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COVID-19 Eviction Updates

YOUR EVICTION CASE DURING THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

**This information is current as of April 22, 2020**

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Governor has signed legislation instituting a moratorium on evictions. The moratorium prohibits all stages of eviction in Massachusetts. The legislation can be found here.

 

What does this mean for me?

You cannot be evicted from your home while this order is in effect, unless there is an emergency endangering someone’s health or safety.

 

Landlord Action Prohibited During the Moratorium:

  • Landlords cannot send you an eviction notice
  • Landlords cannot file new eviction cases

 

Court Action Prohibited During the Moratorium:

  • Courts cannot schedule non-emergency hearings in eviction cases
  • Courts cannot enter judgments (including by agreement) in eviction cases
  • Courts cannot issue “executions” giving your landlord permission to evict you

 

Constable/Sheriff Action Prohibited During the Moratorium:

  • Sheriffs cannot forcibly remove tenants from their homes

Late Fees and Negative Credit Reporting Prohibited During the Moratorium:

  • If you don’t pay rent on time due to the coronavirus outbreak, you cannot be charged a late fee and cannot have your credit negatively reported. Let your landlord know if this is why you did not pay your rent.

Exception: Evictions in situations endangering the health or safety of others can proceed.

Get help from an attorney if: you missed a previous court date, you had a court date previously scheduled but the court was closed, your landlord or court personnel approach you to try to get you to make an agreement, or your landlord contacts you about using your last month’s rent.

How Long Will This Last?
The moratorium will remain in effect until Aug. 18, 2020 or 45 days following the end of the state of emergency, whichever is sooner. It can be extended by the Governor.

 

If you have questions about a pending eviction case and have experienced domestic violence, you may contact DOVE’s Legal Helpline at (617) 770-4065 ext. 400

YOUR HOUSING RIGHTS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

 

It is illegal for a landlord to take away your apartment through “self-help” tactics. Your landlord has used self-help tactics and violated the law if they do any of the following things without a court’s permission:

  • Move your belongings out of your apartment;
  • Change your locks (which is called a “lockout”);
  • Shut off your utilities (which is called a “utility shut-off”); or
  • Interfere in any other way with your use of the apartment.

If your landlord attempts to take away your apartment in any of these ways, they may be violating both civil and criminal laws.

 

What You Can Do

Write a Demand Letter

If your landlord threatens to lock you out or shut off any of your utilities, you may be able to prevent them from taking this illegal action by sending a demand letter. This letter informs them that they will be committing an illegal act and that you will take legal action to enforce your rights if they break the law. See a sample Demand Letter (Form 18).

 

Go to Court

If a landlord locks you out of your apartment or shuts off your utilities, you should immediately go to court to get what is called a temporary restraining order, or “TRO.” You will have to explain that is an emergency in order to get a TRO during the coronavirus outbreak. Tell the Court that you have been locked out of your apartment or your utilities have been shut off and you need an emergency TRO. A TRO tells your landlord to stop doing something illegal and orders them to put you and your belongings back into your apartment and restore any utilities they may have shut off. See a sample Temporary Restraining Order (Form 15).

 

Call the Police and File a Criminal Complaint

If your landlord locks you out of your apartment or shuts off your utilities and you cannot resolve the problem by dealing directly with the landlord, you can call the police and report the incident. Lockouts and utility shut-offs are crimes. A police officer may tell you that such disputes are “civil,” not criminal, matters. This is not true. Lockouts and utility shut-offs are crimes and are punishable by a fine of $25 to $300 or imprisonment of up to 6 months. For more about how to file a criminal complaint, see Chapter 8: Getting Repairs Made – Criminal Complaint.

 

If you have questions about this and have experienced domestic violence, you may contact DOVE’s Legal Helpline at (617) 770-4065 ext. 400.

WHAT IF I CAN’T PAY MY RENT?

Some agencies may be able to provide rental assistance during the coronavirus outbreak. You may contact the organizations below.

 

Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT)

  • Metro Housing Boston (Braintree, Brookline, Milton, Quincy): (617) 859-0400
  • RCAP Solutions (Bellingham, Franklin): (978) 630-6600
  • South Middlesex Opportunities Council (Canton, Dedham, Dover, Foxborough, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Norfolk, Norwood, Plainville, Walpole, Wellesley, Westwood, Wrentham): (508) 872-4853

Quincy Community Action Programs: (617) 479-8181

Interfaith Social Services (HomeSafe Program): 617-773-6203 ext. 16

Jewish Family & Children’s Service- Canton: 781-419-6777

United Way COVID-19 Family Support Fund: can be accessed through United Way’s Mass 2-1-1 statewide consumer hotline. Dial 2-1-1.

 

Download pdf of Eviction and Housing Rights Information