The Massachusetts state eviction moratorium officially ends today, with Governor Baker declining to extend this protection for tenants. Here, I’ll discuss three things for landlords to know about the status of evictions in Massachusetts going forward.
A Federal Eviction Moratorium, Under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), Remains in Effect
Although the state eviction moratorium has ended, a federal regulation remains in place through the end of 2020. Compared to the state eviction moratorium, the CDC regulation is far less burdensome for landlords.
The CDC regulation only applies to evictions for non-payment of rent, and requires tenants to take the affirmative step of invoking the protections of this regulation, through an affidavit to the landlord. Under this regulation, a tenant (who meets specific criteria) prohibits a landlord from evicting a tenant through December 31, 2020.
Importantly, this regulation does not prohibit the filing of an eviction case; it only prevents the actual eviction of a tenant. In other words, a eviction case may go forward, but the actual process of removing a tenant from rental property must wait until next year.
The prior state eviction moratorium, in contrast, stopped all stages of the eviction process, and applied to nearly every type of eviction.
New Requirements for Non-Payment of Rent Notices
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which passed earlier this year, requires certain landlords to use a thirty-day notice to quit for non-payment of rent eviction cases (as opposed to a standard fourteen-day notice to quit).
This requirement only applies to landlords with a federally backed mortgage, or a participant in a federal grant or voucher. The language of this law is broad, and covers a wide array of different federal programs. For this reason, landlords should err on the side of caution when deciding whether to send a fourteen or thirty day notice for non-payment of rent.
It remains unclear how long this requirement remains. For now, I recommend following this requirement for the imminent future.
New Eviction Procedures in Housing Court
The procedure for evictions in Housing Court has changed, and will likely never be the same again. Before, eviction trials were automatically set by the court’s schedule, on a weekly basis. Now, trials will be scheduled following an initial conference with the court’s staff.
Hearings and trial, importantly, will likely done through Zoom, with few in-person hearings at courthouses.
Although the formal protections of the state eviction moratorium are over, Housing Court still has the inherent ability to offer tenants more time to stay in a rental apartment, under appropriate circumstances. I suspect, strongly, that Housing Court will continue to entertain such requests from tenants in the months to come.
As a practical matter, there is an enormous backlog of eviction cases in the courts now, with many more to come. Landlords need to be practical and realistic about what to expect from the eviction process going forward.
If you need assistance with a Massachusetts eviction, contact me for a consultation.