A bill championed by House members meant to protect renters, homeowners and commercial tenants – such as small businesses – has been signed into law in the last week by Gov. Charlie Baker and has taken effect immediately.
State Rep. Dan Ryan said he supported the bill for Charlestown and Chelsea, and believed it would help a lot of people. He cautioned that those who can pay all or some of their rent or mortgages, should do their best to do so.
“I want to thank Chairs Michlewitz and Honan for ushering through this critical piece of protection for homeowners and renters,” he said. “And a special shout-out to Speaker DeLeo for his cool-handed management of the House during these difficult times.
“Keep in mind this is not rent and mortgage amnesty,” he continued. “This is an emergency measure to help buy some time for homeowners and renters affected by the crisis. It is important to note that many landlords are small business owners themselves who are just getting by. This bill will strike a balance between protection for the renter and support for that small business owner. If you can, pay your rent or what you can. But know there are protections in place if you can’t.”
State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, of the North End and chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, said it was important to protect homeowners, renters and small business renters.
“We will figure out a lot of things after the pandemic, and we have to put the public health component first and foremost, but this bill keeps people and businesses in their homes and store locations while we all deal with the public health crisis,” Michlewitz said.
The bill prevents evictions for people in residential apartments, foreclosure proceedings on property owners and evictions for businesses in commercial locations for four months or 45 days after the Massachusetts State of Emergency is lifted, whichever comes first.
“You can’t even send out a notice of eviction to get the process started,” Michlewitz said. “A lot of housing advocates wanted that in there. This prevents landlords from sending the notice of eviction while the State of Emergency is in play.”
The bill also prevents landlords from charging late fees for unpaid rent, and also requires 180 days of forbearance on those with mortgages. Landlords can also use the last month’s rent deposit as payment during the State of Emergency.
One part of the bill Ryan and Michlewitz fought for is adding the commercial evictions to the bill – helping small businesses to be able to stay in their locations despite having to close and having no revenues.
“It wasn’t part of the initial conversation,” said Michlewitz. “We added it because of the large amount of small businesses I was hearing from such as with SEBA. The idea is not just to protect residents, but also small businesses that are in dire straits as well.”
Massachusetts is the first to pass and sign legislation to protect residents from eviction or foreclosure during the emergency. Both representatives said that is something they are proud of and they will continue to look for other ways to provide relief.