Getting served with an eviction notice can be a stressful experience. Tenants who receive one of these notices need to act quickly to protect their rights.
What is An Eviction Notice?
An eviction notice in Massachusetts is generally one of two things. To start an eviction, a landlord must send a tenant a notice to quit, informing the tenant that their tenancy is being terminated. These notices typically provide fourteen or thirty days notice to the tenant, depending on the reason for the eviction.
After a tenancy is terminated, a landlord must serve the tenant with an eviction summons. This is the official court notice that an eviction is beginning against a tenant, and is the eviction notice that a tenant needs to be most mindful of.
Important Dates in an Eviction Notice
An eviction summons contains a number of different dates, including an entry date, hearing date, and answer deadline. This last date, the answer deadline, is the most important date to keep in mind in responding to an eviction notice. This is the date by which the tenant must respond to the eviction notice, and state the reasons why the tenant believes he or she should not be evicted.
Under the rules for Massachusetts evictions, the answer must be received on the answer date. Unlike other types of court cases, mailing an answer on the answer deadline is not compliant with this deadline; the clerk’s office and the landlord must actually get the answer by this deadline. Failing to comply with this deadline puts you at risk of a default judgment (an automatic win for the landlord).
Filing An Answer and Request for Discovery
This response to an eviction notice is known as an answer. In an answer, the tenant is required to admit or deny each of the allegations made by the landlord against the tenant, and to list each of their defenses against the eviction. A tenant also has the option of bringing claims against the landlord, known as counterclaims. Common defenses and counterclaims in eviction cases include poor conditions in the rental unit, discrimination, and violation of the Massachusetts Security Deposit Law.
A tenant also has the right to request discovery from the landlord. Discovery is the process by which a tenant can ask a landlord written questions, which the landlord must answer under oath, and to request that the landlord produce all documents relevant to the case.
Speak With A Landlord/Tenant Attorney For Help in Responding to An Eviction Notice
If this process sounds confusing to you, you aren’t alone. Despite the availability of many landlord/tenant resources online, eviction cases can be complex and tricky. Tenants who have received an eviction notice should give serious thought to meeting with a landlord/tenant attorney for help with their case. Many tenants are surprised to learn that such services can be affordable and, most importantly, effective at getting you the results you need.