Massachusetts Chapter 257 of the Acts of 2020

CDC Issues New Eviction Moratorium Through October 3, 2021, Pausing Evictions In Areas Of “Substantial” Covid-19 Transmission

Like a zombie apocolypse from the Walking Dead, the eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control, which expired on July 31, has been resurrected by the Biden administration. Citing widespread delays in the distribution of federal rental aid relief funds, the influx of the new Delta variant, and concerns of tenant homelessness from progressive Democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush, the CDC yesterday issued a new order pausing all evictions for 60 days in areas of “substantial” Covid-19 transmission. Based on current CDC guidelines, the new order applies to every Massachusetts county except for Franklin and Hampshire. You can check on whether your local area is covered here at the CDC’s Covid Data Tracker. The new CDC order essentially carries over the protections and requirements from the previous order. A CDC hardship declaration form submitted by a tenant under the previous order will apply under the new order.

What does this mean here in Massachusetts? In all non-payment cases where a tenant has filed a CDC hardship declaration and qualifies for protection, they should not be forcibly moved out. Cases can still be moved forward and resolved by way of mediated agreements. In “no-fault” cases, some judges have applied the moratorium where rent is also sought; some have declined. Like the previous order, the moratorium does not apply in cases involving criminal activity. Also, Massachusetts has its own limited moratorium on evictions (Chapter 257 of the Acts of 2020) where a tenant has a pending application for rental aid. The Housing Court is pushing that landlords accept rental aid to pay off arrearage balances as well as future rent. Housing judges are also holding hearings on whether tenants legitimately qualify for CDC protection.

Property owners were successful in getting a federal court of appeals to strike down the previous CDC eviction moratorium. It went up to the Supreme Court where Justice Brett Kavanaugh signaled the order was on very shaky legal ground, although the Court declined to strike it down right before it expired on July 31. Property owners will have to start over and file a new lawsuit challenging the new order. By the time it works its way through the courts once again, it will likely have expired by October 3. Progressive Democrats, including Cori Bush and AOC, camped out for days at the Capitol in protest over the expiration of the original moratorium. Readers of this Blog may remember that yours truly along with Jordana Greenman, Esq. were successful in using a federal challenge to the toughest-in-the-nation Massachusetts eviction moratorium to persuade Gov. Baker to let it expire a year ago in October.

As always, I’ll keep you updated as to any developments with the moratorium and eviction related legal issues.

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Massachusetts Also Extends Certain Eviction Protections

The Centers for Disease Control announced today that its CDC Eviction Moratorium will be extended one final time through July 31, 2021. The CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky issued the following statement: “CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has signed an extension to the eviction moratorium further preventing the eviction of tenants who are unable to make rental payments. The moratorium that was scheduled to expire on June 30, 2021 is now extended through July 31, 2021 and this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to the nation’s public health. Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings — like homeless shelters — by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

The CDC Eviction Moratorium will continue to apply in Massachusetts absent a court order overruling it (which is highly unlikely). The moratorium, which allows for new and existing eviction cases to be filed and moved forward, but stops all forced-move outs, applies to all non-payment cases and to some “no-fault” cases.

Rental Assistance Protections and Notice to Quit Measures Extended

Earlier in the month, Gov. Baker signed a bill (now codified as Chapter 20 of the Acts of 2021) extending certain Covid-19 related eviction protections for tenants. Among the measures extended was Chapter 257 of the Acts of 2020, which imposes a temporary stay on eviction cases and move-out orders where tenants have applied for short term emergency rental assistance. Millions of dollars in rental aid have been flowing into Massachusetts, and both landlords and tenants alike have been taking advantage of the influx of federal funds to pay down rent arrearages and secure new housing. The stay on cases where a RAFT application is pending is extended through April 1, 2022. The new bill also extended the new rules governing what language must accompany notices to quit. Notices to quit for nonpayment must continue to show language about renter rights, through January 1, 2023. Notices to quit for nonpayment must continue to be copied to the state, through January 1, 2023.

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