The process for starting an eviction in Massachusetts generally requires the sending of a notice to quit and the proper filing of a court summons. The ins and outs of these two requirements are much more detailed than can be covered in a single blog post. The use of an experienced landlord-tenant attorney for an eviction is highly recommended.
Here, I want to focus on a few things that landlords can do on their own to assist with starting an eviction case against a tenant.
Address Any Condition Issues in the Rental Unit
Landlords have a responsibility for maintaining a rental unit. Prior to starting an eviction, a landlord needs to ensure that any health or safety issues in the rental unit are addressed. This needs to be done regardless of the reasons why the landlord wishes to evict a tenant.
Starting an eviction when there are unaddressed conditions in a rental unit can be problematic, and sometimes fatal to the case. Best to address these matters before an eviction case begins.
Gather Together All Documents Relevant to the Tenancy
In an eviction case, like any other civil action, tenants have the right to request discovery, which is information relevant to the claims and defenses raised in the case. These generally consist of written questions and document requests.
A landlord can make this process easier (and save themselves legal fees) by getting together this information in advance. A good resource for this are the sample discovery requests that tenants often use in Massachusetts eviction cases. Not every one of these requests, of course, will be relevant to every eviction case. These sample requests, however, can give landlords an idea of what information will be required as part of their eviction case.
Speak to An Attorney Before Accepting Rent During an Eviction
Landlords need to be careful about accepting rent during an eviction. In certain cases, accepting rent can reinstate a tenancy and delay an eviction. Accepting rent in such cases needs to be done in a specific manner, which an attorney can assist with.
Be Professional With Your Tenants and Manage Expectations
Even under the best circumstances, evictions can be stressful. Landlords, however, should always remain professional with tenants. While it may be tempting to express anger with a tenant during an eviction, rarely do such confrontations help in the long run. Assume everything you say or write to a tenant will go before a judge or jury. Often, it is a good idea to let your attorney be the one to speak directly with your tenants during such a case.
Landlords also need to manage their expectations for an eviction. Evicting a tenant will not happen overnight, and there are parts of the process that cannot be avoided. Educate yourself about the eviction process, and be realistic about your goals in one of these cases.
If you need assistance with a landlord-tenant matter, contact me for a consultation.