File an eviction case

Learn the necessary steps a landlord needs to take to file an eviction case.

District, Housing, and Boston Municipal Courts

The Details   of File an eviction case

What you need   for File an eviction case

The eviction proceedings follow the same rules in all courts, called the Uniform Summary Process Rules, but there are some different practices among court departments. You should first determine where you want to file your case (see how to file below).

The first step in the eviction process is to end the tenancy with a Notice to Quit (see Find out how to start the eviction process for more information). After the notice period has ended, and the tenancy has been terminated, you can start an eviction case against the tenant.

You must fill out a form called the Summons and Complaint. You must purchase this form from the clerk’s office of the court where you want to file. It isn’t available online, although there is a Summary Process (eviction) Complaint (sample form) available.

After purchasing and filling out this form, you will hire a sheriff or constable to serve it on the tenant.  Once the sheriff/constable serves the summons and complaint, you must then file it with the court and pay the filing fee. For more information on this step, see Service of Process in the Boston Municipal Court (BMC), District Court or Housing Court.

There are 4 important dates to keep in mind when you begin an eviction case. If you don’t follow these dates, your case could be dismissed:

  • Service date
  • Entry date
  • Answer date
  • Trial date

Fees   for File an eviction case

Name Fee Unit
Filing for eviction (in Housing Court) $120 each
Filing for eviction (District Court/BMC) $180 each
Surcharge $15 each
Required summons $5 each
Summons and Complaint form $5 each

How to file   File an eviction case

Decide where you want to file your case:

Housing Court

Housing Courts hear only housing-related cases, while BMC or District Courts hear many other types of cases. Housing Courts offer Housing Specialists, employees of the court who serve as mediators for cases that are filed in the Housing Court.

BMC or District Court

BMC or District Courts don’t specialize in housing cases — they hear many other types of cases. There are no Housing Specialists available in the BMC or District Court.

The tenant may choose to transfer the case to a Housing Court if you bring the case in BMC or District Court.

Next steps   for File an eviction case

  1. Service date

    The service date is the day when you can serve the tenant with the summons and complaint. The service date can happen, at the earliest, on the day after the tenancy has been terminated.

  2. Entry date

    The entry date is the day when you will file with the court. It happens after the tenant is served with the summons and complaint.

    You must file the following with the court on or before the entry date stated in the summons and complaint:

    • The Notice to Quit
    • Summons and Complaint
    • Return of Service

    The entry date must be between 7 and 30 days after the service date. Entry dates must be on a Monday, unless Monday is a holiday, then it may be on that following Tuesday.

  3. The answer date

    The answer date is the day when the tenant’s written answer must be filed if they have defenses to your legal claims that they want the court to consider. 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 summons and complaint. You can contact the clerk’s office for information about service, entry, and answer deadlines as well as the trial date and courtroom session.

  4. The trial date

    The trial is the day when you and your tenant(s) come to court. If the tenant hasn't requested a jury trial in their answer, you may have a bench trial in front of a judge that day and your case will be resolved.

    Otherwise, the trial date is usually scheduled for 10 days after the entry date (i.e. the Thursday following the answer date), however, if the tenant requests discovery, the trial date will be automatically postponed 2 weeks. This is called the rescheduled trial date.

More info   for File an eviction case

Can I also 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 ended for a reason other than not paying rent. The summons and complaint form includes a section for the landlord to specify the rent that’s owed. However, the landlord can’t 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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