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Facing an Eviction

Produced by Maureen E. McDonagh and Julia E. Devanthéry
Reviewed May 2017

Steps a Landlord Must Take to Evict You

Your landlord can only make you move if they evict you. To evict you, they must get permission from a court. They cannot lock you out, throw your things out on the street, or harass you. If your landlord does not take the right steps, you can stop the eviction.

See COVID-19 and Housing

Your landlord must make sure you get a Notice to Quit

The Notice tells you to leave in a certain number of days. You do not have to move out by the date on a Notice to Quit, but do not ignore it. The number of days depends on the reason for eviction.

  • 14-Day Notice: You owe rent.
  • 30-Day Notice: If the landlord is evicting you for no reason, or for a reason that they say is your fault.
  • No Notice: Your landlord accuses you of illegal activity in your apartment. Get a lawyer before you say anything in court.

If your landlord is evicting you for non-payment of rent

Your landlord must send you a special form with the Notice to Quit in non-payment of rent cases. This form tells you what help you can get to stop an eviction.

If your landlord does not give you this form, it is against the law for them to file a non-payment eviction case in court. You may be able to stop the eviction.

Your landlord must serve you with a Summary Process Summons and Complaint

This court form tells you your landlord is taking you to court and there will be a hearing. You will get a second notice that lists the time, date, and location of the hearing. Your Answer is due three days before your "first court event."

Steps You Can Take to Respond to the Eviction

Every eviction is different. Your options depend on your situation. All options have strict deadlines. If you miss the deadline, you lose the option.

Protect Yourself Get Help

  • Try to get legal help.
  • You may be able to get free legal help.
  • If you cannot get legal help, you will need to represent yourself. Use the Self-Help Forms and Letters.
  • Some courts have volunteer lawyers who can help you fill out forms or tell you about programs in your area that may be able to help you. Ask the clerk how to find the volunteer lawyers.
  • Pay rent: If the eviction is about rent you owe, you can pay the rent and stop the eviction, most of the time. If you pay before a landlord starts a court case, you can avoid paying the landlord’s court costs: $135 in Housing Court, $195 in District Court. For deadlines see Evictions - Paying the Rent Owed.
  • File your Answer with the court: If you get a Summons and Complaint, file a legal form called an Answer. Use this form to explain to the court why you should not be evicted and any problems you had with your landlord. The deadline for filing your Answer is three business days before your "first court event."  Do not miss the deadline. Use The Answer (Booklet 3). Or use Greater Boston Legal Services' free self-help guided interview, MADE, that asks you questions and helps you complete the Answer you need to file at court.  If you missed your Answer date, file a Motion to Allow Late Answer with the court as soon as you can.
  • Transfer your case: If your case is in District Court you have the right to transfer your case to Housing Court, if there is one in your area. Housing Courts provide more support. You can file a transfer form up until the day before your case is in District Court. Use the Transfer (Booklet 5).  
  • Get important documents ready: Before your hearing, collect the documents you need to prove your case, like rent receipts or pictures of bad conditions. Use the What to Take to Court Checklist in Representing Yourself in an Eviction Case(Booklet 1).
  • Arrange for childcare and time-off from work the day you go to court. It could take all day.
  • Go to court: If you do not go to your court hearing, you will lose your case automatically. This is called default.
  • Ask the judge to dismiss the case: If your landlord has not followed the right steps, you may be able to get your case dismissed. For reasons why your case could be dismissed see Evictions - Motion to Dismiss.
  • Negotiate an agreement: Most landlords and tenants resolve evictions through agreements. Be careful when you negotiate an Agreement. Only sign an Agreement if you understand it and you can do what it says. To protect yourself get Negotiating a Settlement of Your Case (Booklet 10).
  • Fight the eviction: You may be able to prevent the eviction. Use the Answer to list the reasons you should not be evicted. Include any complaints you have about your landlord. Do not miss the deadline to file your Answer. The deadline is on the Summons and Complaint. Use The Answer (Booklet 3).
  • Ask for time to prepare for your case: When you file your Answer form, you can also file court papers that ask your landlord for information to help you prepare your case. The court will automatically postpone your case by 2 weeks. This is called discovery. Use Discovery (Booklet 4).
  • Ask a judge for time to move: If a judge makes an order to evict you, you may ask the judge for more time to stay in your apartment while you look for another place to live. If the judge agrees to give you more time, they order a Stay of Execution. They are more likely to order a Stay of Execution if you have started looking for a new place. Use Stay (Booklet 8).
  • Appeal the court’s decision: At the end of the court hearing, the judge will make a decision, called a judgment. If you do not agree with the judge’s decision and you want to fight it, you have 10 days to file an appeal.

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