Commercial Evictions in Massachusetts: Five Things to Know
Commercial evictions in Massachusetts concern property that is not used for human habitation, such as a store or office space. Similar to residential property, an owner of commercial property must bring a formal court action (known as “summary process”) for obtaining possession from a tenant.
This is where the similarities between commercial and residential evictions end. Read on for important information that one should know about commercial evictions in Massachusetts.
No Right to Housing Court for a Commercial Eviction Case
Housing Court is a popular forum for resolving residential property disputes in Massachusetts. A residential landlord is permitted to file an eviction in Housing Court, and if an eviction is filed in another court, either party (tenant or landlord) has the right to transfer it to Housing Court.
Housing Court, however, does not have jurisdiction over commercial evictions in Massachusetts. These cases must be brought in District Court or Superior Court.
Commercial Property Is Often Rented “As Is”, Which Limits the Available Defenses in a Commercial Eviction Case
Residential property comes with an implied warranty of habitability. A landlord can only rent property that is fit for human habitation: a responsibility that cannot be waived. Residential property must also comply with the state sanitary code.
Commercial property, in contrast can (and most often does) get rented “as is.” In such a case, the tenant is generally responsible for the care and maintenance of the property. As such, problems arising from conditions in the rental property are limited as defenses to commercial evictions in Massachusetts.
Commercial Leases Often Require the Waiver of a Jury Demand
Tenants in residential evictions have the right to a jury trial. Most commercial evictions require tenants to waive their right to a jury trial if an eviction case ever becomes necessary. As a result, commercial evictions typically move at a much faster pace than residential cases.
Counterclaims Are Not Allowed in Commercial Evictions
Counterclaims are not allowed in commercial evictions. As such, a tenant defending a commercial eviction is much more limited in the potential defenses they can raise in such a proceeding.
Commercial tenants, however, are free to file a separate lawsuit against a landlord and ask that it be consolidated with the eviction.
Massachusetts’s Security Deposit Law Does Not Apply to Commercial Tenancies
As I’ve written, Massachusetts’s security deposit law is a trap for unwary residential landlords, and can result in steep penalties if violated. This law, however, does not apply to commercial tenancies. A commercial landlord can accept a security deposit without having to comply with the numerous requirements of the residential security deposit law.
Massachusetts’s security deposit law often comes up in residential evictions, and is a problem if the landlord has not followed this law. For commercial evictions, however, this law does not apply.
That’s not to say that a commercial landlord can do whatever they want with a security deposit. Chapter 93A, which prohibits unfair and deceptive business practices, can apply if a commercial landlord acts unreasonably with a security deposit.
If you need assistance with commercial evictions in Massachusetts, contact me for a consultation.