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UPDATED: Feb 13, 2020
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Massachusetts has one of the more landlord-friendly eviction processes when compared to those of other states. While most states require a specific number of days notice before a lawsuit for eviction can be filed, Massachusetts often defers to the timelines set in the lease agreement. Because most tenants sign lease agreements without negotiating the terms surrounding eviction, this can be a great tool for landlords in shortening what can be a lengthy process.
Available Massachusetts Termination Notices
In Massachusetts, eviction is a multiple step process beginning with the termination of the tenancy. If a lease expires, the tenancy is terminated and no notice is required. Otherwise, a landlord must terminate the tenancy before beginning eviction proceedings. If the lease contains provisions regarding termination for a violation of the lease (including nonpayment of rent) then those provisions should be followed. If termination for nonpayment of rent is not addressed, then a 14-day notice to pay or vacate must be issued to the tenant (Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 186 Section 11A). For all other lease violations, the tenant may be notified that their lease is being terminated immediately.
If the landlord wishes to terminate a tenancy with no expiration date (called a tenancy at will), the landlord must give notice equal to the intervals between the days that rent is due or 30 days, whichever is longer. In other words, if rent is paid bi-monthly, a tenant must be given 60 days notice.
In Massachusetts, evictions are handled in trial court in the housing department (also called housing court). Find more information on the Massachusetts court system website. You may be able to locate forms to begin the eviction process either online or physically at the courts. While it may seem easy to evict a problem tenant this way (simply fill out the forms and – magically – the tenant is out), tenants have rights as well, and events may not unfold as you had hoped. If at any point you are unsure of what comes next in the termination and/or eviction process, you may wish to hire or consult a Massachusetts landlord tenant attorney. When discussing your case with a lawyer, be sure to refer to the Questions to Ask your Massachusetts Evictions Lawyer below.
Self-Help Evictions in Massachusetts
While simply changing the locks or shutting off a tenant’s utilities may seem like an easy solution to a landlord’s tenant problems, self-help evictions are not permissible under Massachusetts law. Violators may be subject to the penalty of three months’ rent or three times actual damages to the tenant.
Questions to Ask Your Massachusetts Evictions Lawyer
- How many evictions cases have you handled?
- How many were successful/unsuccessful?
- How long will the eviction process take?
- For tenants: How long do I have before I MUST move out?
- For landlords: Will I be able to get a judgment for back rent for the amount of time the tenant has been living in the rental property illegally?
- What do you charge?
- For landlords: If I hire you, will I be subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?