COVID-19: MA Eviction and Mortgage Relief Update

Massachusetts is one step (or, well, one signature) away from providing massive relief to  commercial and residential tenants. Since our last update, the Massachusetts senate and the house have passed different versions and those versions went into conferencing. The House has released the compromise bill H.4647 which many expect to be signed by the Governor. 

Below a summary of the bill.

Residential Tenants:

Landlords are prohibited from evicting a residential tenant for non-payment of rent during the state of emergency and up to 45 days after the emergency is ended or 120 days after the signing of the bill, whichever is longer. Landlords are prohibited from sending a notice to quit or demand to residential tenants during this time period.

Furthermore, residential properties are protected from foreclosure. Banks or mortgage holders of any kind cannot initiate the process, initiate a sale, or file a complaint to start a foreclosure procedure. 

Residential mortgage holders will also receive forbearance of their mortgages for up to 180 days. The tenants must submit a written statement explaining that they are suffering from financial impact due to COVID-19.  The mortgagor must grant it and cannot assess fees or interest. The payments subject to forbearance shall be added to the end of the term of the loan.

Small Business Tenants:

The biggest difference between the prior House version of the bill is that the definition of commercial tenants that can seek relief under the bill is narrowed. Only small business tenants can seek relief. Small business tenants are NOT businesses that have more than 150 full time employees, that are located in more than one state or more than one country, or are publicly traded. 

Small businesses may still receive notice of non-payment of rent and notice to quit from their landlords.

For Small Business and Residential Tenants:

All deadlines for a party to a non-essential eviction are tolled or extended automatically. 

Housing Courts, courts with jurisdiction over landlord and tenant matters, are prohibited from accepting a summons or complaint from a landlord, entering judgment or default judgment against the tenant, issue an execution or deny a stay of execution request from a defendant, or schedule a court event including a summary process trial. 

A landlord cannot apply late fees or furnish rental data related to non-payment to third parties if the tenant provides, within 30 days failing to pay rent, a written  notice to the landlord explaining the missed payment was due to financial impact from COVID. 

A landlord may, with written notice (before the tenant’s last month), use the last month’s rent for mortgage payments and other utilities as an advance, but must honor the last month’s payment and any interest obligations.

We will update this post when the Governor signs it.