Eviction for Landlords in Massachusetts
An eviction is the process of obtaining a court order to remove a tenant and other occupants from a rental property. The landlord or owner can evict someone from his or her property after receiving a court order. The tenant, who is renting the property from the landlord, and any other occupants, can be evicted.
In Massachusetts, it is illegal for a landlord, on his or her own, to remove tenants and occupants and their belongings from a rented apartment, room, or home without first getting a court order. The court case that a landlord files to get a court order is called summary process (the legal term for an eviction).
The court order that allows a landlord to evict a tenant is called an execution. Even after a landlord gets an execution, only a sheriff or constable can move a tenant and his or her belongings out of the property.
1. Can I sue my tenant for money damages in a summary process (eviction) case?
In a summary process case, the landlord can sue the tenant for unpaid rent, even if the tenancy was terminated for a reason other than nonpayment of rent. The summons and complaint form includes a section for the landlord to specify the rent that is owed. However, the landlord cannot include a claim for other types of damages, such as property damage or unpaid utilities, in a summary process case. The landlord can file a separate civil or small claims case to recover damages other than unpaid rent.
2. Can I sue my tenant for unpaid rent without filing a summary process case?
Yes. The landlord can sue the tenant for unpaid rent (or for other damages) in either a civil or a small claims case. The landlord may consider taking such actions if the tenant owes rent and has moved out before the landlord files an eviction case. The procedures for civil actions are governed by the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure. Normally, it is advisable to consult an attorney before suing a tenant for money damages in a civil action. On the other hand, the small claims procedure is designed to provide an informal process for litigants who wish to proceed without an attorney. The procedures for small claims action are governed by the Massachusetts Uniform Small Claims Rules. There is a $7,000 ceiling (exclusive of punitive damages) on the amount of money damages that can be recovered in a small claims case. Thus, if a tenant owes $9,000 in rent, a small claims judgment will be limited to $7,000 and the $2,000 portion of the unpaid rent debt will be waived.
Disclaimer: The Contents of this web site is for informational purposes and should not be considered legal advice. This web page may be considered advertising under Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules, and it does not establish an attorney-client relationship
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