The state of Massachusetts allows for three instances in which a landlord may evict a tenant: non-payment of rent, non-compliance with the rental agreement, and ending the tenancy in a month-to-month agreement. As it is illegal for a landlord to remove a tenant on their own,1 further eviction actions must be taken to either the Local Housing Court or District Court.
Laws – Chapter 186, Section 11
How to Evict
- Step 1: Send an Eviction Notice
- Step 2: Wait to Hear from the Tenant
- Step 3: File in Court
- Step 4: Serve the Tenant
- Step 5: Attend a Hearing
- Step 6: Obtain a Writ of Execution
- Step 7: Repossess the Property
Tenants must be given proper notice before landlords can file an injunction in court.
- Non-Payment of Rent (14-Day Notice to Quit) – Non-payment of rent allows a tenant 14 days to vacate or maintain the lease agreement by paying the amount owed along with any fees or interest that may have accumulated.
- Non-Compliance (30-Day Notice to Quit) – A landlord may provide options to cure if the tenant has violated a term or terms in their lease. The tenant has 30 days to do so or move out.
- Illegal Activity (7-Day Notice to Quit) – Tenants paying either daily or weekly are required to be served a 7-day notice after engaging in illegal activity. Landlords aren’t required to give at-will tenants notice for this type of violation before proceeding to court.2
- Month-to-Month (30-Day Notice to Quit) – 30 days’ notice is required for either the landlord or the tenant to inform the other party that they wish to terminate the tenancy of a month-to-month agreement.3
Non-payment and non-compliance evictions can often be avoided within the notice period when the tenant communicates an intent to cure or takes action to cure. A landlord is required to wait for the length of the notice period before taking any further action.4
If the notice period has passed without cure from the tenant or they remain on the property, a landlord must file for Summary Process.
- Average Processing Time: 7-30 Days5
- Filing Fee: $1805
- Where to File: Local Housing Court or District Court
Paperwork to File:
- Summons and Complaint (official document only available through the court)
- Summary Process Form
In Massachusetts, the landlord will bring a copy of the summons and complaint to the sheriff. A process server may be permitted to deliver the summons in some cases6 by personally serving the defendant (the tenant)7 and then delivering proof of service to the court, however, failure to make proof of service does not invalidate the service itself.8
The tenant will have the right to speak their side of the story through the Summary Process Answer Form.
If the tenant chooses to defend their case against the landlord, a trial will be set within 7 to 30 days of the original filing of the Summons and Complaint.
In that time, either party may make a request for discovery, which will then delay their hearing for two weeks.9 Tenants may also file counterclaims, which, if won, would make the landlord liable for any money the tenant claims to be owed.10 If the amount granted to the tenant is more than the amount owed for non-payment, there is no eviction.11
If the court rules in favor of the landlord, they will issue a writ of execution. The tenant will be given 10 days from the date that the clerk receives judgment to file an appeal or leave.12 On the 11th day, the landlord may submit a written request to the clerk’s office for execution, which then allows the tenant 48 hours notice before the actual eviction.13
Even after a landlord gets an execution, only a sheriff or constable can move a tenant and their belongings out of the property.1 Removal of the tenant with the help of a sheriff or constable can only take place Monday through Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm, and never on a legal holiday.1
The writ of execution is valid for removal from the property within three months of being issued, while any judgments for money owed to the landlord are valid for 20 years.13
Video: Evictions in Massachusetts
- Chapter 186, § 17
- Chapter 186, Section 12
- Chapter 186, Section 11
- Rule 4(c)
- Rule 4(d)(1)
- Rule 4(f)
- Section 15(e)