NEW MASSACHUSETTS LAW IMPACTS NOTICES TO QUIT IN NON-PAYMENT OF RENT CASES
On December 31, Governor Baker signed into law Chapter 257 of the Acts of 2020 (the “Law”), which provides new requirements for landlords serving Notices to Quit in connection with residential non-payment of rent cases. The text of the law itself has not yet been released as of January 4, 2021. However, the Commonwealth has issued Regulations which explain and clarify certain aspects of the law.
Analysis of the Law:
The Law was signed on December 31, 2020 and will remain in effect until the end of the Massachusetts COVID-19 state of emergency. A detailed explanation of the Law with instructions and links to significant documents and information can be found at mass.gov/noticetoquit.
The Law only applies to residential tenancies involving non-payment of rent claims (for both tenants under a written lease and those with no lease). Also, the law has a retroactive component which makes it applicable to non-payment of rent notices to quit served beginning on December 18, 2020. Landlords who served notices to quit from that date forward should plan on re-serving new notices to quit which comply with the Law.
Most importantly, the Law requires landlords to complete and deliver a document promulgated by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) which can be found at the link provided above. That document (referred to as the “Accompanying Form” in the Law) must be provided to the tenant at the same time as the notice to quit for non-payment is provided. The landlord must sign the Accompanying Form under the pains and penalties of perjury, affirming all the statements made therein are true and correct.
The Accompanying Form requires the landlord to add information about the tenant, whether a CDC Declaration Form has been completed by the tenant, whether the rental unit is a “Covered Dwelling” under the Federal CARES Act, and whether the landlord and tenant had entered any agreement (written or verbal) concerning repayment of the overdue rent.
Additionally, the Law requires landlords to upload the competed Accompanying Form using a web portal that the EOHED created, along with any written agreements concerning repayment of the overdue rent. Information about how to use and access the portal can be found at the link provided at the top of this notice.
Finally, the Law allows Massachusetts Courts handling summary process cases to continue cases and issue a stay of the eviction “for a period as the court may deem just and reasonable” in non-payment cases where a tenant’s payment delinquency is due to or exacerbated by COVID-19 and the tenant has sought rental assistance through a subsidy program. This is significant because Massachusetts Courts previously had no power to issue stays in non-payment cases.
What Landlords Should Do Going Forward:
If you have served a non-payment notice to quit for non-payment of rent between December 18, 2020 and today, please disregard those notices to quit and prepare new notices to quit which can be served with copies of the Accompanying Form referenced herein.
Also, landlords should immediately review the information at the link above and become familiar with the Accompanying Form. The link includes a set of detailed instructions for landlords to follow to properly complete the Accompanying Form. The Accompanying Form must be completed for each unit (not individual tenant) receiving a notice to quit and must be provided to the tenant at the same time as the notice to quit for non-payment. We suggest you serve the Accompanying Form at the same time and in the same manner as you serve the notice to quit. Also, we suggest you modify your existing certificate of service, so it clearly indicates that you have served both the notice to quit and the Accompanying Form.
Also, before completing Accompanying Forms, landlords should confirm whether their property/properties fall within the definition of a “Covered Dwelling” pursuant to the Federal CARES Act. This information is required in Paragraph 2 of the Accompanying Form. Generally, rental properties with a federally backed mortgage loan or federally backed multifamily mortgage loan will be considered “Covered Dwellings”. Also, any property which is part of a federally assisted rental housing program will likely be a Covered Dwelling. If you are unsure of whether your property is a Covered Dwelling, the instruction form found at the link above provides a detailed explanation.
Once you are familiar with and prepared to complete the Accompanying Form, you should familiarize yourself with the EOHED’s portal which landlords will use to upload a copy of the notice to quit and the Accompanying Form. The website can be found at Massachusetts Notice to Quit Form Submission | Mass.gov. It allows the documents to be uploaded via PDF, JPEG and a variety of other formats.
Finally, landlords should resign themselves to the fact that Courts may begin issuing stays which would prevent a move in cases where a tenant has fallen behind due to COVID-19 and is awaiting assistance from a subsidy organization with repayment of the arrearage. We anticipate some courts could use the stay as leverage to force landlords to accept payment from subsidy agencies where they normally would not do so.
If you have questions or would like to discuss eviction/summary process matters, please contact Attorney Steven D. Weil or Attorney Andrew M. Kepple, our landlord/tenant attorneys at 508-541-3000.
This blog is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal advice. All those who read this blog should seek the advice of a professional before taking action based upon any information provided herein.
© 2021 Doherty, Dugan, Cannon, Raymond & Weil, P.C.