When a person is struggling with large amounts of debt and facing the prospect of filing for bankruptcy, one of their biggest fears may be losing their home. Indeed, debtors who own their homes are often behind on their mortgage payments and are worried about foreclosure, and even those who own their homes outright may worry that selling their home is the only way they’ll have the cash to pay creditors. While losing your home is a possibility during bankruptcy, there is protection via the Massachusetts Homestead Act. To learn more about the Homestead Act in Massachusetts and for help with your bankruptcy case, call Deborah Gold-Alexander Attorney at Law today.
The coronavirus pandemic that has swept the world has left many unemployed, led to a country-wide recession, and affected many people’s ability to work and earn an income. As a result, many homeowners have faced anxiety regarding their ability to make their mortgage payments on time or in full. Recognizing the potential catastrophe, the Massachusetts legislature passed a law on Monday, April 20, 2020 temporarily banning nearly all eviction and foreclosure proceedings throughout the state. Here’s what you need to know about the legislation and the state of foreclosure law in Massachusetts today:
While the recently enacted federal CARES ACT put into effect certain protections regarding housing, Governor Baker signed a bill that bars evictions and foreclosures against residential tenants or owners from moving forward in Massachusetts for 120 days after the effective date of the act or 45 days after COVID-19 emergency declaration has been lifted, whichever is earlier, with certain other provisions. This act also covers commercial leases with many small businesses.
As many of you may be aware, on Friday, March 27, 2020, the president signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES ACT”) into law. In addition to the law providing stimulus funds for working people, loans for small businesses to carry on business and keep employees employed during this crisis and providing a litany of other protections, the law includes important and immediate protections for tenants and homeowners.
Prior to the CARES Act, it appeared that while the courts were closed except for emergency matters or matters that could be held via videoconferencing or telephone conferencing, landlords could attempt to move forward with forwarding Notices to Quit before filing for evictions in court. However, it now appears from the passage of the CARES Act, that a 120 day moratorium has been instituted since the passage of the Act on March 27, 2020 from the filing of new eviction actions for non-payment of rent. The landlords affected by the Act are landlords of “covered properties”. Covered properties indicate among other things, property that participates in a “covered housing program” such as Section 8 housing and other such programs. Additionally, covered properties also appear to involve properties for which there are federally backed mortgage loans or multifamily mortgage loans secured by the properties. This means that if the landlords have a federal mortgage on their property (and many mortgages are Fannie Mae type federal mortgages) then they would be subject to this moratorium.
This Act is being interpreted by many legal services organizations and perhaps, some judges, that a landlord cannot proceed to even file a Notice to Quit until the moratorium is lifted/expired. The language in the Act is not entirely clear but it may be that evictions for cause (such as drug activity at an apartment) or for when a lease ends and the tenant does not move at the end of the lease, that these types of evictions may be able to proceed. It also appears that if the landlord does not owe a mortgage on the rental property (that the property is owned outright), that such landlord would be able to proceed with an eviction and not be subject to the moratorium.
In addition to this massive legislation which will impact many people for months to come, as of April 1, 2020, the Massachusetts court closures have been extended from April 6th to May 4, 2020, except as to emergency matters and other matters that may be amenable to telephone conferencing or video conferencing. Still, for the most part, the courts are closed.
As each day brings new rules and regulations into play, we, as attorneys must be even more prepared to work zealously for our clients and keep up on all new developments.
THE LAW OFFICE OF DEBORAH L. GOLD-ALEXANDER
SEAPORT LANDING, 152 LYNNWAY, SUITE 1F
LYNN, MA 01902
Many of us remember the infamous “Blizzard of ’78”. As a teenager growing up in Revere, the lockdown inspired by that event is still vivid in my mind – school was canceled, our parents’ workplaces were closed, few people could travel anywhere, the army set up shop at the high school, and residents displaced from their homes were forced to live and sleep on cots in the gymnasium. It was a frightening and unsettled time in our communities. I also recall certain instances in my legal and business career when time seemed to standstill and our economy came to a screeching halt, just as it has now with the invasion of Coronavirus. We survived the Blizzard of ’78 by trudging to our nearby food store across snow that was level with the roofs of parked cars and transporting our groceries home by sled. Now, we do our shopping with masks and gloves, being careful to sanitize carts and avoid human contact. The parallels between that time and this one are obvious: this crisis will pass; we must pull together as a community; and we must ensure that life moves forward for us and our families.