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Learn about responding to an eviction for tenants

Get information on a tenant's requirements, rights, and the process for responding to an eviction (also called Summary Process).

Eviction authorization

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 that authorizes the landlord to have a constable or sheriff move you out.

Notice to quit

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.

Tenant at-will

  • 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.

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

No. You may choose to leave the premises, 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.

Summary process summons and complaint

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 location of the 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. You can create the answer yourself or use the Housing Court Summary Process Answer Form (see below). 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 be entered against you.

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

An answer 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.

Additional Resources for Summary process summons and complaint

"No fault" evictions

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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