Massachusetts Article

As Eviction Ban continues, Small Landlords Feel The Squeeze

As Eviction Ban continues, Small Landlords Feel The Squeeze

The Boston Globe’s Tim Logan reports on the difficult position some housing providers have been put in by Massachusetts’ eviction moratorium.

The roiling debate about Massachusetts’ eviction moratorium — which Governor Charlie Baker last week extended until mid-October — has focused largely on renters, hundreds of thousands of whom have lost work over the last few months and face rent bills that many can’t afford. But landlords, especially small ones who provide the bulk of modestly-priced rental housing in Massachusetts, say they need help, too.

Stuck between tenants who can’t, or simply won’t, pay up and banks that still expect mortgage payments every month, many landlords say the eviction moratorium puts them in an impossible spot. They don’t want to evict tenants in the midst of a health and economic crisis. But they also don’t want to go broke.

“Landlords are getting squeezed,” said Mike Hoefling, who owns a pair of three-family buildings in Worcester and has several tenants who are out of work. “They’re not getting rent on one side, and on the other, banks are asking for their money.”

It’s a dilemma with potentially far-reaching consequences.

About a quarter of all housing in Massachusetts is in small multi-family buildings, the three-deckers and six-unit apartment buildings that dot urban neighborhoods across the state. Many are owned by landlords who lack the resources of big national apartment operators and who often charge lower rents than those in large complexes. With few or no employees on the payroll, most got little help from the Paycheck Protection Program or other coronavirus aid.

Even by mid-May, according to a survey conducted by the trade group MassLandlords, about 20 percent of rent payments statewide were late. Housing advocates warn that many more renters could fall behind when the $600-per-week expanded federal unemployment benefits expire this week.

In that same survey, one-fifth of landlords said they didn’t know how they will pay their bills this year. If the eviction moratorium stretches on, and there’s no help forthcoming for property owners, many will have to sell their buildings, or lose them to foreclosure, said MassLandlords executive director Doug Quattrochi.

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