Eviction Diversion Pledge
The Commonwealth’s eviction moratorium expired on October 17th and amid ongoing housing instability and financial hardship felt by so many across Massachusetts, the undersigned coalition of housing owners and operators pledge their commitment to support Housing Stability and fight the spread of COVID-19.
Over the past nine months, we have worked with thousands of our residents across Massachusetts as job and income loss, food insecurity, healthcare access, social isolation, school and childcare closures and rising expenses have plagued our communities during this public health crisis. Compassion for the residents who call our communities home is a principle of each of our organizations and as such, we believe it is vital to take a leadership role in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The social, public health and financial stability of the Commonwealth, its cities and towns, housing owners and operators and residents are interwoven, and we understand the critical role each party must play by standing together during this crisis. We pledge to stand with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Governor Baker in support of Housing Stability and Public Health.
Therefore, through 3/31/21, as a coalition of housing owners and operators, we sign the housing pledge and promise to:
1. ABIDE BY AND SUPPORT THE CURRENT CDC EVICTION MORATORIUM
The Centers for Disease Control issued a temporary federal eviction moratorium until December 31, 2020 to assist prevention in the spread of COVID-19. The Order prevents the evictions of residents who have signed and submitted a declaration stating they experienced financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order protects residents who have made best efforts to make partial payments and obtain government assistance for rent, are not engaging in nuisance, public safety violations, or criminal behavior. The order does not relieve residents of their obligation to pay rent.
We pledge to support the Order through proactive and consistent direct outreach to households who are behind on rent, making each aware of the CDC Order and making the Declaration of Financial Hardship readily available.
2. PROACTIVELY ENGAGE WITH RESIDENTS AND CREATE PAYMENT PLANS
Communication remains a key challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic as the public health crisis continues to isolate residents. We pledge to ensure that each household is informed and engaged in their rights, responsibilities and resources available to them regardless of circumstance. Through consistent, proactive outreach and engagement, we will make every effort to meet with affected households to fully understand and document the household’s entire financial hardship (job or income loss, unforeseen and increased expenses, etc.) and their inability to pay all or a portion of their monthly rent. We will seek to enter into reasonable and good faith payment agreements with each affected household that are affordable to and work for both the household and the owner/manager. These will be based on their current rent obligation under their lease and consider the full financial hardship. Payment Plans will make every effort to avoid lump sum repayments at the end of the deferral period, allow residents to amortize the repayment over time, and not be charged late fees upon entering into a payment agreement. Hardship verifications and payment plans will be memorialized and agreed upon in writing by both property management and residents.
3. SUPPORT AND ACCEPT RENTAL ASSISTANCE PAYMENTS
Rental Assistance funding provided by the Commonwealth stands as a vital barrier to prevent a dramatic increase in eviction filing and execution as the COVID-19 pandemic carries onward across the state. We applaud the Baker-Polito administration’s Eviction Diversion Initiative and its commitment of $100 million this fiscal year to provide relief to both renters and landlords impacted by COVID-19.
As such, we pledge to promote and support access to emergency rental assistance throughout each action item outlined herein. We will support affected households in determining eligibility for DHCD RAFT/ERMA, MA city and town Rental Relief funds, and philanthropic programs. As so many of the assistance programs require detailed information often known to the property manager/owner about the property and household in need, we will work directly with each affected household to complete applications for access to state, city and charitable rental assistance funding that can help pay both past due and current rent. This has been shown to lead to faster, more efficient financial assistance to relieve affected residents. All relevant and needed information required from the property manager/owner will be provided in a timely manner. Repayment plans and rental assistance resources will be used in lieu of legal eviction filing, whenever possible.
We ask that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts continue to monitor the administration of the Eviction Diversion Initiative so that additional funding can be available when needed. We further pledge to support the Commonwealth in these efforts through data provision and advocacy for additional State and Federal resources that can be used for rental relief and arrearages.
4. PROMOTE RENT ADJUSTMENTS FOR SECTION 8/MRVP FAMILIES
For residents who receive a Section 8 subsidy, housing owners and operators have a unique opportunity to proactively promote and implement rent adjustments for those facing financial hardship. We pledge to: 1) proactively reach out to all Section 8 residents in arrears to actively promote Interim Income Recertifications and rent adjustments; 2) work with relevant voucher administrators to make all necessary rent adjustments as soon as possible by supporting hardship and income verification information access and; 3) regularly review all 2020 Interim Recertifications and corresponding documentation to ensure the rent decrease was implemented the first of the month immediately following the actual income loss/reduction, even if the resident failed to report the change in a timely manner. This is an important opportunity to support households who experienced an adverse change to their household finances and who may not have been able to immediately report the change.
5. ENCOURAGE STRUCTURED & INTERACTIVE MEDIATION
Understanding the immense burden borne by our residents, due to health, education or economic instability during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital to maintain effective communication as a means for resolving rental payment issues. Our first choice will always be to work directly with residents to leverage all available resources to address any non-payment issues before any mediation is necessary. Collectively, we pledge, if necessary, to engage with residents suffering from financial hardship in a structured, interactive mediation process, focused primarily upon the needs, rights, and interests of all parties, to resolve any rent non-payment issues.
Name of Owner/Manager
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