Massachusetts Eviction Laws: The Process & Timeline In 2022 (2023)

Massachusetts eviction laws vary from county to county, but they still follow the same general eviction process:

  • Send a clear written notice
  • Fill out the forms
  • Serve the tenant
  • Attend the trial
  • Wait for judgement

Every eviction process is different and dependent on the lease/rental agreement signed by the tenant and the landlord. It is always best to exercise meticulous file-keeping to avoid errors that could be exploited by the tenant.

This article details a summary for landlords to refer to when evicting a tenant. Confirm procedures with your justice court to make sure the entire process goes as smooth as possible.

Eviction Reasons

1. Failure to comply with rent deadlines

Rent is usually considered late a day past it is due. A grace period may be available if stated in the lease/rental agreement.

Before a landlord can start the eviction process, they are required to give the tenant an official written 14-Day Notice to Quit.

If rent is paid within those 14 days or any time before the tenant is evicted, then the filing for eviction does not continue. If they are unable to pay, the landlord reserves the right to continue filing for eviction.

Landlords can charge a late fee, but they must provide a grace period of at least 30 days. This late fee provision has to be stated in the written lease/rental agreement.

2. Violation of the lease/rental agreement

The rental lease agreement has to be upheld by both tenant and landlord for the entire duration of their stay. Agreements may vary from tenant to tenant.

If a tenant violates any terms from the lease agreement, the landlord has to issue a 7-Day Notice to Quit for at-will tenants paying rent weekly or daily. There is no clear indication on the notice period for tenants with written leases.

Lease violations may include:

  • Damage to the rental property
  • Smoking in non-smoking areas
  • Keeping pets in pet-free properties, etc.

If the violations are not resolved or they remain on the property, then the landlord may continue with the eviction. Landlords are not legally obligated to allow the tenant to resolve the violation before presenting them with the notice to quit.

(Video) How to Evict a Tenant | Step-by-Step With Eviction Forms | 2022 UPDATED

For your own Massachusetts lease agreement, visit DoorLoop's Forms Page to download a template along with many other forms.

3. Conducting illegal activity

If a tenant has engaged in illegal behavior within the property, the landlord has to issue an official written a 7-Day Notice to Quit for at-will tenants paying rent weekly or daily. There is no clear indication on the notice period for tenants with written leases.

Examples of illegal activities are:

  • Homicide
  • Prostitution
  • Theft, violence, assault
  • Possession and/or firing of an illegal firearm or weapon
  • Involvement in the creation, distribution, or consumption of a controlled substance such as alcohol or drugs

The above also apply if a guest or co-resident living with the tenant commits the illegal acts. Landlords are advised to keep a close eye on their tenants to make sure illegal behavior does not go unnoticed.

4. Non-renewal of the lease after the rental period ends

In Massachusetts, landlords cannot evict a tenant or force them to vacate the property without probable cause. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules, they can stay until their rental period ends.

But if they stay in the property even a day after their lease/rental agreement ends and have not arranged for a renewal, landlords can issue a written 30-Day Notice to Vacate.

Filing a Complaint

1. How to File a Complaint

The eviction process can only begin after the issuance of the appropriate written notice. Enough notice time must have been allowed before filing for eviction.

The eviction process is as follows:

  1. Serve a Summons and Complaint to the tenant
  2. Proceed to the justice court the rental property belongs to
  3. File a copy of Summons and Complaint along with the following pieces of evidence:
  1. Copy of the Notice to Quit
  2. Copy of the Return of Service
  1. Pay the fees

In Massachusetts, filing fees may start as low as $120 but go as high as $180.

2. Timeline

It takes about 7 to 30 days from the issuance of the Notice to Vacate/Quit.

Notice to Comply

Before filing for an eviction with the court, you need to issue the tenant a notice to comply. You can either download the free PDF or Word template, or create your Massachusetts eviction notice from here using a step-by-step wizard that guides you through the entire process to make sure you are submitting the legally correct notice.

(Video) Fremont landlord says tenant who owes $101K is using COVID laws to avoid eviction

Keep in mind, the step-by-step wizard will ask you to pay a small fee at the end - it's a small price to pay to ensure legal compliance and protection. The last thing you want is to go to court only to find out you did the first process incorrect.

Serving the Tenant

1. How to Serve a Tenant

In Massachusetts, it is a court official who serves the documents to the tenant. This process happens before the complaint is filed to the appropriate justice court.

There are several methods available:

  • Personal Service: The court official delivers the Summons and Complaint to the tenant in person
  • Posting: The court official leaves a copy of the documents for the tenant. It is placed in a secure and visible position by the entrance of the tenant’s rented property
  • Mailing: The court official mails the documents via first-class mail with return of service

Neither the landlord nor their lawyer is allowed to serve the documents to the tenant.

2. After Serving the Summons and Complaint

The landlord files the Summons and Complaint to the appropriate justice court 7-30 days after the documents are served to the tenant. The landlord must file it on a Monday.

3. Timeline

The documents should be served to the tenant at least 7-30 days before the landlord files them to the appropriate court.

If you want to learn more about Massachusetts's landlord-tenant laws, make sure to visit DoorLoop's Complete Guide to Massachusetts's Landlord-Tenant Laws for more information.

Asking for Possession

1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgement and get a Judgement for Possession

The landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against the tenant. Should the tenant fail to show up to the hearing, the landlord wins by default.

Should the landlord fail to attend the hearing, but the tenant is present, then it is rescheduled for 7 days.

2. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and replied

In the state of Massachusetts, a reply from the tenant is not necessary for a court date to be scheduled. They only have to show up to the hearing.

However, they are encouraged (not required) to file a written answer no longer than 7 days after the documents are “entered” in court.

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If they do not file a written answer, but appear in court, the hearing is postponed for another 7 days.

The landlord needs to support the claim with evidence and show it during the hearing.

This could include, but is not limited to the following:

  • Copy of the deed and lease
  • Rent receipts and ledgers
  • Bank statements
  • Witnesses
  • Photo and video documentation of the violations, correspondence, etc.

3. Timeline

Eviction hearings are scheduled under one of the following conditions after filing the Summons and Complaint:

  • Second Thursday, Friday or Monday
  • Third Tuesday or Wednesday

This is usually 10-16 days after the Summons and Complaint were “entered” into court.

Tenants have to file a written reply to the complaint no more than 7 days after the documents were entered into court. If they are unable to do so, but choose to show up to the hearing, it is postponed for another 7 days.

If the landlord fails to show up to the hearing, but the tenant does, it is postponed for another 7 days.

Getting Possession

1. After the landlord wins the case

Provided that the tenant does not appeal for reconsideration, a Writ of Execution is issued 10 days after the court rules in favor of the landlord.

The Writ of Execution gives the tenant at least 10 days to vacate the property.

2. Move out process

A law enforcement officer executes the Writ. This has to be delivered to the tenant between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on a weekday. It cannot take place on a weekend or a holiday.

Once the Writ is given to the tenant, they have 48 hours to move out. But they can ask the court for a Stay of Execution.

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A Stay of Execution gives the tenant an additional 12 months if they are over the age of 60, or is a Person With Disability. Regular tenants are given a maximum of 6 months.

Only the sheriff or the appropriate authorities are allowed to remove the tenant by force. Even if the landlord wins the case, they are not allowed to engage in illegal methods of eviction.

The state of Massachusetts does not specify what to do with a tenant’s belongings. If any belongings are left behind, landlords are advised to contact the tenant and give them a reasonable timeframe to claim them.

After the timeframe has passed, the tenant’s property may be sold or disposed of. Landlords are advised to include a clause in the lease/rental agreement that dictates what has to happen should the client leave behind any personal belongings.

3. Timeline

The tenants have 48 hours upon receiving the Writ of Execution to vacate the property.

If they received a Stay of Execution, they have an additional 6-12 months to stay in the property.

Massachusetts Eviction Timeline

Below is the average timeline for a complete eviction process. This timeline does not include special cases such as requests for an appeal or continuance.

Notice Received by Tenants Average Timeline Important Things to Remembe
Issuing an Official Notice 7 – 30 days Give your tenant a written Notice to Vacate prior to the eviction process.
Issuance and Serving of Rule for Possession 7-30 days before entering the files to court Make sure no mistakes were made in the filing process.
Court Hearing and Judgment 10-16 days If you win the case, the judge will give you a Judgment of Possession.
Issuance of Writ of Restitution 10 days This informs the tenant they have to vacate the property or else they will be forcefully evicted.
Return of Rental Property 48 hours to 12 months You are not allowed to be the one to evict the tenant by force. Leave that job to the authorized officials.

On average, it would take anywhere between a little over 1 month to more than 1 year for a complete eviction process.

Showing Evidence

1. How to keep good records

If the tenant disagrees with the request to begin an eviction process and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.

You can stay organized by:

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  • Keeping a physical paper trail - This gets VERY hard to search through, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
  • Scanning documents - Scan every document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
  • Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other option that is easily searchable.
  • PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.

2. Evidence to show for not paying rent

If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:

  • Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, when rent is due, and any penalties for late payment.
  • All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on.
  • Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also show any fees your bank may have charged you, and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement in order to be reimbursed.
  • All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, a letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings.

3. Evidence to show for lease violations

If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:

  • Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, it’s safe to say you will normally win this dispute.
  • Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages, which could be used in court to prove the violation.
  • Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
  • Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. As a good practice though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.

FAQs

How long are evictions taking in Massachusetts? ›

If a physical eviction is allowed, the court will give the landlord the execution 10 days after the judgment is entered. You must receive written notice of the date and time the physical eviction will take place at least 48 hours in advance. On the date set in the 48-hour notice, you must leave apartment.

Do I have 30 days to move after an eviction? ›

Your landlord must give you a written Eviction Notice, sometimes called a "Notice To Quit." If you do not have a lease, the Notice will tell you that you have either 7 days or 30 days to move out. If you have a lease then the lease will usually say what kind of notice the landlord has to give you.

Can you be evicted in Massachusetts right now? ›

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium on evictions is no longer in effect as of August 26, 2021 as the result of a United States Supreme Court opinion. Certain protections in non-payment eviction cases remain in effect in Massachusetts. See St. 2020, c.

What is the eviction process in MA? ›

A landlord can evict a tenant for not paying rent, but the landlord must first give the tenant a 14-day notice, after rent is due but not paid. The notice must state that the tenant has 14 days to either pay rent or move out of the rental unit, or the lease will terminate.

How much time does a landlord have to give a tenant to move out? ›

If your landlord wants to end your periodic tenancy, they usually have to give you 90 days' notice. In some cases, your landlord only has to give you 42 days' notice.

How long does it take to get a court order to evict a tenant? ›

They have to give you the notice at least 14 days before they evict you. You might be able to ask the court again to delay the date you'll need to leave - for example if you can now repay your arrears or you're going to be homeless. Your council might have a legal duty to help you find you accommodation.

Do I have to pay rent after eviction notice? ›

Your tenancy carries on until you leave voluntarily or you are evicted by the court. Getting a section 21 notice doesn't mean you can stop paying your rent. Your landlord is still entitled to the rent and you should carry on paying it until the day you leave the property.

Does getting evicted affect your credit score? ›

The eviction itself won't show up on your credit reports. However, a landlord may choose to seek payment by selling your debt to a collection agency. If your unpaid debt goes to collection, it can remain on your credit report for seven years and may negatively impact your credit score.

Can you be evicted for being 10 days late on rent? ›

Your landlord can start the eviction process straight away if you miss a payment and any of the following have happened: you've been late with rent before. you're already in arrears with your rent. the fixed term period of your tenancy has ended - if your tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy.

Can you be evicted in the winter in Massachusetts? ›

No state bans winter evictions.

How do I stop an eviction in Massachusetts? ›

If you receive a notice to quit, read the notice to quit to find out why the landlord is terminating your tenancy. If the reason is because you didn't pay rent, you may be able to stop the eviction process by paying what's due by a specified date.

How much does it cost to evict a tenant in Massachusetts? ›

Fees
NameFeeUnit
Filing for eviction (in Housing Court)$120each
Filing for eviction (District Court/BMC)$180each
Surcharge$15each
Required summons$5each
1 more row

How long does it take a landlord to get a possession order? ›

This is sometimes quicker than applying for a standard possession order and there's usually no court hearing. In normal circumstance this part of the process will take between six and eight weeks however, backlogs and delays in the court system as a result of staff shortages mean it is likely to take longer.

How does an eviction notice work? ›

There are a series of steps a landlord must take to evict someone: Issue a Section 21 or Section Eight notice with the date they want a tenant to leave. Get a possession order from the court if a tenant stays beyond the date. Ask the court for a warrant of possession if they don't leave on time.

What is a tenant at sufferance in Massachusetts? ›

Discusses at length the liability of a "tenant at sufferance" (a tenant who stays after their lease or tenancy at will has expired) for "use and occupancy" payments, the equivalent of rent while an eviction proceeding is going on.

What happens if my tenant won't move out? ›

If the court grants a possession order and tenants still don't leave, landlords must apply for a warrant for eviction – meaning bailiffs can remove tenants from the property. A possession order won't take effect until tenants have been living in the property for at least six months.

How long is notice period for tenants? ›

Minimum notice periods

You need to give at least: 1 month if your rent is due monthly. 4 weeks if your rent is due weekly.

What is the notice period for tenants? ›

1 month's notice if your tenancy runs from month to month. If your rental period runs for longer than a month, you need to give the same amount of notice as your rental period. For example, if you pay rent every 3 months, you'll need to give your landlord 3 months' notice.

How long does a court order take? ›

To reach a final decision the proceedings can take around 26 weeks, sometimes longer (with the agreement of the presiding Judge).

How much does it cost to evict a tenant through the courts? ›

It will cost £275 if you want the court to give your tenants notice of your application or £108 if not - for example, if the case is urgent. If the judge for your case decides that you need to give notice and you have not, you'll need to pay the extra £167. You may be eligible for help with court fees.

How long does it take to get a warrant of possession? ›

How long does it take to get a bailiff warrant for possession? The average timeframe to get a warrant of possession is around ten weeks.

Is the eviction moratorium still in effect in Massachusetts? ›

The City of Boston eviction moratorium ended on March 31, 2022. If you need help paying your past and future rent, apply for rental assistance today. Applying for rental assistance may “stop the clock” on the eviction process if you currently have a case in Housing Court.

Can you be evicted in the winter in Massachusetts? ›

No state bans winter evictions.

How much notice does a landlord have to give a tenant to move out in Massachusetts? ›

A tenancy-at-will can be either oral or written. The landlord or tenant can end a month-to-month tenancy-at-will by giving a written 30 days (minimum) notice to quit that must expire at the end of a rental period. Pay special attention if the notice to quit is given in February, which has less than 30 days.

How long does it take a landlord to get a possession order? ›

This is sometimes quicker than applying for a standard possession order and there's usually no court hearing. In normal circumstance this part of the process will take between six and eight weeks however, backlogs and delays in the court system as a result of staff shortages mean it is likely to take longer.

How do I stop an eviction in Massachusetts? ›

If you receive a notice to quit, read the notice to quit to find out why the landlord is terminating your tenancy. If the reason is because you didn't pay rent, you may be able to stop the eviction process by paying what's due by a specified date.

How much does it cost to evict a tenant in Massachusetts? ›

Fees
NameFeeUnit
Filing for eviction (in Housing Court)$120each
Filing for eviction (District Court/BMC)$180each
Surcharge$15each
Required summons$5each
1 more row

Can landlord evict during coronavirus in Massachusetts? ›

Governor Baker signed a bill establishing a moratorium on non-essential evictions and residential foreclosures. This law provides temporary protections for both residential tenants and small businesses that are unable to pay rent, in an effort to stabilize homes and commercial spaces during the COVID-19 crisis.

What is unfair eviction? ›

Illegal or unlawful eviction is when a landlord or someone acting on their behalf, unlawfully deprives a tenant of all or part of their home, or attempts to force tenants to leave without following the correct legal procedures. Some examples of this might be: changing the locks. moving into part of the home.

How does an eviction notice work? ›

There are a series of steps a landlord must take to evict someone: Issue a Section 21 or Section Eight notice with the date they want a tenant to leave. Get a possession order from the court if a tenant stays beyond the date. Ask the court for a warrant of possession if they don't leave on time.

What are squatters rights in Massachusetts? ›

A squatter can claim rights to a property after residing there for a certain amount of time. In Massachusetts, it takes 20 years of continuous possession for a squatter to make an adverse possession claim (MA CC 260 § 21). When a squatter makes an adverse possession claim, they can gain legal ownership of the property.

Do I have to pay rent after eviction notice? ›

Your tenancy carries on until you leave voluntarily or you are evicted by the court. Getting a section 21 notice doesn't mean you can stop paying your rent. Your landlord is still entitled to the rent and you should carry on paying it until the day you leave the property.

How late can rent be in Massachusetts? ›

Late Payment Penalty: A landlord cannot charge interest or a penalty on late rent until 30 days after the due date. However, the landlord can begin the eviction process immediately, even if the rent is only one day overdue. The landlord also cannot use a reverse penalty clause to encourage you to pay early.

What is a tenant at sufferance in Massachusetts? ›

Discusses at length the liability of a "tenant at sufferance" (a tenant who stays after their lease or tenancy at will has expired) for "use and occupancy" payments, the equivalent of rent while an eviction proceeding is going on.

Can tenants refuse to leave? ›

If you do not leave at the end of the notice period, your landlord must apply to the court for a possession order. If the court gives them a possession order and you still do not leave, they must apply for a warrant for possession - this means bailiffs can evict you from the property.

What is a 14 day breach notice? ›

When a breach happens, you can send the person who is in breach a 14-day notice to remedy. The notice tells them what they've done to breach the agreement, what they need to do to fix it, and how long they have to fix it.

What is a section 22 notice? ›

The first step in appointment of a manager is for the leaseholder(s) to serve a 'preliminary notice' (a Section 22 notice) on the landlord and/or any other person who has management duties under the lease, detailing the areas of concern regarding the management of the property.

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