With the expiration of Massachusetts’ eviction ban on Saturday, Oct. 17, the state’s court system is now available to landlords seeking to file eviction claims.
A federal eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control is still in place through Dec. 31. However, the state’s courts have interpreted the federal action as allowing eviction cases to be filed, but orders of execution – the final legal action that forces a tenant to leave – may not be issued until the CDC moratorium ends.
Under a $171 million plan put forward by the Baker administration last week, landlords and tenants behind in rent still have ways to avoid eviction filings or a full trial entirely and still settle rent arrearages.
Before an eviction is filed, each side will be able to use beefed-up mediation services coordinated by the state’s nine expanded Housing Consumer Education Centers.
Landlords and tenants who do head to court will be able to use Housing Court-provided mediation under a new, two-tier process that includes the offer of state-paid lawyers for both sides.
To help make deals between landlords and tenants possible, Baker is adding about $67 million in federal pandemic aid to the state’s main housing assistance program, called Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) on top of money already added to the program earlier this year. The state is also boosting the maximum RAFT payout from $4,000 per household to $10,00 per household, with the goal of keeping out-of-work tenants in place for six months or until the end of June if the tenant has school-age children. Landlords will be able to apply for RAFT on behalf of their tenants.
The Baker plan also gives an additional $48.7 million to the state’s HomeBASE program to help rapidly rehouse tenants who do get evicted and who are at risk of homelessness.
So far, some prominent landlord-tenant attorneys and landlord groups like MassLandlords say they’ve been urging landlords to look at court filings as a last resort, but both landlord groups and renter activists have said Baker’s plan needs at least $100 million more in rental assistance.