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Eviction threat looms again with moratorium end

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WGBH, October 2020

A tight moratorium on evictions in Massachusetts expired over the weekend, prompting judicial officials and lawyers involved with housing cases to brace for multiple waves of legal actions as court proceedings resume.

Most cases back on track originate from Middlesex, Suffolk and Essex counties — the three counties with the highest numbers of new COVID-19 cases as of Sunday. In the 20 months before the pandemic, the trial court says, landlords across the state submitted an average of about 3,300 eviction requests each month.

Lawyers who represent struggling tenants say they worry that with the lifting of the state ban, renters’ only protection from displacement and increased COVID-19 exposure is a looser federal moratorium that expires at the end of the year. The state’s six-month moratorium put on hold more than 11,000 pending eviction cases, according to an estimate from the trial court.

The court system did not indicate how many of those cases are immediately enforceable, but Joseph Michalakes, a housing specialist with Greater Boston Legal Services, said those cases threaten to make up the first wave of displacements. The larger picture, he said, will become clearer in several weeks.

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