COVID-19 Housing Bill Signed Into Law
On Wednesday, April 15, the legislature’s conference committee reached consensus on a COVID-19 housing bill and today April 20, Governor Baker signed the bill into law. Read more about the process and prior bill versions from our updates on April 11 and April 4. The consensus bill, H.4647 is largely similar to the Senate version S.2631, though the bills passed by both legislative bodies had much in common. The consensus bill, provides temporary protections for homeowners and renters to help mitigate impacts of COVID-19.
Protections for Homeowners
The bill provides two important protections for homeowners:
A moratorium on foreclosures for the sooner of 120 days from enactment or 45 days after the end of the state of emergency, and
180 days of mortgage forbearance for homeowners experiencing a financial impact from COVID-19. MAR advocated in support of including this important provision which appeared in the Senate but not the House bill. Our arguments focused on the need to protect homeowners in order to prevent short sales and foreclosures and to provide residential rental property owners with additional protections in order to help prevent displacement even if tenants are unable to pay rent during the state of emergency.
Protections for Tenants
The bill provides several measures aimed at protecting residential and small business renters. The following provisions are in effect for the sooner of 120 days after enactment or 45 days after the end of the state of emergency. The bill also gives the Governor the ability to extend the deadlines in 90-day increments.
Landlords are prohibited from:
Imposing late fees or reporting to credit agencies for non-payment of rent.
Terminating tenancies or sending notices including notices to quit or vacate property unless the tenant is engaged in criminal activity or a violation of their lease terms that create a health and safety risk. MAR and GBREB opposed the prohibition on notices to quit, arguing that they are an essential procedural step towards accessing settlement and programmatic assistance for both parties.
Courts are prohibited from:
Accepting filings or scheduling court events related to non-essential evictions and tolls the deadlines of currently pending cases.
Law enforcement officials are prohibited from:
Executing non-essential evictions.
Protections for Landlords
The bill extends some protections to landlords. The mortgage forbearance covered above provides some relief, though it is limited to owner-occupied properties with four units or less. The bill also permits landlords who have received rent in advance, such as a last month’s deposit, to spend it on expenses such as mortgage payments, utilities, and property maintenance.