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COVID-19 Information for Massachusetts

The purpose of this page is to provide apartment industry professionals with an overview of the issues affecting our industry with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. The page is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute, and should not be construed as, legal advice. This resource is not intended to provide a mandatory standard of care for the industry.

State and Local Affiliates

Please remember to use your state or local apartment association as the primary resource for the most up-to-date information on your responsibilities. Find your local affiliate.

We highly suggest you contact a local attorney before you decide to initiate an eviction action against a resident in the current environment as overlaying federal, state and county laws or restrictions on the judicial process may apply. This includes: issuing a notice to vacate, initiating any eviction-related action, or assessing fees or penalties on residents for nonpayment of rent or other lease violations. In addition to the below, you can access NAA's statutory information on late fees, eviction laws and other policy issues.

Reopening Order

Low risk communities in Massachusetts are currently in Phase 3, Step 2 of the state’s reopening plans. Under Phase 3, Step 2, gatherings at private residences are limited to no more than 25 people. 

Face Mask Mandate

Any person over the age of two who is in a place open to the public, whether indoor or outdoor, must wear a face covering. Businesses may decline entry to individuals not wearing face coverings. This order is in effect until rescinded. 

State of Emergency

Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency on March 10, 2020.

Eviction

Status: Eviction Cases and Enforcement Suspended

H. 4647

  • Action: Limits the rights of property owners to access the Courts to resolve disputes
  • Scope: Prohibition on terminating tenancies or sending any notices, including notices to quit, for non-essential eviction actions. Non-essential eviction actions include nonpayment of rent, foreclosure, for no fault or no cause, or for a cause which does not involve or include allegations of criminal activity or lease violations that may impact the health or safety of other tenants, health care workers, emergency personnel, persons lawfully on the property or the general public.
  • Duration: 120 days or 45 days after the state emergency declaration is lifted, whichever is sooner. The Governor may postpone the expiration of the bill for a period of time, which cannot go past 45 days after the emergency declaration is lifted. Currently, this order is set to expire on October 17, 2020. 
  • COVID-19 Related Financial Impact Requirement: Yes, for the prohibition on charging late fees. Residents must provide notice and documentation no later than 30 days after a rent payment is missed. 
  • Residents Responsible for Rent: Yes.
  • Additional Commentary: Allows property owners to utilize last month’s rent (security deposit) to pay for expenses, if the housing provider notifies the tenant in writing. However, owners and operators must provide tenants with the same interest that would have accrued if the housing provider had not utilized last month’s rent and prohibits housing providers from deducting money from the last month’s rent for any non-payment of rent. See Greater Boston Real Estate Board’s (GBREB) summary for more details.

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

The Massachusetts Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) program will provide direct funding to eligible households who have suffered financial hardship during the State of Emergency put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19.

ERMA will expand eligibility for rental and mortgage assistance to more low-income households who have been impacted by the crisis by adjusting the income threshold beyond the state’s traditional Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program. This includes households within the 50-80% range of Area Median Income (AMI). Like the RAFT program, ERMA will provide up to $4,000 for eligible households to pay rent or mortgage payments in arrears going back to payments due April 1, 2020. Beginning July 1, applicants can reach out to the eleven agencies that administer RAFT on the state’s behalf, this includes the nine Housing Consumer Education Centers, as well as LHAND and the Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance. $10 million is available for distribution. 

Rent Freeze

No rent freeze is in effect at the state or local level. Local rent regulation is preempted by Massachusetts Code Ch. 40P § 4-5.

Price-Gouging Law

Under Massachusetts Code § 940.3.18, it is unlawful to sell any petroleum or gas product at an unconscionably high price. The statutory language does not apply to any other goods or services.

Local Legal and Regulatory Information

Amherst 

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

The town of Amherst allocated $250,000 for income-eligible residents who have lost their jobs or are making less money because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recipients must be Amherst residents and cannot live in public housing or receive other government rental assistance. A lottery system is in place to award the money. Preference will be given to families with children under 18.

The rental subsidy provides up to three months of payments, for arrears from April 1 forward. The grants will pay up to half of the recipient’s monthly rent. The maximum subsidy amounts are $650 per month for a studio or one-bedroom unit, $800per month for two-bedroom unit, and $1,100 per month for three or more bedrooms.

The income eligibility limit is $47,850 for one person, $54,650 for a family of two, $61,500 for three, $68,300 for four, $73,800 for five, and $79,250 for a family of six or more.

Applicants must have a documented loss or reduction of income due to COVID-19, and insufficient income and/or assets to cover the rent for a three-month period.

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Boston

Eviction

Status: Moratorium has Expired.  

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, the Massachusetts Apartment Association, and the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporation, a trade group for nonprofit affordable housing operators, joined Saturday (March 14th) in instructing apartment management staff to suspend eviction actions for 90-days

Greg Vasil, CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board (GBREB), said the moratorium could extend further. GBREB is urging smaller landlords to join in the effort.

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

On April 6, 2020, the City of Boston began providing $3 million in in rental subsidies to low-income renters experiencing COVID-19 related financial hardship.

Eligible applicants must earn less than 80% of the area median income and may be awarded up to $4,000 in assistance. 

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Cambridge 

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

In response to the public health crisis created by COVID-19 (Coronavirus), Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale activated the Mayor's Disaster Relief Fund on March 19, 2020 to provide emergency assistance to individuals and families in Cambridge who are experiencing financial hardship due to the virus outbreak. Thanks to the generosity of the Cambridge community, more than $3.3 million has been raised and the Fund continues to accept donations.

Funds will be allocated for rent and/or utility payments and other household needs. Funds will also be allocated for mortgage payments for homes purchased through the City's affordable homeownership programs.

Additional information about eligibility guidelines, the application process, and required supporting documentation are available below. For full details, see the Mayor's Disaster Relief Fund Application Instructions and Information (PDF).

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Ipswich

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

Ipswich Affordable Housing Trust Fund Board has joined forces with Action Inc. to offer short-term rental assistance for Ipswich residents who have recently lost their jobs, been furloughed or lost significant income due to COVID-19.

Participants will pay up to 40% of their income toward their rent, and the program will pay the balance. If participants do not have income, Action Inc. will work with them to help them gain income. Each housing provider will be required to sign a contract in which they agree to accept the funds and not evict the tenant for the duration of the program.

Action will provide rental subsidies directly to the renters’ housing provider. It is intended for participants to transition out of the program after six months. If hardships continue past the six-month mark, participants may remain in the program for up to six additional months.

Eligibility for this program is: Ipswich residency; present income less than 80% area median income, as defined by HUD, during the first 30 days of implementation; income less than 100% AMI after the first 30 days; ability to demonstrate lost employment or income as a result of COVID-19 (i.e., laid off, furloughed, suffered significant reduction in hours, etc.); and being an adult over 18 years of age.

Action Inc. will manage the application process and the distribution of funds. Visit the Action Inc. website to complete a short intake survey and schedule an appointment with a client services advocate. If approved, applicants may receive assistance with back or future rent, based on current income.

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Lawrence

Eviction

On March 18, 2020, the City Council unanimously approved Mayor Daniel Rivera's request for an emergency resolution calling for a 60-day moratorium on rent and mortgage payments for those who have lost pay because of school or business closures.

A virtual City Council meeting took place March 31, 2020 at which the council will be asked to determine parameters for the proposed ordinance. There has been no update since. A statewide moratorium is in effect.  

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Newton

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

The Newton City Council approved putting $2 million in Community Preservation Act (CPA) money into the city’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental & Mortgage Assistance Program to help those in need. The account will have $2.5 million total – the $2 million in just-approved CPA funds and an additional $500,000 in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG).

According to the action plan, once applications are approved, renters and homeowners would be eligible to receive up to three months of housing assistance. The program will cover 70 percent of a household’s monthly rent, with a maximum monthly assistance amount of $2,500 per household (or $7,500 per household for three months).

Renters need to live in Newton; have reduced income because of COVID-19 and be able to demonstrate this financial hardship; and earn at or below 80 percent of Area Median Income.

Households currently receiving rental assistance (e.g. Public Housing tenants, RAFT, Section 8, MRVP or other locally administered support) are also eligible for this program (program assistance is only applied toward tenant’s portion of rent).

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North Andover

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

The North Andover Board of Selectman and the North Andover Affordable Housing Trust have established an emergency rental assistance program for those facing financial hardship due to COVID-19.

The $100,000 program will be available to those individuals and families making no more than 100% of the area median income. The monthly grant amount will be the difference between the monthly rent and 30% of the household’s gross monthly income.

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Quincy

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

Per The Patriot Ledger, the Quincy Affordable Housing Trust Fund Committee approved the use of $1 million to provide direct rent assistance for workers economically impacted by COVID-19. Criteria for the program has yet to be established.

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Revere

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

Mayor Brian Arrigo has committed $1 million in federal funds to assist with rental assistance for Revere residents who are at risk of eviction or homelessness due to inability to pay rent.

Eligible applicants will be entered into a lottery to create an order of response and will be prioritized if there are more applicants than can meet available funds.

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Williamstown

Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance

The board of the Williamstown Affordable Housing Trust will partner with Pittsfield's Berkshire Housing Development Corp. on an emergency rental assistance program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents of rental properties in Williamstown who make 100 percent or below the area median income and have "suffered financial setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic" will be eligible for grants would ranging from $500 to $1,000.

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