Tenant evictions can be a lengthy process that, if not conducted properly, can have legal repercussions. If you’re a landlord in Massachusetts, understanding eviction laws and regulations is critical to ensuring that you’re operating within your rights.
In the past I have written about how Massachusetts is a tenant friendly state. In many regards, Massachusetts may even be too tenant friendly, leaving small landlords at a disadvantage when a problem tenant uses the law in bad faith. This is why, landlords need to proceed with caution when attempting to evict a tenant.
Massachusetts evictions, also known as “summary processes,” are, under Massachusetts’s law, required to be speedy, just, and inexpensive. The follow provides an explanation of the Massachusetts eviction law, including a detailed explanation of grounds for eviction, court procedures, appeals, and your rights as a landlord.
14-Day Notice to Quit
A 14-day notice to quit is the document that is given to a tenant in the case that he has not paid his rent. The document stipulates that the tenant has 14 days to either vacate the property or to pay the amount of rent that is due. The notice to quit must be served to the tenant, meaning that it must be handed to the tenant in person, and not mailed. To do this, the most effective method is to use a constable or sheriff. Additionally, the 14-day notice to quit should be carefully drafted; it is recommended that you seek the services of an attorney to do this.
30-Day Notice to Quit
A 30-day notice to quit is given in the case that a landlord is intending on commencing an eviction that is known as a “no-fault eviction.” A no-fault eviction is conducted in the situation where the landlord wished to have the tenant vacate, although the tenant has not done anything to violate the lease or living agreement. Restrictions to this include any no-fault evictions that are filed on the basis of discrimination.
Special Cases for Eviction
There are also some special circumstances in which a tenant may be evicted under Massachusetts eviction law. These special cases are scenarios in which the tenant has violated a lease agreement or engaged in illegal activity, such as drug use or prostitution. In these cases, a special eviction process must take place.
In order to start an eviction, Massachusetts eviction law requires that the eviction case be filed in either your local District Court or in the Housing Court. In response to the complaint that will be filed by the landlord, the tenant is required to answer the complaint with 7 days. If the tenant does not answer the complaint, he will be required to appear in court.
A tenant does have rights as well, and has a legitimate defense in the case that an invalid notice to quit was given; the rent was increased in disregard to the agreement stipulating rent amounts or increases; the eviction is based on any type of discrimination, including racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, or religious discrimination; or the living arrangement was not kept in adequate condition as required by Massachusetts law. In these situations and in others, the tenant has the right to appeal. The appellate process is often lengthy, and can significantly delay the timeliness in which the eviction occurs. For more information understanding tenant’s rights, read about application fees and pet-rent.
Knowing Your Rights
As a landlord, serving a tenant with notice to quit papers is completely within your right. However, there are things that you cannot legally do. It is not within your right to shut off a tenant’s utilities, change tenant locks or prevent tenant access to the premises, enter a tenant’s rented property without consent and/or handle or remove a tenant’s personal property, or in any other way interfere with a tenant’s use of the property.
In all cases involving eviction, it is highly suggested that the landlord seek the counsel of an experienced eviction attorney. Seeking the advice of an experienced attorney will guarantee that you’re operating within your legal rights, and increase your chances of being successful in your evictions or court cases regarding eviction.