Facing eviction in Massachusetts? Here's what you need to do. Updated with Latest Info.

Facing eviction in Massachusetts? Here's what you need to do. Updated with Latest Info.

Victoria Pappas

If you are facing eviction in Massachusetts, here is what you need to do. 


Talk to your landlord


The first step is always to reach out to your landlord. Explain to them the situation you are in and try and come up with a plan for future rent payments and how to make up past rent as well. 


If your landlord is evicting you based on a lease violation, again see if there is anything you can do to fix the situation and avoid eviction. Again, explain the situation and it might be a good idea to come up with a detailed plan for how you will fix the problem and how it will not happen again. 


Hopefully your landlord is friendly, understanding, and open to listening to what you have to say. Figuring the situation out with your landlord first can help you both avoid court or another costly process. 


Respond to the eviction 


First, it is important to know that in Massachusetts a landlord cannot evict a tenant without getting a court order to do so (also called an “execution”).


It is illegal for a MA landlord to change the locks, remove your belongings, or lock you out of your home in any other way if they have not received a court order to do so. If this has happened to you, you should hire a lawyer and consider suing your landlord. 


Even if a landlord has gotten a court order, only a sheriff can move the tenant and their belongings out of the property; the landlord is not allowed to do so. 


A landlord will first provide you with a notice to quit. A notice to quit will tell you the reason why you are being evicted. If the reason is late or no rent payment, you may be able to avoid eviction by paying the owed amount by a certain date, depending on the type of tenant you are. 


Although the notice to quit will say you have to be out by a certain date, you do not have to leave the premises if you receive a notice to quit. Again, you can only be removed with a court order and/or a sheriff. 


A tenant will receive a notice to quit before the landlord files the eviction claim in court. 


If you have a lease, you can pay the landlord or their attorney the amount owed plus any interest by the day the answer and process summary summons are due. 


If your landlord has done everything in the proper way (gone to court for the eviction), you will receive a process summary summons and complaint. These are court forms notifying you that your landlord is bringing this matter to court. A second notice will provide the time, date, and location of the court hearing. 


Usually these forms will also have a date you must submit your Answer by. An Answer is a legal form responding to the complaint. You can use this form to state any defenses (reasons you should not be evicted), counterclaims against your landlord, and any other problems you have had with the landlord. 

An Answer has very strict deadlines. You must submit and file the Answer with the specified court by the stated deadline. It is a good idea to get a lawyer's help filing an answer so they can help you fill it out properly and submit it on time. MassLegalHelp also has a booklet explaining the Answer process. 


Again, if the landlord does not go through the court and get an eviction order from them, they are not legally allowed to evict you. You can fight the eviction and likely win if the landlord does not go through the formal process with the court. 


Prepare and go to the hearing 


If everything gets done properly, you will then have to go to an eviction hearing at the court. It is important to show up to these hearings. If you do not show up, a default judgement will be entered against you. This essentially means that you lose and your landlord wins, and the eviction process will go forward. 


A court hearing can be nerve wracking, so again it is a good idea to find a lawyer that can represent you. They will take the lead in the hearing. They will also tell you what documents you need to prepare and evidence to bring to the hearing to help your case.  


At the hearing, you will defend yourself and explain why you should not be evicted and any problems with the landlord. You can also try and negotiate with the landlord and judge another plan to help you stay in your home. 


If you lose this hearing, you can appeal (fight against) the decision. Again, a lawyer is best suited to help you with this. 


Figure out if you qualify for the national eviction moratorium


Another reason your landlord might not be allowed to evict you is because of the national eviction moratorium that is in place until March 31, 2021. 


In order to be protected by the national eviction moratorium, you must meet certain criteria, listed below from MassLegalHelp: 

To qualify, you must:

  • have received an Economic Impact Payment, "stimulus payment", this year, or
  • get $99,000 or less in income in 2020, or
  • get $198,000 or less in income in 2020 if you are married and file a joint return, or
  • have had a low enough income in 2019 so that you did not need to file a federal tax return.
??And prove you can't pay your rent because:
  • you have “extraordinary” out-of-pocket medical expenses. These are medical expenses that add up to more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income for the year, and no one is paying you back for them.
  • you lost your job, were laid off, or your hours were cut back, or
  • you had a “substantial” loss of household income
Don't forget Rental Assistance 

If you qualify, the next step is to apply for Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT).


Lastly, you must send a CDC Declaration form to your landlord or you can use the Mass Access Project for help or you can seek the assistance of an attorney.


Find rent relief programs 


Like many Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have trouble paying rent. Luckily, there are many rent relief resources available to Massachusetts residents that you might be able to use. 


The RAFT program may give you money for rent if you are low income and at risk of homelessness. 


This database is a great resource that lists community programs all around the state of Massachusetts that can help with rent relief. It is organized by municipalities and lays out the requirements.


If your household income is 50-80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) and are not eligible for RAFT, then you might qualify for the Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program. This can help cover missed payments from April 1, 202 0 to present day and upcoming payments. Here is a more detailed list of the qualifications for this program.


Click here for more emergency housing assistance information provided by the Massachusetts state government. 


Lawyers can help


Eviction can be a tricky process, especially during the pandemic. A Massachusetts housing lawyer will know the ins and outs of the process, know your rights and options,  and help you fight your eviction so you can stay in your home. They will make sure everything gets done correctly and goes smoothly. 


This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.

Victoria Pappas

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