1. What is the Housing Court?  What kinds of cases does the Housing Court handle?  Where can I file a Housing Court case?
  2. I understand that the Housing Court offers mediation to resolve cases before it.  Where can I find information about mediation?
  3. I understand that housing specialists work for the Housing Court.  What do they do?
  4. I have a case in court, but I do not speak or read English.  What should I do?
  5. I have a case in court, and I have a disability and need some assistance to participate in my case.  What should I do?
  6. Is there any help for landlords and tenants in a situation where a residential tenant is violating the terms of the tenancy or is not paying the rent and the problems are related to the tenant’s disability?
  7. I understand that there are attorneys who volunteer their services in Lawyer for a Day programs (LDP) that are sponsored by legal services programs and bar associations to help landlords and tenants with their cases in the Housing Court.  Where can I find information about LDP?
  8. I understand that there are attorneys who participate in a Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) program which allows them to represent landlords and tenants on a limited basis for just some but not all parts of a case.  Where can I find information about the LAR program?
  9. I have a case concerning housing that is pending in the District Court or the Superior Court.  Can I transfer my case to the Housing Court?
  10. How much does it cost to transfer a case to the Housing Court?
  11. I want to request discovery (interrogatories, document requests, and requests for admissions) from the other side in my case.  Do I need to file a copy of my discovery requests with the Housing Court?
  12. I received discovery requests (interrogatories, document requests, and requests for admissions) from the other side in my case.  Do I need to file a copy of my discovery responses with the Housing Court?
  13. Are records of Housing Court cases available to the public?
  14. How much does it cost to file a motion?
  15. What is the filing fee for summary process and civil cases?

1.  What is the Housing Court?  What kinds of cases does the Housing Court handle?  Where can I file a Housing Court case?

The Massachusetts housing courts were established to handle cases involving residential housing. In addition to summary process (eviction) cases, the courts’ jurisdiction includes small claims cases, consumer protection cases, and civil actions involving the health, safety, or welfare of the occupants or owners of residential housing, including cases with personal injury, property damage, breach of contract, and discrimination claims.

The housing courts have jurisdiction to hear appeals of local zoning board decisions that affect residential housing, as well as appeals of tickets issued by state and local code enforcement agencies and the state fire marshal’s office. Landlords, tenants, and homeowners may seek equitable relief in the housing court in the form of restraining orders and injunctions to enforce their rights under any of the state’s laws and regulations relating to residential housing.  Additionally, housing courts have jurisdiction to hear criminal cases that are brought to enforce local ordinances or state sanitary, building, and fire prevention codes which regulate residential housing.  The jurisdiction of the housing courts generally does not extend to cases involving property that is solely commercial.

At this time, not all parts of the state are served by a housing court.  Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket, and Norfolk (except Bellingham) counties, as well as some cities and towns in Middlesex and Suffolk counties, are not served by a housing court.  The areas of geographic jurisdiction of the five housing courts: Housing Courts by County

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2.  I understand that the Housing Court offers mediation to resolve cases before it.  Where can I find information about mediation?

What is Mediation? and ¿Qué es Mediación? pdf format of ¿Qué es Mediación?
(Spanish Version)

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3.  I understand that housing specialists work for the Housing Court.  What do they do?

Housing specialists are employees of the court who serve as mediators for cases that are filed in the housing court.  They provide information about Massachusetts housing laws to the public and assist parties who file cases in the housing court.  A housing court judge may ask a housing specialist to conduct an inspection of residential property to determine if it meets the sanitary, building, or fire prevention codes or to investigate an issue that is in dispute between parties in a case.  The housing specialists provide information and referrals to resources that are available in the court and from government agencies, housing authorities, and non-profit agencies in the local community.

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4.  I have a case in court, but I do not speak or read English.  What should I do?

You should contact the clerk’s office as soon possible and tell them the language that you speak. You should do so also as soon as you know that another party or witness in the case will need an interpreter.The court will provide an interpreter to translate between the language you speak, or the language another party or witness speaks, and English.  

More information about court interpreter services can be found at: Interpreter Services

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5.  I have a case in court, and I have a disability and need some assistance to participate in my case.  What should I do?

If you need assistance, you should contact the clerk’s office at the court where your case is pending and speak with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator about the accommodation you need, e.g. a sign language interpreter, a hearing assistance device, a different time of day for your hearing.  The court will make a reasonable accommodation to ensure that a person with a disability has full and fair access to the court.

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6.  Is there any help for landlords and tenants in a situation where a residential tenant is violating the terms of the tenancy or is not paying the rent and the problems are related to the tenant’s disability?

Yes.  The Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP) operates in the housing courts and provides social workers who work with tenants to find solutions to disability-related issues that will satisfy the needs of the landlord, the tenant, and affected neighbors, preserving the tenancy where possible.  TPP social workers are not employees of the court but are employed by independent agencies that contract with the Commonwealth.  If you would like this assistance, you should contact the clerk’s office at the court where your case is pending to make a referral to the Tenancy Preservation Program.

More information about TPP can be found at: Tenancy Preservation Program and Tenancy Preservation Program Map

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7.  I understand that there are attorneys who volunteer their services in Lawyer for a Day programs (LDP) that are sponsored by legal services programs and bar associations to help landlords and tenants with their cases in the Housing Court.  Where can I find information about LDP?

General information about LDP can be found at the internet site below.  Contact your local housing court for information about when and where LDP is available. More information can be found at: Lawyer for a Day Program  

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8.  I understand that there are attorneys who participate in a Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) program which allows them to represent landlords and tenants on a limited basis for just some but not all parts of a case.  Where can I find information about the LAR program?

For more information visit: Legal Assistance

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9.  I have a case concerning housing that is pending in the District Court or the Superior Court.  Can I transfer my case to the Housing Court?

Yes.  Any party can transfer a summary process (eviction), small claims, or civil case that involves residential property and is pending in another court to the housing court before the trial begins in the case.  A notice of transfer form should be filed in both courts and served on all parties or their attorneys.  Criminal cases cannot be transferred into the housing court.

Notice of Transfer to Housing Court  pdf format of Notice of Transfer to Housing Court

You should be aware, however, that, at this time, not all parts of the state are served by a housing court.  Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket, and Norfolk (except Bellingham) counties, as well as some cities and towns in Middlesex and Suffolk counties, are not served by a housing court.  The areas of geographic jurisdiction of the five divisions of the housing court are listed at: Housing Courts by County

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10.  How much does it cost to transfer a case to the Housing Court?

It does not cost anything to transfer an existing case in another court to the housing court.

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11.  I want to request discovery (interrogatories, document requests, and requests for admissions) from the other side in my case.  Do I need to file a copy of my discovery requests with the Housing Court?

Discovery requests must be filed with the housing court in summary process (eviction) cases but not in civil cases.

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12.  I received discovery requests (interrogatories, document requests, and requests for admissions) from the other side in my case.  Do I need to file a copy of my discovery responses with the Housing Court?

Responses to discovery must be filed with the housing court in summary process (eviction) cases but not in civil cases.

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13.  Are records of Housing Court cases available to the public?

Unless a case or a part of a case is impounded, the files of housing court cases are public records. You may ask to see a case file in person at the clerk’s office during business hours (8:30 a.m. -  4:30 p.m. or as posted at the local court).  Also, a limited amount of information about each case is available on public access computers located in the clerk’s office of each court.

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14.  How much does it cost to file a motion?

It does not cost anything to file a motion in an existing case.

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15.  What is the filing fee for summary process and civil cases?

The fee is $135 ($120 entry fee plus $15 surcharge).

Schedule of Housing Court filing fees: Housing Court Filing Fees

If you are indigent and unable to pay the filing fees, the court may be able to waive the fees.  The court staff can explain the eligibility requirements and the procedure for requesting a waiver.

More information on indigency, please visit Indigency (waiver of fees)