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Guide Facing eviction? We can help.

Whether you are a renter struggling to make payments or facing eviction due to COVID-19, or a small landlord with tenants in crisis, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has resources available to help. Payments for overdue rent go directly to landlords, and legal help and mediation are also available to help low-income tenants and small landlords avoid an eviction.

You can also call 2-1-1 at anytime. Get the answers you need. It's free, confidential, and multilingual.

Table of Contents

"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 because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Have you lost your job or lost income during the Covid-19 health crisis? 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 assistance, including help with rental, mortgage and utility costs, administered through regional agencies that can assist low-income renters and owners of 1-4 family homes.

If you live in subsidized housing, you may be able to get help directly through your property owner.

Access to free legal help

Through the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project (CELHP) six regional legal aid programs will assist low-income tenants with referrals, legal information, and legal representation for COVID-related evictions statewide in Housing Court.

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 ​COVID-19 related 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 rental assistance in Massachusetts, you must have an income no more than 80 percent of the area median income (AMI), must be able to prove a financial hardship related to COVID-19, and must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability. This could include being behind on your rent, not being able to afford future housing payments, needing assistance with utilities, and more 

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, such as a notice of arrears or balance overdue, court summons, notice to quit, notice of eviction, or a letter from host if doubled up 

  • Verification of income 

    • If you receive benefits from the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) or MassHealth you are PRESUMED ELIGIBLE and do not need to submit pay stubs or other income documentation.

    • You can provide 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 .

    • Your also have the option of proving 2020 annual income (instead of current monthly income) by submitting a copy of your filed 2020 Form 1040 or 1040 EZ.

    • You can still verify your monthly income by:

      • two paystubs from the past 60 days, for earned income, plus

      • your 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.  If your landlord has fewer than 20 rental units, with your written consent your landlord can submit the application for you.  And if you live in subsidized housing, you can access assistance directly through your property owner.

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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.

If 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. The COVID Eviction Legal Help Project will connect you to information for legal aid programs, nonprofits, government agencies, and court programs that may be able to help you with your legal issue for free or at a low cost. You can then contact your local Housing Consumer Education Center to learn if you are eligible for rental assistance.

New 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 the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency, 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.

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

Do you have tenants having trouble paying rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Have your tenants lost a job or lost income during the COVID-19 health crisis? 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:

  • Landlords who own up to 20 units of housing 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. 
     
    • If you own and live in your property and also rent out one or more units, the Volunteer Lawyers Project (through the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project) may be able to provide legal assistance if you currently in court with a tenant or considering filing a notice to quit and proceeding with an eviction. Click here to contact the Volunteer Lawyers Project, call them at 617-603-1700, or email at celhp@vlpnet.org.
    • You may also be eligible for mortgage assistance under the state’s RAFT or ERMA program. Contact your regional housing agency, where you can connect to various resources, including emergency assistance for eligible owner-occupants of 1-4 family homes. You can find your regional housing agency by clicking here or call 2-1-1 for more information.
    • Finally, the Federal CARES Act provides protections for owner-occupants of 1-4 family properties with certain types of mortgages. You can learn about your options, find out if you qualify, and request mortgage relief by visiting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website, contacting a foreclosure counseling agency in your area or reaching out to the consumer assistance unit at the Massachusetts Division of Banks.

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.

New 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 the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency, 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.

Latest CDC and CFPB Updates

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued an order prohibiting a landlord from evicting a tenant if the tenant provides the landlord with a declaration that:

  1. the tenant has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
  2. the tenant either (i) earned no more than $99,000 (or $198,000 if filing jointly) in Calendar year 2020, or expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2021 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), (ii) was not required to report any income in 2020 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or (iii) received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check);
  3. the tenant is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of housing income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
  4. the tenant is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual's circumstances may permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses;
  5. eviction would likely render the tenant homeless - or force the tenant to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting - because the tenant has no other available housing options.

The CDC moratorium is currently set to expire on June 30, 2021.  For more information.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently issued a new rule that requires debt collectors to inform tenants to whom the CDC order might reasonably apply about the existence of the CDC moratorium.  The CFPB rule takes the position that certain requirements applicable to debt collectors also apply to attorneys who engage in eviction proceedings on behalf of landlords or residential property owners to collect unpaid rent.  To comply with the CFPB rule, landlord attorneys must provide a tenant with certain information when it sends the tenant a notice to quit, as a precondition to filing an eviction action for non-payment of rent.  The CFPB rule provides sample language that may be used to comply with this disclosure requirement.  The CFPB rule is effective on May 3, 2021 and for the duration of the CDC Order’s effective period, and any extension thereof.

 

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 for assistance through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), but you could also access assistance directly through your property owner. 

Talk to your property management company or local housing authority and ask if they are participating in the Subsidized Housing Emergency Rental Assistance (SHERA) program. This new program will allow qualified owners and local housing authorities to apply directly to state agencies for funding. 

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