Immediate of Eviction Is Virtually Impossible under Massachusetts Law

Tenants may picture themselves as suddenly homeless when subjected to the eviction process. In Massachusetts, the law includes many complex requirements that extend the process longer than most people might expect.

With some relatively rare exceptions, Massachusetts tenants can take comfort in knowing that they cannot suddenly find themselves on the streets due to a sudden eviction. The law actually extends the full process for a period that can range from more than a month to as many as six months under specific circumstances.

Unless tenants can quickly clear up the issues directly with the landlord, an experienced eviction defense lawyer can help protect tenant rights during the process — or avoid eviction altogether.

Understanding the Important Dates Within the Eviction Process

Through the years, Massachusetts legislators illustrated their dedication to tenant protection by initiating many laws that virtually eliminate any surprises that might leave them living in unsafe conditions or finding themselves homeless. This is why eviction requires a series of steps that help ensure fairness and typically delay the process.

Tenants with leases who suspect that they might face eviction for any reason need to know some important dates, as follows:

• Receipt of a Notice to Quit is the first step in the process, and tenants who receive the notice due to nonpayment of rent can generally stop the eviction by paying the amount due, plus interest or meeting other requirements specified within the lease. With some exceptions, landlords cannot take additional action until 14 days expire from the date of receipt, but that date does not mark the time when tenants must move out.

• Receipt of the Summons of Complaint marks the beginning of the court eviction process which begins by explaining the reason for eviction, notifying tenants of trial location and date and providing a deadline date for filing an answer to the complaint. The answer is an opportunity for filing any disagreements with the court and specifying possible counterclaims against the landlord.

• The court date can add more time before the required move-out date simply because court dockets can be overloaded, particularly during holiday seasons.

• The execution date is the date when tenants must actually move out. Even when landlords prevail in court, however, tenants are not required to move out immediately. Once the judgment is filed, the landlord must wait 10 days before submitting the paperwork for execution of the eviction. Additionally, if tenants are subject to a “no-fault” eviction, where the landlord wants to use the dwelling for other purposes, the date can be extended up to six months. In the event that landlords fail to use the execution within three months, their right to regain possession of the dwelling expires.

The Eviction Calendar Can Become Complex

While these events mark the primary checkpoints of the eviction process, any number of exceptions exist that can add more valuable time for tenants who need to move out. This is why it can be important to seek advice from an attorney who has extensive experience with the eviction calendar as it applies to any number of unique circumstances.