What Are My Rights?
- Only a judge can evict you, not your landlord.
- If you don't attend your court date, the judge may grant your landlord the eviction, even if you have a legal defense
- Although the landlord of a tenant at will or under lease can terminate the tenancy or raise the rent without reason, s/he cannot do so in response to your exercising your legal rights.
- A new higher rent cannot be imposed unless you either agree in writing to pay that rent or actually pay the higher rent at least once. Once you pay a higher rent, you will be considered to have entered into a new contract at the higher rent
If the landlord tries to raise the rent, terminate or otherwise change your tenancy within six months of when you contact the Board of Health, join a tenants' organization, or exercise other legal rights, the landlord's action will be considered retaliation against you, unless the landlord can prove otherwise.
The landlord will have the burden to prove that your tenancy was changed for reasons other than your having exercised your rights.
- If the tenancy is subsidized (Section 8, or subsidized by your local Housing Authority), you may have different rights and responsibilities than those summarized in this section. Contact the agency that provided the subsidy.
Full Know Your Rights Resources for MA Renters
Federal/CDC Eviction Ban
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has ordered the suspension of physical evictions for non-payment of rent until December 31, 2020. If you meet all 5 points of criteria below, you can submit the CDC declaration form to your landlord to protect yourself from eviction and to use as a legal tool in court.
You may qualify if you:
- Used “best efforts” to look for government assistance for rent or housing.
- Meet one of these income requirements:
- You will earn less than $99,000 this year OR if filing with a partner or household, you will earn less than $198,000.
- You were not required to pay taxes in 2019.
- You qualified for an income stimulus check earlier this year.
- Are unable to make your full rent or housing payment because of a loss of income or large medical expense.
- Are doing your best to make timely partial rental payments. If you haven’t already been paying your landlord, offer a partial rent payment that is affordable to you when you give your landlord the CDC notice.
- Would either become homeless or enter a shared living space (like living with a family member or staying at a shelter) if evicted.
How to prevent eviction using the CDC ban:
- Ask for help with rent!
- Keep paying as much rent as you can.
- If you haven’t been paying your landlord, offer a partial rent payment that is affordable to you when you give your landlord the CDC form.
- Print, sign and date, then submit the CDC declaration form to your landlord or property management company (whoever you pay rent to) at:
- Tip: Is there more than one person on your lease? Make sure everyone on the lease fills out their own form.
- Take a picture of the signed form and then give your landlord the signed form.
- Tip: Make sure to keep a copy of the form(s) before you give it to your landlord.
If your landlord tries to evict you or remove your belongings during the COVID-19 emergency, call the Office of Housing Stability (OHS) at 617-625-6600 ext. 2581.
If your landlord violates your rights during the COVID-19 pandemic, report the case to the Office of the MA Attorney General:
** These policies do not “cancel” rent or mortgage debt. You should pay as much of your rent or
mortgage as you can. Financial help is available –see the “FREE Local Resources” section.
How Do Evictions Work?
- First, the landlord must give you a written Notice to Quit. The Notice must state:
Why the landlord is trying to end your tenancy;
The date they want your tenancy to end. Only after that date can a landlord file a case in court.
- The landlord must then file a Summons and Complaint in court and give you a copy before your first court date. They can only get the court order to evict you if they win the case.
- All of these rules apply even if you don’t have a written lease!
What Can I Do?
- If you have received a Notice to Quit, don’t panic. This is only the beginning of the process, not the end. You have time. Contact the legal resources listed on the “get help” tab of this website. Start collecting evidence to prepare for the legal battle.
- If you have received a Summons and Com-plaint, make sure you go to court and file a legal document called an ‘Answer’ as soon as possible. The Answer allows you to tell your side of the story. Again, you should try to get legal help to complete it. Depending on the facts of your case, you might be able to use one or more of the defenses listed below. You should also demand information and documents from your landlord through Discovery Requests. You are entitled to know exactly why the landlord wants to evict you.
- If it turns out you missed your first court date, it’s still not over! You might be eligible to file a late Answer. Get legal help as soon as possible.
Legal Defenses Against Eviction
Do you have pests? Does the plumbing leak? Are any locks broken? Does cold air seep in through the windows? If your apartment has problems, and your landlord knows or should know about them, you are owed for the loss in value of the home. You can call the Inspectional Services Department at 617-635-5300 for more information about the sanitary code or to request an inspection.
Is your landlord trying to get rid of you because you complained, organized a tenant’s union, or other-wise exercised your rights?
Is your landlord singling you out because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, age, or another protected identity?
Interference with the quiet enjoyment of your home
Does the landlord barge into your apartment in non-emergency situations without warning you? Did they change the locks on you, or put your stuff out onto the street?