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Home · Property Management · COVID-19 · Massachusetts landlords now can begin the eviction process in COVID-related cases

The expiration of the state’s eviction moratorium this weekend clears the way for Massachusetts property owners to begin the eviction process against tenants who’ve fallen behind on rent due to COVID-19.

A federal eviction moratorium still remains in place until the end of this year, preventing landlords from actually forcing tenants to leave, said Skip Schloming, executive director of the Small Property Owners Association.

“But you can do everything to evict a tenant but get the final possession of your property,” Schloming said. “We’re urging landlords to come to an agreement with their tenants to resume payment or to move out.”

If they don’t reach an agreement, he said, landlords can apply for financial assistance in lieu of the rent they’re owed, under a $100 million commitment Gov. Charlie Baker has made this fiscal year to expand the capacity of the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program, which provides relief to both renters and landlords impacted by the pandemic.

The association also is approaching the state Legislature to remove restrictions on more affordable living arrangements, such as allowing landlords to rent apartments by the room, Schloming said.

“There will be no tsunami of evictions,” he said. “We’re hoping and expecting landlords and tenants to work things out to everyone’s agreement. Landlords do not want empty apartments.”

But Isaac Simon Hodes, an organizer at Lynn United for Change, said he expects thousands of people to vacate their housing as soon as they receive a notice to quit from their landlord.

“The biggest problem with the governor’s plan is it does nothing to stop informal evictions that we know from experience are very common when tenants receive a notice to vacate,” Simon Hodes said. “If we really want to prevent mass evictions of people who fell behind on rent as a result of COVID, it makes absolutely no sense to push tens of thousands of them into the eviction pipeline. This is going to do long-term harm to people’s credit and ability to secure housing in the future.”

If tenants do receive a notice to vacate and can’t afford to pay back rent due to the coronavirus, the first thing they should do is call 211 for information about help that’s available, said Eric Shupin, director of public policy at the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association.

Tenants whose rent is in arrears due to COVID-19 then should fill out and give to their landlord a signed declaration form for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s temporary halt in residential evictions — not including foreclosures on home mortgages — to prevent the further spread of the virus, Shupin said.



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