In late August, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the pause on evictions enacted by the Centers for Disease Control as a public health measure — just as COVID-19 infections were increasing and the delta variant surged in Bristol County.
While the CDC pause on evictions has ended, some important protections remain for residents faced with losing their home. These protections largely are available due to Gov. Charlie Baker’s Eviction Diversion Initiative and to emergency legislation enacted by the state Legislature.
Financial assistance, for example, is available for residents who lost income due to the pandemic, and who need help with rent or mortgage payments. A variety of rental assistance programs exist to help tenants pay their rent and to ensure that landlords receive rent that is due.
Under Massachusetts law, people facing eviction because of nonpayment of rent cannot be evicted while their application for rental assistance is pending. Applications can be challenging to complete, especially for those without access to the proper technology, but these financial assistance programs can save homes once applications are completed and approved.
Rental and Mortgage Assistance
NeighborWorks Housing Solutions processes rental assistance applications for residents of Southeastern Massachusetts. It can provide financial assistance to pay back rent and possibly future rent for those who are eligible. Tenants always should obtain proof of their pending application. Proof of a pending application could result in a stay of the eviction while the application is being processed as long as proof is submitted to the court. NeighborWorks Housing Solutions can be reached at (781) 422-4204 or (800) 242-0957 or online at nhsmass.org.
Legal assistance also is available for low-income tenants faced with eviction. While trial court statistics indicate that nearly 85% of landlords statewide are represented by attorneys in nonpayment actions, fewer than 10% of tenants have an attorney by their side as they face these same proceedings. An attorney can help tenants understand confusing court notices, laws they do not understand or know about, and navigate remote (Zoom) hearings where they might otherwise be without the skills to argue their cases.
Low-income owner occupants facing a need to pursue an eviction case may also be eligible for legal assistance under the Gov. Baker’s Eviction Diversion Initiative.
If you are facing eviction, foreclosure, or loss of rental income you may be able to protect your housing by asking for help from the following organizations:
South Coastal Counties Legal Services (SCCLS) can provide free legal help to people facing eviction. SCCLS also can help with other civil legal problems associated with access to disability benefits, unemployment or other public benefits, education, domestic violence, consumer, immigration and elder law matters. Assistance in eviction cases may range from advice to self-help forms, to representation in court proceedings. To see if you qualify, you can call 800-244-9023 or visit sccls.org to submit an online inquiry.
The Volunteer Lawyers Project can help owner-occupants of two- or three-family homes if they are considering, or in the process, of filing an eviction case. Contact VLP by calling 857-320-6452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People Acting in Community Endeavors (PACE) offers a small rental assistance program, guidance on applying for local and state homelessness prevention programs and listings of available subsidized and unsubsidized rentals in New Bedford. Contact PACE at (508) 999-9920 or by email at email@example.com.
Catholic Social Services: CSS provides individuals and families who are in need with food, utility and rental assistance; homelessness intervention services; and other financial assistance. CSS can also help with applications for public benefits and with finding a more affordable living situation. The New Bedford Office can be reached at (508) 999-4757.
Susan Nagl is executive director of South Coastal Counties Legal Services Inc.
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