Coronavirus Update 3/25/20
Commercial Tenant/Landlord Relationship
John Coyne, ESQ
Landlords will have to confront the reality on the first of the month that some commercial/restaurant tenants will not be able to pay rent in a timely manner. The respective rights and obligations of such landlords and tenants are those agreed upon in the lease(s) and others applicable to all commercial tenancies under Massachusetts law.
Failure to pay rent when due is a breach under a lease. Generally, a lease provides the tenant with a right to “cure” the breach following a written notice of the default from landlord by paying the late rent within the time to cure specified in the Lease.
In these difficult times, it may be in the best interest of both landlord and tenant to reach an agreement to defer or forgive the payment of all or some rent until the health and economic crisis abates. A tenant should initiate contact with a landlord and engage in good faith discussions or attempt to reach at least a short-term resolution rather than not paying rent without any explanation. Having no contact or failing to reach some resolution will leave the landlord with no options except to initiate eviction proceedings. The goal of both landlord and tenant should be to reach an agreement, even if short term, that will leave both in a better position than an eviction proceeding.
A landlord does not have a right to engage in “self-help” even if the tenant fails to cure a breach of a lease, meaning the landlord cannot unilaterally take steps to physically remove the tenant or tenant’s property from the premises or otherwise interfere with tenant’s access. The landlord’s remedy is to initiate an eviction proceeding in which the landlord seeks a judgment from the Court for possession of the premises, unpaid rent and monetary damages caused by the breach. An eviction proceeding can take months.
A landlord who engages in unlawful self-help can be liable to a tenant for losses and damages caused by such unlawful action.
A tenant may possibly be temporarily relieved from the obligation to pay rent if performance is impossible due to Government’s Closure Order and a lease permits temporary non-performance under such circumstances.
An agreement that provides that tenant will vacate the premises and give possession to landlord should also specifically address the tenant’s liability for unpaid rent; damages, including loss of income, incurred by landlord following termination of the lease; and the liability of any personal guarantors of the lease payments.
If you have specific lease questions, you should consult with your attorney.
Over the past week it has become evident that there was no central location where customers could identify who was open for carry out, curbside and delivery or for restaurants to keep the broader public updated on options, menu and hours of operation.
Today, MRA will be launching
as a centralized platform for restaurants across Massachusetts that are open to serving the public through both carryout and delivery. This new platform allows for each restaurant owner to register and update their own listings with a direct to consumer marketing tool. As this is a new tool and the population of restaurants begins today, we will continue to reinforce participation to get to critical mass.
We will be working with IUC and media outlets to drive awareness to the consumer for frequency of use. We encourage all of those who are open for carry out and delivery to logon, register and populate the site. We also recommend that you use all of your social media to alert your base to the site. Any questions please email Kerry Miller at
Plastic bag bans and fees for bags have been suspended in Massachusetts -
any plastic bag ban or fee for bags have been suspended for essential business that are still in operation.
National Restaurant Association Free ServeSafe Resources
Every day, we train the restaurant and food service industry on topics like cooking temperatures, safe storage, and cross contamination, as well as hygiene, sanitation, and other risk mitigation activities. Recognizig that some employees may have shifted roles recently because of the challenges presented by COVID-19, we have developed a number of free resources aimed at keeping our workers and the dining public safe.
Employee Support Programs
Health Insurance Options for Employees that may lose Coverage
The Health Connector is the recommended course of action for employees that may lose access to employer sponsored health coverage.See below for more information.
Employee Support for those with Food Insecurities
Restaurant workers facing lack of employment right now may also qualify for expedited (emergency) SNAP if they meet the following:
- Income and money in the bank add up to less than their monthly housing expenses
- Monthly income is less than $150 and money in the bank is $100 or less
- Migrant worker and money in the bank is less than $100
If you or someone you know is struggling with food insecurity,
Hotline offers free, comprehensive statewide food assistance to all Massachusetts residents. Help is offered in 160 languages and there is a line dedicated to helping those that are hearing impaired. For more information and hours, visit