Massachusetts eviction law allows a tenant to ask the court to delay their move-out from the property. This is commonly referred to as a “stay of execution.” An execution is the formal court document that permits a landlord to obtain possession of the premises through the sheriff or constable. Eviction law allows a tenant to request that the court delay issuing this document and, consequently, postpone the eviction.
As written, the law really only applies to “no-fault evictions”, where the tenant is being forced to leave without cause (as opposed to an eviction based on non-payment of rent or violation of the lease). However, under the right circumstances, the court may be inclined to stay an execution for tenants in other circumstances, if they can show good cause. The law allows the court to stay the execution for up to six months (twelve months for a party over sixty years of age).
A stay of execution can be difficult to obtain and is left entirely to the discretion of the judge. The judge will likely want to see good reasons for granting a stay, and proof that the tenant is making a real effort to find new housing. Tenants have a better chance of getting a stay of execution if they are willing to pay rent for the time they wish to remain in the premises.
Landlords need to remember that tenants have this option of seeking a stay of execution in an eviction case, and should require the tenant to waive this right as part of any settlement agreement in one of these cases.