Evictions during coronavirus is a topic many Massachusetts landlords have been asking about in recent weeks. As the pandemic continues, this is a matter that will continue to be of importance to both landlords and tenants.
This state of affairs, of course, remains uncertain, but here are my thoughts about addressing a present tenant dispute.
No Eviction Hearings Until the End of April, At the Earliest
Housing Court is not scheduling eviction cases until the end of April (which may get pushed back). In essence, this means that there will be no evictions during coronavirus.
A landlord is permitted to request a court hearing before then, if they have good cause. “Good cause”, however, is likely to be a high burden to meet for most Massachusetts landlords. With the exception of a real emergency, I doubt any judge will permit an eviction to go forward during coronavirus.
Landlords who own homes with a mortgage backed by Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac need to proceed with extra caution, as the federal government has temporarily suspended evictions for these types of properties.
Proceed with Caution for Notices to Quit
I’m not aware of any formal restrictions on serving a notice to quit while the pandemic is ongoing. While eviction cases will not be heard anytime soon, a notice to quit (which is a required precursor to most Massachusetts evictions) can still be served.
However, simply because a landlord can serve a notice to quit doesn’t mean it is the best idea right now. Given the ongoing crisis, it may be best to wait a while longer before taking such action.
Attempt to Work Out a Resolution On Your Own
What’s the best thing that landlords can do now, with no evictions during coronavirus ? Try to work out disputes with tenants on their own. If a tenant is behind on rent, try and see if you can work out a repayment plan. Such repayment plans should always be in writing and signed by both parties.
If a landlord is holding a security deposit from a tenant, a landlord may be tempted to use this money towards any owed rent. Landlords, however, need to use extreme caution when dealing with a security deposit, as even a minor violation of this law can result in steep penalties.
The coronavirus pandemic will end eventually, and landlords will be permitted to resume evictions again. Until then, Massachusetts landlords need to proceed with caution in any disputes involving tenants before then.
If you need assistance with a landlord-tenant matter, contact me for a consultation.