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These rules govern procedure in all summary process actions in the Trial Court of the Commonwealth. Procedures in such actions that are not prescribed by these rules shall be governed by the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure insofar as the latter are not inconsistent with these rules, with applicable statutory law or with the jurisdiction of the particular court in which they would be applied.
These rules and, where applicable, the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure, shall be construed and applied to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every summary process action.
Any procedural steps taken in a summary process action before the effective date of these rules which conform to then-effective rules will be regarded as valid during the pendency of that action. All procedure after the effective date of these rules with respect to a pending summary process action will be governed by these rules.
Four Departments of the Massachusetts Trial Court have jurisdiction over summary process actions (Superior Court, District Court, Boston Municipal Court and Housing Court). This set of rules replaces the disparate sets of preexisting rules in order to establish uniformity of procedure in the Trial Court.
These rules seek to reconcile two competing principles. The first is that time is of the essence in eviction cases. This is based on the notion that real estate constitutes unique property and that because it generates income, time lost in regaining it from a party in illegal possession can represent an irreplaceable loss to the owner. The Legislature clearly recognized these factors in creating a special chapter of the General Laws establishing a "summary" procedure. The other principle involved is the unique and fundamental need of tenants for dwellings that are habitable and secure. Recognition of this need has resulted in extensive changes through case law in the legal relationship between tenants and landlords and a host of legislative enactments providing tenants with new rights and remedies. These changes have made the legality of possession an often difficult and complex judicial question.
The need, then, is for rules that will ensure expeditious proceedings and yet comprehend all potential substantive and procedural complexities. It is believed that these rules meet that need by addressing specifically the basic procedural steps in summary process actions, by adopting by reference the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure to cover any unusual procedure questions that may arise, and by stating in Rule 1 that the rules are to be construed and applied so as "to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination" of summary process actions.