Evicting a residential tenant for not paying rent is a stressful situation for any landlord. A landlord’s sole concern will be to get the tenant out as soon as possible, but there are several hoops to jump through before that is possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the standard procedures landlords must follow to evict a tenant for not paying their rent. Traditionally, a landlord first must serve their tenant a Notice to Quit, usually through a constable, putting the tenant on notice that they are being evicted. However, under new guidelines created in 2020, and amended in 2021 by the Massachusetts Legislature, a Notice to Quit must be accompanied by an Attestation Form, which is available online. This requirement is currently slated to end on March 31, 2023. This Attestation form must be completed by the Landlord and contains directions on how a tenant may apply for assistance in the five most common languages in the Commonwealth.
The Attestation Form includes several pieces of information. First, the landlord is required to state whether the unit is considered a “covered dwelling” under the CARES Act, and further that the Notice to Quit complies with all requirements under the Act. A “covered dwelling” is defined as a dwelling that is occupied by a tenant under a residential lease or without a lease terminable under State law, which is on or in a “covered property”. A “covered property” is defined as any property that participates in a covered housing program or the rural housing voucher program or has a Federally backed mortgage loan or a Federally backed multifamily mortgage loan. Under section 4024(c) of the CARES Act, a tenant living in a “covered dwelling” must be given 30 days’ notice before the lease is terminated, or the tenant is required to vacate the premises.
Second, the landlord is required to provide any documentation as to agreements with the tenant towards repayment of rent. Although an agreement may not have any formal documentation as to its terms, the landlord is still required to indicate that such an agreement exists.
The Attestation Form also prominently displays newly required language, which reads:
“THIS NOTICE TO QUIT IS NOT AN EVICTION. YOU DO NOT NEED TO IMMEDIATELY LEAVE YOUR UNIT. YOU ARE ENTITLED TO A LEGAL PROCEEDING IN WHICH YOU CAN DEFEND AGAINST THE EVICTION. ONLY A COURT ORDER CAN FORCE YOU TO LEAVE YOUR UNIT.”
The Notice to Quit and completed Attestation form must be uploaded to the Executive Office of Housing and Urban Development through the mass.gov website.
While this process may seem daunting, the Law Office of John H. Prettyman is here to guide landlords through the process. Attorney Prettyman is well versed in the eviction process and can assist landlords in reclaiming their property and peace of mind.
Authored with the assistance of John Walden, Candidate for Juris Doctor, 2024