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COVID-19 Eviction Diversion - Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to your questions about the comprehensive set of resources, known as the Eviction Diversion Initiative, to support tenants and landlords during the financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Table of Contents

I got 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 apartment 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 Program offers free legal help to eligible tenants and small landlords affected by COVID. If you are not eligible for CELHP, Legal Resource Finder 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.

Additional Resources

What eviction protections are provided under the CDC moratorium?

When the state moratorium expired on October 17, a federal moratorium established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) became effective in Massachusetts. Through June 30, 2021, the CDC moratorium will prevent evictions for non-payment for qualified tenants who submit a written declaration to their landlord. Courts will accept eviction filings and process cases, and may enter judgments, but will not issue an order of execution (the court order that allows a landlord to evict a tenant) until after the expiration of the CDC order.  Protection is limited to households who meet certain income and vulnerability criteria. Declaration may be found here, and in Spanish here.

I received a Summons and Complaint from my landlord, and I cannot afford an attorney [...]

I received a Summons and Complaint from my landlord, and I cannot afford an attorney.  Can anyone help me through the court process?

The Court Service Centers can help explain the court process and can help tenants complete basic court documents to respond to a Summons and Complaint. Currently, the Court Service Center locations are closed to the public for in-person assistance, but help is available from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. from Monday through Friday through Zoom meetings.  Visit the Court website for more information on how to join a Court Service Center through Zoom and what information you will need to have on hand.

You may also qualify for free or reduced cost legal assistance through the NEW Covid Eviction Legal Help Program (CELHP). 
CELHP is available statewide for both low-income tenants and owner-occupants. You can find CELHP legal help by your zip-code.

Visit https://evictionlegalhelp.org to find legal assistance near you AND more information on tenants rights and the eviction process, or call 2-1-1 for more information. 

 

I am unable to pay my rent and am worried about eviction. What do I do?

Contact your regional housing agency, where you can connect to various resources, including emergency rental assistance for eligible households.

There are state and local programs offering assistance for rent. The amount of assistance is based on tenant household income and landlord’s willingness to participate.

You can find your regional housing agency by clicking here or call 2-1-1 for more information.

I am a landlord and my tenant owes a lot of rent. Aside from going to court, what else can I do?

If you are the owner-occupant of a 1-4 family home, you may be entitled to mortgage deferral or forbearance protections. See answer to this question. You also may be entitled to free or low-cost legal help under the COVID Eviction Legal Help Program.

If you or your tenant is low or moderate income, there is state rental and mortgage assistance available through the ERAP program. You or your tenant can learn more about these assistance programs, as well as local assistance programs, through your regional housing agency. 

Landlords who own up to 20 rental properties may apply directly for rental assistance on behalf of eligible tenants. Please visit our page here for more information.

Click here or call 2-1-1 for more information.

I am a homeowner and unable to pay my mortgage. What do I do?

It is important that you contact your mortgage servicer (the company where you send your monthly payments) as soon as possible to let them know about your current circumstances. They may be able to assist with a deferral or forbearance, which would allow you to delay payments for a temporary period.

The Federal CARES Act provides protections for owner-occupants of 1-4 family properties with mortgages that are federally or Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) backed or funded (FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac). You can learn about your options, find out if you quality, and request forbearance or mortgage relief by visiting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.

You may also be eligible for mortgage assistance under the state’s Homeowners Assistance Fund (HAF) program which includes assistance for eligible owner-occupants of 1-4 family homes. You can find  information of HAF here or call 2-1-1 for more information.

I am about to become homeless or am doubled up in an unsafe situation. What resources are there?

If you are homeless or on the verge of homelessness, please contact the Family Resource Center (FRC) in your community or call (866) 584-0653 to speak to a Homeless Coordinator.

HomeBASE provides assistance with housing costs and is available to families that are homeless and meet other eligibility requirements.

There are also other rapid rehousing benefits that may assist eligible families that are on the verge of homelessness.

What are the eligibility criteria for the state’s rental assistance programs, ERAP and RAFT?

The application is the same for both the ERAP and RAFT programs, so you do not need to know which program you are eligible for and can apply at the same time. 

Income limits vary by region and household size. Also the amount of financial assistance available varies between programs. If your income is below 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) you may be eligible for rental assistance.

You can see income limits for the programs here, but we encourage you to contact your regional housing agency (link here) for more information on eligibility. They may also have information about other local assistance programs that may have different eligibility than ERAP or RAFT.

Am I eligible for rental assistance if I live in subsidized housing(e.g., public housing,Section 8)?

If you live in a unit where rent is calculated based on a percentage of income, you must seek a rent adjustment first before accessing ERAP or RAFT. The regional housing agency will evaluate the situation and may be able to help you to seek a rent adjustment or repayment plan for past due rent. If the rent adjustment is not granted or there are other household financial considerations, the ERAP or RAFT program may be able to help.

There is also a new program, the Subsidized Housing Emergency Rental Assistance (SHERA) program. This program allows property owners of eligible subsidized housing and local housing authorities (state and federal units) to apply for rental assistance on behalf of tenants. If you live in subsidized housing, talk to your property manager and ask if they are participating in SHERA. 

Does ERAP cover utilities? RAFT did not cover them, how is ERAP different and what else can I do?

ERAP funding may cover overdue utilities arrears up to $1,500 even without a shut-off notice (as required by RAFT). All utility arrears must have been accrued after 3/13/20.  

You also may be eligible to combine RAFT with another program administered by your city or town, or a private foundation. Your Regional Administering Agency can tell you about these additional programs.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program that provides a temporary discount on monthly broadband bills for qualifying low-income households.

Additional Resources

What are all the recent changes to the rental assistance program and when will they take effect?

UPDATED June 2021

As of Monday, June 4, 2021, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) benefit limit has increased to 18 months of assistance with either arrears or prospective rent, for costs accrued after March 13, 2020. Households may receive up to 18 months of arrears or up to 18 months of prospective rental assistance, or a combination of both.

On March 22, 2021, DHCD launched the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which can pay back rent, as well as stipends for future rent and overdue utilities. For tenants, the application will not change substantially. RAFT funding is still available to households who may not be eligible for ERAP funding.

If you have already received RAFT funding, but think you may need further assistance with housing, we encourage you to reach out to your regional housing agency again.

 

I am a landlord and want to apply for rental assistance on behalf of my tenant. What should I do?

NEW December: Landlords who own up to 20 of housing can now apply for rental assistance on behalf of eligible tenants. 

For more information about this new option please visit our page here. 

I may need a lawyer or a mediator to work out my rental situation. Where can I find one?

If you are a low-income tenant and have received a Notice to Quit or a court Summons and Complaint, or if you are a low-income owner of a 2- or 3- family home having a problem with a tenant, visit the Covid Eviction Legal Help Program (CEHLP) website to see if you qualify for assistance.

If you are not yet involved with the court, your regional housing agency may be able to help you work things out with your landlord or they may refer you to a community mediation or legal services program that can help you and your landlord reach an agreement without having to go to court. You can find your regional housing agency here or call 2-1-1 for more information.

New community mediation resources and legal help is NOW available. Visit our page on Mediation and Legal Services here for more information. 

Who is eligible for services under the new COVID Response Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP)?

The COVID Response TPP assists households at risk for homelessness due to a COVID-19 hardship, who are having difficulty accessing the state’s emergency rental assistance programs, particularly targeting low income households with minor children and frail elders. This short-term expansion of TPP serves a broader population than TPP, which is more narrowly focused on tenants with disabilities and other health conditions that are negatively impacting their tenancies. Both programs operate regionally with the same non-profit providers.

I live in Boston, Brockton, Worcester, Springfield or Lawrence and am about to become [...]

I live in Boston, Brockton, Worcester, Springfield or Lawrence am about to become homeless or I am doubled up in an unsafe situation. How do I learn more about the Strategic Prevention Initiative (SPI)?

In order to determine if you are eligible for SPI, please call (866) 584-0653 to speak to a Homeless Coordinator.

Are there other resources available from cities and towns or other sources?

Some cities and towns have established their own rental assistance programs, which may have different rules and documentation requirements. Your Regional Administering Agency can tell you about these additional programs in your area.

Home Energy Assistance: Income-eligible homeowners and renters may be able to have a portion of their household’s winter home energy season bills paid.  Applications are taken by local administrating agencies (includes community action agencies, non-profits, and local government).  Eligible households qualify for reduced investor-owned utility rates and weatherization services. Find the agency that serves where you live and how to apply.

Internet Service: If you need help paying for monthly internet costs and/or securing an internet accessible device, resources are available through the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit.

Last updated: November 30, 2021
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