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COVID-19 Housing Bill Update

The Legislature is currently working towards passage of a housing bill to provide some relief and protection to residents from the impacts of COVID-19 by prohibiting foreclosures and evictions for a limited time in Massachusetts. The House (H.4615) and Senate (S.2621) are both working on their own bills. The bills have several similarities and key differences. The House passed its bill on April 2. The Senate is still working on its bill and may make changes before voting on it, likely early next week. 

Should the bills ultimately passed by the House and Senate continue to differ, a conference committee with three members from each body will be created to draft a final consensus bill. Both the House and Senate will then review and vote on the consensus bill. Once passed by both bodies, the bill will be presented to the Governor for his review and signature to finalize the bill’s enactment into law. We anticipate that this COVID-19 housing bill could be enacted as early as next week.

One of the key differences in the House and Senate bills is the timeline for their effectiveness. All provisions in the House bill are in effect from the bill’s effective date through 30 days following termination of the state of emergency. All provisions in the Senate bill are in effect for the sooner of 90 days from the date of enactment or the termination of the state of emergency. This means, the Senate bill could expire during the state of emergency should it last for longer than 90 days. Under the House bill, regardless of the length of the state of emergency, there is an additional 30-day period following its termination when provisions continue to apply.

Another major difference between the bills is that the House bill expands many of its provisions to both commercial and residential properties, whereas the Senate bill applies only to residential properties. The House bill also has a more extensive list of prohibitions for landlords, including barring terminations of tenancy and sending notice demanding a tenant vacates, neither of which are prohibited under the Senate bill.

Here are other key similarities and differences:

We will continue to participate in discussions with decision-makers on these bills and look forward to finding a solution that balances the unique needs of this time with the protection of private property rights.

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