Landlords with bad tenants are often in need of immediate resolutions to their problems. While a landlord must bring an eviction case against a tenant to get a tenant out of a rental unit, a landlord has other options for dealing with a bad tenant prior to the conclusion of an eviction case. A “bad tenant” is one I define as someone who is (a) not paying rent or (2) damaging the rental premise.
One of the most common reasons for evicting a tenant is non-payment of rent. Although an eviction case is intended to proceed quickly, many times, the final resolution of these cases can be delayed due to the trial court’s schedule or a tenant’s request for a jury trial.
In such a scenario, where the trial date is not imminent, a landlord can (and should) request that the court order the tenant to escrow rent as the court case proceeds. The rationale is straightforward: if the tenant is living at the rental unit, it is reasonable for them to pay something as the eviction case proceeds.
The law on rent escrow is divided, and requires a convincing argument to obtain this relief. Simply arguing for a rent escrow, without citing the proper authority, will likely not be enough to convince a court on this point.
Another important tool for landlords with bad tenants is seeking injunctive relief. Injunctive relief is a court order requiring or preventing a party from doing something. For example, if a tenant is purposely damaging a rental unit, a landlord is permitted to ask for an injunction prohibiting the tenant from doing so. A tenant who disregards such a court order can be subject to contempt of court and other harsh penalties.
An important reminder for landlords with bad tenants. A landlord cannot, under any circumstances, use “self-help” methods to evict or punish a tenant. Changing an apartment’s locks or shutting off the utilities is highly illegal in Massachusetts and can result not only in large penalties from the court, but criminal punishment as well.
Don’t take this chance! Contact an experienced landlord/tenant attorney when dealing with bad tenants.