The commonwealth of Massachusetts requires landlords to go through an eviction process when removing tenants from a residential property. The law protects the tenant from an unlawful eviction while providing a remedy for landlords in the event a tenant breaks the lease agreement or fails to pay rent. Property owners may not use self-help methods, such as locking a tenant out or turning off utilities, when removing a tenant from a property.
Property owners must establish what type of lease agreement is in place with the landlord before beginning the eviction process. A tenant at will is one that allows the property owner or tenant to terminate the lease agreement at any time with a notice equal to one rental period. For example, the notice for a monthly tenant is 30 days. Landlords with a written lease agreement with a tenant should examine the provisions of the lease to determine the required notice to terminate the agreement.
Notice to Quit
The notice to quit is the first step in the eviction process. The property owner must give a 14-day notice when evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent. A notice to quit does not have to be served by a sheriff or constable in Massachusetts, but it is recommended that the notice be delivered by hand to the tenant. Sending the notice by registered or certified mail does not ensure the tenant will pick up the notice. In Massachusetts, if a tenant does not pick up a notice to quit, the tenant has not received notice.
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Summons and Complaint
After a notice to quit has been served and the tenant has not vacated the property, the property owner must obtain a Summary Process and Complaint, which is served by a sheriff or constable to the tenant. The Summary Process and Complaint will state the date and time of a court hearing as well as the reason for the eviction. Tenants can answer the complaint or show up for court on the date noted. Tenants who do not show up for the court date will lose the hearing automatically.
If the landlord wins the hearing, the court will enter a judgment. Ten days after the judgment, the landlord may request an execution to remove the tenant from the property. Tenants will receive a notice stating the date the sheriff or constable will physically remove him from the property. Tenants can request a stay of execution with the state after the court orders the eviction. The court can postpone the eviction for six months after the court hearing. The tenant’s property may be placed in storage if it is not removed from the property. An eviction for non-payment may be stopped if the tenant pays the back rent before the landlord requests a stay. Property owners have three months to request an stay.
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