1. How do I evict my tenant?
  2. How do I notify my tenant that I am terminating the tenancy?
  3. Where can I get notice to quit forms?
  4. Do I need to state the reason I want to evict my tenant in the notice to quit and summary process summons and complaint?
  5. I served a notice to quit several months ago.  Do I have to serve another notice to quit, or can I rely on the earlier notice as the basis for an eviction case?
  6. There was a drug raid in my tenant’s apartment.  How soon can I get them out?
  7. Can I sue my tenant for money damages in a summary process case?
  8. Can I sue my tenant for unpaid rent without filing a summary process case?
  9. The tenant did not come to court on the trial date.  What do I do?
  10. If I win the summary process case and am awarded a judgment against my tenant, what is the procedure for having the tenant moved out of the dwelling?
  11. Are there any restrictions on when the constable or sheriff can use the execution to move my tenant out of the dwelling?
  12. Does the execution in a summary process case ever expire?
  13. After I have removed my tenant from the property, how do I collect the money I was awarded in the judgment?
  14. Can my landlord evict me without filing a case in court?
  15. I received a notice to quit. What do I do?
  16. Do I have to leave the premises if I receive a notice to quit?
  17. I was served with a summary process summons and complaint. What do I do?
  18. Why do I need to file an answer form in a summary process (eviction) case?
  19. My landlord brought a “no-fault” eviction case against me. Even if I have no defense to the eviction action, can I still ask the court for an extension of time to stay in the dwelling?
  20. I received a notice of a default judgment in the mail. What should I do?
  21. I lost my case in court and the landlord has obtained an execution.  Will I receive any further notice before the landlord uses the execution to have me moved out?
  22. If I am moved out pursuant to an execution, what happens to my belongings?
  23. I was the defendant in a court case and there was a judgment against me for money. I paid the judgment, but it still shows up as a debt on my housing and credit histories. Is there anything I can do to prove to a future landlord or creditor that I no longer owe the judgment?
  24. What are the deadlines for filing forms in a summary process case?

1.  How do I evict my tenant?

The first step in the eviction process is to terminate the tenancy .

You must determine what type of landlord-tenant relationship or “tenancy” you have with your tenant.  There are two main types of tenancies: a tenancy-at-will and a tenancy under a lease.

A tenancy-at-will can be either oral or written.  Either the landlord or the tenant can terminate a month-to-month tenancy-at-will by giving a written thirty (30) days (minimum) notice to quit that must expire at the end of a rental period.  Special attention must be paid to February, which has less than 30 days.  Therefore, if the notice to quit is served too late in January, it cannot operate to terminate the tenancy as of March 1.

If there is an unexpired lease, you must examine the lease to determine the permissible grounds for termination, the notice requirements, and the required length of time for the notice.  If a lease expires, no further notice to quit is needed because the lease itself contains a term that tells the tenant when the tenancy ends.

To terminate either type of tenancy for non-payment of rent, a written fourteen (14) days notice to quit is required.

If the rent is subsidized by a government agency, you must check the lease and the program regulations to determine any special requirements for terminating the subsidized tenancy, such as stating in the notice to quit the specific reasons you want to terminate the tenancy.

After the notice to quit expires, the landlord must take the second step by purchasing and completing a summary process summons and complaint from the court.  The summons and complaint sets the date for trial and must be served on the tenant by an authorized constable or sheriff.

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2.  How do I notify my tenant that I am terminating the tenancy?

The purpose of the notice to quit is to terminate the tenancy, so the tenant must actually receive the notice to quit in order for it to be effective.  If a lease expires, no further notice to quit is needed because the lease itself contains a term that tells the tenant when the tenancy ends.  However, in  other cases, a written notice to quit is required to terminate the tenancy.  It must put the tenant on notice of the specific day that the tenancy will end.  Unlike the summary process summons and complaint, which must be served by a constable or sheriff, there is no designated way of giving the notice to quit to the tenant.  If the tenant gets the notice in any way, it is sufficient.  If, however, a constable or sheriff leaves the notice at the last and usual address of the tenant but the tenant does not actually receive it for some reason, the tenant does not have notice.  If the landlord sends the notice by registered or certified mail and the tenant does not pick it up, the tenant does not have notice.  If the landlord gives the notice directly to the tenant in hand, this is sufficient, but it is advisable to have a disinterested person witness this event.

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3.  Where can I get notice to quit forms?

Sample notices to quit forms are available here. Please note that these sample notice to quit forms are provided as a convenience and may not be suitable/legally sufficient in all cases.  If you are uncertain how to proceed, seek legal advice.

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4.  Do I need to state the reason I want to evict my tenant in the notice to quit and summary process summons and complaint?

It depends on why you want to evict your tenant.  If the reason for the eviction is a violation of a lease term or nonpayment of rent, this reason must be stated in the notice to quit.  If the tenant is a tenant-at-will, or if the lease has expired, no reason other than expiration of the notice to quit or of the lease is required.  Special rules apply to mobile home parks, residential hotels and rooming houses, dormitories and community residences, residential superintendents, public housing, and other government subsidized leasing arrangements.  In any case, the reason for eviction cannot be an illegal one.

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5.  I served a notice to quit several months ago.  Do I have to serve another notice to quit, or can I rely on the earlier notice as the basis for an eviction case?

Unless you have somehow waived your rights to evict under the earlier notice to quit, for example by accepting rent in advance without a written reservation of your rights or by signing a new rental agreement establishing a new tenancy, a new notice to quit is not generally required.  

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6.  There was a drug raid in my tenant’s apartment.  How soon can I get them out?

Under G.L. c.139 §19, if illegal drugs were found in the unit, the landlord may move for speedy trial in either a summary process case or a civil action.  After trial or default, the court may order that judgment enter and execution issue immediately.

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7.  Can I sue my tenant for money damages in a summary process case?

In a summary process (eviction) case, the landlord can sue the tenant for unpaid rent, even if the tenancy was terminated for a reason other than nonpayment of rent.  The summons and complaint form includes a section for the landlord to specify the rent that is owed.  However, the landlord cannot include a claim for other types of damages, such as property damage or unpaid utilities, in a summary process case.  The landlord can file a separate civil or small claims case to recover damages other than unpaid rent.

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8.  Can I sue my tenant for unpaid rent without filing a summary process case?

Yes.  The landlord can sue the tenant for unpaid rent (or for other damages) in either a civil or a small claims case.  The landlord may consider taking such actions if the tenant owes rent and has moved out before the landlord files an eviction case.  The procedures for civil actions are governed by the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure.  Normally, it is advisable to consult an attorney before suing a tenant for money damages in a civil action.  On the other hand, the small claims procedure is designed to provide an informal process for litigants who wish to proceed without an attorney.  There is a $7,000 ceiling (exclusive of punitive damages) on the amount of money damages that can be recovered in a small claims case.  Thus, if a tenant owes $9,000 in rent, a small claims judgment will be limited to $7,000 and the $2,000 portion of the unpaid rent debt will be waived.

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9.  The tenant did not come to court on the trial date.  What do I do?

You should fill out, sign, and give to the clerk a summary process Rule 10(d)(ii) rent and military affidavit.  In this affidavit, you state the amounts of rent the tenant owes you and certify that the tenant is not on active military duty (and therefore is not protected against lawsuits under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act).  The clerk will record the tenant’s default.  The clerk’s office will enter a default judgment on the day following the trial date and will send copies to the parties.  Ten (10) days after the entry of judgment, you can send a written request for the execution to the clerk’s office.

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10.  If I win the summary process case and am awarded a judgment against my tenant, what is the procedure for having the tenant moved out of the dwelling?

If the court finds for the landlord, the tenant has ten (10) days from the date that the clerk’s office enters judgment to file an appeal.  If the judgment did not include a stay of the execution, on the eleventh day, the landlord can request an execution from the clerk’s office.  The execution is the document that authorizes the actual eviction.  The landlord cannot evict the tenant without the assistance of a constable or sheriff, who must give forty-eight (48) hours written notice to the tenant before the actual eviction can take place.

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11.  Are there any restrictions on when the constable or sheriff can use the execution to move my tenant out of the dwelling?

Yes.  The execution can be levied on (used to move a tenant from the premises) only on a weekday (Monday through Friday) between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., not on Saturday or Sunday, and not on a legal holiday when the court is closed.

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12.  Does the execution in a summary process case ever expire?

Yes.  The execution must be used within three (3) months to regain possession of the dwelling.  The monetary portion of the execution is valid for twenty (20) years.

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13.  After I have removed my tenant from the property, how do I collect the money I was awarded in the judgment?

You may have the sheriff use the summary process execution to levy against non-exempt assets.  You may want to consult an attorney before you begin this process.  Also, you may be able to serve and file a post-judgment motion for payment or for Trustee Process against a third party, such as an employer holding wages.  In the alternative, supplementary process under G.L. c. 224 (not to be confused with summary process under G.L. c. 239) is available.  You should consult the clerk’s office of the housing court in which the summary process case was heard to determine the best procedure to follow in your case.  

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14.  Can my landlord evict me without filing a case in court?

No.  The landlord cannot use self-help to evict a tenant.  The landlord must file a case in court and obtain a summary process judgment and execution which authorizes the landlord to have a constable or sheriff move you out.

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15.  I received a notice to quit.  What do I do?

Read the notice to quit to understand the reason why the landlord is terminating your tenancy.  If the reason is nonpayment of rent, you may be able to stop the eviction process by paying what is due by a specified date.  The rules vary depending on whether you are a tenant-at-will or whether you have a lease.  If the tenancy is at-will and you have not received a notice to quit for nonpayment of rent in the last twelve (12) months, you have the right to “cure” the nonpayment by paying to the landlord, his attorney, or the person to whom you usually pay the rent all the rent you owe within ten (10) days after receiving the notice to quit.  If you have a lease, you can “cure” the nonpayment by paying to the landlord or his attorney all the rent you owe with interest and costs by the day your answer to the summary process summons and complaint is due.  If you do not “cure” the notice to quit, the landlord’s constable or sheriff can serve you with a summary process summons and complaint.  You may want to consult an attorney.

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16.  Do I have to leave the premises if I receive a notice to quit?

No.  You may choose to leave the dwelling, but you cannot be forcibly removed without a court order.  The notice to quit sent to you by the landlord is a prerequisite to beginning an eviction lawsuit.  The notice to quit is not a court order.  Only the court can order an eviction.

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17.  I was served with a summary process summons and complaint.  What do I do?

Read the complaint to understand the reason for the eviction.  The complaint will specify in which court the case was (or will be) entered, the deadline for you to file an answer, and the date and place of trial.  You should fill out and file an answer with the court and serve a copy to the landlord or his attorney by the deadline indicated in the complaint.  The court has answer forms.  You should come to court on the trial date, even if you did not file an answer.  If you do not come to court on the trial date, you may automatically lose and a default judgment may enter against you.

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18.  Why do I need to file an answer form in a summary process (eviction) case?

An answer form is the official court document that explains your side of the case.  It is a response to the allegations made against you in the landlord’s complaint, and it allows you to deny in writing any part of the landlord’s case with which you disagree.  You can also raise in your answer any counterclaims you may have against the landlord.  There is no cost or fee to file an answer.

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19.  My landlord brought a “no-fault” eviction case against me.  Even if I have no defense to the eviction action, can I still ask the court for an extension of time to stay in the dwelling?

Yes.  Where a tenancy has been terminated without fault of the tenant (for example, where the landlord wants the apartment for a relative), the tenant may request a stay of execution under G.L. c. 239 §§9-13.  If the judge allows the request, the aggregate period of any stay cannot exceed six (6) months unless someone in the tenant’s household is handicapped or elderly, in which case the stay of execution cannot exceed twelve (12) months.  During the period of the stay of execution, the tenant must usually continue to pay the prior contract rent.

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20.  I received a notice of a default judgment in the mail.  What should I do?

If you wish to contest the default judgment, you should immediately come to the housing court and file a motion to remove the default and serve a copy on your landlord or his attorney.  Include an explanation of your side of the case and why you were not in court on the trial date.

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21.  I lost my case in court and the landlord has obtained an execution.  Will I receive any further notice before the landlord uses the execution to have me moved out?

Yes.  You will receive forty-eight (48) hours written notice of the date and time the constable or sheriff will move you as well as the name and address of the storage facility where your belongings will be stored.

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22.  If I am moved out pursuant to an execution, what happens to my belongings?

The constable will store the property in a licensed storage facility.  That facility must keep the belongings for at least six (6) months.  Whatever licensed storage facility accepts your property will have an automatic lien on it for reasonable storage fees and expenses of removing it to the place of storage.  The landlord will pay in advance the moving expenses and three (3) months storage fees.  The landlord (and the storage facility) can then charge the tenant for the moving and storage costs.  If you, as the owner of such personal property, are present when the officer removes it, you may claim it to prevent the belongings from being removed to the storage facility.  

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23.  I was the defendant in a court case and there was a judgment against me for money.  I paid the judgment, but it still shows up as a debt on my housing and credit histories.  Is there anything I can do to prove to a future landlord or creditor that I no longer owe the judgment?

Yes.  You can ask the other side to sign and file with the court a satisfaction of judgment form.  If he will not do this, you can file a motion with the court to ask the judge or clerk to find that the judgment has been paid.

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24.  What are the deadlines for filing forms in a summary process case?

The summary process summons and complaint can be filed with the court any time after the tenant is served, but must be filed no later than the Monday “entry date” stated in the complaint.

Answers, counterclaims, discovery requests, and pretrial motions can be served and filed anytime on or before the first Monday after the Monday “entry date” stated in the complaint.  You can contact the clerk’s office for information regarding service, entry, and answer deadlines as well as the trial date and courtroom session.

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