The Massachusetts Landlord/Tenant Law Blog

The Massachusetts Landlord/Tenant Law Blog: February 2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Guide for Evicting a Tenant in Massachusetts

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I recently published a guide on on "How to Evict a Tenant in Massachusetts."  As I state in the guide, evicting a tenant generally requires a lawyer's help, but this guide has advice on what can be done to prepare such a case in advance of hiring a lawyer.  I hope this guide is a help to those who need it.

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Lessons from a Landlord/Tenant Judge

Lesson's From a Massachusetts Landlord/Tenant Judge

One of the benefits of being a landlord/tenant lawyer is the opportunity to attend court frequently and see real cases in action.  One advantage of this is seeing how different attorney and judges approach these cases and the issues that arise in them, especially with evictions.  Recently, while waiting for a hearing, I had an opportunity to listen to a judge who was presiding over a hearing between a landlord attorney and a pro se party (a husband and wife representing themselves in court.  The judge took a great deal of time explaining how a landlord/tenant case works and offered many pointers that I thought would be useful to share here:

  • Jury v. Bench Trial:  Parties have a right to a jury trial in an eviction case.  However, just because parties have this right does not mean they should always use it.  A jury trial requires parties to strictly follow the rules of civil procedure and evidence, which can be a real challenge for a non-lawyer.  If a party wants a jury trial, they should give serious consideration to hiring a landlord/tenant lawyer for their case.
  • Timelines in an Eviction Case:  Eviction cases ("summary process") move at a faster pace than typical civil cases.  Even if a party decides to represent themselves pro se, they need to be prepared to handle court and filing deadlines. 
  • Settlement:  As said by the judge, "litigation is like getting naked in front of a room of strangers."  A court case is never easy for any party, and requires an enormous amount of time and costs for all parties.  As explained best by this judge, a court case requires you to go before six unknown people, who have to hear your story and make a judgment.  As said best by the judge: a settlement will almost always make everyone happier than a decision by the court—a sentiment I fully agree with.

If you find yourself as a party in an eviction case and need legal assistance, contact me for a consultation

Thursday, February 5, 2015

FAQ: I Had a Lease With My Tenant, Which Has Now Expired. The Tenant Continues to Pay Monthly Rent. Is the Lease Still in Effect?

Question:   I had a lease with my tenant, which has now expired. The tenant continues to pay monthly rent.  Is the lease still in effect?

Answer:  Yes, to an extent.  If a tenant continues to pay rent after the expiration of the lease (and the landlord accepts it) the tenant becomes a tenant-at-will (aka "month-to-month" tenant).  The prior terms of the lease remain in effect.  The major change is that the landlord may end the landlord/tenant relationship with the tenant by giving proper notice.  The landlord must give the tenant a minimum of thirty days’ notice prior to bringing an eviction (if the tenant pays rent on a longer interval than a month, such as every two months, than the notice period must be for this length of time). 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Use-and-Occupancy Payments in Eviction Cases

"Use-and-occupancy" is a common request in landlord/tenant cases, where the tenant is residing in the rental property without paying rent to the landlord while the eviction case is ongoing.  Use-and-occupancy payments are "rent" that the tenant pays for the duration of the case.  If granted, the court will order the tenant to make monetary payments into an escrow account.  These funds are set aside and no party is permitted to touch them until the case is resolved.  

While landlords often request use-and-occupancy during an eviction case, few obtain this form of relief.  A landlord can certainty obtain a monetary judgment against a tenant after the case is over, if the landlord wins.  It becomes tougher, however, for a landlord to obtain use-and-occupancy payments before a case is concluded.  Massachusetts eviction law does not expressly allow for use-and-occupancy payments before an eviction is over, and many judges are reluctant to grant this relief.

Landlords who are trying to obtain use-and-occupancy during a landlord/tenant case need to make a strong case for a court to permit this form of relief.  A court can sometimes be persuaded to allow use-and-occupancy payments through a preliminary injunction if a landlord can show that it will suffer irreparable harm if the tenants pay no rent through the duration of the case.  This, however, is a tough argument to make.

If a landlord cannot obtain use-and-occupancy payments, another option for a landlord in this scenario is to request that the court schedule the trial as soon as possible, so as to avoid delaying the case. Sometimes a court can be pursuaded to move up a trial if one party demonstrates a real need for a quick resolution to the matter. 

Are you in need of legal assistance for a landlord/tenant case? Contact me for a consultation.  


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