Massachusetts law about eviction

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on eviction law.

Legal help is available

COVID-19 eviction information
Provides current court standing orders, information on the CDC eviction moratorium, court forms, and data on evictions in the Trial Court. Includes information on rental assistance. Includes info on latest Act, 2022 c.42.

Table of Contents

COVID-19

COVID eviction legal help project
Free help is available for low-income tenants and low-income landlords who are owner-occupants of a 2 or 3- family home. CELHP will  provide advice, referrals, legal information, and legal representation. A lawyer can help advise you about your case, fill out court papers, respond to quickly deadlines, and prepare your case for court.

Eviction Diversion Initiative: Legal services and mediation 
Available to both tenants and landlords to preserve tenancy.

Eviction information after moratorium ends in Massachusetts, Mass Legal Services. 

Chapter 20 of the Acts of 2021, amended by sec. 21 of Chapter 42 of the Acts of 2022, continues the Chapter 257 (2020) requirement that courts pause non-payment eviction cases when tenants have pending applications for rental assistance. This protection, extended until March 31, 2023, will ensure that courts do not issue eviction orders while tenants are seeking rental assistance.

Notice to quit attestation form required for landlords until January 2023.

Best bets

Eviction for landlords and Eviction for tenants, Mass. Trial Court
Guides you through evictions in Massachusetts.

Facing an eviction, MassLegalHelp
Provides an overview of the eviction process and a short video that explains legal requirements for service of a complaint.

Legal tactics, 8th ed., Annette R. Duke, editor, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, 2017 (2021 updates). (Includes forms)
Just about the best book written on Massachusetts tenants' rights, Chapter 12 covers evictions.

Massachusetts laws

Primary eviction law

MGL c. 239 Summary process for possession of land (eviction)

Other Massachusetts laws relating to eviction

MGL c. 121B, § 32 Evictions, local housing authorities
MGL c. 139, § 19 Use of premises for illegal activities, voiding of lease
MGL c. 184, § 18 Forcible entry forbidden
MGL c. 186, § 11 Determination of lease for nonpayment of rent 
MGL c. 186, § 11A Termination of lease for nonpayment of rent
MGL c. 186, § 12 Notice to determine estate at will
MGL c. 186, § 13 Recovery of possession after termination of tenancy at will
MGL c. 186, § 13A Tenants deemed to be at will upon foreclosure
MGL c. 186, § 14 Quiet enjoyment violation
MGL c.186A Tenants in foreclosed properties

Massachusetts regulations

105 CMR 410 State sanitary code - minimum standards of fitness for human habitation

940 CMR 3.17(5) Unfair and deceptive acts by landlord

Federal laws and regulations

Laws

34 U.S.C. § 12491 Housing protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking
42 U.S.C § 1437f Low-income housing assistance  
42 U.S.C §§ 13601-13644 Residency and service requirements in federally assisted housing 
50 U.S.C. § 3951 Evictions and distress (Relates to active servicemembers)
PL 111-22 An act to prevent mortgage foreclosures and enhance mortgage credit availability

Regulations

24 CFR 247 Evictions from certain subsidized and HUD-owned projects

Court rules

Forms

Eviction forms to evict a tenant

Court forms

Eviction defense forms

CDC Eviction Moratorium Assistant, MassAccess Court Forms Online, Suffolk University Law School’s Legal Innovation and Technology (LIT) Lab.
Mobile-friendly accessible versions of online court forms and self-help materials in multiple-languages for key areas of urgent legal need during the COVID-19 crisis.

Forms and sample filled-in forms from Mass. Legal Help. Includes:

Selected cases

Adjartey v. Housing Court Central Division, 481 Mass. 830 (2019)
Provides a long review of the housing court eviction process. This case explains the procedure to be followed to waive court fees and costs, and includes an appendix explaining the eviction process in depth.

Boston Housing Authority v. Y.A., 482 Mass. 240 (2019)
Even though the tenant did not tell her landlord that domestic violence was one reason she couldn't pay her rent, she did mention it in court to the judge, and so the judge should have asked further questions to decide if the tenant was entitled to protection under the Violence Against Women Act, 34 U.S.C. §§ 12291 et seq.

Cambridge Street Realty, LLC v. Steward, 481 Mass. 121 (2018)
A defective notice to quit does not affect Housing Court's jurisdiction. The SJC held "we make explicit today that a defective notice to quit 'represents merely the failure to comply with a condition precedent to suit and cannot properly be said to affect the court's jurisdiction.'"

Davis v. Comerford, 483 Mass. 164 (2019)
Discusses at length the liability of a "tenant at sufferance" (a tenant who stays after their lease or tenancy at will has expired)  for "use and occupancy" payments, the equivalent of rent while an eviction proceeding is going on.

Glendale Associates v. Harris, 97 Mass. App. Ct. 454 (2020)
A landlord who chooses to get an order to vacate under M.G.L. c.139, § 19, rather than an eviction under c.239, is bound by the 30-day appeals period in c.139. Also, in this case, the Housing Court required an unreasonable plan as an accommodation of the tenant's disability, and so the case was remanded back to Housing Court. 

Lenders Commercial Finance LLC v. Pestilli, et al, Southeast Housing Court, Feb. 3, 2017.
A bank that purchased a home at foreclosure could not evict the former owners with just a 30-day notice to quit. "The Court finds that there is no evidence in this action that there was ever any agreement between the parties for the defendant to pay any rent to the plaintiff, or for any definite rental period. Accordingly, the court finds that G.L. c. 186, s.12 requires that the plaintiff terminate the defendant's tenancy at will by service of a 90 Day Notice to Quit for possession."

Meikle v. Nurse, 474 Mass. 207 (2016) 
The SJC held that "a violation of the security deposit statute... may be asserted as a defense to a landlord's possession in a summary process action under G. L. c. 239, § 1A" However, "The statute does not impose an obligatory tenancy on the landlord. Nothing in the statute prevents the landlord from bringing a second summary process action for possession after he or she has remedied the violation of the security deposit statute."

Rental Property Management Services v. Hatcher, 479 Mass. 542 (2018)
"Where the plaintiff in a summary process action is neither the owner nor the lessor of the property, the court must dismiss the complaint with prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, regardless of whether a motion to dismiss has been presented by the defendant."

Youghal LLC v. Entwistle, 484 Mass 1019 (2020)
[A] notice taped to a door is not “given to the tenant” until the tenant receives actual or constructive notice of it.” Landlord’s summary process complaint was “dismissed because the summary process summons and complaint were served before the full fourteen-day period provided in the notice to quit had elapsed.”

Web sources

Applying for emergency assistance shelter: A guide for families , Mass. Law Reform Institute and Rosie's Place, October 2015. Also available in Spanish.
"Emergency Assistance is the shelter system for families in Massachusetts..." Pregnant women and families with children are eligible...You have to show you are homeless because of domestic violence, fire, flood or natural disaster, or certain kinds of eviction that were not your fault." There are several more requirements to be eligible. The guide explains these requirements and how to apply for shelter.

Emergency Assistance (EA) advocacy guide: A guide to emergency shelter and re-housing services for homeless families with children in Massachusetts, Mass. Law Reform, October 2021.
This online book includes eligibility, placement, disability, language access, appeals, and extensive contact information. 

The eviction process in Massachusetts, Masslandlords.net
Reviews the timeline for Summary Process Eviction.

Eviction storage law, Mass. Legal Help, 2013
The eviction storage law provides "important rights to tenants who are facing an eviction or who have been evicted." Booklet includes who is covered by the law, storage company responsibilities, tenant's rights, and sample letters and forms.

Massachusetts defense for eviction (MADE): self-guided eviction help, Greater Boston Legal Services.
"This completely free guided interview is for Massachusetts tenants who are being evicted. It is estimated to take between 25 and 90 minutes for a typical tenant to use on their own. It will help you make sure that you respond to your landlord's eviction case correctly. It can send you reminders of important dates by text and email. It includes videos and educational links."

Tenant at sufferance
A tenant at sufferance is not entitled to a notice to quit (Margosian v. Markarian, 288 Mass. 197 (1934)), but is entitled to sufficient time to remove his property (Lash v. Ames, 171 Mass. 487 (1898))

Tenant defenses to evictions in Massachusetts, Nolo
Explains grounds for eviction as well as defenses.

Representing yourself in an eviction, Mass. Legal Help
The first of nine booklets on the eviction process for tenants, this one provides an overview of the steps required in representing yourself

Print sources

Guide to eviction actions & defenses in a pandemic world, MCLE, 2021.

Handbook of civil procedure in the Mass. District Court, 5th ed., by Marc G. Perlin, Lawyers Weekly, 2018, chapter 14.

The Massachusetts landlord survival guide, 9th ed. by Philip S. Lapatin, Greater Boston Real Estate Board, 2020.

Massachusetts landlord tenant law, 2nd ed., by George Warshaw, Lexis, with supplement (includes forms) Sample Notices to Quit at Forms 4-1 – 4-5[C].

Landlord and tenant law: with forms3rd edition, (Massachusetts practice, vol. 33A) West Group, 2000 with supplement, chapter 16. Sample Notices to Quit at sections 15:13 – 15:16.

Massachusetts real estate, 3rd ed., by Robert Marzelli, Lexis, with supplement (Includes forms). Sample Notices to Quit at Forms 102, 103.

Property management manual for Massachusetts rental owners, 6th ed., by H. John Fisher, HAPHousing, 2015.

Residential and commercial landlord-tenant practice in Massachusetts, 3rd ed. MCLE, loose-leaf. Sample Notices to Quit at Exhibits 11A – 11D

Residential landlord/tenant benchbook, Flaschner Judicial Institute, 2013.

Contact

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Last updated: April 25, 2022
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