay their rent and stay safe if they were to become evicted before the moratorium was instituted.
In response to renters’ concerns about losing their homes during a pandemic, Homes for All Massachusetts and the Renters Rising Coalition initiated the moratorium campaign with a protest at Housing Court in early March. Homes for All Massachusetts, along with legal aid partners at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Greater Boston Legal Services, and Heisler, Feldman & McCormick P.C., then worked on the legislation with Representatives Mike Connolly and Kevin Honan. In just two days preceding the passage of the moratorium, over 1,000 residents contacted the State House to voice support for the bill.
CHAPA collaborated with legislators, policy makers, and legal advocates to craft the strongest possible eviction and foreclosure moratorium during the COVID-19 emergency. CHAPA then advocated for the moratorium by working with their members to support the legislation.
The moratorium protects tenants from eviction by:
- Preventing landlords from sending notices to quit or filing new eviction cases.
- Stopping courts from scheduling non-emergency hearings, entering judgements, and issuing eviction executions for possession.
- Preventing sheriffs from levying executions for possession to remove tenants.
- Temporarily halting most eviction cases with limited exceptions for emergencies involving alleged criminal activities or conduct endangering the health and safety of others.
For homeowners, the law temporarily stops foreclosures and requires lenders to offer mortgage forbearance for those affected by COVID-19. Specifically, the law:
- Stops residential foreclosures of owner-occupied one- to four-unit family housing.
- Requires lenders to offer a mortgage forbearance for homeowners affected by COVID-19, with payments added to the end of the loan.
- Prevents negative credit reporting for homeowners in forbearance.
The moratorium will remain in effect for 120 days (or 45 days following the end of the state of emergency) and can be extended at the governor's discretion to ensure it does not end before state of emergency is lifted plus a reasonable period thereafter. The moratorium also pauses evictions on small businesses and allows reverse mortgage counseling to be conducted virtually or by phone. Read a detailed summary of the legislation here.
To learn more about Homes for All Massachusetts, Renters Rising Coalition, and City Life/Vida Urbana, contact Helen Matthews, communications manager for City Life/Vide Urbana at [email protected]. To learn more about CHAPA, contact Ryan Dominguez, senior policy analyst, at [email protected].