Last week, Sen. Sal DiDomenico and his colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate passed An Act providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 emergency to provide a critical safety net for renters, homeowners and small businesses grappling with the immediate economic fallout of the current public health pandemic.
“I am proud of the action the Senate has taken with this legislation to place a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 emergency,” said Sen. DiDomenico. “Many people are facing financial hardship right now, and we simply cannot have people, especially our most vulnerable residents, vacating their residences during this public health emergency. I have heard from many constituents regarding this legislation, and I am confident this bill strikes the right balance between protecting struggling tenants and landlords during these difficult times.”
To address the COVID-19 public health crisis and its adverse impacts on renters, homeowners and small businesses, the bill includes the following components:
•A moratorium on all stages of the eviction and foreclosure processes. The bill extends eviction protections to renters and small businesses during the state’s COVID-19 state of emergency and places a moratorium on all stages of the eviction process for non-essential evictions for a period of 120 days after the bill becomes law. The bill authorizes the governor to extend the moratorium beyond 120 days, if the crisis continues. The moratorium on evictions prohibits, for non-essential evictions, a landlord or property owner from terminating a tenancy or sending a notice to quit, prohibits a court from entering a default judgement, prevents the scheduling of court hearings, and prohibits the enforcement of an execution to forcibly remove a tenant.
In addition to a moratorium on the eviction process, the bill extends protections to homeowners and halts the foreclosure process for a period of 120 days after the bill becomes law to ensure homeowners and residential property owners are protected throughout this public health crisis.
•Mortgage forbearance for homeowners experiencing financial hardship from COVID-19. The Senate bill protects homeowners by requiring mortgage lenders to grant a forbearance of up to 180-days on required mortgage payments, if a homeowner submits a forbearance request demonstrating a financial impact from COVID-19. In addition, the bill protects homeowners by prohibiting mortgage lenders from furnishing negative mortgage payment information to a consumer reporting agency and prohibits the accrual of fees, penalties or interest during the life of the forbearance granted.
•A prohibition on late fees and negative credit reporting. The Senate bill also provides renters and homeowners struggling financially with additional protections during this uncertain time and prohibits landlords from imposing late fees for non-payment of rent for a residential dwelling or small business. Similarly, the bill prohibits landlords from sending payment data to credit reporting agencies related to the non-payment of rent. These protections are available to a tenant if the tenant provides notice and documentation to the landlord within 30 days of the missed rent payment that the non-payment was related to a financial impact from COVID-19.
•The use of video conferencing or phone for reverse mortgage real-time counseling. To promote strict adherence to social distance measures during this public health crisis, the bill allows a person applying for a reverse mortgage to receive counseling conducted virtually through real-time video conference or by phone in lieu of in-person counseling until the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted by the Governor.
An Act providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 emergency now moves to conference committee to be reconciled with a similar version drafted by the Massachusetts House of Representatives.