How to Evict a Tenant (Process)
An eviction order can be sought by the landlord when a tenant fails to pay rent, violates the lease, or continues to occupy the residence after their tenancy has been terminated. Some landlords may even be able to evict the tenant without cause depending on the nature of the rental agreement. In almost all cases, the tenant must receive a written notice outlining the eviction information including the reason for the eviction and the period in which they must either cure the lease or vacate (some contracts cannot be cured). If the tenant refuses to comply with the notice, the landlord may initiate the legal proceedings by filing an eviction lawsuit (a.k.a. “Summary Process”) with the court.
Step 1 – Prepare an Eviction Notice for the Tenant
The landlord will need to notify the tenant of the reason the lease is being terminated, the period in which they must vacate, and whether or not their tenancy can be retained by paying rent or correcting any non-compliances. All of this information must be outlined by the landlord in a Notice to Quit form.
Landlords must begin by filling out the Notice to Quit form that matches the reason for their eviction.
14-Day Notice to Pay or Quit – To evict a tenant for non-payment of rent (fixed-term tenancies only). The tenant must pay their rent or move out within fourteen (14) days.
10/14-Day Notice to Pay or Quit – To evict for non-payment of rent (month-to-month tenancies only). The tenant must pay rent within ten (10) days or vacate within fourteen (14) days.
Notice to Comply or Quit – To evict a tenant who is non-complaint with their lease terms. Tenants must cure their non-compliances or vacate within the prescribed timeframe.
30-Day Notice to Quit – For use by the landlord or tenant when terminating a month-to-month rental agreement. The tenant must vacate within either thirty (30) days or the interval between rent payments, whichever is greater.
Tenants who commit illegal actions on the premise of the rental unit may be evicted without notice (see Ch. 139 § 19 for acts which constitute unlawful activity).
Step 2 – Deliver the Notice to Quit
It is the landlord’s duty to ensure that the Notice to Quit is served to the tenant. No State laws dictate how the notice must be delivered. Therefore, the landlord may give it to the tenant personally or leave it with another responsible resident of the dwelling. The landlord may find it best to have a disinterested third-party witness the transaction.
Step 3 – Prepare a Summons and Complaint
The tenant will be required to adhere to the landlord’s terms before the notice period expires. Depending on the circumstance, the tenant must either pay their rent, cure their non-compliances (e.g., repair damages, remove pets) or vacate the dwelling. If the tenant fails to comply with the terms after the notice period expires, the landlord can take the issue to court by filing a Summons and Complaint form. The Summons and Complaint must be purchased from the clerk’s office in the county where the residence is located.
While preparing the Summons and Complaint, there are four (4) dates that should be taken into consideration by the landlord.
Service Date – The date the form is to be served to the tenant. The earliest date can be the day after the notice period expires.
Entry Date – The date the landlord plans to file the eviction lawsuit with the court. This date cannot be less than seven (7) days or more than thirty (30) days following the service date. Furthermore, the entry date must be on a Monday unless it is a legal holiday (if Monday is a holiday, the entry date may be the following Tuesday).
Answer Date – The date the tenant must file a written response with the court.
Trial Date – The date the landlord and tenant must appear in court. This date will most likely be ten (10) days following the entry date.
The landlord can contact a clerk of the court for assistance in determining the dates mentioned above.
Step 4 – Serve the Summons and Complaint
A copy of the Summons and Complaint must be served to the tenant before it is filed with the court. The landlord must contact the sheriff’s department to arrange for the sheriff or a constable to serve the paper to the tenant (a fee will be required). If the server was unable to personally deliver the paper to the tenant but instead left a copy of the form at the rental unit, the landlord will be required to send an additional copy to the tenant by first-class mail. Once the form has been delivered, a certificate of service should be completed by the server and returned to the landlord.
Step 5 – Submit Filings
Next, the landlord must submit their filings at the housing court in the county where the rented property is located. If the county does not have a housing court, the landlord may file at the district court or the Boston Municipal Court (BMC). Included in the filing package must be the Summons and Complaint, a copy of the Notice to Quit, and the certificate of service. All items must be submitted in person or online via the State’s electronic filing portal. Lastly, the landlord must pay the filing fee ($120 in the housing court, $180 in the district court or BMC). Additional charges may apply.
Step 6 – Court Proceedings
Both parties must appear in court on the date of the eviction trial. The judge will listen to the cases presented by both sides before making a final judgment. In certain situations, the judgment may not be issued until after the trial has concluded. If the landlord wins the lawsuit and is awarded the eviction, the tenant will be given a ten (10) day period in which they can appeal the decision.
If the tenant does not appeal the judgment within ten (10) days, an Execution form must be requested by the landlord at the clerk’s office. The landlord must bring the Execution document to the sheriff’s department and ask to have it served to the tenant the following day. If by the next day the tenant has yet to vacate, the sheriff or a constable will visit the residence and remove the tenant from the premises.