Good news: new eviction protections are now law. As you may recall, these provisions were initially passed by the Legislature as outside sections of the FY21 budget which the Governor amended. The Legislature overrode the amendments (big thanks to our Western MA Legislators for their steadfast commitment) and passed the language as a bill, An Act Providing for Eviction Protections during the COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency (H.5181). Governor Baker signed them into law on December 31, 2020.
With a total of 891 eviction filings in Western Massachusetts alone since the filing of the moratorium (675 in Hampden County; 432 in Springfield), this additional protection could not come soon enough.
Special thanks to Homes for All MA Coalition, Mass Law Reform Institute and others for their hard work on making these protections happen, and thanks to all of you for your advocacy along the way. It ALL made a difference.
The new law:
- Requires revised notices to quit for COVID-related evictions;
- Delays eviction cases if there is a pending application for emergency rental assistance;
- Requires specific reporting for the Eviction Diversion Initiative; and
- Creates a task force to make recommendation on how to improve the Eviction Diversion Initiative. (See description below)
We have much more work to do in the months ahead to provide more comprehensive protection from eviction during this pandemic. And let’s be sure to maximize the utility of these new protections right now.
Thanks to CHAPA for the more detailed summary of the provisions below:
COVID-19 Notices to Quit:
During the COVID-19 emergency declaration, the law requires property owners to accompany any notice to quit for non-payment of rent sent to a tenant with a form with certain information specified in the statute. The form can be found at mass.gov/noticetoquit. It includes:
- A statement on whether the tenant provided a declaration invoking protection from the CDC federal eviction moratorium;
- A statement on whether the unit is covered by the eviction moratorium on certain rental properties with federal assistance or federally related financing under the federal CARES Act;
- Documentation of any repayment agreement between the property owner and tenant; and
- Information on:
- Available rental assistance programs;
- Applicable trial court rules or orders about eviction cases; and
- Any relevant federal or state legal restrictions on evictions.
The new law also requires a landlord to send to EOHED electronically a copy of any notice to quit for nonpayment of rent given in writing to a residential tenant EOHED has created a portal for landlords to upload the required electronic copy of the notice to quit. The portal for upload also can be found at mass.gov/noticetoquit.
COVID-19 Eviction Case Delay for Pending RAFT Applications:
The law directs courts to grant a continuance or stay an execution of judgement for non-payment of rent eviction cases caused by COVID-19 if the tenant has a pending application for any emergency rental assistance. Also requires the trial court to report data on eviction cases, cases participating in pretrial mediation, the number of parties receiving legal assistance, and other relevant information.
Reporting on Eviction Diversion Initiative:
The law requires DHCD to report monthly on the Governor’s Eviction Diversion Initiative, including information on:
- Expansion of RAFT;
- Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program;
- Expansion of Housing Consumer Education Centers;
- Rapid rehousing assistance, including HomeBASE;
- Expansion of the Tenancy Preservation Program; and
- Any other relevant information.
It also requires DHCD to report the number of notices to quit received by EOHED.
Eviction Diversion Initiative Task Force:
The law creates a task force on the Eviction Diversion Initiative to track outcomes and make recommendations on how to improve its effectiveness, efficiency, and reach. Directs the task force to submit a report on its finding and recommendations by January 31, 2021.