When a landlord removes a tenant or other occupant from a rental property in Massachusetts, the process is called an eviction. A court order, however, is required before removing a person from the property. Without it, you as the property owner or landlord may find yourself in legal trouble as well.
The problem in Massachusetts is this: housing courts tend to favor tenants. You make one error, the case can be dismissed or decided for the tenant. You should not take on an eviction on your own. It's risky. And it'll lose you time, energy, and money.
As a landlord, you have rights, but there are certain procedures that must be followed in order to uphold those rights. At Sandonato Law, we represent landlords who seek to evict tenants or other occupants who have refused to uphold their end of the lease or rental agreement. Marco Sandonato will save you time, energy, money, and all the frustrations that follow an eviction proceeding. Contact his office to begin work on evicting a tenant timely and properly.
Overview of the Eviction Process in Massachusetts
The eviction process – governed by M.G.L. c. 186, §§ 11 – does not always go as straight forward as a landlord may wish it to go. Below is an overview of the best-case scenario where both parties are acting in good faith.
Non-Payment of Rent. The tenant fails to make the rent payment. Failure to pay the rent is not the only reason to commence eviction, but failure to uphold parts of a lease may also constitute cause to evict.
14-Day Notice to Quit. Days or weeks pass and no payment has been made. A 14-Day Notice to Quit should be drafted and served on the tenant. To note, if the lease provides for a longer waiting period, you must abide by the lease.
These notices require specific language, and absent that language, the court will dismiss your case. You will then have to start again. In the meantime, the tenant gets to stay in your rental unit and you lose out on income you could make from another tenant. And instead of bringing in the income, you are paying for court fees twice-over along with the other costs of an eviction.
Notification of Eviction to Tenant. On the 15th day after the 14-Day Notice to Quit was provided to the tenant, you will provide notification of eviction via a summary process summons and complaint. The constable should deliver this notification.
File for an Eviction. If the tenant did not move out after the expiration of the 14-day notice, you must file for an eviction. The date of filing is called the Entry Day and the tenant's Answer to the Complaint must be filed within 7 days – the date the Answer is filed is known as the Answer Day. The court sets the trial date ten days after the Entry Day.
Discovery. The tenant may call for discovery. If so, trial may be delayed another two weeks or so. During discovery, you must provide documentation that the tenant did not pay the rent or otherwise failed to uphold the lease agreement.
Mediation. Before trial, you may opt for mediation. This option (though sometimes it is court-ordered) is good because – in the least – it can provide you with information about what the tenant may say to the judge. If you come to an agreement, the mediated agreement is legally binding.
Trial. If all else fails, trial will ensue. Here, if you are trying to evict a tenant on your own, you will provide the court with evidence why the tenant should be evicted. You must be clear and persuasive in your arguments and provide evidentiary support for the claims you make.
You or the tenant will have 10 days to appeal the court's decision.
Final 48-Hour Notice. A constable will deliver a notice that the tenant has 48 hours to move out if the tenant has not yet done so.
Eviction Day. You or a representative, a moving company, and the sheriff or constable will begin the physical eviction.
As you can see, there are many steps that must be taken, and if you make a mistake, the case can be dismissed – that means more time, energy, and money wasted on trying to evict the tenant. To make sure the complaint and supporting documentation and subsequent filings and hearings are timely and properly completed, it is in your best interests to contact Marco Sandonato, an experienced residential eviction attorney in Boston.
Marco Sandonato routinely helps property owners evict tenants who are not fulfilling their end of the lease agreements. Attorney Sandonato has established a network and resources. He knows the legal language required by the courts. And he knows the judges, what their proclivities are, and how to direct that in your favor.
Examples of Illegal Evictions in the Greater Boston Metro Area
Now that you know the proper process to take to evict someone, you also now know that it can be a lengthy, complex legal process. For some landlords, they may want to take the easy way and attempt to evict a person without the courts. This attempt could potentially be illegal.
Examples of illegal evictions include the following:
- unlawful lockouts – you cannot change the locks of the tenant's home (G.L. c. 186, §§14 and 15 and G.L. c. 184, §18);
- utility shut-offs – you cannot turn off any utility;
- removal of belongings – you cannot go into the tenant's home and remove his or her belongings while he or she is away; or
- any other unlawful interference with the tenant's apartment or rental unit with the intent to force him or her out.
Further, you cannot retaliate against a tenant for any reason by attempting to force him or her to move from the premises. If you are found guilty of unlawful eviction attempts (self-help evictions), you can face penalties imposed by the court.
Contact an Experienced Massachusetts Residential Eviction Attorney Today
If you are a landlord and want to evict a tenant, you must do it properly and through the court. Contact Sandonato Law today at 617-481-2742 to schedule a consultation.