Housing Court Specialist Status Conferences

Housing Court Specialist Status Conferences are one of the many changes to the court system during and after the pandemic. In this post, I’ll discuss the roles of these conferences in the Massachusetts eviction process.

Eviction Overview

In Massachusetts (like most states), an eviction is required to obtain possession of rental property. Landlords can never force a tenant out of a rental property without a court order. Doing so will get a landlord into enormous trouble.

Evictions (known formally as “summary process” in Massachusetts) are often filed in Housing Court or District Court. Before the pandemic, each Housing Court had designated days for hearing cases, and it was up to each party to decide the day they wanted their case heard.

The pandemic changed that. Housing Court now requires that, as the first step in an eviction case, parties participate in mandatory mediation, referred to as a “Housing Court Status Conference.” These mediations are similarly known as “Tier 1”, per the Housing Court standing orders.

Housing Court Specialist Status Conferences

Housing Court Specialist Status Conferences are held by Zoom. While most of us have become tired of remote meetings during the pandemic, Zoom mediations are incredibly helpful for out-of-state landlords and others who cannot easily travel to court.

The purpose of these mediations is to resolve eviction cases without trial. Because most evictions do settle (as they should), mandatory mediation, in my opinion, is an excellent addition to the Housing Court process. I’ve seen mediation save landlords and tenants enormous amounts of time and money.

Mediations are conducted by Housing Court Specialists, who are trained court mediators with specific knowledge of the eviction process. If the parties can resolve the case, the mediator helps them draft a settlement agreement, which becomes a court order. If the parties do not settle, the matter goes to trial.

Preparing for Mediation

What’s the biggest mistake landlords and tenants make with mediation? In my opinion: not properly preparing for it. Mediation is not a trial; parties need not present evidence or give closing arguments. Parties should, however, consider what they are willing to settle for and, importantly, what concessions they are willing to make as part of an agreement.

It is a common saying that, for mediation to work, each party needs to give up something in a settlement. Prior preparation for mediation goes a long way in making such a settlement possible.

Final Thoughts

Contact me for a consultation if you need assistance with a Housing Court matter.