A bill championed by State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz meant to protect renters, homeowners and commercial tenants – such as small businesses – has been signed into law this week by Gov. Charlie Baker and took effect immediately.
“We will figure out a lot of things after the pandemic, and we have to put the public health component first and foremost, but this bill keeps people and businesses in their homes and store locations while we all deal with the public health crisis,” Michlewitz told the Sun.
The bill prevents evictions for people in residential apartments, foreclosure proceedings on property owners and evictions for businesses in commercial locations for four months or 45 days after the Massachusetts State of Emergency is lifted, whichever comes first.
“You can’t even send out a notice of eviction to get the process started,” he said. “A lot of housing advocates wanted that in there. This prevents landlords from sending the notice of eviction while the State of Emergency is in play.”
The bill also prevents landlords from charging late fees for unpaid rent, and also requires 180 days of forbearance on those with mortgages. Landlords can also use the last month’s rent deposit as payment during the State of Emergency.
One part of the bill that Michlewitz fought for is adding the commercial evictions to the bill – helping small businesses to be able to stay in their locations despite having to close and having no revenues.
That was something he spoke about extensively with small business owners in the South End during a Webinar with SEBA on April 11 – following the bill’s passage in the House.
“The eviction protections is also for commercial spaces and that will protect our most vulnerable residents and businesses,” he said. “It wasn’t part of the initial conversation. We added it because of the large amount of small businesses I was hearing from such as with SEBA. The idea is not just to protect residents, but also small businesses that are in dire straits as well.”
Michlewitz added that Massachusetts is the first to pass and sign legislation to protect residents from eviction or foreclosure during the emergency. He said that is something he is proud of and they will continue to look for other ways to provide relief.
“I’m very proud of this Legislation and I think it shows the Commonwealth as a leader in the nation,” he said.