The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has a new website!
The DHCD launched a new website: http://mass.gov/CovidHousingHelp to spread the word about RAFT and ERMA. If you are a tenant, landlord or community partner and you would like additional information, please see this link!
Resources for Renters, Homeowners, and Landlords
Additionally, check out this 30-second video: https://youtu.be/XI1hZvdmCvI
Eviction Diversion Initiative (EDI)
Services Available on Monday, October 19, 2020, and Preview of Upcoming Expansions
Source: Department of Housing and Community Development/DHCD
For more information about EDI, call 2-1-1 or DHCD’s main phone line at 617-573-1100
See Frequently Asked Q&A below
COVID-19 Eviction Diversion Initiative Overview
The Baker-Polito Administration announced a comprehensive set of resources to support tenants and landlords during the financial challenges caused by the pandemic. The goal of this initiative is to keep tenants safely in their homes and to support the ongoing expenses of landlords once the pause of evictions and foreclosures expire on Saturday, October 17th. This strategy was developed by a cross-agency team assembled by the Administration in coordination with the Massachusetts Trial Court to manage the end of the moratorium on October 17th and reflects input from a broad range of stakeholders.
$171 million total commitment in FY21, with $112 million of new funding to support new and expanded housing stability programs during the remainder of the fiscal year. Key highlights:
- $100 million in emergency rental assistance through RAFT.
- Up to $12.3 million to provide tenants and landlords with access to legal representation and related services prior to and during the eviction process, as well as community mediation to bring tenants and landlords together to find a resolution.
- Nearly $50 million for post-eviction rapid rehousing.
EXPANSION Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT)
Massachusetts will provide nearly $100 million in additional funding and streamline the application process, allowing landlords with 20 or fewer units to apply with tenant consent. For COVID-related housing crises, the maximum RAFT benefit has increased from $4,000 to $10,000 per household, on the condition that tenancy can be preserved for 6 months, or until June 2021 for households with school-aged children, whichever is longer.
EXPANSION Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs)
The nine regional HCECs represent the “front door” for residents to access many state and federal programs. HCECs manage the RAFT/ERMA program on behalf of DHCD, and new funding will enable agencies to hire Special Housing Counselors to help households with more complicated needs navigate available resources.
NEW Community Mediation Pre-Court
The Administration is working with partners to make mediation services widely available for renters and landlords to support pre-court and pre-trial settlement of eviction cases. Mediation would assist in situations where agreement cannot be reached through the standard RAFT or ERMA (Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance) program.
NEW Legal Representation and Related Services
The Administration is also in the process of developing a path to provide legal representation and related services to income eligible, COVID-19 impacted tenants and landlords as they navigate the eviction process. This program would utilize volunteer lawyers, legal assistance organizations, and non-lawyer assistance to provide diversion resources and support in court.
EXPANSION Upstream Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP)
The current TPP assists households where a family member has a disability and has a tremendous success rate in keeping vulnerable families housed through mediation with a neutral third party. The initiative expands this program to serve other vulnerable households, including those eligible for Family Emergency Assistance and low-income seniors.
EXPANSION HomeBASE and Rapid Rehousing
As an additional safety-net, HomeBASE, the Commonwealth’s rapid rehousing benefit, and the Strategic Prevention Initiative (SPI) will be expanded and continue to offer financial assistance and stabilization case management services to families as they are in the process of securing stable housing. A new temporary emergency program will also provide funds to households for periods of up to 12 months to assist with moving expenses, rent, including first or last month’s, or security deposit, while transitioning into a stable housing situations.
When the state moratorium expires, a moratorium established by Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) will become effective in Massachusetts. Through December, the CDC moratorium will prevent evictions for non-payment for qualified tenants who submit a written declaration to their landlord. Courts will accept filings and process cases, and may enter judgments but will not issue an order of execution (the court order that allows a landlord to evict a tenant) until after the expiration of the CDC order. Protection is limited to household who meet certain income and vulnerability criteria. Declaration may be found here.
Frequently Asked Questions / FAQ’s
Source: Department of Housing and Community Development/DHCD
I got a notice to quit. What do I do?
In Massachusetts, a landlord must send a tenant a Notice to Quit before the landlord can file a summary process (eviction) action. The Notice to Quit is a legal document that formally notifies the tenant that the tenancy will be terminated on a specific date. A Notice to Quit is not an order to leave your apartment on the date of the lease termination.
NOTE: IF YOU RECEIVE A NOTICE TO QUIT 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.
If you have received a Notice to Quit for nonpayment of rent, do not ignore or discard it. You should immediately contact your landlord to try to work out a payment plan. Legal Resource Finder will connect you to information for legal aid programs, nonprofits, government agencies, and court programs that may be able to help you with your legal issue for free or at a low cost. You can then contact your local Housing Consumer Education Center to learn if you are eligible for rental assistance.
What eviction protections are provided under the CDC moratorium?
When the state moratorium expired on October 17, a federal moratorium established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) became effective in Massachusetts. Through December, the CDC moratorium will prevent evictions for non-payment for qualified tenants who submit a written declaration to their landlord. Courts will accept eviction filings and process cases, and may enter judgments, but will not issue an order of execution (the court order that allows a landlord to evict a tenant) until after the expiration of the CDC order. Protection is limited to households who meet certain income and vulnerability criteria. Declaration may be found here, and in a number of additional languages.
I received a Summons and Complaint from my landlord, and I cannot afford an attorney [...]
I received a Summons and Complaint from my landlord, and I cannot afford an attorney. Can anyone help me through the court process?
The Court Service Centers can help explain the court process and can help tenants complete basic court documents to respond to a Summons and Complaint. Currently, the Court Service Center locations are closed to the public for in-person assistance, but help is available from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. from Monday through Friday through Zoom meetings. Visit the Court website for more information on how to join a Court Service Center through Zoom and what information you will need to have on hand.
You may also qualify for free or reduced cost legal assistance through a local legal aid organization or volunteer lawyers program. Contact legal aid here or call 2-1-1 for more information.
New programs to connect income eligible landlords and tenants to legal help are in development but will not be operational until December. This FAQ will be updated as more assistance becomes available.
I am unable to pay my rent and am worried about eviction. What do I do?
Contact your regional housing agency, where you can connect to various resources, including emergency rental assistance for eligible households.
There are state and local programs offering assistance for rent. The amount of assistance is based on tenant household income and landlord’s willingness to participate.
You can find your regional housing agency by clicking here or call 2-1-1 for more information.
I am a landlord and my tenant owes a lot of rent. Aside from going to court, what else can I do?
If you are the owner-occupant of a 1-4 family home, you may be entitled to mortgage deferral or forbearance protections. See answer to this question.
If you or your tenant is low or moderate income, there is state rental and mortgage assistance available through the RAFT or ERMA program. You or your tenant can learn more about these assistance programs, as well as local assistance programs, through your regional housing agency.
Click here or call 2-1-1 for more information.
I am a homeowner and unable to pay my mortgage. What do I do?
It is important that you contact your mortgage servicer (the company where you send your monthly payments) as soon as possible to let them know about your current circumstances. They may be able to assist with a deferral or forbearance, which would allow you to delay payments for a temporary period.
The Federal CARES Act provides protections for owner-occupants of 1-4 family properties with mortgages that are federally or Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) backed or funded (FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac). You can learn about your options, find out if you quality, and request forbearance or mortgage relief by visiting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.
You may also be eligible for mortgage assistance under the state’s RAFT or ERMA program. Contact your regional housing agency, where you can connect to various resources, including emergency assistance for eligible owner-occupants of 1-4 family homes. You can find your regional housing agency by clicking here or call 2-1-1 for more information.
I am about to become homeless or am doubled up in an unsafe situation. What resources are there?
If you are homeless or on the verge of homelessness, please contact the Family Resource Center (FRC) in your community or call (866) 584-0653 to speak to a Homeless Coordinator.
HomeBASE provides assistance with housing costs and is available to families that are homeless and meet other eligibility requirements.
There are also other rapid rehousing benefits that may assist eligible families that are on the verge of homelessness.
What are the eligibility criteria for the state’s rental assistance programs, RAFT and ERMA?
The application is the same for both ERMA and RAFT programs, so you do not need to know which program you are eligible for and can apply to both at the same time.
Income limits vary by region and household size. Also the amount of financial assistance available varies between programs.
You can see income limits for the programs here, but we encourage you to contact your regional housing agency (link here) for more information on eligibility. They may also have information about other local assistance programs that may have different eligibility than RAFT or ERMA.
Am I eligible for RAFT/ERMA if I live in subsidized housing (e.g., public housing, Section 8)?
If you live in a unit where rent is calculated based on a percentage of income, you must seek a rent adjustment first before accessing RAFT or ERMA. The regional housing agency will evaluate the situation and may be able to help you to seek a rent adjustment or repayment plan for past due rent. If the rent adjustment is not granted or there are other household financial considerations, the RAFT or ERMA program may be able to help.
RAFT does not cover the rent and utilities I owe. What else can I do?
You may be eligible to combine RAFT or ERMA with another program administered by your city or town, or a private foundation. Your Regional Administering Agency can tell you about these additional programs.
What are all the recent changes to the RAFT program and when will they take effect?
As of Monday, October 19, 2020, a special COVID Response RAFT benefit level is available offering up to $10,000 in rental assistance per eligible household. In order to access more than the normal $4,000 maximum RAFT benefit, the landlord and tenant must sign an agreement that allows the tenant to remain housed for 6 months, or until June 2021, if there are school aged children in the household. Note, this benefit level is only for those households facing a financial hardship related to COVID-19. Any applicant who has an application pending on October 19th will be considered for the higher benefit and the RAA will evaluate each applicant’s unique needs when reviewing the application.
If you have already received RAFT funding, but think you may need further assistance with housing, we encourage you to reach out to your regional housing agency again.
To streamline the RAFT processing time, there will be a new, shorter application. Applicants will also be asked for less photocopied or scanned documentation. However, applicants will sign to give consent for regional agencies to verify income and eligibility with the Department of Revenue, the Department of Unemployment Assistance, the Department of Transitional Assistance, and/or MassHealth. These data verifications will help reviewers assess eligibility.
I am a landlord and want to apply to RAFT on behalf of my tenant. What should I do?
The RAFT program is being modified to allow landlords who own up to 20 units of housing to apply to RAFT on behalf of their tenants. Tenants will still need to sign the RAFT application and provide proof of identity. The new landlord application is expected to become available at the end of October. In the meantime, you can help your tenant to gather any necessary documentation, such as a copy of the lease or a summary of the amount your tenant owes to you, to help speed up the existing application process.
I may need a lawyer or a mediator to work out my rental situation. Where can I find one?
If you received a Court Summons & Complaint, contact Legal Aid here to see if you qualify for assistance.
If you are not yet involved with the court, your regional housing agency may be able to help you work things out with your landlord or they may refer you to a community mediation or legal services program that can help you and your landlord reach an agreement without having to go to court. You can find your regional housing agency here or call 2-1-1 for more information.
New community mediation resources, as well as new programs to connect income eligible landlords and tenants to legal help, are in development but these programs will not be fully operational for several weeks. This FAQ will be updated as these services become available.
Who is eligible for services under the new COVID Response Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP)?
Traditionally, TPP was a housing court referral program that was limited to serving households where one family member has a disability. However, a new COVID Response TPP will be available prior to Court for low income households with children and frail elders who are at risk for homelessness due to a COVID-19 hardship. This short term expansion of TPP will launch in December and this FAQ will be updated accordingly. In the meantime, contact a provider to learn more about TPP. See map of providers here.
I live in Boston, Brockton, Worcester, Springfield or Lawrence and am about to become [...]
I live in Boston, Brockton, Worcester, Springfield or Lawrence am about to become homeless or I am doubled up in an unsafe situation. How do I learn more about the Strategic Prevention Initiative (SPI)?
In order to determine if you are eligible for SPI, please call (866) 584-0653 to speak to a Homeless Coordinator.
The Housing Toolbox for Massachusetts Communities was developed by the Citizens Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) and the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) as part of a statewide initiative to support local officials and volunteers in their efforts to provide more affordable housing opportunities in their communities.
THE RENTAL ASSISTANCE DATABASE
This database is being maintained to keep track of funding efforts and best practices. Key features include:
- Search what communities have implemented an ERA program. This includes how much money the municipality has pledged, agency administering the program, funding source, max benefit per household, and targeted area median income (AMI).
- Submit updates or changes to the ERA program in your community by completing the form at the top of the spreadsheet. Your input will help us keep the most accurate information.
- Each entry has contact information and links to program information or application. The spreadsheet can be a tool for communities and program administrators to learn from each other and share best practices.
- Help connect landlords and tenants to what local programs are available outside of RAFT and ERMA.
You may access the database here