Eviction bill bounces back and forth on Beacon Hill

The Massachusetts House and Senate agree that there should be a pause on evictions and foreclosures during the coronavirus pandemic. But what that should look like is raising thorny questions that have left the bill bouncing back and forth between the two chambers.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee released a version of the bill last Tuesday, to the consternation of advocates for tenants and struggling homeowners, who said the protections did not go far enough. The House then passed its version of the bill Thursday. The State House News Service reported that senators on Monday sent their bill back to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, presumably to be reconciled with the version that came over from the House.

A central issue is which part of the eviction process will be paused. The House bill would delay the entire eviction process – starting with a “notice to quit,” which is the initial letter sent to a tenant, and continuing through the court process to the action of forcing someone out of their home after a judgement. The Senate bill would generally mirror what is already being done through a standing order of the court, and would pause only the court proceedings.

Joey Michalakes, a staff attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services, said the notice to quit in itself is enough to scare some tenants into leaving. And Andrea Park, a housing attorney with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, said her group has heard from tenants who were being told to leave during the pandemic, because a court, before the pandemic started, had agreed that the eviction could go forward. Read more in Commonwealth Magazine.