A Massachusetts eviction notice informs a tenant that they may be evicted for the non-payment of rent, non-compliance with the rental terms, or for engaging in illegal activity on the premises of a rental property. Generally, landlords can only file for eviction if the tenant fails to comply with the notice within the designated notice period. The exceptions to this rule occur when the tenant commits illegal activity on the premises or fails to vacate after losing their right to occupancy. In these cases, the landlord may initiate the eviction lawsuit, a.k.a. “summary process” action, without providing advance notice to the tenant.
14-Day Notice to Quit for Non-Payment – An eviction notice for fixed-term tenancies that instructs tenants to pay rent or vacate the premises. The tenant may retain their tenancy by paying rent at any point before their answer is due in court.
10/14-Day Notice to Quit for Non-Payment – Suitable for at-will tenancies only, this notice provides tenants with ten (10) days to pay rent or fourteen (14) days to move out.
Notice to Quit for Non-Compliance – For tenants who violate the conditions of their rental agreement. If there is no lease, the notice period will be thirty (30) days or one (1) rental period, whichever is longer. If there is a lease, the notice period must comply with the lease terms.
Immediate Notice to Quit for Illegal Activity – While the use of this notice is not legally required, it may be used to inform a tenant that they are being evicted due to illegal acts committed on the premises.
30-Day Notice to Terminate Month-to-Month Lease – Informs a tenant or landlord that a month-to-month rental agreement will terminate in thirty (30) days or one (1) rental term, whichever is longer.
- Grace Period (Ch. 186 § 15B(1)(c)): Thirty (30) Days
- Non-Payment of Rent (Fixed-Term Tenancy) (Ch. 186 § 11): Fourteen (14) Days
- Non-Payment of Rent (At-Will Tenancy) (Ch. 186 § 12): Ten (10) Days to Pay / Fourteen (14) Days to Vacate
- Non-Compliance (Fixed-Term Tenancy): Not mentioned in state statutes.
- Non-Compliance (At-Will Tenancy) (Ch. 186 § 12): Thirty (30) Days or One (1) Full Rental Term
- Illegal Activity (Ch. 139 § 19): No notice required (Ch. 139 § 19).
- Periodic Tenancy Termination (Ch. 186 § 12): Thirty (30) Days or One (1) Full Rental Term
Landlords can only force a tenant to vacate if they are awarded an eviction order from the court. The legal process through which an eviction order is obtained is known as a “summary process” action. To start this legal procedure, the landlord will have to serve the tenant with a notice to quit.
Step 1 – Draft a Notice to Quit
In nearly all eviction circumstances, the landlord will need to serve the tenant with an eviction notice that outlines the cause of eviction, the notice period, and whether remedial actions can be taken to prevent a lawsuit. The type of notice served to the tenant will depend on the reason they’re being evicted and whether the tenancy is fixed-term or at-will (no fixed termination date). Landlords should be sure to make copies of the eviction notice and all other documents related to the eviction process.
A landlord will be required to draft one (1) of the following documents:
- 14-Day Notice to Quit for Non-Payment (Fixed-Term Tenancy)
- 10/14-Day Notice to Quit for Non-Payment (At-Will Tenancy)
- Notice to Quit for Non-Compliance
- Immediate Notice to Quit for Illegal Activity – Use of this notice is optional.
- 30-Day Notice to Terminate Month-to-Month Lease
Special procedures apply when terminating a tenancy in a mobile home park, residential hotel and rooming house, dormitory and community residence, residential superintendent dwelling, public house, or government-subsidized leasing arrangement. If the tenancy being terminated falls into any of the aforementioned categories, the landlord should seek legal advice before serving the notice to quit.
Step 2 – Serve Eviction Notice
There isn’t a specific manner in which an eviction notice must be served. The best option is to hand-deliver the notice to the tenant in the presence of a disinterested witness. If personal service is not possible, the notice may instead be sent by certified mail (return receipt requested) or left with another resident of the dwelling. Regardless of the chosen method of service, the landlord should obtain evidence that the notice was actually received by the tenant. Otherwise, inadequate service may be used by the tenant as a defense during the eviction trial.
Step 3 – Fill Out Summons and Complaint
If the tenant fails to comply with the eviction notice before the notice period expires, the landlord will need to obtain a Summons and Complaint from a clerk of the district court. This document isn’t available online and will need to be purchased at the district court where the property is located. However, a Sample Summons and Complaint has been provided for reference. After purchasing the Summons and Complaint, the court will set a trial date for the eviction lawsuit.
Step 4 – Serve Summons and Complaint
Once the Summons and Complaint has been purchased and filled out, the landlord must hire the sheriff or a constable to serve a copy on the tenant. After the copy is served on the tenant, a return of service will be provided to the landlord by the sheriff/constable. The landlord must visit the courthouse once again to file the original Summons and Complaint, the return of service, and a copy of the notice to quit. A fee will be charged upon filing.
Step 5 – Tenant’s Response to Eviction
After the tenant receives notice of the eviction hearing, they will need to file an Answer with the court to state the reasons why they shouldn’t be evicted and, in some cases, to submit a counterclaim against the landlord. A copy of the completed Answer must be delivered to the landlord by mail or in person. The tenant may also file a Discovery which forces the landlord to answer questions regarding the case. If a Discovery is filed, the eviction trial will be postponed by two (2) weeks.
Step 6 – Attend Eviction Trial
The eviction trial will allow both parties to present their cases before the court. Should either party fail to attend the trial, a default judgment may be awarded to the other. The landlord can improve their chances of victory if they bring a copy of the written lease (if applicable), the notice to quit and eviction paperwork, proof of non-payment, and any witnesses that might support their case.
Step 7 – Eviction Judgment
If the landlord is awarded an eviction judgment, the tenant will be given ten (10) days to file an appeal. The court may issue a stay of execution if the tenant is disabled or over sixty (60), in which case the eviction may be postponed for six (6) to twelve (12) months. If the tenant doesn’t file an appeal within ten (10) days after the eviction judgment, and if they are not eligible for a stay of execution, the landlord must request an execution order that will authorize the sheriff or a constable to evict the tenant from the premises.
Step 8 – Eviction Date
The execution order must be served on the tenant by the sheriff or a constable within three (3) months of the eviction judgment. Once the order is served, the tenant will have forty-eight (48) hours to vacate. If the tenant continues to occupy the premises after forty-eight (48) hours, the sheriff/constable may remove the individual from the property.
- Signing: Tenant
- Summary Process Answer
- Signing: Tenant
- Sample Summons and Complaint Form
- Signing: Landlord and Officer