Eviction protections extended in MA

BOSTON — Senate President Karen Spilka tweeted “Thank you!” to MA Gov. Charlie Baker Wednesday more than 12 hours after the legislature sent a compromise bill extending pandemic protections she and colleagues say are critical to restaurants, health care and tenants facing eviction.

But renters’ advocates, like Eloise Lawrence of Harvard Legal Aid said, “This is definitely not an extension of the moratorium. It’s a critical piece to try to cobble some protections, but we need more.”

The state’s eviction moratorium expired last October. The bill extends eviction protections until April 2022. Landlords can still file evictions against tenants for non-payment of rent, but this measure ensures no action can be taken if the tenant is in the process of getting rental assistance.

“If their rental assistance is pending, then the court should pause that eviction and allow that application to work through the system,” Lawrence said.

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If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Lawrence said tenants are too. And simply having an eviction filing on your record can ruin your chances of getting another place to live.

“A lot of people, all they need to do is receive a summons to go to court, it’s what we call a notice to quit that they are supposed to pay up or leave, and they will just go,” Lawrence said.

Doug Quattrochi of MassLandords.net said many small landlords took their properties out of the rental market when the state’s moratorium came down last year.

“Only a court can order you to leave,” he explained. “There’s a whole long process, most of which is going to result in you getting rental assistance.”

For those still in the game, he said federal and state RAFT rental assistance has been painfully slow in coming through.

“We’ve got at least $700 million last I saw that hasn’t been spent. And if we don’t spend it in time, the United States Treasury is going to claw it back. We won’t have access to it in Massachusetts. So it’s important here in Massachusetts that people get approved as fast as possible, and then, as a state, we need to lower the difficulty of applying,” Quattrochi said.

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