I-Team: Evictions piling up now that state moratorium has ended

I-Team

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Many people have lost jobs during this pandemic making it hard to pay bills, including rent.

A state moratorium on evictions prevented most from happening for months during the pandemic. However, once it ended in October, eviction notices skyrocketed. The 22News I-Team discovered Springfield is one of the hardest-hit cities in the Commonwealth.

“We’re in a global pandemic, and no one should be homeless,” explained Rose Webster-Smith, the executive director of Springfield No One Leaves. The organization assists people who have been impacted by the housing crisis by helping them navigate the Housing Court system.

The Baker Administration’s eviction and foreclosure moratorium that essentially halted evictions across the state ended on October 17th.

“We went from having the strongest moratorium in the country, to having an F in this area,” Webster-Smith said.

Evictions Per County

Since the mortarium ended, 60 percent of Hampden County evictions happened in Springfield, according to data from the Massachusetts Trial Court. Springfield is one of the hardest hit cities in the state in terms of total evictions filed, falling only behind Fall River and Worcester.

  • Hampden County Evictions: 487
  • Hampshire County Evictions: 54
  • Franklin County Evictions: 33
  • Berkshire County Evictions: 117

All these evictions are based on non-payment of rent.

Federal Moratorium

There is still a federal eviction moratorium in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help people stay in their homes. This is in place through the end of March. To qualify, tenants must make less than $99,000 a year, make their best efforts to get government rental assistance, like RAFT or ERMA, and complete a form from the CDC and give it to their landlord.

“Communicating with your landlord in that way helps you get covered by the CDC moratorium,” explained Keith Fairey, the CEO of Way Finders. “It’s not a fool-proof thing though.”

This federal moratorium only stops the eviction from taking place – it doesn’t stop the court case. A bill, Chapter 257 of the Acts of 2020, signed by Gov. Baker on December 31, 2020 does provide some additional protections for tenants.

“What that basically says is that if you are a tenant and you have applied for any rental assistance, such as through Way Finders, that there is an automatic stay on your summary process case,” Clerk Magistrate of the Western Division Housing Court, Michael Doherty told the 22News I-Team.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has handled more than 200 complaints relating to the eviction moratorium and has been able to stop more than 80 illegal evictions so far.

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