COVID-19 and Housing

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed October 21, 2020

The Massachusetts Eviction Moratorium ended:  A national moratorium still protects some tenants

After October 18, the Massachusetts law that protects tenants from eviction during the pandemic no longer protects you.  Landlords can begin evictions again.

But the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) ordered a national eviction moratorium.  This moratorium stops landlords from evicting some tenants who cannot keep up with rent.

If you qualify, your landlord is not allowed to evict you until after Dec. 31, 2020.

  1. Check to see if you qualify for the national CDC eviction moratorium.
  2. Apply for government rental assistance.
  3. Send the CDC “Declaration" to your landlord.
     

Do I qualify for the national CDC eviction moratorium?

To qualify:

  • You must:
    • have received an Economic Impact Payment, "stimulus payment", this year, or
    • get $99,000 or less in income in 2020, or
    • get $198,000 or less in income in 2020 if you are married and file a joint return, or
    • have had a low enough income in 2019 so that you did not need to file a federal tax return.

And

  • You are not able to pay your full rent because:
    • you had a “substantial” loss of household income, or
    • you lost your job, were laid off, or your hours were cut back, or
    • you have “extraordinary” out-of-pocket medical expenses. These are medical expenses that add up to more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income for the year, and no one is paying you back for them.

And

And

  • If you were evicted, you are likely to be homeless or have to move in with someone else.

 And

 

If I qualify, what do I need to do?

 Apply for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT).

You must apply for RAFT to use your "best efforts" to apply for government rental assistance and qualify for the national eviction moratorium.

See Where can I get help paying my rent?

Important

Keep copies of all your pre-applications and applications when you apply for rental assistance.

If you can swear that all the sentences in the Declaration are true, sign and send a Declaration to your landlord

 Use the MassAccess
CDC Eviction Moratorium Assistant to read through and create a Declaration you can sign, download, email or print and mail to your landlord.

 or

Get a Declaration form

Important

When you sign the Declaration, you are swearing that everything in the Declaration is true.

  • Keep a copy of the Declaration.
  • Send the original to your landlord by certified mail, or email.
  • Try to get proof you gave the Declaration to your landlord:
    * If you send the Declaration by certified mail, keep the receipt.
    * If you email the Declaration, keep the email you sent.
    * If you give your landlord your Declaration, make a note of the date you gave it to them. Write the note on your copy of the Declaration.
  • Keep anything your landlord sends back to you.

 Note

Even if you give your landlord your CDC Declaration, they may still file an eviction case against you. See I qualify for the CDC eviction moratorium and I gave my landlord the Declaration, but they are trying to evict me anyway.

 What if my "best efforts " to pay full rent means I cannot pay my rent?

Pay as much rent as you can, while keeping enough money to pay for your family's basic needs.

Keep a record of everything you pay towards rent. Include any rental assistance you get. 

Keep all your rent receipts. 

When the moratorium expires on December 31, 2020, you will owe your landlord any rent you did not pay.

Does my CDC Declaration cover everyone in my household?

No. Every adult in your household should sign and provide their own Declaration to your landlord.

Does my financial hardship need to be related to COVID-19?

No. The CDC order does not require that your financial hardship be related to COVID-19.

Do I need to have proof of the things I swear to in my CDC Declaration?

No, you do not need to give your landlord any proof that the things you swear to in your Declaration are true. You only need to give your landlord your Declaration.

But keep any proof you have or you can get, in case your landlord tells a court they believe you do not qualify. 

Some examples of proof are bank statements, termination letters from your employer, medical bills or applications to rental assistance programs.

What if my landlord already started to evict me?

You can give your landlord a signed CDC Declaration at any time during the eviction process. If the CDC eviction moratorium applies to you, your landlord will not be able to move you out until after Dec. 31, 2020. The court may provide other protections as well.

  • Call your local legal aid program.
  • Prepare an Answer:
    • Use MADE, MAssachusetts Defense to Eviction program, to help you prepare your Answer or
    • use the Answer Booklet.
  • Watch your mail for notices from the court:
    1. Serve your landlord with a copy of your Answer and file your Answer with the court.
      Include a copy of the CDC Declaration you gave your landlord. Make sure the judge has a copy of your Declaration and the date you sent it to your landlord.
    2. Attend the hearing on the date the court tells you to.

Does the CDC moratorium cover all evictions for tenants who qualify?

It does not protect you if your landlord is evicting you for:

  • conducting criminal activity on the property, 
  • threatening the health or safety of other residents,
  • damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to the property,
  • violating building codes, health ordinances, or other regulations related to health and safety, or
  • breaking any rental agreements you have with your landlord that are not about money you owe them.

If your landlord is trying to evict you for something you did not do

If the CDC eviction moratorium applies to you, your landlord will not be able to move you out until after Dec. 31, 2020. The court may provide other protections as well.

  • Call your local legal aid program.
  • Prepare a Motion to Dismiss.
  • Prepare an Answer:
    • Use MADE, MAssachusetts Defense to Eviction program, to help you prepare your Answer or
    • use the Answer Booklet.
  • Watch your mail for notices from the court:
    1. Serve your landlord with a copy of your motion and your Answer, and
    2. File your motion and Answer with the court.
      If you gave your landlord a CDC Declaration, include a copy with your Answer.  Make sure the judge has a copy of your Declaration and the date you sent it to your landlord.
    3. Attend the hearing on the date the court tells you to.

I qualify for the CDC eviction moratorium and I gave my landlord my Declaration, but they are trying to evict me anyway

If the CDC eviction moratorium applies to you, your landlord will not be able to move you out until after Dec. 31, 2020. The court may provide other protections as well.

  • Call your local legal aid program.
  • Prepare an Answer:
    • Use MADE, MAssachusetts Defense to Eviction program, to help you prepare your Answer or
    • use the Answer Booklet.
  • Watch your mail for notices from the court:
    1. Serve your landlord with a copy of your Answer and
    2. File your Answer with the court.
      Include a copy of the CDC Declaration you gave your landlord that shows the date you sent it to them. Make sure the judge has a copy of your Declaration and the date you sent it to your landlord
    3. Attend the hearing on the date the court tells you to. 

A landlord who violates the CDC order can be fined between $100,000 and $250,000, or go to jail for a year.

Can I my landlord evict me when the CDC eviction moratorium expires?

Yes.  Right now, you can be evicted when the CDC national moratorium ends on December 31, 2020.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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