What You Need to Know and How to Stay in Your Home
Amidst a global pandemic and a faltering economy, many Massachusetts renters faced eviction. Many were, and still are, out of work due to the Covid-19 outbreak. On April 21, 2020, Massachusetts protected renters by passing an emergency moratorium on evictions. That moratorium prohibited landlords from evicting certain residential tenants.
The moratorium was originally set to expire on August 18, 2020, but, in late July, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker extended the expiration date to October 17, 2020. For now, Massachusetts renters remain protected, but as attractive as it can be to not look ahead, it pays to take note of some details.
- The moratorium does not forgive back rent. When it expires, any unpaid rent becomes will become due. It is uncertain now whether all back rent will become immediately due or some legislative or administrative payment terms will apply to the period after the end of the moratorium.
- In late July, a U.S. Census Bureau survey estimated that 570,000 Massachusetts residents doubted they could make their August rent or mortgage payment.
- On July 15, 2020, a group of Massachusetts landlords challenged Governor Baker’s authority to order the moratorium at all. Baptiste et al. v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts et al., No. 1:20-cv-11335, (D. Mass. 2020). The federal court, ruling preliminarily in the case, wrote that “a pandemic [is not] a blank check for state elected officials to trample constitutional rights,” suggesting that Baker could not impose an endless reprieve from rent payments, and that time would run out. The federal judge was not specific on when the moratorium would, in his view, become unconstitutional. As of Sept. 2020, uncertainly surrounds the duration of the moratorium.
Many Massachusetts renters will soon face a tough situation – they will have to resume making rent payments plus immediately repay their missed payments, all with less income.
Fortunately, bankruptcy law gives Massachusetts renters a few options to stay in their homes, depending on their circumstances:
- If you have monthly payments for credit cards or other loans, bankruptcy can reduce or completely eliminate your payment obligations. This can free up significant money each month that you can now use to cover rent. Common sense dictates that this option will only help you with your rent if you free up the money before eviction starts. Act quickly to explore your options and take action if spending money on debt payments is what is preventing you from paying rent.
- Even if you face eviction before straightening your basic finances out first, bankruptcy can provide a stay that allows you to restart paying your monthly rent, propose a plan to pay the back amounts, and stay in your home.
Bankruptcy will not be the right solution for everyone, but for those in the right circumstances it can be a powerful legal tool to use to fight an eviction. You may contact our office for a free consultation to see if bankruptcy works for you.