SECTION 1. ''Eviction'', an action, without limitation, by an owner or lessor or manager of a housing accommodation which is intended to actually or constructively evict a tenant or otherwise compel a tenant to vacate such housing accommodation.
''Housing accommodation'', a building or structure, or part thereof or land appurtenant thereto, and any other real or personal property used, rented or offered for rent for living or dwelling purposes, together with all services connected with the use or occupancy of such property.
“Just cause'', one of the following: (1) the tenant has failed to pay the rent and is not subject to the protections of Section 2, below; (2) the tenant has materially violated an obligation or covenant of the tenancy or occupancy, other than the obligation to surrender possession upon proper notice, and has failed to cure such violation within 30 days after having received written notice thereof from the owner; (3) the tenant is committing a nuisance in the unit, is permitting a nuisance to exist in the unit, is causing substantial damage to the unit or is creating a substantial interference with the quiet enjoyment of other occupants; (4) the tenant is using or permitting the unit to be used for any illegal purpose.
''Tenant'', a person or group of persons who is entitled to occupy a housing accommodation pursuant to a lease or tenancy or a tenancy at will, or a former homeowner residing in a property that has been foreclosed on.
SECTION 2. (a) Notwithstanding chapters 186 or 239 of the General Laws or any other general or special law to the contrary, no plaintiff in a non-payment eviction action may recover possession of a residential dwelling unit at any time on the basis of any rent or use and occupancy payments due and payable during the period from the Governor’s March 10, 2020 emergency declaration designated as executive order number 591 (“Emergency Declaration”) until 12 months after the Emergency Declaration is rescinded, nor shall such rent or use and occupancy payments be recoverable in any proceeding under chapter 239, where the failure to pay such rent or use and occupancy resulted from a loss of income or other change in economic circumstances caused in any way, directly or indirectly, by the conditions and/or events described in the Emergency Declaration.
(b) In any proceeding under chapter 239 where the plaintiff’s complaint for possession and/or rent due is based upon any rent or use and occupancy due and payable during the period from March 10, 2020 until 12 months after the Emergency Declaration is rescinded, it shall be a rebuttable presumption that the tenant or occupant was unable to pay such rent or use and occupancy payments because of such lost income or other change in economic circumstances, and such presumption shall be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence that the failure to pay rent was not based in whole or in part upon such lost income or other change in economic circumstances.
(c) No person shall initiate, file or threaten to file a negative credit report to a credit reporting agency due to the nonpayment of rent or use and occupancy referred to in this section.
SECTION 3. (a) Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, during the state of the Emergency Declaration and for 12 months after the Emergency Declaration is rescinded, no person shall (1) attempt to commence, or commence, an eviction, except for just cause; or (2) charge or collect rent or use and occupancy payments in excess of the agreed-upon amount as of March 10, 2020, except that housing authorities and landlords with tenants whose rent payments are partially or fully subsidized shall be excluded from the rent change provision of subsection (2), above. Any waiver of any provision of this section shall be against public policy and void. This section shall not be applicable to owner-occupied buildings composed of four or fewer rental units.
(b) A city or town may provide that the just cause eviction protections of this chapter be extended beyond the expiration of Section 3(a), and for any duration, by legislative enactment in the manner provided in section 4 of chapter 4 of the General Laws, and may, in like manner, terminate such extension.
SECTION 4. Notwithstanding any general or special law, rule, or regulation to the contrary, no court having jurisdiction of a summary process action or any other trial court department shall make public or publish, in any manner, the name or other identifying information, such as the person’s address, of any person named as a party to a summary process or civil action where the plaintiff seeks non-payment of rent from a period beginning with the commencement of the Emergency Declaration until 12 months after its termination; provided, further, that such information shall be impounded and shall remain permanently unavailable for public inspection or publication, except to the parties to the action or their attorney, or as ordered by the court for good cause shown.
SECTION 5. Notwithstanding any general or special law or rule or regulation to the contrary, a creditor, mortgagee or person having estate in the land mortgaged, a person authorized by a power of sale pursuant to section 14 of said chapter 244 or right of entry or the attorney duly authorized by a writing under seal or the legal guardian or conservator of such mortgagee or person acting in the name of such mortgagee or person shall not, for the purposes of foreclosure of a residential property as defined in section 35B of said chapter 244 that is not vacant or abandoned: (i) cause notice of a foreclosure sale to be published pursuant to said section 14 of said chapter 244; (ii) exercise a power of sale; (iii) exercise a right of entry; (iv) initiate a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure process; or (v) file a complaint to determine the military status of a mortgagor under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, 50 USC sections 3901 to 4043, inclusive, on the basis of mortgage payments due and payable from the Emergency Declaration until 12 months after the Emergency Declaration is rescinded, or the end of any forbearance period granted pursuant to Section 5(b) of Chapter 65 of the Acts of 2020. Any foreclosure actions taken in violation of this statute shall be against public policy and void.
SECTION 6. (a) Section 5(b) of Chapter 65 of the Acts of 2020 is amended and replaced in full with the following paragraph:-
A creditor or mortgagee shall grant forbearance to a mortgagor of a mortgage loan for a residential property as defined in said section 35B of said chapter 244 if the mortgagor submits a request to the mortgagor’s servicer affirming that the mortgagor has experienced a financial impact from COVID-19. The request may be made in any form, written or oral, and the forbearance shall be granted regardless of the mortgagor’s delinquency status. The forbearance shall last 180 days, although at the mortgagor’s request, the period of forbearance may begin in an increment shorter than 180 days and then extended at the mortgagor’s request. The forbearance shall be extended for an additional 180 days at the mortgagor’s request. Fees, penalties or interest beyond the amounts scheduled and calculated as if the mortgagor made all contractual payments on time and in full under the terms of the mortgage contract shall not accrue during the period of forbearance granted under this subsection. A payment subject to the forbearance, including any escrow payments required to be paid in the mortgage contract, shall be added to the end of the term of the loan unless otherwise agreed to by the mortgagor and mortgagee. Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a mortgagor and mortgagee from entering into an alternative payment agreement for the payments subject to the forbearance. The mortgagee shall not furnish information to a consumer reporting agency related to mortgage payments subject to forbearance under this act. Nothing in this Act reduces a mortgagor’s rights under the CARES Act as applied to federally backed mortgage loans.
(b) Notwithstanding any general or special law, rule, or regulation to the contrary, a creditor or mortgagee shall grant forbearance to a mortgage loan for residential property owned by a nonprofit entity (or an affiliate or agent of such non-profit entity) or where the mortgagor (including affiliates and agents) owns 15 or fewer residential apartments, if the mortgagor submits a request to the mortgagor’s servicer affirming that the mortgagor has experienced a financial impact from COVID-19. The forbearance shall last 180 days, although at the mortgagor’s request, the period of forbearance may begin in an increment shorter than 180 days and then extended at the mortgagor’s request, may be extended an additional 180 days at the mortgagor’s request, and shall be offered on the same terms and conditions as those specified at Section 5(b) of Chapter 65 of the Acts of 2020, as amended by Section 6(a) of this statute and must be requested on or prior to the date specified at Section 7 of Chapter 65 of the Acts of 2020.
(c) A mortgagor who has requested and received mortgage forbearance under this section or under Section 5(b) of Chapter 65 of the Acts of 2020, as amended by this statute, must, for each month of the mortgage forbearance period, waive and forever hold tenants harmless from the obligation to pay that month’s rent for each rental unit located on the property that is secured by the mortgage and which is occupied by a household who resided lawfully in the unit as of March 10, 2020, except where the mortgagor demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that the tenant’s failure to pay rent did not result from a loss of income or other change in economic circumstances caused directly or indirectly by the conditions and/or events described in the Emergency Declaration.
SECTION 7. The commissioner of banks and/or the office of the Attorney General, to the extent feasible and practicable in facilitating the timely implementation of this act, may develop and promulgate regulations and standardized forms for the written documentation required in section 6; provided, however, that the absence of such forms shall not render the provisions of this act inoperable.
SECTION 8. (a) There shall be established and set upon the books a COVID-19 Housing Stability and Recovery Fund (Fund) to be administered by the department of housing and community development, to provide assistance to owners of residential units who were unable to pay housing and housing-related costs for reasons related directly or indirectly to the conditions or events described in the Emergency Declaration. Priority for such funds shall be given to owner-occupant landlords, elderly landlords on fixed incomes, non-profit landlords, and Massachusetts-based commercial landlords owning 15 or fewer units, with oversight from an Oversight and Advisory Board.
(b) The said Fund shall consist of public and private sources such as revenue from appropriations or other monies authorized by the general court and specifically designated to be credited to the fund, funds from the federal government, and all other sources. Money remaining in the fund at the end of a fiscal year shall not revert to the general fund.
(c) An Oversight and Advisory Board shall be comprised of members of the Legislature’s coronavirus working groups, who will select no fewer than 8 people from communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, assessed by the rate of COVID-19 cases in municipalities and neighborhoods and informed by the fact that there are disparities in COVID-19 infection rates by race, ethnicity, and income. The Oversight and Advisory Board shall monitor and evaluate the use of funds to ensure they are equitably distributed, with priority given to low- and middle-income renters and homeowners affected by the COVID-19 crisis, and shall make recommendations regarding the administration of the fund. The Oversight and Advisory Board shall pursue all federal, state, and other funds available to assist renters and homeowners.
SECTION 9. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the Housing Court shall have sole and exclusive jurisdiction over all civil claims for rent or mortgage payments due and payable during the period running from March 10, 2020 until 12 months after the date the Emergency Declaration is rescinded.
SECTION 10. Violations of this chapter shall constitute unfair or deceptive acts or practices as that term is defined under G.L. c. 93A, § 2 and/or 940 C.M.R. 3.00 et seq., and shall be enforceable by the Attorney General as well as by aggrieved tenants, homeowners, or other occupants in the same manner and to the same extent as other violations of c. 93A. All the remedies of G.L. c. 93A shall be available for violations of all sections of this chapter.
SECTION 11. If any provision or provisions of this chapter is or are declared unconstitutional or inoperative by a final judgment, order or decree of the supreme court of the United States or of the supreme judicial court of the commonwealth, the remaining parts of said chapter shall not be affected thereby.
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