1. There was a drug raid in my tenant’s apartment. How soon can I get them out?
  2. Can I sue my tenant for money damages in a summary process (eviction) case?
  3. Can I sue my tenant for unpaid rent without filing a summary process case?

1. 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.

2. Can I sue my tenant for money damages in a summary process (eviction) case?

In a summary process 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.

3. 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. The procedures for small claims action are governed by the Massachusetts Uniform Small Claims Rules. 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.