Evicting Tenants During COVID-19
Evicting tenants is a process that always requires prior planning and preparation. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the eviction process is slightly different and requires an even greater level of expertise.
Here, I’ll discuss what to know about evicting tenants during COVID-19 in Massachusetts.
Is an Eviction Necessary?
When deciding whether to evict a tenant, it is always worth considering whether an eviction is necessary. This usually comes up for non-payment of rent cases, where the landlord is seeking to evict solely because of unpaid rent (and not because of any problems with the tenant).
In such a case, it is worth seeing if the landlord or tenant can apply for assistance that can help with unpaid rent. Massachusetts’s Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (“RAFT”) is a state program designed for helping tenants in need. Some towns and cities, such as Malden, have local programs for helping avoid eviction.
New Eviction Requirements
Eviction requirements continue to change almost monthly as the pandemic continues. The existing federal CDC moratorium is in place until December 31, 2020 (any may get extended).
Massachusetts recently passed new requirements for eviction notices to quit. This adds new disclaimers for non-payment of rent cases.
New Eviction Procedures
For the eviction process itself, the biggest change is how eviction cases begin. Pre-COVID, eviction hearings occurred on a weekly basis, with all sides required to attend court on a designated date, and go to trial if a resolution to the matter could not be reached.
Now, most evictions start with a status conference with the court staff, aimed at determining how both sides wish to handle the case. Importantly, an opportunity generally exists for a mediation to occur prior to getting deep into the eviction case.
This, in my opinion, is a welcome change in the Massachusetts eviction process, and one that I hope continues post-COVID. It makes much more sense to get landlords and tenants to start discussing a resolution of an eviction case as soon as possible, rather than spend time and money in court.
If you assistance with a Massachusetts eviction, contact me for a consultation.