Massachusetts Eviction Process

Massachusetts Eviction Process

Last Updated: June 16, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

In Massachusetts, all evictions follow the same process:

  1. Landlord serves written notice.
  2. Summons & Complaint are drafted, served and filed.
  3. Court holds hearing and judgment issued.
  4. The Writ of Execution is issued.
  5. Sheriff moves tenant and belongings off property.

From start to finish, an eviction in Massachusetts can be completed in one to three months.  However, it can take longer depending on the reason for eviction and whether the tenant appears at the hearing, appeals, or contests the eviction.

Massachusetts Eviction Grounds on iPropertyManagement.com

Grounds for an Eviction in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, a landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without cause.  Reasons to evict include not paying rent, violating lease terms, failing to uphold tenant responsibilities, nonrenewal of a lease, or conducting criminal activity on the property.

Eviction for Unpaid Rent

In Massachusetts, landlords may evict tenants for not paying rent on time. A landlord must serve the tenant with written notice that states rent is overdue and unpaid. A landlord may proceed with the eviction if the tenant does not move or pay the rent by the time the notice to quit expires.

Unless the lease states otherwise, rent is late in Massachusetts immediately after its due date. For example, if rent is due on the first of the month, it is considered late starting on the second of the month. There is no right to a legal grace period (i.e. five days) or exceptions for weekends or court-observed holidays.

Eviction for No Lease or End of Lease

In Massachusetts, a landlord can evict a month-to-month tenant or a tenant without a lease. To do so, the landlord must first terminate the tenancy by giving the tenant proper notice to move out. Once the tenancy is terminated, if the tenant remains on the property, the landlord can proceed with an eviction lawsuit.

Eviction for Violation of Lease or Responsibilities

A landlord can evict a tenant for violating their lease, failing to uphold their responsibilities, or conducting illegal activity on the rental property in Massachusetts.  Massachusetts landlords are not required to allow tenants to cure these types of violations.

Typical lease violations include negligently or deliberately damaging the rental property, having too many people residing in the rental unit, having a pet when there’s a no-pet policy or violating any other rules set forth in the lease.

Typical tenant responsibilities in Massachusetts include paying rent on time, keeping the property safe and habitable, and accepting responsibility for any damage caused by the tenant beyond “normal wear and tear.”

Examples of illegal activity in Massachusetts include:

  • Prostitution;
  • Homicide;
  • Illegal keeping or sale of alcohol;
  • Illegal possession, sale or manufacture of controlled substances;
  • Illegal possession of a weapon;
  • Possession, use of an explosive or incendiary device;
  • A crime that involves the threat or use of force or violence.

This activity also applies to guests or co-residents staying with the tenant.

Illegal Eviction on iPropertyManagement.com

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Illegal Evictions in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, it is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for any reason without first getting a court order. The below actions are specific examples of unlawful evictions by a landlord.

“Self Help” Evictions

No matter the situation, a landlord is not allowed to forcibly remove or constructively evict a tenant by:

  • Changing the locks;
  • Shutting off utilities; or
  • Removing tenant belongings.

A tenant can only be legally removed with a court order obtained through the formal eviction process.

Retaliatory Evictions

It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant in response to exercising a legally protected right. These rights include:

  • Complaining to the landlord about an issue with the property;
  • Contacting a local or government agency about an issue with the property;
  • Joining, supporting or organizing a tenant union or organization;
  • Pursuing legal action against the landlord;
  • Withholding rent for a legally acceptable reason.

If a tenant proves they were evicted illegally, the landlord may be liable for damages in an amount determined by the court.

Eviction notice posted on iPropertyManagement.com

Step 1: Notice is Posted

The first step in the eviction process in Massachusetts is serving a tenant with written notice to quit. In the notice, a landlord must specify the exact reason for terminating the tenancy. For example, a landlord should state if the tenant violated a lease term or failed to pay rent.

Massachusetts law doesn’t specify the exact method to serve a tenant with notice, but the tenant must actually receive the notice for it to be effective. The best methods of serving a tenant with notice in Massachusetts are:

  • Hand delivering the notice to the tenant; or
  • Hiring a constable or sheriff to hand deliver the notice.

Because a landlord must prove the tenant received notice, the landlord should not:

  • Leave the notice at the tenant’s residence;
  • Send the notice by mail;
  • Tape the notice to the door of the rental unit; or
  • Leave the notice with someone besides the tenant.

Massachusetts 14-Day Notice to Quit

A landlord must first serve a 14-Day Notice to Quit before evicting a tenant for nonpayment of rent in Massachusetts. A tenant can prevent an eviction by paying the rent before the answer is due in court.

The 14-Day Notice to Quit must state that the tenant has failed to pay rent on time and that the tenant has the right to “cure” the non-payment by paying the rent in full.

Massachusetts 7-Day Notice to Quit

In Massachusetts, a landlord must issue a 7-Day Notice to Quit before evicting a month-to-month tenant or a tenant without a lease for reasons aside from nonpayment of rent.  These reasons may be that the tenant violated the terms of the lease, failed to uphold their responsibilities, or engaged in illegal behavior at the rental property.

Massachusetts law does not specify the notice period for tenants with written leases.  A lease agreement will often indicate what type of notice is required in this situation.

Massachusetts 30-Day Notice to Quit

A landlord must serve a month-to-month tenant or a tenant without a lease a 30-Day Notice to Quit to end the tenancy. This notice allows the tenant 30 calendar days to move out (including weekends and holidays).

However, for tenants that don’t pay monthly, the amount of notice differs:

Rent Payment Frequency Notice Needed
Week-to-Week No statute
Month-to-Month 30 Days
Quarter-to-Quarter No statute
Year-to-Year Same amount as average pay interval (normally 3 months)

 

Eviction Complaint Filed on iPropertyManagement.com

Step 2: Complaint is Filed and Served

In most states, the summons and complaint can only be served on the tenant after the landlord has filed the complaint with the court.

However, in Massachusetts, this process is reversed and the summons and complaint are served on the tenant first; then the landlord files a copy of the complaint, summons, return of service, and any notice to quit given to the tenant with the court.

In the state of Massachusetts, filing a complaint with the court costs $120-$180 depending on whether the case is filed in Housing Court, District Court, or Boston Municipal Court. Note, Housing Courts are more familiar with landlord and tenant laws and eviction cases could be transferred there.

A copy of the summons and complaint must be served on the tenant 7-30 days prior to the date the landlord files the eviction paperwork with the court by the sheriff, deputy sheriff, special sheriff, or a person appointed by the court to serve process, through one of the following methods:

  1. Giving a copy to the tenant in person;
  2. Leaving a copy at the tenant’s residence; or
  3. Mailing a copy via first class mail with return of service.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.com7-30 days. The summons and complaint must be served on the tenant at least seven, but not more than 30, days prior to the landlord’s filing eviction paperwork with the court.

Eviction Court Hearing on iPropertyManagement.com

Step 3: Court Hearing and Judgment

Cases in Massachusetts are “entered” only on Mondays. “Entering” a case means all required paperwork to begin a case is filed with the court on that day.

The eviction hearing must be held on the second Thursday, second Friday, second Monday, third Tuesday, or the third Wednesday after the entry date, which is typically 10-16 days later.

Tenants are not required to file a formal, written answer to the landlord’s complaint to attend the eviction hearing. If tenants do choose to file a written answer, it must be done within seven days of the entry date.

This is also the deadline for tenants who are being evicted for nonpayment of rent to pay all past-due rent in full in order to avoid being evicted.

If the tenant fails to appear for the hearing (even if they filed a written answer), the judicial officer will issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord.

If the tenant appears, but didn’t file a written answer, the hearing will be postponed for seven days. The eviction hearing will also be postponed for seven days if the landlord fails to attend the hearing, but the tenant does appear.

If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, a writ of execution will be issued, and the eviction process will continue.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.com10-16 days. The hearing must be held 10-16 days after the entry date. If the landlord fails to appear, or the tenant appears but didn’t file a written answer, this will add another seven days to the process.

Eviction Writ of Execution on iPropertyManagement.com

Step 4: Writ of Execution Is Issued

The writ of execution is the tenant’s final notice to leave the rental unit and allows them the opportunity to remove their belongings before the sheriff or constable returns to the property to forcibly remove the tenant.

If the court has ruled in the landlord’s favor, the landlord will ask the court to issue a writ of execution. The writ cannot be issued until 10 days after the date of the entry of judgment. On the 11th day, the landlord may send a written request for the writ of execution to the clerk’s office.

This means that tenants will have at least 10 days after the court ruling to move out of the rental unit before they are forcibly removed. The writ of execution must be used within three months to be valid.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.com 10 days. The writ of execution can be issued 10 days after the ruling in favor of the landlord.

Eviction property possession returned on iPropertyManagement.com

Step 5: Possession of Property is Returned

Only sheriffs and constables are able to remove a tenant, they are required to give tenants 48 hours to vacate the property before they return to forcibly remove the tenant from the rental unit.

However, a writ of execution cannot be delivered to tenants on weekends, holidays, after 5 p.m. on a weekday, or before 9 a.m. on a weekday.

Tenants may request a 6-12 month stay of execution. Meaning, that the court has postponed the eviction due to reasons that were not the tenant’s fault. If granted, the judicial officer will postpone the eviction for a maximum of 12 months if the tenant is over the age of 60 or has a handicap (as defined in Massachusetts state law) or for a maximum of six months in all other cases.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.com48 hours. Tenants will be given 48 hours to move out of the rental unit before they are forcibly removed from the property; a stay of execution will add up to 6-12 months to the process.

Massachusetts Eviction Process Timeline

Below are the parts of the Massachusetts process outside the control of the landlords for cases that go uncontested:

Step Estimated Time
Initial Notice Period 3-30 Calendar Days
Serving Summons 1 Business Day
Filing Summons & Complaint 7-30 Business Days
Tenant Response Period 3 Business Days Before the Hearing
Court Ruling 1 Business Day
Court Serving Writ of Execution 10 Business Days
Final Notice of Eviction 48 Hours
Sheriff can Remove Possessions 48 Hours
Questions? To chat with a Massachusetts eviction attorney, click here

How long does the Eviction Process Take in Massachusetts? 

In Massachusetts, an eviction can be completed in one to three months.  An eviction may take longer depending on the reason for eviction, whether the eviction is contested, or which days courts are in session (or aren’t).  Other various delays may occur.  A contested eviction may take anywhere from three to six months.

Flowchart of Massachusetts Eviction Process

Massachusetts Eviction Process Flowchart on iPropertyManagement.com

Additional Information

Tenant’s Defenses for Evictions. A tenant may have defenses against the eviction lawsuit. Here are some examples:

  • The landlord did not receive a court order to evict the tenant.
  • The landlord did not follow the proper rules and procedures for eviction.
  • The landlord failed to maintain the rental unit in a safe and habitable manner after notice was given from the tenant.
  • The landlord pursues eviction based on discrimination against the tenant.

Tenant’s Termination of Rental Agreement. A tenant may terminate a rental agreement upon written notice to the landlord if a member of the household is a victim of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, or stalking. The notice shall be made within three months of the most recent act of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, or stalking; or if tenant is reasonably in fear of imminent danger from domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or stalking.

Tenant’s Personal Property After the Eviction. If the former tenant has belongings that were left behind after the eviction, Massachusetts state law requires that the personal property is stored in a licensed, public warehouse within 20 miles of the renal unit. The constable shall take inventory of the personal belongings and give the former tenant a written receipt. All storage fees shall be filed and approved by the Department of Public Safety. If the former tenant does not pay the storage fees that are owed, the storage company may sell the former tenant’s personal property after a six-months.

For additional questions about the eviction process in Massachusetts, please refer to the official legislation, Massachusetts General Laws, chapters 139, 186, 239, the Massachusetts Uniform Summary Process Rules , and Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4, for more information.

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