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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.2631) have each passed separate versions of bills that would place a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. The bills have several similarities and key differences. The House passed its bill on April 2 and the Senate passed its bill a week later on April 9. 

Because the bills passed by the House and Senate differ, a conference committee with three members from each body has been 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 enactment through 30 days following termination of the state of emergency. All provisions in the Senate bill are in effect for 120 days from the passage of the Act. The Senate bill not only imposes a moratorium for foreclosures, but it also allows forbearance of mortgage payments up to 180 days. It is important to note that neither bill relieves a tenant from the obligation of rent or forgives mortgage payments. 

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 and small business properties. 

The Senate has appointed Senators Brendan Crighton, Michael Rodrigues, and Bruce Tarr to the conference committee. The House has appointed Representatives Kevin Honan, Aaron Michlewitz, and Peter Durant. MAR 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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