Help with Rent for Survivors of Domestic Violence

What if I cannot pay my rent and I am going to be evicted?

In most cases, even if you owe your landlord back rent, your landlord cannot put you out of your apartment without taking you to court. You do not have to leave your apartment right away just because your landlord says you must.

The landlord first has to send you a letter called a Notice to Quit. You do not have to leave just because you get a Notice to Quit.

After the date on the Notice to Quit passes, if your landlord wants to evict you, your landlord has to send you a summons and complaint to come into Housing Court or District Court.

In court, a judge will decide if you have to leave, and when. The judge might decide that you do not have to leave. The judge might even decide that your landlord owes you money if your landlord has not acted properly under the law. If the judge says you have to leave, you can still ask for time before you have to move out. Even if the judge doesn't give you more time, you have at least 10 days after the court date before the landlord can hire a sheriff to start evicting you. At that point, you have the right to a 48 hour notice before the sheriff can put you out of your apartment.

If you get a Notice to Quit, call your local legal services program for advice on your case. Some legal services offices run clinics, or classes, which help you to fight evictions.


Only a judge can decide whether your landlord can evict you. You do not have to leave before a judge says you must.

RAFT is a program that might help you with paying your back rent.

If you end up needing shelter, you can call Safelink for information about battered women's shelters or apply for Emergency Assistance at your local DTA office.

You can read more about your about the laws that protect you against eviction and /housing discrimination in MassLegalHelp’s Domestic Violence and Housing section and Evictions in MassLegalHelp’s Housing section.

Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services updated and revised Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated May 2010

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