Early Eviction Cases in Massachusetts

Most are familiar with the general idea that a landlord can evict a tenant for staying past a lease term, not paying rent, or violating a lease requirement. Massachusetts, however, has a lesser known law available for early eviction cases, where a tenant has stated their unwillingess to leave at the end of a lease.

When Can a Landlord Do an Early Eviction Case?

The law on early evictions, found in G.L. c. 239, ยง 1A, states, in part, the following:

A lessor of land or tenements used for residential purposes may bring an action under this chapter to recover possession thereof before the determination of the lease by its own limitation, subject to the following conditions and restrictions. The tenancy of the premises at issue shall have been created for at least six months duration by a written lease in which a specific termination date is designated, a copy of which, signed by all parties, shall be annexed to the summons. No such action may be initiated before the latest date permitted by the lease for either party to notify the other of his intention to renew or extend the rental agreement, or in any case before thirty days before the designated termination date of the tenancy. The person bringing the action shall notify all defendants by registered mail that he has done so, which notification shall be mailed not later than twenty-four hours after the action is initiated. The person bringing the action shall demonstrate substantial grounds upon which the court could reasonably conclude that the defendant is likely to continue in possession of the premises at issue without right after the designated termination date, which grounds shall be set forth in the writ.

Importantly, this type of eviction is available only for a tenant with a written lease of at least six months. This eviction option cannot be used against a month-to-month tenant (“tenancy at will”).

A landlord must have “substantial grounds” to believe that the tenant will not leave before the end of their lease. I am not aware of any direct cases that define what this is, but I imagine most courts will want to see that a landlord has spoken (or attempted to speak) with a tenant before starting an eviction.

As I read the law, no notice to quit is required for such an eviction. It is, however, good practice for a landlord to provide a tenant with as much advance notice of their intention to not renew a lease, to avoid any surprises to the tenants. Landlords should also check the terms of the lease itself, for any particular requirements on this matter.

This law does, however, require a landlord to notify the tenants by registered mail after filing such a case.

Practical Implications

Early eviction cases are a good option for tenants who have expressed no interest in leaving at the end of a lease. Rather than force a landlord to wait until the end of the lease term, a landlord can start a case sooner and expedite the process.

Landlords should be mindful, however, that the eviction process is not quick . . . even in one of these early eviction cases. Although such a case allows a landlord to file an eviction before a lease ends, such a case will still take time (especially during COVID-19).

Conclusion

For assistance with an eviction matter, contact me for a consultation.