Massachusetts Eviction Laws and Eviction Process

A reference of Massachusetts Eviction Laws, and steps of the Massachusetts eviction process for landlords and renters, updated 2021.

  • What are the reasons for eviction under Massachusetts eviction laws?
  • What notice do Massachusetts eviction laws require that landlords provide tenants before starting the eviction process?
    • For evictions based on non-payment of rent, Massachusetts requires 15-days notice. The notice must state that if the tenant has not received an eviction notice for non-payment of rent within the past 12 months, the tenant can avoid eviction by paying the past due amount of rent within 10 days of receiving the notice. If this provision is not included and the tenant had not received a similar notice within the last 12 months, the tenant will have until the day the answer for an eviction lawsuit is due to pay the rent to avoid eviction. (Mass. Gen. Laws. Ch.140 §32J(1) and (Mass. Gen. Laws. Ch.186 §12). 
    • For evictions based on non-compliance, the landlord must provide 30-days notice of noncompliance of any substantial violation of any enforceable rule of the rental agreement. (Section 32J(2)).
    • A landlord in Massachusetts can evict a tenant for violating any law or ordinance that protect the health or safety of other residents. The notice for this type of eviction is 30 days. (Mass. Gen. Laws. Ch.140 §32J(3)).
    • For evictions based on the tenant remaining in possession of the rental property after the expiration of the lease, the landlord must provide a 30-day notice to the tenant (Mass. Gen. Laws. Ch.186 §12).
  • Do Massachusetts eviction laws allow landlords to use “self-help eviction” methods, such as locking a tenant out of the rental unit or shutting off the utilities? 
    • No. Massachusetts law prohibits landlords from removing or excluding a tenant from the premises except for following the eviction laws. A landlord who violates this law can be required to pay three months’ rent or three times the tenant’s damages, including reasonable attorney’s fees. (Mass. Gen. Laws. Ch.186 §15F). 

Massachusetts Eviction Process: Step-by-Step

The Massachusetts eviction process involves the following steps: 

  1. Send the Appropriate Eviction Notice 

The landlord must deliver the appropriate eviction notice to the tenant. The notice must state how long the tenant has to move out or take corrective action, according to state law.

  1. File Legal Paperwork

After the requisite notice period has passed, the landlord can begin the official judicial proceeding. The landlord prepares a Summons and Complaint (a sample can be viewed here), The landlord must also pay the filing fee. 

  1.  Serve the Tenant

The landlord must legally serve the tenant with the court paperwork to notify them that they are taking legal action against them. The landlord is responsible for filing documentation with the court showing they complied with state law. 

  1. File Answer

The tenant must prepare a written answer to the Complaint and Summons if they wish to defend themselves. A sample answer can be found here

  1. File a Discovery

Before the hearing date, either party can file a discovery to view any documents and related evidence that might be used at court. 

  1. Attend the Hearing

The parties attend the hearing. If the tenant does not answer the complaint or the landlord receives a judgment against them, the landlord can obtain an execution 11 days after the judgment.

  1. Complete the Execution

The sheriff serves the execution. The tenant has 48 hours to move out before the sheriff will forcefully move the tenant. 

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