Landlord Tenant Law
Landlord Tenant Lawyer in Taunton MA | Serving Bristol and Plymouth Counties in MA
How does the eviction process work? What is a Notice to Quit?
Eviction is the court process used by a landlord to force a tenant to leave and move out of an apartment. A landlord cannot force a tenant to leave their apartment without a court order, even if back rent is owed. The first step to removing a tenant from an apartment is to provide the tenant a “Notice to Quit”. A Notice to Quit is a formal letter saying the tenant must leave the apartment by a certain date or else the landlord can go to Housing Court to force an eviction. The Notice to Quit will indicate the reasons a landlord wants at tenant to leave (unpaid rent, violating terms of the agreement). If a tenant has not left by the date stated on the Notice to Quit, the Landlord has the right to go to Housing Court and ask to for the tenant to be evicted. In Massachusetts, only a court order can force the tenant to move after a hearing before the Housing Court. If a tenant is unable or unwilling to leave the apartment, they have the right to be heard in Housing Court and may challenge the eviction. Landlords and tenants may use services of a lawyer for these Housing Court hearings to make their case.
What if rent is not paid? Can a tenant be evicted if they do not pay rent?
When tenants cannot pay rent, a landlord may give them a written document known as a “Notice to Quit for Nonpayment of Rent” or “14-Day Notice to Quit for Nonpayment of Rent”. Landlords must provide a formal written Notice To Quit with the appropriate information clearly stated, therefore it is important for a lawyer to review the document to both ensure a landlord has the correct information, or clarify the situation to a tenant. In Massachusetts, if a tenant has not been served with this type of notice within the past year, they have the right to pay any back-rent and current rent within 10 days (from the day the Notice to Quit was received). If all monies are paid up, the Landlord cannot go to the Housing Court to evict the tenant. If money is not received, the landlord may file with the Court for an eviction hearing 14 days after providing the tenant their Notice to Quit to ask the Court for to evict the tenant. Only a court order can force the tenant to move out with a proper eviction notice. During the hearing, a tenant has the right to be heard if they are unable or unwilling to leave the apartment, and in some cases may challenge or prolong the eviction process. Landlords and tenants both have the right to a lawyer to represent them to make their case during these Housing Court hearing.
What if a tenant violates the terms of rental agreement?
If a tenant breaks the terms of the lease or exhibits prohibited behaviors that are not allowed per the lease (such as having pets, smoking or disagreements with other tenants), the landlord may issue what is known as a “Notice to Quit for Cause” or “14-Day Notice to Quit for Cause” to force the tenant to move due to something they have done. This allows the landlord to file with the Courts to schedule a hearing to have the tenant evicted 14 days after giving them the Notice. Tenants may seek legal counsel to understand what defenses may be available in these situations and landlords may also use the service of a lawyer during this process to show evidence of the prohibited behavior and protect their rights and property.
Can a landlord ask a tenant to move out if my rent has been paid and I have not violated the rental agreement? What are the reasons a landlord evict someone?
For tenants on a month to month tenancy or whose lease has ended, the Landlord may issue what is known as a Notice to Quit or 30-Day Notice to Quit. This allows the landlord to file with the Courts for a hearing to have the tenant evicted 30 days after giving them the Notice. In this case, the Landlord does not need to provide any reason besides the fact that they want to use the property. This could be halve the apartment empty to sell it, to use it themselves, or to rent it to a new tenant. Tenants who cannot move out by the date stated in the notice to quit may choose to be represented by a lawyer to defend the tenant and press for more time to leave, or request the court stop the eviction outright. Landlords may hire a lawyer during this process to protect their rights and property, and business.
Can my Landlord change the locks or turn off my utilities to force me to move out?
No. This type of behavior is what is known as a “self help eviction” and they are illegal, even if you owe your landlord money. If your landlord changes the locks or shuts off your heat, electric, or water, it is important to speak to lawyer immediately to protect your rights and property.
Why is a written lease or rental agreement contract advisable?
As a technical matter, a writing is not needed to create a tenancy. As a matter of fact, situations in which someone lives with another for some, often short period of time, is enough to create a tenancy. As such it is always advisable for people who live and reside in properties or apartments they do not own (renters or tenants) should sign a contract with the owner (or landlord), known as a lease or rental agreement. A lease or a rental agreement is a contract between both parties that outlines terms of the arrangement and protects both landlord and tenant. The contract may include conditions such as length of the lease agreement, how much the rental will cost, frequency of payments, due dates the payment is required by, and may even stipulate the amount of late fees or other charges that can be incurred (such as property damage or deposit). The contract may also list rules of the property, such as policies that prohibit certain pets, smoking or violence. This type of agreement stands as a clear outline of expectations so all rental transactions can be understood and transparent. A lawyer may be used to write or review the contract by either the landlord or the tenant.
When to contact a lawyer to solve Landlord-Tenant Rental Disputes and Evictions?
It is always best to speak to a lawyer as soon as you receive the notice to quit. This give your lawyer ample time to come with a strategy to stop the eviction, delay the eviction to give you enough time to leave on your own terms, or possibly file actions against your landlord for violating the law.
The area of eviction law is very technical and having an experienced attorney to guide you can give you the best result possible. Massachusetts eviction law and rights for tenants, requiring landlords to act with all legal ramifications in mind. To protect the welfare of renters and tenants, they have a right to legal counsel to strategize the best possible outcomes, be it delaying or stopping an eviction, or pursuing further legal action should a landlord violate the law. A lawyer can be helpful for both sides of a dispute or request to vacate in order to navigate the process, which can be more complex than anticipated. Landlords often hire legal attorneys to ensure guidelines are followed to swiftly solve landlord-tenant rental disputes and defend their rights, property and business.
Eric P. DiMarzio
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As a Landlord Tenant attorney in Taunton, MA, serving Bristol, Plymouth, and Worcester Counties, I am here to guide you through every step of the process in Superior Court or District Court. Contact me for a free consultation and let me show you what passionate, personalized, legal service can do for you.
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