In order to legally evict a tenant, a landlord must follow specific procedures. A landlord must:
- Properly terminate a tenancy, and
- Get permission from a court to legally take possession of your apartment.
Evictions are not easy and can be expensive if a landlord fails to follow the law and a tenant knows and enforces her rights.1 If you familiarize yourself with the steps in the eviction process and are persistent, you may be able to achieve certain goals, such as staying in your apartment longer or being awarded money for the landlord's violations of the law.
A tenancy under a lease generally lasts until the end date stated in the lease. If you have a lease and your landlord wants to evict you before your lease has ended, she may evict you only for:
- Violating your lease, if the lease states that the landlord may evict for such a violation,
- Not paying rent, or
- Using the apartment for illegal purposes.2
If your lease says that your landlord can evict without going to court, this part of your lease is illegal. Also, if you have a lease, a landlord cannot increase your rent during the lease period and then evict you for not paying the amount of the increase. Your rent is locked in for the entire term of your lease (unless the lease has a valid "tax escalator" clause, which allows your landlord to increase your rent in certain limited situations). For more about tax escalator clauses, see Chapter 5: Rents .
If you do not have a lease and are a tenant at will, a landlord does not have to state any reason for wanting to evict you. She must, however, send you a proper notice to quit to terminate your tenancy.3 See the section in this chapter called Receiving Proper Notice. To figure out whether you are a tenant at will, see Chapter 4: What Kind of Tenancy Do You Have.
1 . The usual costs of an eviction include: (a) the fee to file the case in court, which is $195 in District Court and $135 in Housing Court; (b) fees for hiring a constable or deputy sheriff to serve court papers on the tenant, G.L. c. 262, §8(a); (c) attorney's fees; and (d) fees for the constable to actually evict the tenant and for movers to move and store the tenant's household furnishings, which may run $2,000 or more.
2 . G.L. c. 139, §19.
3 Your landlord may not have to give you a notice to quit if she is claiming that you used your home for certain illegal activities. G.L. c. 139, §19. She must still bring you to court for a hearing before moving you out.
Produced by Faye B. Rachlin Created July 2008