Facing eviction? We can help.

Whether you are a renter struggling to make payments or facing eviction, or a landlord with tenants in crisis, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has resources available to help. Legal help and mediation are also available to help low-income tenants and small landlords avoid an eviction.

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"I'm behind on rent and facing eviction. How can you help me?"

Help paying your rent

Are you having trouble paying your rent, mortgage or utility bills? Have you lost your job or lost income Are you at risk of becoming homeless? 

You may be eligible to receive help with paying your rent, mortgage or utility bills. Massachusetts offers emergency housing payment assistance administered through regional agencies that can assist low-income renters, homeowners, and landlords. Renters and landlords can access the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program, which can cover utilities, moving costs, and overdue rent costs, as well as future rent in limited situations. Homeowners may be eligible to receive assistance through the Homeowners Assistance Fund (HAF). Learn more about HAF here

Access to free legal help

Regional legal aid programs assist low-income tenants with referrals, legal information, and legal representation for  evictions statewide. Please see https://www.mass.gov/info-details/eviction-diversion-initiative-legal-services-and-mediation for more information. 

A lawyer can advise you about the law, refer you to resources, fill out and file court papers, and represent you. A lawyer can help advise you before a case gets to court or if a case is in court. The earlier you contact a lawyer the better. 

Mediation between you and your landlord

Massachusetts Community Mediation Centers are offering free pre-court mediation between landlords and tenants for lease disputes in addition to the summary process cases referred through the courts. 

Mediation is a confidential, voluntary and non-judgmental process where a neutral third party (the mediator) helps people resolve differences based on what is important to them. 

"How can I make sure I submit a complete application when applying for housing assistance? How can my landlord help?"

COMPLETE application must be submitted to receive money quickly. Please review the following guidance and get the required documentation in order before contacting an administering agency or submitting an application for assistance.

Am I qualified?  

To qualify for emergency rental assistance in Massachusetts, you must have an income no more than 50 percent of the area median income (AMI) and must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability. This could include being behind on your rent, needing assistance with utility costs, having to move due to health/safety concerns, overcrowding, doubled up, etc., and more.  

COVID-19 impact can be indirect. When applying for assistance, please select Yes if your situation was either directly caused by COVID-19 OR has become worse since March 2020. This could include losing a job, having hours reduced, losing access to childcare or dependent care, seeing increased expenses, or something else. You must describe your situation, but documentation is not required. Some programs do not require a COVID-19 related impact.

What documents are required when submitting an application? 

A complete application for rental assistance must include:  

  • I.D. for the Head of Household with the full name and date of birth (For example: state issued driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport) 

  • Proof of current housing, such as a lease, tenancy agreement or a tenancy at-will form 

  • Verification of Housing Crisis includes: 

    • Pre-court rental arrears (at least 1 month required)

      Eviction (i.e. court summons)
    • Overcrowding (i.e. documentation demonstrating unit too small for household, letter from landlord or primary tenant)
    • Health & safety (demonstrate serious health/safety risk, i.e. failed inspection report)
    • Domestic violence (documentation to support allegation, self-statement from applicant)
    • Fire/flood/natural disaster
    • Utility shutoff/arrears (i.e shutoff notice)
    • Other crisis resulting in loss of housing (documentation demonstrating applicant will be homeless within 30 days
  • Verification of income: DHCD will first try to verify your income using information from the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) or MassHealth; if we can, you don’t need to submit anything. If we can’t verify your income, you’ll be asked to submit any of the following:

    • An income eligibility form or letter, dated January 1, 2020, or later, from any one of the following programs INSTEAD of pay stubs or other income documentation: public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8), state housing vouchers (MRVP, AHVP, DMH, or DDS), LIHEAP (Low Income Heat and Energy Assistance Program), subsidized childcare, or Veterans Chapter 115, tax form 1040 or 1040 EZ. 

    • Two paystubs from the past 60 days, for earned income, plus most recent benefit letters for other types of income (such as social security, child support, or unemployment)

Do I need to let my landlord know I am applying for rental assistance?  

Yes. Let your landlord know you are planning to apply, as they will need to provide the following documents in order to receive payment: 

  • W-9 for property owner or authorized agent of the property owner, like a property manager 

  • Proof of ownership for unit 

How can my landlord help me apply?

Your landlord can help you fill out the online application. With your written consent your landlord can submit the application for you.   

 

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"I received a notice to quit. What do I do?"

In Massachusetts, a landlord must send a tenant a Notice to Quit before the landlord can file a summary process (eviction) action. The Notice to Quit is a legal document that formally notifies the tenant that the tenancy will be terminated on a specific date. A Notice to Quit is not an order to leave your home on the date of the lease termination.

NOTE: IF YOU RECEIVE A NOTICE TO QUIT YOU DO NOT NEED TO IMMEDIATELY LEAVE YOUR UNIT. YOU ARE ENTITLED TO A LEGAL PROCEEDING IN WHICH YOU CAN DEFEND AGAINST THE EVICTION. ONLY A COURT ORDER CAN FORCE YOU TO LEAVE YOUR UNIT.

f you have received a Notice to Quit for nonpayment of rent, do not ignore or discard it. You should immediately contact your landlord to try to work out a payment plan. You can also contact your local legal aid organization to learn if you are eligible for legal assistance and your local Housing Consumer Education Center to learn if you are eligible for rental assistance. 

If you own and live in your property and also rent out one or more units, the Volunteer Lawyers Project may be able to provide legal advice or assistance if you are currently in court with a tenant, considering proceeding with an eviction, or dealing with foreclosure or other housing issues. Call them at 617-603-1700, or email at celhp@vlpnet.org.   

Notice to Quit Requirements for Landlords

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has recently put new requirements in place for landlords regarding the issuance of notices to quit. From December 31, 2020 until  March 31, 2023, landlords must do the following:  

  1. Together with the notice to quit itself, provide tenants with a completed copy of the Notice to Quit Attestation Form. 

  1. Submit a copy of the notice to quit to EOHED. 

"I am a small landlord - how can you help me and my tenants?"

Do you have tenants having trouble paying rent? Have your tenants lost a job or lost income? They may be eligible for assistance from the state that will send rent payments directly to you, the landlord.

Extra help is available for small landlords:

  • With written consent from their tenants, landlords may apply directly for the state’s assistance programs on behalf of their tenants. After speaking with your tenant, contact your regional agency.
  • Additional resources for owners of 1-4 family homes. 
     

What else do I need to know as a landlord?

Massachusetts Community Mediation Centers are offering free pre-court mediation between ​landlords and tenants for ​COVID-19 related lease disputes in addition to the summary process cases referred through the district courts. Mediation is a confidential, voluntary and non-judgmental process where a neutral third party (the mediator) helps people resolve differences based on what is important to them.

Notice to Quit Requirements

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has recently put new requirements in place for landlords regarding the issuance of notices to quit. From December 31, 2020 until March 31, 2023, landlords must do the following: 

  1. Together with the notice to quit itself, provide tenants with a completed copy of the Notice to Quit Attestation Form.
  2. Submit a copy of the notice to quit to EOHED.

Discrimination by a landlord is prohibited

Landlords should be aware that Chapter 151B of the Massachusetts General Laws prohibits discrimination by a landlord against any tenant receiving federal, state, or local housing subsidies, including rental assistance or rental supplements, because the individual is such a recipient.

A landlord's refusal to accept emergency rental assistance, that covers the entire amount owed to the landlord, may, in some circumstances, constitute a violation of Chapter 151B.  Landlords should consult their own legal counsel for advice before declining rental assistance that covers all outstanding rent arrears.

"I live in private, subsidized or public affordable housing and I am unable to pay rent. How can you help?"

If you live in public housing (state or federal units), or eligible privately-owned affordable housing you may be eligible for assistance through the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program. You can apply for assistance directly, or with your consent your landlord may apply on your behalf.

"I am facing eviction, what protections do I have?"

State and federal eviction protections may apply to you.  In April 2022, Chapter 42 of the Acts of 2022 was signed into law.  This extended protections for tenants and requires courts to pause non-payment eviction cases when tenants have pending applications for rental assistance. If you are facing eviction and have not yet applied for assistance, begin the process through the Central Application.

For more information, and to connect with free legal aid for eligible renters ​and small landlords, go to https://evictionlegalhelp.org/.  

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