Tenants! You still need to pay your rent during the Corona Virus!
*Not intended as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship. All information below is intended to be for educational and informative purposes only.
Food, Shelter, and Transportation. These are the everyday expenses and necessities we all need to survive. Failure to pay any one of them will result in hunger, homelessness, or joblessness.
Moreso now than ever, it is essential to make sure these three expenses are prioritized payments. Meaning, you need to pay them before any other bill!
The 60 Day Eviction and Foreclosure Stays Do Not Impact Rental Payment Responsibility
Over the past several days, I have heard over, and over people say they do not have to pay their rent for 60 days, this is not the reality.
In trying to figure out where this misinformation was coming from, I discovered it came from a few source documents and conversations circulating on social media stating evictions and foreclosures have stayed for 60 days. Unfortunately, for people that don’t know what evictions are, they took it to mean rent, which is incorrect.
PLEASE READ BELOW!
Tenants are still responsible for making their contractual rental payments to their landlords during the Corona Virus. If your landlord provided you relief or told you that you don’t have to make rent payments, be sure to get it in writing!
Government Action To Stay Evictions
The Corona Virus has prompted government officials to try to help communities affected by sudden quarantines, income loss, or job closures by offering relief. One relief measure the government enacted to prevent people from losing their homes due to these unforeseen events was to halt evictions.
What is an eviction?
An eviction is a legal process your landlord takes to remove your family, and you from your apartment for failing to make on-time rental or lease payments or after other violations have occurred.
In Massachusetts, the only way a landlord can remove a family or person renting one of their apartments is through an eviction proceeding in the court. A landlord can only remove a tenant after a hearing before a judge and only after a court order has been granted to execute the removal.
The eviction process begins with a non-court action called a notice to quit, either a 14-day notice for non-payment of rent or a 30-day notice for any other reason. If a tenant fails to cure either the rental payment deficiency or fails to move out after either one of these deadlines, the landlord may begin the court-action part of the proceeding that starts with a Summary Process and Complaint.
After a tenant has been served by a constable or sheriff, the Summary Process and Complaint, the tenant has a chance to respond to the landlord. This happens during a hearing that is scheduled to determine whether the tenancy should be terminated. This is the chance for the tenant to tell the judge all the reasons the tenancy shouldn’t be terminated.
Why You Don’t Want To End Up In Housing Court
Here is why it is essential to pay your rent during the Corona Virus and never end up in housing court.
In Massachusetts, if you are a tenant and the eviction process has progressed to the court action, it means your name will end up in a public database called masscourts.org for every future landlord to see.
Although as a tenant there may have been a justifiable reason for not paying your rent (e.g., poor living conditions, mice, water/utility issues, etc.), it, unfortunately, is often viewed by some landlords as a reflection of how you may be as a future tenant and used as a tool to assess your likelihood in the future to pay rent. You don’t want to be associated with this database if at all possible.
Remember, a court order or an agreement with your landlord (preferably in writing) is the only way to avoid having to make a rental payment during the Corona Virus.
There is a housing crisis in Massachusetts
These are trying times, but it’s also important to note there is a housing crisis in Massachusetts due to a lack of affordable housing. If you fail to pay your rent and are evicted, or if you end up on MassCourts.org, even if there a positive finding for you, it is highly likely you will have difficulty finding another place to live at a price you can afford.
Here is what to do during this time.
If you are having difficulties making your rent? Communicate!
Landlords understand there is a crisis and are aware some of their tenants may be struggling. Landlords also recognize it is challenging to find good tenants that won’t ruin their properties.
If you are a tenant experiencing difficulties with meeting your rental obligation, reach out to your landlord via text or email and explain your situation.
Ask to see if the landlord will accept a partial payment during the emergency period or request permission to make a repayment plan to cover the balance unpaid. The worst that can happen is the landlord will say no.
The key during this time is communication as well as documenting and memorializing your conversations in writing. Having a communication record made near the time of your conversation or agreement will help you should you ever need to go to court with your landlord on the matter for non-payment of rent.
Landlords would rather hear you are proactive with your responsibilities than to have to work with you in court.
In closing, please be sure to speak with your landlord if you are experiencing financial hardship and reach out for help if you need to understand your obligation. Right now many attorneys like Sandau Legal are offering free consults.
I hope this information has been useful, educational, and informative.