Rent and Mortgage During the Coronavirus Crisis

Rent & Mortgage During the “Coronavirus” Crisis

Flyers about the eviction & foreclosure moratorium

Many people are not aware of their rights. Please help spread the word!

Applying for help paying rent/mortgage from RAFT

  • RAFT is a state program that can help pay rent or mortgage for lower-income renters and homeowners. You do NOT need to have a particular immigration status to qualify. A social security number is NOT required to apply for RAFT.
  • Apply by phone - call (339) 883-2342 and dial option 4.
  • Click here to start the process of applying for RAFT online.
  • You can also use this PDF form to begin the process. (Email it to the address listed in the upper left corner of the form.)
  • Call us 781-346-9199 if you need help with applying for RAFT or have any problems.

Petition: cancel rent & mortgage

Petition to cancel rent and mortgages for people unable to pay due to COVID0-19: click here to sign the petition and join the fight! Lynn residents: text "cancel rent" to 781-346-9199 so we know to update you on this campaign.

Questions and Answers about housing, eviction, foreclosure during COVID-19

Here are things to consider as you decide what to do about rent or mortgage during this crisis. Note: every situation is unique and this is NOT legal advice. The information here is for Massachusetts, and much of it does not apply in other states or countries.

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I heard that evictions and foreclosures are now illegal in MA. Is that right?

Yes, almost all eviction and foreclosure activity is now banned. Please share the flyer below to spread the word (text below).

Flyer with information about MA state law that bans evictions during coronavirus emergency
Click for full size. To download, right click/control-click/long press.

New law in MA bans evictions during the coronavirus emergency

  • A new state law bans evictions, foreclosures, and “notices to vacate” during this crisis.* The law protects tenants, homeowners, and small businesses.
  • This “moratorium” on evictions & foreclosures will last until August 18, 2020 or 45 days after the state of emergency ends, whichever comes first. It can be extended by the Governor.
  • Renters: the law automatically protects against eviction. To ALSO protect against late fees & negative credit reporting, send the landlord a letter. Sample at www.LynnUnited.org/covid19
  • Homeowners: if you’ve been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, contact your lender. They are now required to offer a mortgage forbearance that delays payments to the end of the loan.
  • Financial help is available for some tenants & homeowners who are unable to make housing payments. Apply to programs like RAFT as soon as possible since funds may be limited.
  • Stay home! Health and safety is most important – no one should have to put themselves, their friends/family, or their community at risk due to fear of missing rent or mortgage.
  • This law provides important protections, but it does not “cancel” rent + mortgage payments. Sign the petition to cancel rent/mortgage missed due to COVID-19: www.HousingGuarantee.org

FOR HELP:

Lynn – Lynn United for Change – 781-346-9199 (call/text), www.LynnUnited.org
Western MA – Springfield No One Leaves – 413-342-1804 (call), www.SpringfieldNoOneLeaves.org
Boston + other parts of MA – City Life/Vida Urbana – 617-934-5006 (call), www.clvu.org

DETAILED INFORMATION ON THE LAW:

See this page from MA Law Reform Institute for additional details on what is covered by the moratorium.

* Evictions & related steps are banned with very limited exceptions for emergencies involving danger to health & safety. This information is not legal advice.

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Will I be thrown out of my home if I am unable to pay rent?

  • In Massachusetts, there is now a statewide ban on eviction activity that applies to all tenants across the state and halts all parts of the eviction process including “notices to vacate.&rdquo. Details in this section on the statewide moratorium.
  • Because of this crisis, the city of Lynn has also temporarily made it ILLEGAL for a landlord or owner to “enforce an eviction upon a resident of Lynn.” City order here
  • A huge number of tenants are also protected against eviction during this crisis by a new federal law, the CARES Act. To see if the property where you live is covered by the CARES Act, call or text Lynn United for Change at 781-346-9199 or check the information at the National Housing Preservation Database.
  • Even in “normal” times, a landlord is NOT allowed to force a tenant to leave their home without a court eviction process.* That process can take many months. During this crisis, it will likely take far longer (details are in the section below).
  • The landlord is NOT allowed to just change the locks, send movers, or call the police to make a tenant leave.* This is true even if a tenant does not have a written lease or rental contract. This is true no matter what the tenant’s background or immigration status.

* Except in very rare circumstances where there is an abuse prevention order

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I can’t pay rent / mortgage or I already missed a payment, what should I do next?

  • You should consider quickly informing your landlord / lender of the problem.
    • You may want to inform the landlord/bank in writing.
    • You can also call on the phone, but it may be important to put the message in writing as well.
    • If you are unable to pay due to direct or indirect impacts of the coronavirus crisis, you should say so in your written message.
    • If the landlord might be having trouble paying their mortgage, you can direct them to us for help with that.
    • A sample message to send is available at www.clvu.org/letter_templates. You can also call or text 781-346-9199. We will send you a sample message and/or help you write a customized message.
  • You should keep notes and records to show your financial difficulties are related to “coronavirus.”
  • Talk to other tenants who live in the same building or have the same landlord. Share this information with them and see who is interested in working together. If other tenants want to join together for fair treatment and better conditions, contact us by calling or texting 781-346-9199.
  • Start applying for help right away. You may be eligible for programs that provide temporary income, help pay rent/mortgage, or help with necessities like food. This page has info on resources.
    • The RAFT program may be able to help you pay rent. You can apply for the RAFT program online using this link. The application is also available in Spanish. You do NOT need a social security number to qualify. You can call or text 781-346-9199 if you need help.
    • Unemployment benefits have been expanded for many workers who are not usually eligible (including independent contractors and “gig” workers, people who have to stop working to take care of children due to schools being closed, and others).
    • There are programs to help people who do not qualify for unemployment benefits, including undocumented people.
    • See this page on the LynnUnited.org website for a list of resources and links to apply for help, or call or text 781-346-9199 for assistance.

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What if the landlord threatens to throw me out, change my locks, shut off my utilities, etc?

  • It is against the law for a landlord to do those things without permission from a court. It is extremely rare for landlords to do any of these things, even when they threaten to. Lynn residents: if your landlord does any of these things, call us at 781-346-9199, call legal aid at 781-244-1403, and if necessary you may call the police at 781-595-2000.

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What if the landlord sends a notice that says I have to leave?

  • If you get a letter that says you have to move out, it is probably a “notice to quit” which looks scary but does NOT actually mean you need to move out. This is illegal under the new state moratorium law (except in situations involving threats to health/safety). Contact us at 781-346-9199 (call or text) so we can help you confirm.

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What if the landlord takes me to court?

  • Even in “normal” times, a court eviction process can take many months. And a tenant may be able to win in court and stay in their home. Because of the crisis, courts in Massachusetts will NOT schedule eviction cases until at least May 4 (unless they involve a serious emergency related to safety).
  • Because of this crisis, a new law in Massachusetts temporarily bans foreclosures, and all non-emergency evictions and eviction notices.
  • Even if you face a court eviction case after this emergency is over, we can help you protect your rights and fight to stay in your home. If you get a court summons for eviction, contact us at 781-346-9199 (call or text) so we can help you file paperwork to protect your rights. It is important to act quickly so you do not miss important deadlines.

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Should I prioritize rent and mortgage payments above everything else?

  • The health and safety of you, your family, and your community is MOST IMPORTANT. We believe everyone must prioritize food, medicine, and other necessities.
  • We do NOT believe you should put yourself or others in danger because you are worried about falling behind on rent or mortgage payments.
  • Everyone – including people who seem healthy – should generally be staying home and avoiding contact with people from outside your household. That is the best way to protect yourself and to help the community by slowing the spread of “coronavirus” (COVID-19).
  • If you ARE able to pay rent/mortgage without problem (for example, your income has not declined) then you should generally continue making payments. If other tenants in your building are organizing together: before you pay rent, you should join them and see if they are negotiating with the landlord as a group. If you need support forming a tenant union, call or text us at 781-346-9199.
  • We are part of a movement fighting for a system that ensures everyone has a safe, affordable home with good conditions. Until that is a reality, we need to protect each other by joining together and organizing with our neighbors. We’re here to help. You are not alone. Sign the petition at www.HomesGuarantee.org to get involved and stay connected.

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Should I find a way to work so I do not owe the landlord/bank when the crisis is over?

  • We believe you are better off alive and healthy at the end of this crisis than dead or burdened by permanent damage to your lungs… even if that means you have to join millions of other people across the country who miss some rent or mortgage payments.
  • If you stop working, you might qualify for more help than you realize. See the section “I can’t pay rent / mortgage” for details.
  • We need to keep working together to #CancelRent and #CancelMortgages so no one who is unable to pay during the crisis is burdened by housing debt. Sign the petition at www.HousingGuarantee.org to show where you stand and get involved!

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Will I end up in a huge amount of debt if I miss payments during the crisis?

  • MANY people will be unable to make housing payments during this crisis. It would be wrong for them to be burdened by crushing levels of housing debt because of a crisis they did not create.
  • There are already some programs and protections to help tenants and homeowners who miss payments. (For details see above, “I can’t pay rent…”) In addition, we believe landlords and banks will allow some flexibility because of the crisis.
  • We are fighting for additional laws, programs, and policies to #CancelRent and #CancelMortgages for people unable to pay during the crisis and to provide more help to people who have lost income. See www.HousingGuarantee.org to sign a petition and get involved!

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Can the landlord/bank charge me late fees for payments I miss?

  • Even in “normal” times, in many cases it is illegal for the landlord to charge late fees. For example, if you do not have a written lease or rental agreement, the landlord is NOT allowed to charge late fees. Details on late fees are available at masslegalhelp.org https://www.masslegalhelp.org/housing/lt1-chapter-5-paying-rent-article#latefees
  • Because of the crisis, there are some new federal protections against late fees that apply to many (but not all) tenants. The National Housing Law Project has details on this page on its website nhlp.org . https://www.nhlp.org/wp-content/uploads/2020.03.27-NHLP-CARES-Act-Eviction-Moratorium-Summary.pdf
  • The new moratorium law temporarily bans late fees when a tenant is unable to pay rent due to direct or indirect impacts of COVID-19. However, you must provide documentation to the landlord that you are unable to pay due to COVID-19. Lynn residents: Contact us if you need help sending documentation.

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I own a home – will the bank take my home through foreclosure if I miss a payment?

  • During the crisis, foreclosures have been temporarily banned in Massachusetts.
  • Even in "normal" times, a bank cannot foreclose (take ownership of your home) suddenly. Foreclosure is a long process with many steps, and it takes many months if not longer.
  • The new state moratorium says lenders must agree to put you in a “mortgage forbearance” program if you ask for a “pause” in payments because you have been affected by COVID-19. The forbearance program can last up to 180 days, and fees, penalties, and interest should not accrue during that time. All missed payments should be added to the end of the loan. Contact your lender/mortgage servicer and call us if you need help.
  • Some lower income homeowners may qualify for the RAFT program (apply through this link at www.LynnUnited.org), which helps with missed rent and mortgage payments.

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I’m an owner-occupant landlord – what about me?

  • The burden of this crisis should not fall on the most vulnerable. We believe tenants, homeowners, and owner-occupant landlords should all work together to survive this crisis and push for relief after it ends.
  • In the past, the banks and big corporations have been bailed out while the rest of us were left out. We can’t let that happen again. We are strongest when we work together.
  • The new state moratorium law bans foreclosures in Massachusetts. It also allows landlords the right to use "last month's rent" for repairs in certain situations, but the funds must be repaid later. See this page from MLRI for details.
  • The state moratorium also gives many homeowners the right to pause mortgage payments and put them on the end of the loan with no interest.
  • The CARES Act may give you additional protections against foreclosure and may give you the right to forbearance or other mortgage relief. Check this page for details.

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More resources

For additional resources (food, income, unemployment, etc) please see this COVID-19 resource page.

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