Summary Process 101
Evictions in Massachusetts are known as “summary process.” The goal of summary process is found in Rule 1 of the Uniform Rules of Summary Process: “the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every summary process action.” In other words, summary process cases are intended to move at a much faster pace than a typical civil action. While it can often take years for a civil lawsuit to go to trial, summary process cases are intended to be tried only weeks after the filing date.
To begin a summary process case, the landlord must serve the tenant(s) with a notice to quit, which explains the reason why the tenant is being evicted (more on this later). This notice of quit must provide a date by which the tenancy is terminated. After this date, if the tenant has not left the premises, the landlord can begin the case.
The start of a summary process case is opposite that of a typical civil lawsuit. In a typical lawsuit, the plaintiff first files the lawsuit and then serves it on the defendants. In summary process, the plaintiff/landlord begins the case by serving the defendant/tenant with a summary process summons, which must be obtained from the court. On this summons, the plaintiff/landlord selects the date that he will file the lawsuit; called the entry date. After the summons is served on the defendant/tenant, the landlord can file the lawsuit, which must be done at least seven days (but no more than thirty) from the date the summons was served (click here for a useful timeline of a summary process case). From there, the case begins.
Confused? You aren’t the only one; summary process can be a complicated. Given the stress and heartache these cases can cause, I recommend seeking legal assistance if you are involved in one of these cases. Contact me for a consultation.