Generally, a landlord cannot simply take possession of the rental property, physically remove the tenant or their personal property, or change the locks. Depending on the reason for eviction, a landlord must provide either a 14-Day or 30-day Notice to Quit to the Tenant. A landlord must then file a civil action (Summary Process) in court, and obtain a judgment from the court that specifies the date that the tenant must leave the rental property with their belongings. If the tenant does not voluntarily leave on the date specified by the court, a landlord must arrange for a Sheriff or Constable to serve an executed Judgment on the tenant ordering them to leave, and if necessary, relocate any personal property belonging to the tenant to a licensed public warehouse. In this situation, the landlord is obligated to pay moving fees, but is entitled to reimbursement from the tenant. The tenant is allowed a one-time opportunity to claim items of personal or sentimental value from the storage facility, and can claim all personal property from the storage facility upon payment of any fees charged by the storage facility. M.G.L. c. 239; M.G.L. c. 186, § 11; M.G.L. c. 105.
Mediation as an Option
If the landlord and the tenant agree, they may utilize mediation services through the Attorney General’s Office to resolve a dispute that might otherwise result in an eviction. In addition, the Massachusetts Communities and Development Housing Services Program or the local housing court can provide help in resolving a dispute between a landlord and a tenant.
The Eviction Process
The formal eviction process is called Summary Process and starts when the landlord files a Complaint in court. During the eviction process the tenant will have the right to raise defenses to the eviction itself and present counterclaims for monetary damages. Some common defenses to eviction include:
- Failure to properly terminate the tenancy.
- The landlord failed to correct known conditions.
- The landlord is evicting you in retaliation for activities protected by law.
- Discrimination, including that the landlord failed to make a reasonable accommodation to allow a disabled person to remain in the home despite his or her disability.