Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Created August 1, 2003

The first and most important thing to know about eviction law in Massachusetts is that a landlord cannot make a tenant move out of her home without going to court first. No matter what a landlord or a landlord's lawyer says, a landlord must go to court and obtain permission from a judge to evict a tenant.

If you get an eviction notice and you want to stay in your apartment or you want more time to find a new place, you must respond quickly to any documents you receive. Depending on your situation and whether the landlord has followed the law, you may be able to prevent the eviction. If you cannot prevent it, you still may be able to get more time to find a new place to live. If your landlord has violated certain laws, you may be entitled to money to compensate you for these violations.

If you do not defend yourself in an eviction case, chances are a judge will order you to move out and you will have missed the opportunity to raise any legal claims or negotiate an agreement about how to resolve the issues.

Chapter 13 of Legal Tactics: Tenants Rights in Private Housing is an Adobe Acrobat file that tells you how the eviction process works, what rights you have throughout the process, and how you can prevent or delay an eviction. The Eviction Timeline will give you a timeline of what to expect if you receive a 30-day or 14-day eviction notice.

This chapter does not take the place of having a lawyer or provide you with every detail involving evictions. But it will, along with forms at the end of the book, give you enough information so that you can protect your rights.

If you are facing an eviction or have been evicted it is also important to understand the storage law so that you can make sure your property is protected or stored where you want it stored.

Produced by Maureen E. McDonagh and Julia E. Devanthéry
Last Updated May 2017
Eviction Timeline
Notice to Quit Tenant receives notice to quit, ending or terminating the tenancy. Tenant does not have to move out by the date on the notice.
Tenancy Terminates If tenant receives 14-day notice to quit, tenancy terminates 14 days
after receipt, unless tenant revives the tenancy by paying. If tenant receives
30-day (or rental period) notice to quit, check to make sure
the notice is properly done.
After tenancy terminates Service of Summons and Complaint Landlord can have summons and complaint served, but only after tenancy is terminated.
7 - 30 days
after service
of summons
and complaint
Entry Date
Landlord can file (enter) complaint in court. Must file it on
a Monday at least 7 days, but no more than 30 days, after she
has summons and complaint served on tenant.
On entry date Tenant’s Motion to Dismiss
Tenant may file a motion to dismiss the case on the entry date
or with the answer.
7 days
after entry date
Tenant’s Answer and Discovery Due
(Answer Date)
Landlord and court must receive answer and discovery forms 7 days after the entry date (which is the Monday after the entry date).
3 - 9 days
after answer date
Pretrial Motion to Dismiss Hearing
Tenant may have motion to dismiss heard on the original trial date
if she has not done so sooner. (Housing court usually allows these motions at any point.)
3 - 9 days
after answer date
Original Trial Date
Eviction trial held unless tenant files discovery form or transfer form
10 days
after landlord receives discovery
Landlord’s Discovery Response Due
Landlord’s response to discovery due 10 days after tenant serves discovery.
5 days
after landlord’s failure to respond
Tenant’s Motion to Compel Discovery
Tenant must serve motion to compel discovery on landlord within
5 business days after the landlord’s failure to respond or inadequate response to discovery.
17 - 23 days
after answer date
Rescheduled Trial Date
Eviction trial automatically rescheduled to this date if tenant files discovery forms.
1 day
after trial
Entry of Judgment
Court can enter judgment the day after the court makes its decision.
10 days
after judgment
Tenant or landlord must appeal within 10 days from entry of judgment.
11 days
after judgment
Landlord can get an execution from court and give to sheriff
or constable to serve.
1 day
after execution
Notice of Eviction
Sheriff can serve the execution (48-hour notice of eviction) on tenant.
2 days
after execution
Sheriff Can Move Tenant Out
Sheriff can move tenant out 48 hours after landlord gets the execution.

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