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Advocates call for quick action on bill blocking evictions during the coronavirus crisis

Advocates called for the quick passage of a bill that would halt evictions and foreclosures during the coronavirus crisis in a letter sent to state lawmakers Sunday.

More than 200 organizations from across the state signed the letter, which called a bill passed by the Massachusetts House that would block court-ordered evictions in most cases “a strong foundation.”

The bill would institute a moratorium on the process until the end of the state-of-emergency, plus 30 days. It would also prevent landlords from sending “notice to quit” letters to tenants ordering them to vacate apartments during that time.

In the letter, sent to the governor and leaders of both legislative bodies Sunday afternoon, advocates led by City Life, MA Communities Action Network, and Lynn United for Change, among others, said the eviction process has already started playing out for many since mid-March.

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“As the first day of the month comes and goes, hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts renters and homeowners agonize over whether they will be able to make rent and mortgage payments or be forced to face eviction and homelessness, at a time when they have been told to stay home,” advocates said in the letter.

Advocates called for the Senate and Governor Charlie Baker to quickly improve and pass the bill, which cleared House on Thursday.

This is the second letter sent to legislators and the governor, the last backed by about 80 groups and sent before the House passed the bill, according to Lewis Finfer, one of the advocates behind the letter.

The House bill is more extensive than a similar eviction-prevention measure that received favorable committee votes in the Senate Tuesday and could be passed early next week. That bill would block evictions ordered by judges for up to 90 days. The two would need to be reconciled before they reach Baker’s desk.

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Last month, the Baker administration closed housing courts for all but emergency cases through April 22 and ordered a halt to evictions from state-funded affordable housing.

But Finfer said in a brief phone interview that landlords were still able to serve notices of eviction, making many residents who do not know that they have a right to a hearing feel like they have to leave.

“The wheels of eviction are turning,” he said.

Eight Boston City Councilors, including president Kim Janey, signed the letter. Mayor Martin J. Walsh had previously announced that he would make $3 million available to help city residents struggling to pay their rent.

“At its core, a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures is an emergency public health protection measure, one that must match the extraordinary restrictions already placed on businesses, schools, and workers across the globe,” advocates said in the letter.

“Keeping people at home is a matter of life and death."


Lucas Phillips can be reached at lucas.phillips@globe.com.