Senate Passes Bill to Protect Renters, Homeowners and Small Businesses

(BOSTON – 04/09/2020) On April 9, Senator Cindy F. Friedman supported legislation passed by the Senate that would provide a critical safety net for renters, homeowners and small businesses grappling with the immediate economic fallout of the current public health pandemic. The bill was later signed into law by the Governor on April 20, 2020.

“As we continue to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that our residents are able to stay safely in their homes,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This bill is another demonstration of the Senate’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in our state during this unprecedented public health crisis. I’m grateful to the Senate President and all of my Senate colleagues for taking this common sense step to ensure that our renters, homeowners and small businesses receive the critical protections and relief they desperately need and deserve.” 

The bill,An Act providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 emergency, includes the following components:

A moratorium on all stages of the eviction and foreclosure processes.The bill extends eviction protections to renters and small businesses during the state’s COVID-19 state of emergency and places a moratorium on all stages of the eviction process for non-essential evictions for a period of 120 days after the bill becomes law. The bill authorizes the governor to extend the moratorium beyond 120 days, if the crisis continues.  The moratorium on evictions prohibits, for non-essential evictions, a landlord or property owner from terminating a tenancy or sending a notice to quit, prohibits a court from entering a default judgement, prevents the scheduling of  court hearings, and prohibits the enforcement of an execution to forcibly remove a tenant.

In addition to a moratorium on the eviction process, the bill extends protections to homeowners and halts the foreclosure process for a period of 120 days after the bill becomes law to ensure homeowners and residential property owners are protected throughout this public health crisis.

Mortgage forbearance for homeowners experiencing financial hardship from COVID-19.  The Senate bill protects homeowners by requiring mortgage lenders to grant a forbearance of up to 180-days on required mortgage payments, if a homeowner submits a forbearance request demonstrating a financial impact from COVID-19. In addition, the bill protects homeowners by prohibiting mortgage lenders from furnishing negative mortgage payment information to a consumer reporting agency and prohibits the accrual of fees, penalties or interest during the life of the forbearance granted.

A prohibition on late fees and negative credit reporting.The Senate bill also provides renters and homeowners struggling financially with additional protections during this uncertain time and prohibits landlords from imposing late fees for non-payment of rent for a residential dwelling or small business. Similarly, the bill prohibits landlords from sending payment data to credit reporting agencies related to the non-payment of rent.  These protections are available to a tenant if the tenant provides notice and documentation to the landlord within 30 days of the missed rent payment that the non-payment was related to a financial impact from COVID-19.

The use of video conferencing or phone for reverse mortgage real-time counseling.To promote strict adherence to social distance measures during this public health crisis, the bill allows a person applying for a reverse mortgage to receive counseling conducted virtually through real-time video conference or by phone in lieu of in-person counseling until the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted by the Governor.