Evictions are one of the most costly issues a property owner encounters and, in Massachusetts, the law favors the tenants. In an effort to minimize the cost of a bad tenant, it is important that swift action is taken to get them out as quickly as possible. This document is designed to provide our clients with a realistic expectation of what the process of eviction looks like in Massachusetts, why it is always smart to get a stipulation agreement and what it takes to “forcibly remove” a tenant.
TIMELINE FOR STANDARD EVICTION
Step 1: 14-day notice – this gives the tenant 14-days to pay or vacate or the lease will be terminated. This notice MUST be served by constable to be used in housing court. Improper service or even a typo can result in your case being dismissed, and have you start from the beginning!.
Step 2: Work with an attorney to file a Summary Process Complaint. The tenant will be served with this complaint notifying them that a court date has been scheduled. This must be served via constable as well. This notice gives tenants an opportunity to respond to the complaint.
Step 3: Court – At housing court the tenant and attorney and a Nexus representative will meet with a mediator. Most commonly the mediator will help both parties to reach an agreement. It is always our goal to reach a fair agreement in mediation without having to hear the case before the judge. It is not uncommon for a judge to wait for a MONTH before issuing a decision and it is not uncommon for this decision to provide the tenant with additional time living in your apartment without paying.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE: We can only enter into an agreement in mediation if the tenant agrees to it. While in court, we must weigh our options and make concessions to provide the tenant with a situation they are willing to agree to. In some cases it makes sense to forgive some back rent or allow some extra time to move to get you, our clients, the best financial outcome we can.
IF YOUR TENANT DEFAULTS ON THE AGREEMENT
If the tenant misses a payment required by their judgement we will notify the attorney and the attorney will ask the court to issue an execution which a constable can use to get the tenant out. The execution is the legal document that states the tenant is trespassing.
In addition, if the tenant doesn’t move out when they agreed to move we will notify the attorney and the attorney will ask the court to issue an execution which a constable can use to get the tenant out.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR JUDGEMENT
We may agree to allow the tenant to make monthly payments in addition to their monthly rent and continue their tenancy under the guidelines of a stipulation agreement. If the issue is nonpayment of rent only, this is a great outcome for 3 reasons:
- Owners have the opportunity to recouperate some of the rent they lost while the tenant was not paying
- If the tenant misses a payment we can ask the court for an execution which will allow us to get them out within days.
- If the tenant makes the payments as agreed, owners avoid a turnover and get paid back what they’re owed including some of the court costs.
Alternatively, we might agree on a reasonable move out date and a judgement amount that the tenant will agree to pay back.
Another outcome is that we could agree to accept 3rd-party funds from a tenant preservation organization such as RAFT or HOMEBASE. These funds would be applied toward back rent and potentially, future rent. When we agree to accept 3rd-party funds we also will agree to a payment plan that will be enforced in the event that they do not qualify for funding. This payment plan works the same way as the stipulation agreement discussed previously.
Finally, if the landlord wants the tenant out as a primary objective we can agree on a move-out date.
In order for posession of the apartment to officially be transferred from the tenant to the owner the tenant must confirm that they have vacated. If the tenant is unreachable but their belongings are still in the apartment they must be removed by a constable and one of the two moving and storage companies in our area that are allowed to do this. When this happenes the landlord is required to store the items for at least three months.
The process through which the constable will levy the execution is as follows:
- Constable will serve a 48-hour notice letting the tenant know that there will be forcible removal if they are still occupying the unit after 48 hours.
- Constable will schedule a moving truck.
- Constable checks the night before to make sure the tenant is still there so the truck can be canceled if they have moved. The movers charge a $400 return truck fee if the truck is not canceled.
- The constable and moving company will enter the apartment and take an inventory of all items going to storage and they will load the truck and take the tenant’s items to a storage facility.