Can we do a mortgage freeze in Massachusetts?

 As the world races to put in place provisions to protect public health in the wake of COVID-19, government leaders are attempting to mitigate the financial hardship from this crisis. Governments and banks in Spain, Italy, France, England and Canada have instituted various forms of mortgage payment suspensions or freezes ranging from one month to six months. In New York, Governor Cuomo has directed his Department of Financial Services to encourage mortgage servicers to waive mortgage payments based on financial hardship; no negative reporting to credit bureaus; grace periods for loan modification; no late payment fees or online payment fees; and postponing or suspending foreclosures. Additionally, the Governor has asked DFS to instruct state chartered banks to waive ATM fees, late fees, overdraft fees and fees for credits cards to help lessen the financial hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic on New Yorkers.

 What should Massachusetts do? Our two initial thoughts are these: We need an eviction and foreclosure moratorium through at least October. We need a workable plan (emphasis on workable in this time of crisis) that allows impacted homeowners, especially those of low-to-moderate income and first-generation buyers, to suspend mortgage payments for up to 6 months. Any Massachusetts plan should also include the protections outlined by New York including no late payment fees and no negative reporting to credit bureaus.