On April 2, 2020, in response to the COVID 19 outbreak, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill, H.1279, which, if it becomes law, would grant a moratorium on evictions for both residential and commercial tenants and a moratorium on residential foreclosures, for a period starting with the effective date of the act and ending thirty (30) days after the termination of the State of Emergency declared by Governor Baker on March 10, 2020.
During that time period, a landlord of residential or commercial property would be prohibited from terminating a lease or sending a “notice to quit” demanding that the residential or commercial tenant vacate the premises. The bill also would prohibit a landlord from imposing a late fee for the non-payment of rent by a tenant for the same time period, if the tenant provides documentation to the landlord within 30 days after the missed payment that the non-payment of rent was due to a financial impact related, directly or indirectly, to the outbreak of COVID-19.
To be clear, despite a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, nothing in the bill would relieve a tenant from the obligation to pay rent or a mortgagor from the obligation to pay their mortgage. Likewise, nothing in the bill restricts a landlord’s ability to collect rent or a mortgagee or other creditor from collecting mortgage payments.
Consistent with the moratorium on evictions, the bill would stay court action in summary process actions and would toll all deadlines for the parties to such actions until thirty (30) days after the termination of the State of Emergency. There is an exemption in the bill for “emergency for cause” evictions that involve allegations of criminal activity or allegations of lease violations that are detrimental to the health or safety of other residents or the public.
Under the bill, there would also be a moratorium on foreclosures of residential properties for the same time period, which would prohibit mortgagees and other creditors from (i) publishing a notice of a foreclosure sale, (ii) exercising a power of sale, (iii) exercising a right of entry, (iv) initiating a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure process, or (v) filing a complaint to determine the military status of a mortgagor under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (“SCRA”).
H.1279 is not yet law. The Massachusetts Senate has introduced its own version of a similar bill that will likely restrict residential and “small business” commercial evictions. Both legislative branches would need to unite behind either one version of the bill or compromise on a version merging the two bills into one, before the bill could be passed and sent to the Governor for signature.
We will monitor the status of this legislation in Massachusetts and keep you apprised of any developments. Rubin and Rudman is committed to helping our clients through these extraordinary times. If you have any questions about this alert, please contact any of the following attorneys or your Rubin and Rudman legal professional.