Evicting commercial tenants is a different process than a residential eviction, which are more common in Massachusetts. Although commercial evictions often occur through the same court procedure, the underlining law is different.
With the existing eviction moratorium expected to expire in several weeks, commercial evictions will likely resume soon and, given the economic repercussions of COVID-19, be heavily litigated in the months ahead.
Filing a Commercial Eviction Case
Commercial eviction cases are generally through the same eviction process as residential cases, known as summary process. Summary process cases move at a much quicker pace than other civil cases.
Such cases are generally filed in District Court, but may be filed in Superior Court if the owed rent is at least $25,000.
Importantly, commercial evictions may not be brought in Housing Court.
Under Massachusetts law, business entities (ex. corporations, limited liability companies) and trusts must be represented by an attorney in court (except for small claims cases).
As most commercial landlords exist as a business entity or trust, it is important to have an attorney handling the case. Courts can and will dismiss an eviction if a non-attorney attempts to handle it on their own.
Fewer Defenses for Commercial Tenants
Compared to residential evictions, there are far fewer defenses available for tenants in commercial evictions . The law allows landlords to make commercial tenants largely responsible for the care and maintenance of the rented premises. Many laws protecting residential tenants, such as the onerous security deposit law, do not apply to commercial tenancies.
Evicting a commercial tenant must be done with care and with knowledge of the applicable laws and summary process rules. If you need assistance with such a matter, contact me for a consultation.