Governor Baker recently signed a bill establishing a moratorium on non-essential evictions and residential foreclosures. This law provides temporary protections for both residential tenants and small businesses that are unable to pay rent, in an effort to stabilize homes and commercial spaces during the COVID-19 crisis. The law also prohibits proceedings on residential foreclosures during the COVID-19 crisis.
- While this bill does not relieve a residential or commercial tenant of their responsibility to pay their rent or mortgage, it does offer protection for those who are unable to make these payments as result of the economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
- Under this legislation, a landlord cannot file a complaint in court to evict an eligible small business for a non-essential purpose (i.e. a purpose that does not pose a health or safety risk). Eligible small businesses are businesses which operate only in Massachusetts, have 150 or fewer employees, and are not publicly traded. This moratorium will last for either four months following the bill’s signing on April 20, 2020, or until 45 days after the emergency declaration expires (whichever is sooner, and unless extended by the Governor).
- The new law does not eliminate or reduce an obligation to pay rent. Businesses that are able to pay rent should continue to do so, and should work collaboratively with their landlords when they are unable to pay rent due.
- Under this legislation, landlords may not apply late fees or negatively report to credit bureaus if the tenant sends a timely notice that the non-payment of rent was the result of a financial hardship caused by COVID-19. Evictions may still proceed when a tenant’s lease violation creates a health or safety risk for others.
Eligible small businesses can use the Form of Notice – COVID-19 Hardship – Small Business Tenant and the Documentation of Financial Hardship – Small Business Tenant forms to provide the required notice to their landlord of their inability to pay rent. Access these forms and Emergency Regulations here.