From start to finish, an eviction in Massachusetts can be completed in 1 to 4 months, depending on the reason for eviction and whether the tenant contests it.
Grounds for an Eviction in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, a landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without cause. Legal reasons to evict include:
- Not paying rent
- Staying after the lease ends
- Violating lease terms
- Committing illegal activity
Depending on the grounds for eviction, the landlord must give proper notice and provide the tenant a chance to cure the violation.
|Nonpayment of Rent
|End of Lease or No Lease
Nonpayment of Rent
In Massachusetts, a landlord can evict a tenant for not paying rent on time. To do so, they must first give 14 days’ notice to vacate the premises.
According to Massachusetts law, rent is considered late the day after it’s due; however, landlords are not allowed to assess a late fee or charge interest on the unpaid rent until 30 days after the rent is due. There is no right to a legal grace period (i.e., five days) or exceptions for weekends or court-observed holidays.
If rent is due on March 1st, it will be considered late starting on March 2nd, unless the lease specifically states there is a grace period. However, the landlord will not be allowed to assess a late fee until April 1st.
End of Lease or No Lease
In Massachusetts, a landlord can evict a tenant who does not have a lease (“tenant at will”) or has a lease that has terminated and continues to remain on the premises (“holdover tenant”). To do so, they must first terminate the tenancy by giving a proper 30-days’ notice to move out.
Once the tenancy ends, if the tenant remains on the property, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.
In Massachusetts, a landlord can evict a tenant for violating their lease or failing to uphold their responsibilities under Massachusetts law
Massachusetts landlords are not required to allow tenants to cure these types of violations and may provide them a 7 days’ notice to vacate. The tenant is not allowed to fix the issue and must vacate the rental unit.
Tenant responsibilities include:
- Keeping the property safe and habitable
- Accepting responsibility for any damage caused by the tenant beyond “normal wear and tear”
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
If the tenant does not fix the issue or move out by the end of the notice period, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.
In Massachusetts, a landlord can evict a tenant for committing illegal activity on the premises. To do so, the landlord must first serve the tenant a notice to vacate. The tenant does not have the option to fix the issue and must move out within the 3-day period
Examples of illegal activity in Massachusetts include:
- 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
If the tenant does not move out by the end of the notice period, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.
Illegal Evictions in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, there are a few different types of eviction actions that are illegal. If proven in court, the landlord could be liable for certain damages such as attorney’s fees.
“Self Help” Evictions
A landlord is not allowed to attempt to forcibly remove a tenant by:
- Changing the locks
- Shutting off utilities
- Removing tenant belongings
A tenant can only be legally removed with a court order obtained through the formal eviction process.
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
In Massachusetts, all evictions follow the same process:
- Landlord serves tenant with written notice of violations
- Landlord files complaint with the court due to unresolved violations
- Court holds a hearing and issues a judgment
- Writ of Execution is issued
- Possession of property is returned to landlord
Step 1: Landlord Serves Notice to Tenant
A landlord can begin the eviction process in Massachusetts by serving a tenant with written notice to quit. In the notice, a landlord must specify the exact reason for terminating the tenancy.
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. Different methods for serving the tenant include:
- Hand delivering the notice to the tenant
- Hiring a constable or sheriff to hand deliver the notice
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.
7-Day Notice to Quit
In Massachusetts, a landlord must issue a 7-Day Notice to Quit before evicting a tenant who commits a lease violation or illegal activity.
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.
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 days to move out (including weekends and holidays).
However, for tenants that don’t pay monthly, the amount of notice differs:
|Rent Payment Frequency
|Same amount as average pay interval (normally 3 months)
Step 2: Landlord Files Lawsuit with 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.
A copy of the summons and complaint must be served on the tenant 7-30 daysprior 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:
- Giving a copy to the tenant in person
- Leaving a copy at the tenant’s residence
- a copy via first class mail with return of service.
The summons and complaint must be served on the tenant at least 7, but not more than 30 days prior to the landlord’s filing eviction paperwork with the court.
Step 3: Court Holds Hearing and Issues Judgment
Cases in Massachusetts are “entered” only on Mondays, meaning all required paperwork will be filed 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 7 day of the entry date. The 7 days 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 7 days. The eviction hearing will also be postponed for 7 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.
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 7 days to the process.
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.
The writ of execution can be issued 10 days after the ruling in favor of the landlord.
Step 5: Possession of Property is Returned
Only sheriffs and constables are able to remove a tenant, they are required to give tenants 48 hour 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 monthstay 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.
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
In Massachusetts, an eviction can be completed in 1 to 4 months but can take longer depending on the reason for eviction, whether the eviction is contested, which days courts are (or aren’t) in session and other various possible delays.
Below are the parts of the Massachusetts eviction process outside the control of landlords for cases that go uncontested.
|Initial Notice Period
|7-30 Calendar Days
|Court Issuing Summons
|1 Business Day
|Court Serving Summons
|7-30 Business Days
|Tenant Response Period
|7 Business Days Before the Hearing
|1 Business Day
|Court Serving Writ of Execution
|10 Business Days
|Final Notice of Eviction
Flowchart of Massachusetts Eviction Process
Massachusetts Eviction Court Fees
The total cost of an eviction in Massachusetts for all filing, court, and service fees varies heavily based upon which court the eviction lawsuit is filed in. For cases filed in District Court, the average cost is $465. For cases filed in District Court or Boston Municipal Court the average cost is $525.
|Initial Court Filing
|Writ of Execution Enforcement
|Notice of Appeal (Optional)
- 1 MA Gen L ch 186 § 11 (2020)
- 2 MA Gen L ch 186 §15B (2020)
- 3 MA Gen L ch 186 § 13 (2020)
- 4 MA Gen L ch 186 §17 (2020)
- 5 MA Gen L ch 139 §19 (2020)
- 6 MA Uniform Summary Process Rules, Rule 1 (2020)
- 7 MA Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4 (2020)
- 8 MA Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4 (2020)
- 9 MA Uniform Summary Process Rules, Rule 1 (2020)
- 10 MA Uniform Summary Process Rules, Rule 2 (2020)
- 11 MA Uniform Summary Process Rules, Rule 3 (2020)
- 12 MA Uniform Summary Process Rules, Rule 10 (2020)
- 13 MA Gen L ch 239 §5 (2020)
- 14 MA Gen L ch 239 §3 (2020)
- 15 MA Gen L ch 239 §3 (2020)
- 16 MA Gen L ch 239 §9 (2020)