Tuesday, February 23, 2021
10:30 a.m – 12:00 p.m.
Join Attorney General Healey and staff for an overview of our actions and programs to assist seniors affected by scams/fraudulent activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. At this brief online summit, seniors and service providers will learn about preventive measures, a variety of protection guidelines, and assistance available that can be used to assist seniors in our communities across the Commonwealth.
Good Neighbor Energy Fund Open for Applications
The Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund (GNEF) is now open to all eligible candidates. The fund is available to all Massachusetts residents who, because of temporary financial difficulty, cannot meet a month's energy expense and who may not qualify for state or federal energy assistance. Eligibility income must fall between 60 and 80 percent of the state's median income levels. Fund disbursement is $300 per eligible household per heating season.
To apply to the Good Neighbor Fund, contact your local Salvation Army Community Center or call 800-334-3047 / 800-262-1320. Further details: www.magoodneighbor.org
AG HEALEY ISSUES ADVISORY TO INFORM TENANTS OF THEIR RIGHTS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Advisory Advises Tenants Facing Eviction of the Financial and Legal Assistance Programs Available and Offers Information about Eviction Court Process
BOSTON – With hundreds of eviction cases piling up in the courts, Attorney General Maura Healey today issued an advisory to ensure tenants who are facing financial hardship and are at risk of losing their homes are aware of their rights and know how to access state assistance programs.
“Families across the state are continuing to suffer financial hardship from this pandemic and we want to ensure those who may be at risk of losing their homes know their rights,” AG Healey said. “If you’ve received an eviction notice, you do not have to move out immediately and you are entitled to a court hearing. This advisory helps tenants and landlords understand the resources available to them, including financial and legal assistance.”
Today’s advisory follows a sharp rise in eviction cases for nonpayment of rent being filed in the state’s housing courts. According to state data, there were more than 4,000 eviction cases filed between November 2 and December 14. In October, AG Healey called on Governor Baker to extend the state’s eviction moratorium to give safety net programs for landlords and tenants time to be fully operational. After the expiration of the Massachusetts moratorium, the AG urged the Administration to prioritize the hiring and training of additional legal counsel and mediators, and to streamline housing assistance applications. The AG’s Office has been working with Local Consumer Programs throughout the state to help tenants and landlords apply for rental assistance.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, AG Healey’s Office has been closely monitoring the housing court docket, responding to complaints from residents and reviewing referrals from partner organizations for violations of the state and federal moratoriums on evictions. Through these actions, the AG’s Office handled more than 200 complaints relating to the eviction moratorium and has been able to stop more than 80 illegal evictions.
The AG’s advisory offers guidance including the following:
Evictions Must be Court Ordered
Tenants cannot be evicted and forced to move out of their homes without a written court order. During the public health crisis, the AG’s Office has prioritized addressing complaints related to “self-help” evictions – where landlords attempt to circumvent the court process and forcibly remove tenants from their homes. It is unlawful to threaten, intimidate, or coerce a tenant to get them to leave the property, including by changing their locks, shutting off their utilities, interfering with their use of the unit, or by threatening to report them to immigration authorities. This protection applies to all tenants, whether they have a lease, a sublease, or no lease at all.
Tenants who have experienced a “self-help” eviction or those whose landlord has threatened to forcibly remove them, should call the Attorney General’s Office at 617-727-8400.
Available Financial Assistance
If a tenant is unable to pay their rent because of a COVID-19 financial hardship, they should work with their landlord to seek financial help from the state. Tenants and landlords can apply for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) benefits of up to $10,000 of assistance in a one-year period. Tenants who are unable to pay for rent for a reason other than the public health crisis may seek up to $4,000 in RAFT benefits. Once approved, these payments are sent directly to landlords.
The Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) program also helps households who are behind on rent or mortgage payments or are at risk of falling behind due to the pandemic.
Tenants cannot be evicted while a rental assistance application is pending. Specifically, the court cannot “enter a judgment” against a tenant or “issue an execution” before the tenant’s financial assistance application has been approved or denied.
Tenants who have received a notice to quit, summons or other legal documents from their landlord and cannot afford an attorney may qualify for free legal assistance through the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project. The AG’s Office urges tenants who have a court hearing and have not yet obtained an attorney to tell the judge or court mediator that they would like to speak to a lawyer. Tenants can also learn about the court process and how to fill out the necessary court documents through the Court Service Centers, which are available via Zoom Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.