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Federal judge rules that Mass. ban on evictions can stand, for now

Wolf says landlords probably would not have prevailed in their effort to have the moratorium overturned, but Gov. Charlie Baker is unlikely to extend it beyond Oct. 17.

Governor Charlie Baker probably won't extend the ban on home evictions beyond Oct. 17.Sam Doran/Pool

A federal judge in Boston Friday ruled that the state’s ban on evictions can stay in place for now, but not indefinitely.

US District Judge Mark Wolf turned down a request from two Massachusetts landlords to halt the eviction moratorium immediately, saying they were unlikely to prevail on most of the counts in a lawsuit challenging its legality. But, he said, the ban — passed by the Legislature in the depths of the state’s COVID-19 outbreak in April — should be seen as an emergency measure whose time will inevitably expire.

“The length of time for which the moratorium is in effect will be relevant to whether it continues to be constitutional,” Wolf wrote in a 102-page opinion he previewed from the bench earlier this month.


How long that is remains to be seen. The moratorium — which blocks nearly all eviction filings in state housing courts — is set to expire Oct. 17. Governor Charlie Baker can extend it, but signaled this week that he’d rather not, preferring to instead devise new court rules and boost rental assistance programs to ward off a feared wave of evictions. A less stringent federal ban on many evictions is set to last through the end of the year, though it too faces legal challenges.

Housing advocates say Massachusetts' ban has likely delayed tens of thousands of evictions of renters who have lost jobs during the pandemic. Landlords say it essentially forces them to provide housing at no cost, and could cause many small landlords to sell their buildings or face bankruptcy.

Tim Logan can be reached at Follow him @bytimlogan.