Tucked into this year’s Massachusetts state budget was a new statute, codified as Chapter 239, Section 15 of the General Laws, protecting tenants facing an eviction for non-payment of rent while an application for emergency rental assistance is pending. In essence, the law makes permanent a temporary measure which expired earlier this year.
“Emergency rental assistance” is defined to mean financial assistance provided to a residential tenant under the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program or any other program administered by the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, a municipality or a nonprofit entity using public funds to cure a rent arrearage or subsidize moving costs, including the payment of a security deposit.
A judge presiding over a residential summary process eviction action must grant a delay for such period as the judge may deem just and reasonable if, either at the time the answer is filed by the tenant or on the date the trial is scheduled to commence: (1) the tenancy is being terminated solely for non-payment of rent; (2) the non-payment of rent resulted from a financial hardship; and (3) the tenant demonstrates, to the satisfaction of the judge, that an application for emergency rental assistance is pending. The judge may, however, elect to consider any meritorious counterclaim brought by the tenant.
No eviction may be ordered until the tenant’s application for emergency rental assistance has been approved or denied.
Court administrators will be required to file monthly reports with legislative leaders, including data on how many delays have been granted, the average duration of the delays and how many landlords and tenants have been represented by legal aid services.
As always, members are advised to consult their own attorneys for more information.
Philip S. Lapatin
Holland & Knight LLP
August 9, 2023