A plan to protect struggling renters and homeowners from eviction during the coronavirus crisis took a major step forward on Beacon Hill Thursday, winning passage in the House.
Lawmakers quickly voted on a bill that would block court-ordered evictions, in most cases, until the coronavirus state of emergency is lifted and for 30 days afterward. It would also prevent landlords from sending “notice to quit” letters to tenants ordering them to vacate apartments during that time.
“During these unprecedented times, we need to do whatever we can to keep people healthy, safe and in their homes,” said House Speaker Bob DeLeo in a statement after the vote. “This legislation shields tenants and homeowners from economic insecurity during and immediately after the period of the state of emergency.”
The House bill goes further than a similar eviction-prevention measure that received favorable committee votes in the Senate Tuesday and is set for final passage early next week. That plan would block evictions ordered by judges for up to 90 days. The two bills would need to be reconciled before being sent to Governor Charlie Baker for his signature. A spokeswoman said the governor would “carefully review” any final bill.
Baker has noted that housing courts are closed for all but emergency cases through April 22 — so few evictions are currently happening in Massachusetts — and asked lawmakers to come up with a longer-term solution. His administration has also boosted funding for emergency housing assistance, ordered a halt to evictions in state-funded affordable housing, and urged private landlords to hold off on evictions for now.
Housing advocates have pushed for a full moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus crisis, which has tossed tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents out of work at the same time they are being ordered to stay in their homes. Landlord and real estate groups have said they generally agree with a short-term delay on eviction proceedings, but they are wary of measures that would lead to people not paying rent.