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Evictions

Produced by Peter Benjamin
Reviewed May 2017

1. Reasons an Owner Can Evict You

Like any other tenant, you cannot be evicted without your park owner first going to court. And, before a park owner can go to court, she must first end or terminate the tenancy of a mobile home park tenant. For more see Terminating the Tenancy.

Under state law, a mobile home park tenant has special protections that limit the park owner's ability to end a tenancy and proceed to court. A park owner can only evict a mobile home tenant for the following reasons:

  • Non-payment of rent;
  • Substantial violation of any "enforceable" rule of the mobile home park;
  • Violation of any laws or ordinances that protect the health or safety of other park tenants;
  • When a park owner claims that she is discontinuing the use of the land, or part of it, as a mobile home park.54

If you fail to pay your rent, or if you violate a rule or health and safety law, you are entitled to an opportunity to correct or "cure" the problem within 15 days from the date the park owner mailed a notice terminating your tenancy. If a park owner fails to notify a park tenant about you about right to cure, the notice may be invalid and the park owner may not be permitted to bring an eviction case against you. For more see Terminating Your Tenancy.

a. Substantial violation of a rule

Whether you have committed a "substantial violation" of a rule depends on the particular circumstances of your case. For example, if your park has a rule about keeping your lot free of trash and you fail to remove your trash for a period of time because of an illness or disability, so long as you correct the problem as soon as you can and your trash does not harm other tenants, a court will probably not find that you substantially violated the rule. Of course, if the park owner fails to make her rules using the procedure described in Park Rules, the rule is not enforceable and you cannot be evicted even if you violate it in a substantial way.

b. Rent increases

In Massachusetts, a rental agreement is treated like a contract between a park owner and a tenant. While a park owner and tenant both have the right to end their "contract" by ending the tenancy, a park owner does not have the right to change your obligations under your agreement by increasing your rent unless you agree to the increase.

In order to increase your rent, a park owner must end your tenancy and offer you a new tenancy with a higher rent. The law permits the park owner to do this by sending you a rent increase notice and a 30-day notice to terminate the tenancy at the same time. If the tenant does not agree to the higher rent, the tenancy will end when the 30-day period expires, and the park owner can then begin an eviction proceeding. If the tenant wants to continue her tenancy, she can either pay the rent increase or try to negotiate a lower increase.

2. Terminating the Tenancy

To end or terminate a tenancy, a park owner must give you a written eviction notice.55 Mobile home laws tell the park owner how and when she can deliver the notice, what the notice must say, and what you can do to protect yourself after you have received a notice.

  • The park owner must deliver a written "Notice of Termination" to the park tenant by certified or registered mail.
  • The notice must be mailed at least 30 days before the date the park owner intends to end your tenancy.
  • The notice must specify the reason or reasons for the termination in the notice, including whether the eviction is based on non-payment of rent, or whether it is based on a violation of a provision of your lease or a rule of the park. If the park owner sends you an eviction notice based on a lease or rule violation, the notice should tell you what lease provision or rule you violated, when you violated it, and how you violated it.
  • The notice must inform the park tenant that eviction can be avoided if the tenant pays the overdue rent or "cures" or corrects lease or rule violations within 15 days from the date of the mailing of the notice. If a park owner fails to notify a park tenant about her right to cure, the notice may be invalid and the park owner may not be permitted to bring an eviction case against you.

If the purpose of the notice is to increase your rent, it should tell you the new amount of the rent and the date the rent increase is to take effect.

3. Defending an Eviction in Court

Once the notice of termination expires, a park owner can file an eviction case in court under a procedure called a summary process action.

Summary process cases against mobile home tenants proceed according to the same rules as an eviction case in any other residential tenant-park owner situation. Park tenants have defenses, counterclaims, and legal remedies, like other tenants. For more see Chapter 12: Evictions.

In every summary process case, it is always a park owner's responsibility to prove that the tenant committed the specific violation stated in the notice of termination. If the park owner cannot prove that you did the things she claims, you should not be evicted.

Park tenants can also defend themselves in an eviction case based on the special rights they have under mobile home laws.

a. Defense Based on "Cure"

If your eviction is based on non-payment of rent, a rule violation, or a violation of a health and safety law, and you pay the overdue rent or correct the lease or rule violation within 20 days of the date of the notice, your tenancy cannot be terminated and you cannot be evicted.56

If you correct the lease or rule violation late—that is, after the 20 days have passed—the park owner must bring an eviction action against you in court within 30 days of the date of the last violation. If she does not start the court case by that time, it must be dismissed. There is an exception to this time limit if you violate the same rule again within six months of receiving the first eviction notice. In this situation, the law allows the park owner to start the eviction case against you without another notice of termination. There is no limitation on the number of times a park tenant can cure when the cause of the termination is non-payment of rent.57

b. Park Owner Fails to Send a Proper Notice of Termination

If your park owner failed to send you a proper notice of termination, you can use this as a defense if your case goes to court. Check to see if any of the elements required in a notice of termination are missing (see the section in this chapter called Terminating the Tenancy). For example, if the park owner did not mail you the notice by certified mail, the notice does not describe the particular rule violation, or the notice does not include the information about your right to cure, that is, to pay your back rent or correct a rule violation, the notice is invalid.

If the notice is defective, the court should dismiss the eviction case. This means that the park owner must begin the process of evicting you all over again by serving you proper notice.

c. Rule Violations and Other Problems Left Out of the Notice of Termination

Once you get to court, your park owner cannot ask the judge to evict you based on rule violations that were not included in her original notice of termination. If the park owner attempts to tell the court about violations that were not included in the notice of termination, you should object. Immediately stand up and tell the judge that this evidence should not be admitted, or considered, because it does not relate to any of the violations in the notice.

If your park owner is trying to evict you because she wants to discontinue use of her property as a mobile home park, you can defend against an eviction if the park owner did not follow the proper procedures for discontinuation described Park Closings and Sales sections of this chapter. Failure to obtain a proper discontinuance permit where one is required and failure to properly notify tenants of a park closing are examples of mistakes that can stop your eviction—and even prevent or postpone the closing.

d. Park Owner Tries to Evict Early During Discontinuance Period

Tenants are able to prevent evictions for discontinuance with three other defenses.

First, you cannot be evicted during the two-year notice period the park owner must give you before the change of use takes effect.58 If you find yourself in this situation, you can show the judge your notice of discontinuance. The judge should then dismiss the park owner's case.

Second, you can also stop your eviction if your lease or rental agreement gives you the right to live at the park during and even after the change-of-use period. If, for example, you have a four-year lease with your park owner and the notice of the change of use expires in the third year of the lease, the law says that the park owner cannot evict you, at least until your rental agreement expires at the end of the fourth year.59 Again, if you find yourself in this situation, you can show the judge your lease and notice of discontinuance. The judge should then dismiss the park owner's case, even if the notice period has ended.

Third, when a park tenant purchased her mobile home from the owner and at the same time the owner provided the site for the home, the owner cannot evict the tenant for a period of five years from the date of the sale.60

These defenses do not, however, prevent a park owner from evicting you when the park owner proves any of the other grounds for eviction, such as non-payment of rent or violations of rules or law.

e. No "Good Faith" Closing as Required By Law

When a mobile home park owner is evicting tenants because she is closing all or part of the mobile home park, she must show that the discontinuance has been undertaken in "good faith."61 This means that the action is not based on some ulterior motive with the intention of getting around other provisions of the law that protect mobile home tenants.

To prove a good faith closing, the owner must introduce evidence showing some pre-existing plan or a business reason for closing the park. Such evidence could include a discontinuance permit, an application for a loan to build buildings on the land or lot, or subdivision plans filed with the local city or town.

Even if the park owner presents this kind of evidence to the court, a park tenant or group of tenants can still try to prove in court through documents or testimony that the owner has no "good faith" plan to close the park or that portion of it on which the tenant's home is sited. For example, if the real reason the park owner wants to evict you or other park tenants is that you complained to the local Board of Health about bad conditions, you can show the judge copies of your letters of complaint or reports of Sanitary Code violations.62

f. Violation of Local Rent Control or Eviction Ordinance

If your town or city has a local mobile home rent control or eviction regulation ordinance, there may be rules that require park owners to obtain a certificate of eviction from the local regulatory board prior to starting to evict park tenants. Check your local regulations to see whether this type of certificate is required.

If a certificate of eviction is required, local rules usually also require the park owner to apply for the certificate from the board before she can evict you. If the owner makes the application, standard rules usually give you the right to a written notice that the application was made, and a right to argue against the issuance of a certificate of eviction at a special hearing held before the rent board. If you want to stop your eviction at this stage of the case, you must request a hearing before the board.

If the board does not grant the park owner's certificate of eviction, or if the park owner fails to seek a certificate of eviction from the board, the tenant can raise this as a defense in court and the judge should dismiss the eviction.

If, after a hearing, the board gives the park owner permission to evict, the park owner must still provide you with a proper notice of termination, have "good cause" to evict, and still ask a court for permission to evict you. A park tenant can still contest the park owner's case in court and is not bound by the findings of the board.

A similar argument applies if your park owner is evicting you because she wants to raise your rent. In a community with rent control, if the owner failed to get approval for her rent increase from the local rent board, the increase, and therefore the eviction, are illegal and the eviction case should be dismissed.

4. After Judgment

If a judge gives a park owner permission to evict you, you have basically the same rights as other residential tenants.63 These include the rights to:

  • Appeal the eviction.64
  • Obtain a delay in being evicted (a stay of execution of up to six months, or 12 months if the tenant is disabled or over the age of 65).65

Under the law, a court can delay an eviction only when the tenancy has been terminated through no fault of the tenant. This means that park tenants being evicted for violations of enforceable rules or laws may not be legally eligible for such delays.66 Tenants being evicted due to discontinuance of all or part of a mobile home park, however, should be eligible. In addition, mobile home tenants who are evicted for non-payment of rent may have an argument that they are eligible for a stay of execution provided that they can convince the court that their failure to pay rent was not intentional or that it resulted from causes beyond their control and that they are willing to pay for the use and occupation of the site during any period of delay that the court gives to them.

You also have 120 days after the eviction to sell your mobile home. During that time, you are responsible for rent and for maintaining the home and lot, and the owner has a lien on the mobile home for rent, costs of maintenance, and any other amounts owing under the court judgment. During the 120 days, no one may reside in the home, and the former resident must make good faith efforts to sell the home.67

Endnotes

54 . G.L. c. 140, §32J.

55 . G.L. c. 140, §32J.

56 . The difference in the law between the 15-day cure period in the termination notice and the 20-day cure period required before a park owner begins an eviction case is somewhat confusing. The statute appears to give tenants the extra five days to account for any delay caused by receiving the eviction notice by certified mail. A tenant should always receive the benefit of the more generous 20-day time period.

57 . G.L. c. 140, §32J, ¶3(2), (3). Compare G.L. c. 186, §12, where the "right to cure" in tenancies at will is limited to once in every 12-month period. Under the law, when a mobile home tenant dies, the tenancy is automatically continued for a period of one year from the date of death or the date a Probate Court appoints an administrator or executor (now called a “personal representative”) of the deceased tenant's estate. G.L. c. 140, §32J.

58 . G.L. c. 140, §32L(8).

59 . G.L. c. 140, §32J(4).

60 . G.L. c. 140, §32J(4).

61 . G.L. c. 140, §32J(4).

62 . This would also constitute a defense of retaliation under G.L. c. 140, §32N, not only stopping your eviction, but also entitling you to collect damages equal to five months' rent or the actual damages sustained by the tenant, whichever is greater, under that law.

63 . See Chapter 12: Evictions for a more detailed discussion of these post-judgment remedies.

64 . G.L. c. 239, §5.

65 . G.L. c. 239, §9.

66 . G.L. c. 239, §9. excepts from the delay provisions evictions where the tenancy has been "terminated" "by a notice to quit for nonpayment of rent as provided in section twelve of chapter one hundred and eighty-six… ." It can be argued that this provision has no applicability to mobile home tenants since G.L. c. 186, §12 provides that tenancies at will may be "terminated" upon a 14-day notice where there has been non-payment of rent. Mobile home park owners are not permitted to use this procedure to "terminate" for non-payment of rent, but must instead follow the provisions of G.L. c. 140, §32J, which requires a 30-day notice. Accordingly, if a mobile home tenant can demonstrate that she meets all of the other requirements of G.L. c. 239, §§9-13, the tenant may be able to obtain a stay in the non-payment eviction.

67 . G.L. c. 140, §32J.

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