How to Fight an Eviction in Massachusetts: Tenants' Guide to Staying in Their Homes

How to Fight an Eviction in Massachusetts: Tenants’ Guide to Staying in Their Homes


Massachusetts Eviction Law Is Tenant-Friendly

When a landlord begins the eviction process, they are proceeding under Massachusetts’s summary process rules.  These are the rules that a landlord must proceed under or they risk violating the tenant’s rights.

While a summary process is the fastest legal proceeding in Massachusetts, it can still be quite slow and costly for the landlord.  Given how slow the process can be, the tenant has leverage, to negotiate with the landlord.  The key to using that leverage is being responsive.  If you are being evicted, contact us today so we can discuss your options.

You May Be Able to Counter Sue Your Landlord

As a tenant, you have rights. You can use the violation of those rights as means to fight your eviction. Your landlord may have violated your rights by:

1. Mishandling of your security deposit;
2. Mishandling of your last month’s rent;
3. Not paying you interest on your security deposit or last month’s rent
3. No hot water;
4. No heat;
5. Other bad conditions in your apartment;
6. Retaliation based on you previously asserting your rights.

Your landlord’s violation of your rights may allow you to counter sue. If you win at trial, you will have a right to stay in your apartment AND your landlord may owe you money.

If your landlord has violated your rights, please contact us today

Did Your Landlord Provide You with the Proper Notice?

There are three grounds on which a landlord may evict on:  non-payment of rent, a no-fault eviction, or an eviction with cause.

Non-Payment of Rent: A 14-Day Notice to Quit Is Required

If a landlord chooses to evict you for non-payment of rent, they MUST provide you with a 14-day notice to quit.   Often, landlords do not properly write the 14-day notice to quit.  If the notice to quit is incorrect, the tenants can legally defend themselves against the summary process.  Often, an incorrect notice to quit will force the landlord to start the process over, costing the landlord time and money and therefore, giving tenants leverage.

The notice to quit must be served correctly.  Often, a landlord will leave a note on a tenant’s door stating that the tenant has 14 days to leave the apartment.  1) This note is likely not drafted correctly, and 2) the notice was likely not served correctly.  In the alternative, a landlord may send a notice to quit via certified mail.  If a tenant chooses not to sign for the mail, the tenant was not properly served and the eviction process must start over.

If your landlord is trying to evict you for non-payment of rent, they may be deemed to be in violation of the fair debt collection act if they don’t provide you with the proper notice to dispute the debt owed.  This violation gives tenants further leverage to fight the landlord’s eviction effort.

If your landlord has tried to serve you with a notice to quit, please contact us today.  The earlier we discuss your situation, the more legal tools we can use to defend your home.

No-Fault: A 30-Day Notice to Quit Is Required

Often, a landlord decides to end a tenancy due for reasons outside of non-payment of rent.  Maybe the place is being sold and the buyer wants to take ownership of the house with no tenants.  Whatever the reason, a landlord MUST serve a tenant with a 30-day notice to quit.

A landlord may not begin the summary process until 30 days after the notice to quit is served and 30 days after rent is due.  Confused?  Don’t worry; your landlord is likely confused as well.

Here is an example of how a 30-day notice to quit works.  If the 30-day notice to quit is served on May 15 and rent is due on the first of the month, a landlord CANNOT begin the summary process until July 1, a full 30 days after June 1.  Often, landlords don’t understand this and begin the summary process too soon.  If your landlord does so, you have a legal defense against the landlord’s eviction effort.  Please contact us as soon as possible so we can discuss your legal options.

For Cause Evictions

In some cases, a landlord chooses to evict a tenant for bad or illegal behavior.  Specifically, a landlord may evict a tenant due to their violations of the lease if they make a lot of noise, use drugs, have unapproved roommates, or keep an unclean house.  The landlord will need proof of this behavior and the police generally don’t like to get involved.  If your landlord is evicting you “for cause”, contact us today so we can discuss your legal options as soon as possible.

Fighting the Eviction in Court

Your landlord can file the eviction in a District or Housing Court.  The court will issue a summary process summons and complaint form.    The form MUST be served by a constable or sheriff on the tenant in no less than 7 days prior to the entry date.

Delay, Delay, and Delay

After your landlord has served you with the summons, you have 7 days to answer.  Doubleday LAW employs the tools of discovery to 1) find out more information about the case, and 2) to give our clients more time to weigh their legal options.  When we file our discovery request, the trial date is automatically pushed back two weeks.  By delaying the trial date, we give tenants leverage against their landlords.

Resolving the Eviction Matter

Once litigation has commenced, the tenant has two options:  1) try to defeat the landlord’s claims on the merits, or 2) reach a compromise.  Doubleday LAW will work with you to try and find the best solution for your situation.  Contact us today.

When facing eviction in Massachusetts, the best decision a tenant can make is to retain an attorney who can ensure the tenant’s rights are protected.  We look forward to working on your legal issue.

Arthur Hardy-Doubleday

About Arthur Hardy-Doubleday

Arthur Hardy-Doubleday practices law in Cambridge and Martha's Vineyard Massachusetts. He works in the areas of Real Estate, Personal Injury, and Consumer Protection Law. When not practicing law, Arthur enjoys sailing, hanging out with friends on the beach, and waking his dog "Ridiculous."

  • Deneen

    I need to hire an attorney. I received a 14 day notice to quit but I’m not a normal tenant the house I am in was purchased by grandmother as a gift to my children & I. I need legal
    Advice of help. I don’t owe any money for rent. My money wasn’t used for the purpose of rent.

  • Kimberly Haslett-Sterczala

    My landlord is my uncle. . I pay a reduced rent obviously because we are family but also because i dont make much money plus i have a 2 yr old. .even though I pay a reduced price does he still have to keep my oil tank full? For a month now i havent been able to afford oil , so have not had hot water or heat. Does he have to supply the oil to heat my water and home? I need to know asap.. he said he will kick me out because i have been late on payments but he did receive them he just got them later than im supposed to Send them.