A landlord may want to start an eviction process in Massachusetts for different reasons, including failure to pay rent, violating the rental agreement, and ending a tenancy agreement. Whatever reasons you may have for wanting to evict a tenant, you'll need to follow specific procedures that make the eviction process legal. In Massachusetts, the eviction processes and procedures vary from county to county, but there are specific guidelines that all landlords must follow for the eviction to take effect.
Landlords who fail to follow these processes can lose a court case and end up paying the rent or receiving less rent from their tents. This guide shows what landlords must do to evict tenants from their property legally.
Landlord issues an Eviction Notice: Lease for Termination
An eviction process in Massachusetts starts with a landlord issuing a written notice to their tenant informing them of the eviction. The notice should state why and when the tenant is required to vacate the house. An eviction notice should be properly written and delivered for it to be valid. Skipping this process might require you to allow the tenant to stay on the property for a longer period.
You might also be responsible for any hardships a tenant may encounter due to lack of notice of eviction. Here are the different types of notices landlords can issue.
A 14-day notice to quit is a written notice that landlords are required to give to tenants who fail to pay rent on time. It's a reminder that you give to your tenant, but if they fail to pay within 14 days, you can proceed with the eviction process.
A 7-day Notice is one that you give a tenant who has violated the lease agreement for various reasons like engaging in illegal activity in the property. Also, you can give this type of notice to a "tenant at will". That is a tenant without a lease agreement. After the 7 days elapse and the tenant hasn't vacated, you can file a complaint in court.
A 30-day notice to quit is an eviction notice landlords give to tenants with a month-to-month rental agreement or those without any lease. It requires tenants to pay the rent they owe within 30 days or move out.
Filing for Eviction
After issuing an eviction notice and the eviction period elapses, but the tenant hasn't complied, then you have a valid reason to start a court case. You will start the process by filing for an eviction and serving the tenant with a summons and complaint document. The document tells them when and where to appear in court for trial.
You'll also include the amount of rent the tenant owes you and any response from the tenant. After filling up the summons and complaint form, hire a sheriff or constable and ask them to serve the tenant. Next is filing it with the court and paying the fee, which ranges between $120 and $180.
In Massachusetts eviction, a tenant can choose to respond to the summon if they disagree though it's not a requirement. A tenant's response should be submitted before the court schedules a hearing. A tenant can respond with a counterclaim if the eviction is not about lease violation. They can present evidence like copies of receipts, deeds, bank statements, videos, and even witnesses.
Tenants can also respond with a motion to dismiss the landlord's case. They can successfully end a case meaning the landlord will have to restart the eviction process again.
The eviction court case will enter the local district court, but you can transfer it to the Massachusetts housing court. Landlords who transfer their cases to the Massachusetts Housing Court have access to mediation and greater expertise because the judges will only hear housing court cases. They also need to present strong evidence in court to support their case.
Next, the Massachusetts eviction hearing is scheduled on the second or third Monday, Thursday, or Friday after the landlord files the summons and complaint.
Tenant and Landlord Appears in Court
The landlord and tenant are expected to appear in court. If the landlord fails to show up for the court hearing, then the court can dismiss the case. Similarly, if the tenant fails to appear in court for the hearing, the judge will give a ruling in favor of the landlord. That means the eviction will continue. If there's no solution after the initial court case, then the case will go to trial.
The Court's Decision
Both the landlord and the tenant will receive the court's decision after the judge has reviewed all the facts and evidence. The decision will state whether the tenant has been evicted and needs to move out or if any money should be awarded to the landlord or tenant. If the landlord wins the case, it means the eviction process will continue.
Tenant Appeals the Court's Decision
After the judge makes a ruling in favor of the landlord, a tenant can appeal if they wish. An appeal has to be 10 days after the ruling, and it will delay the eviction process. They'll also be required to pay the court back rent to the court. Back rent is the amount of unpaid rent, including interest.
Court Issues a Final Notice of Eviction
If the case is finalized and the landlord wins, then the tenant will receive a written notice before a sheriff. The tenant receives a notice to vacate the premises within 48 hours. Landlords can only remove tenants from their property during normal work hours between 9.00 and 5 pm but not during holidays or weekends.
The Moving Out
A sheriff will remove the tenant forcefully when the day of the eviction comes. Only an authorized person can evict a tenant from your property. The landlord should not do it even if they win the case. The eviction should not involve illegal methods, and the tenant's property should be taken to a warehouse.
A notice to vacate the property should include information about the storage of the tenant's property, including warehouse location and cost. If tenants leave their property behind, give them a notice with a reasonable timeline to come and collect them. If they don't come within the timeframe, you can dispose them or sell them. If you don't follow the right eviction procedure and tenants complain, the eviction process can be delayed.
Reasons for Starting an Eviction Process in Massachusetts
Evicting a tenant can sometimes be expensive and the process cumbersome. That's why you need to clearly know from the start why you want to start the eviction process and how you can correctly terminate a tenancy and legally take possession of your property. You also need to know the type of tenancy you're dealing with.
For example, if you have a tenant at will, you can evict them without notice, and you don't need any reasons for the eviction. This is a no-fault eviction. But if you have a tenant with a lease, you can only evict them after the lease agreement has ended unless you have the following reasons.
Failure to Pay Rent or Comply with the Deadlines
80% of cases that landlords file in Massachusetts housing court are about tenants not paying their rent. Landlords can start an eviction process if a tenant fails to pay their rent or does not comply with the deadlines. Late rent is another reason for filing a case. Rent is late if you haven't received it one day past the due date.
However, a landlord can choose to give a grace period, which is usually stated in the lease agreement. The grace period has to be atleast 30 days if you're charging extra fees for late payment. After the grace period, you can decide to start the eviction process by issuing a 14-day notice to quit in writing. If the tenant pays the rent within 14 days, then you can stop the eviction. But if they don't, the eviction continues.
Violation of Lease Agreement
A landlord prepares a lease agreement and tenants sign it. Both the landlord and tenants agree to uphold the lease. It helps to prevent any misunderstandings or disagreements from arising in the future and can save you from financial losses.
Plus you can insure your property against any damages. As Stephen Frost @Martinco_Chelm —an experienced local property expert, says, "Don't become a cautionary tale. For landlords, insurance isn't just a checkbox; it's a vital protection."
So if a tenant violates an agreement, the landlord can start the eviction process by issuing a 7-day notice to quit. Some of the lease agreement violations and rental damages include:
- Rental property damages
- Smoking in non-smoking zones
- keeping unauthorized pets
- Noise violations.
Conducting or Allowing Illegal Activities
A landlord can start an eviction process if a tenant is conducting illegal activities on their property. Whether a tenant is the one conducting the illegal act or housing a guest who is engaged in such acts, the property owner can continue with the eviction after verifying the situation. Some of these illegal acts include:
- Theft and violence
- illegal possession of firearms.
Understanding the eviction process in Massachusetts helps you to know what to do if there's a lease violation. Such lease violations may cause you to want to terminate a lease agreement and end a tenancy. But you have to know the right process, including attending a court hearing, for the process to be legal. You also need to know how to write eviction notices, a lease or rental agreement for your rental property, and include a law enforcement officer in the process.
You can also get Steadily Landlord Insurance and insure property including rental apartments, multi-family, and single-family homes against damages like water and fire, protection for your furnishings and any legal liabilities.