Massachusetts Landlord Tenant Law - Click here to return to US Landlord
State of Massachusetts Eviction Law
Chapter 186: Section 11. Determination of lease for nonpayment of rent.
Section 11. Upon the neglect or refusal to pay the rent due under a written lease, fourteen days' notice to quit,
given in writing by the landlord to the tenant, shall be sufficient to determine the lease, unless the tenant, on
or before the day the answer is due, in an action by the landlord to recover possession of the premises, pays
or tenders to the landlord or to his attorney all rent then due, with interest and costs of suit. If the neglect or
refusal to pay the rent due was caused by a failure or delay of the federal government, the commonwealth or
any municipality, or any departments, agencies or authorities thereof, in the mailing or delivery of any
subsistence or rental payment, check or voucher other than a salary payment to either the tenant or the
landlord, the court in any such action shall continue the hearing not less than seven days in order to furnish
notice of such action to the appropriate agency and shall, if all rent due with interest and costs of suit has
been tendered to the landlord within such time, treat the tenancy as not having been terminated.
Chapter 186: Section 11A. Termination of lease for nonpayment of rent.
Section 11A. Upon the neglect or refusal by the tenant to pay the rent due under a written lease of premises
for other than dwelling purposes, the landlord shall be entitled to terminate the lease either (i) in accordance
with the provisions of the lease or (ii) in the absence of such lease provisions, by at least fourteen days notice
to quit, given in writing to the tenant. If a landlord terminates the lease by at least fourteen days notice
pursuant to clause (ii) of the preceding sentence, the tenant shall be entitled to cure on or before the day the
answer is due in any action by the landlord to recover possession of the premises, by paying or tendering to
the landlord or to his attorney all rent then due, with interest and costs of such action. The rights to cure
provided herein, shall apply only to termination pursuant to clause (ii) and shall not apply to termination in
accordance with the provisions of the lease. (Added by 1987, 381.)
Chapter 186: Section 12. Notice to determine estate at will.
Section 12. Estates at will may be determined by either party by three months' notice in writing for that
purpose given to the other party; and, if the rent reserved is payable at periods of less than three months, the
time of such notice shall be sufficient if it is equal to the interval between the days of payment or thirty days,
whichever is longer. Such written notice may include an offer to establish a new tenancy for the same
premises on terms different from that of the tenancy being terminated and the validity of such written notice
shall not be affected by the inclusion of such offer. In case of neglect or refusal to pay the rent due from a
tenant at will, fourteen days' notice to quit, given in writing by the landlord to the tenant, shall be sufficient
to determine the tenancy; provided, that the tenancy of a tenant who has not received a similar notice from
the landlord within the twelve months next preceding the receipt of such notice shall not be determined if the
tenant, within ten days after the receipt thereof, pays or tenders to the landlord, the landlord's attorney, or the
person to whom the tenant customarily pays rent, the full amount of any rent due. Every notice to determine
an estate at will for nonpayment of rent shall contain the following notification to the tenant: "If you have
not received a notice to quit for nonpayment of rent within the last twelve months, you have a right to
prevent termination of your tenancy by paying or tendering to your landlord, your landlord's attorney or the
person to whom you customarily pay your rent the full amount of rent due within ten days after your receipt
of this notice." If any notice to determine an estate at will for nonpayment of rent shall fail to contain such
notification, the time within which the tenant receiving the notice would be entitled to pay or tender rent
pursuant to this section shall be extended to the day the answer is due in any action by the landlord to
recover possession of the premises. Failure to include such notice shall not otherwise affect the validity of
the said notice. If the neglect or refusal to pay the rent due was caused by a failure or delay of the federal
government, the commonwealth or any municipality, or any departments, agencies or authorities thereof, in
the mailing or delivery of any subsistence or rental payment, check or voucher other than a salary payment to
either the tenant or the landlord, the court in any action for possession shall continue the hearing not less
than seven days in order to furnish notice of such action to the appropriate agency and shall, if all rent due
with interest and costs of suit has been tendered to the landlord within such time, treat the tenancy as not
having been terminated.
Chapter 186: Section 13. Recovery of possession after termination of tenancy at will.
Section 13. Whenever a tenancy at will of premises occupied for dwelling purposes, other than a room or
rooms in a hotel, is terminated, without fault of the tenant, either by operation of law or by act of the
landlord, except as provided in section twelve, no action to recover possession of the premises shall be
brought, nor shall the tenant be dispossessed, until after the expiration of a period, equal to the interval
between the days on which the rent reserved is payable or thirty days, whichever is longer, from the time
when the tenant receives notice in writing of such termination; but such tenant shall be liable to pay rent for
such time during the said period as he occupies or retains the premises, at the same rate as theretofore
payable by him while a tenant at will; provided, that in the case of a rooming house, an action to recover
possession of premises occupied for dwelling purposes may be brought seven days after written notice if the
rent is payable on either a weekly or daily basis. A tenancy at will of property occupied for dwelling purposes
shall not be terminated by operation of law by the conveyance, transfer or leasing of the premises by the
owner or landlord thereof.
Chapter 239: Section 1A. Land or tenements used for residential purposes; action by lessor under this
chapter to recover possession; conditions and restrictions.
Section 1A. 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. No execution for possession may issue in any
such action before the day next following the designated termination date of the tenancy. Any action brought
pursuant to this section shall conform to and be governed by the provisions of this chapter in all other
respects and no remedy or procedure otherwise available to any party, including any stay of execution which
the court has discretion to allow, shall be denied solely because the action was brought pursuant to this
Chapter 239: Section 2. Jurisdiction; venue; form of writ.
Section 2. Such person may bring an action in the superior court in the county, or in the district court in the
judicial district, in which the land lies, by a writ in the form of an original summons to the defendant to
answer to the claim of the plaintiff that the defendant is in possession of the land or tenements in question,
describing them, which he holds unlawfully against the right of the plaintiff, and, if rent and use and
occupation is claimed, that the defendant owed rent and use and occupation in the amount stated; provided,
however, subject to the approval of the supreme judicial court, the judge of the housing court of the city of
Boston shall determine the form of said writ in said actions brought in his court. Failure to claim rent and use
and occupation in said action shall not bar a subsequent action therefor.
Chapter 239: Section 3. Judgment and execution; costs; appeal.
Section 3. Except as hereinafter provided, if the court finds that the plaintiff is entitled to possession, he shall
have judgment and execution for possession and costs, and, if rent is claimed as provided in section two and
found due, the judgment and execution shall include the amount of the award. If the plaintiff becomes
nonsuit or fails to prove his right to possession, the defendant shall have judgment and execution for costs.
At least forty-eight hours prior to serving or levying upon an execution issued on a judgment for the plaintiff
for possession of land or tenements rented or leased for dwelling purposes, the officer serving or levying
upon the execution shall give the defendant written notice that at a specified date and time he will serve or
levy upon the execution and that at that time he will physically remove the defendant and his personal
possessions from the premises if the defendant has not prior to that time vacated the premises voluntarily.
Said notice shall contain the signature, full name, full business address and business telephone number of
the officer, and the name of the court and the docket number of the action, and shall be served in the same
manner as the summary process summons and complaint.
No execution for possession of premises rented or leased for dwelling purposes shall be served or levied
upon after five o'clock p.m. or before nine o'clock a.m., nor on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.
If the underlying money judgment in any summary process action for non-payment of rent in premises rented
or leased for dwelling purposes has been fully satisfied, together with any use and occupancy accruing since
the date of judgment, the plaintiff shall be barred from levying on any execution for possession that has
issued and shall return the execution to the court fully satisfied. If no execution has issued, the plaintiff shall
notify the court of the satisfaction of judgment and no execution shall issue thereafter. If the underlying
money judgment has been fully satisfied and use and occupancy fully paid, the defendant shall be considered
a lawful tenant and may enforce this right through judicial process, including injunctions barring the
issuance of or levying upon the execution and motions to supersede or recall the execution. Notwithstanding
this paragraph, the plaintiff shall not be required to accept full satisfaction of the money judgment. Any
refusal by the plaintiff to accept full satisfaction of the money judgment under this paragraph shall not be a
bar to the enforcement of said judgment in any lawful manner. (Amended by 1987, 357, Sec. 2.)
In case of appeal from the district court on either or both issues involved or on any counterclaim, the appeal
shall be to the superior court under section five of this chapter and section ninety-seven of chapter two
hundred and thirty-one.
Chapter 239: Section 4. Storage of property removed; liens and enforcement.
Section 4. If an officer, serving an execution issued on a judgment for the plaintiff for possession of land or
tenements, removes personal property, belonging to a person other than the plaintiff, from the land or
tenements and places it upon the sidewalk, street or way on which the land or tenements abut, he may
forthwith, and before the expiration of the time limited in any ordinance or by-law for the removal of
obstructions in the street, remove such property and cause it to be stored for the benefit of the owners
thereof. Whoever accepts the same on storage from such officer shall have a lien thereon for reasonable
storage fees and for reasonable expenses of removing it to the place of storage, but such lien shall not be
enforced by sale of the property until it has been kept on storage for at least six months. If the owner of such
property is present and claims it when it is so removed from the land or tenements, the officer shall not
remove and store it, and his act of placing it upon the sidewalk or street shall be deemed the act of the owner,
who alone shall be held to answer therefor.
Chapter 239: Section 5. Appeal; bond; actions thereon; waiver; appeal of waiver or periodic payments.
Section 5. If either party appeals from a judgment of the superior court, a housing court, or a district court in
an action under this chapter, including a judgment on a counterclaim, such party shall file a notice of appeal
with said court within ten days after the entry of said judgment. No execution upon a judgment rendered
pursuant to section three shall issue until the expiration of ten days after the entry of said judgment.
In an appeal of a judgment of a district court, other than an appeal governed by the provisions of the next
paragraph, the appellant shall, before any appeal under this section is allowed, file in the district court a bond
payable to the appellee in the penal sum of one hundred dollars, with such surety or sureties as proved by the
court, or secured by cash or its equivalent deposited with the clerk, conditioned to satisfy any judgment for
costs which may be entered against such appellant in the superior court within thirty days after the entry
Except as provided in section six, the defendant shall, before any appeal under this section is allowed from a
judgment of the superior court, a housing court, or a district court, rendered for the plaintiff for the
possession of the land or tenements demanded in a case in which the plaintiff continues at the time of
establishment of bond to seek to recover possession, give bond in such sum as the court orders, payable to
the plaintiff, with sufficient surety or sureties approved by the court, or secured by cash or its equivalent
deposited with the clerk, in a reasonable amount to be fixed by the court. In an appeal from a judgment of a
district court such bond shall be conditioned to enter the action in the superior court at the return day next
after the appeal is taken. In an appeal from a judgment of the superior court or a housing court such bond
filed shall be conditioned to enter the action in the appeals court. Appeals from judgments of the superior
court or a housing court shall otherwise be governed by the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure.
Such bond shall also be conditioned to pay to the plaintiff, if final judgment is in plaintiff's favor, all rent
accrued at the date of the bond, all intervening rent, and all damage and loss which the plaintiff may sustain
by the withholding of possession of the land or tenements demanded and by any injury done thereto during
such withholding, with all costs, until delivery of possession thereof to such plaintiff.
In appeals from a district court the deposit shall be transmitted by the clerk of the district court with the
papers to the clerk of the superior court, who shall thereupon deliver a receipt therefor to such clerk of the
district court, but in such appeals from a judgment of the superior court or a housing court the deposit shall
not be transmitted to the appeals court unless specifically requested by said appeals court. The superior court
or a housing court may give directions as to the manner of keeping such deposit. Upon final judgment for the
plaintiff, all money then due to him may be recovered in an action on the bond provided for in the third
paragraph of this section.
A party may make a motion to waive the appeal bond provided for in this section if he is indigent as provided
in section twenty-seven A of chapter two hundred and sixty-one. Such motion shall, together with a notice of
appeal and any supporting affidavits, be filed within the time limits set forth in this section. The court shall
waive the requirement of such bond or security if it is satisfied that the person requesting the waiver has any
defense which is not frivolous and that he is indigent as provided in section twenty-seven A of chapter two
hundred and sixty-one. The court shall require any person for whom the bond or security provided for in the
third paragraph has been waived to pay in installments as the same becomes due, pending appeal, all or any
portion of any rent which shall become due after the date of such waiver. No court shall require any such
person to make any other payments or deposits. The court shall forthwith make a decision on the motion. If
such motion is made, no execution shall issue until the expiration of six days from the court's decision on the
motion or until the expiration of the time specified in this section for the taking of appeals, whichever is
Any party aggrieved by the denial of a motion to waive the bond or who wishes to contest the amount of
periodic payments required by the court may seek review of such decision as hereinafter provided. If such
motion was made in the superior court or a housing court, the request for review shall be to the single justice
of the appeals court at the next sitting thereof. If such motion was made in any district or municipal court,
the request for review shall be to the superior court then sitting in the same county or, if not so sitting, to the
superior court sitting in the nearest county or in Suffolk county. The court receiving the request shall review
the findings, the amount of bond or deposit, if any, and the amount of periodic payment required, if any, as if
it were initially deciding the matter, and said court may withdraw or amend any finding or reduce or rescind
any amount of bond, deposit or periodic payment when in its judgment the facts so warrant.
Any party to the action may file a request for such review with the clerk of the court originally hearing the
request to waive bond within the time period provided in this section for filing notice of appeal, or within six
days after receiving notice of the decision of the court on the motion to waive bond, whichever is the later.
Said court shall then forward the motion, the court's findings and any other documents relevant to the appeal
to the clerk of the court reviewing such decision who, upon receipt thereof, shall schedule a speedy hearing
thereon and send notice thereof to the parties. Any request for review filed pursuant to this section shall be
heard upon statements of counsel, memoranda and affidavits submitted by the parties. Further testimony
shall be taken if the reviewing court shall find that the taking of further testimony would aid the disposition
of the review.
Upon the rendering of a decision on review, the reviewing court shall give notice of the decision to the
parties and the defendant shall comply with the requirements of such decision within five days after
receiving notice thereof. If the defendant fails to file with the clerk of the court rendering the judgment, the
amount of bond, deposit or periodic payment required by the decision of the reviewing court within five days
from receipt of notice of said decision, the appeal from the judgment shall be dismissed. Where a defendant
seeks review pursuant to this section, no execution shall issue until the expiration of five days from the date
defendant has received notice of the decision of the reviewing court.
Chapter 239: Section 7. Judgments; effect.
Section 7. The judgment in an action under this chapter shall not be a bar to any action thereafter brought by
either party to recover the land or tenements in question, or to recover damages for any trespass thereon; but
the amount recovered for rent under section five shall be deducted in any assessment of damages in such
subsequent action by the original plaintiff.
Chapter 239: Section 8A. Rent withholding; grounds; amount claimed; presumptions and burden of proof;
Section 8A. In any action under this chapter to recover possession of any premises rented or leased for
dwelling purposes, brought pursuant to a notice to quit for nonpayment of rent, or where the tenancy has
been terminated without fault of the tenant or occupant, the tenant or occupant shall be entitled to raise, by
defense or counterclaim, any claim against the plaintiff relating to or arising out of such property, rental,
tenancy, or occupancy for breach of warranty, for a breach of any material provision of the rental agreement,
or for a violation of any other law. The amounts which the tenant or occupant may claim hereunder shall
include, but shall not be limited to, the difference between the agreed upon rent and the fair value of the use
and occupation of the premises, and any amounts reasonably spent by the tenant or occupant pursuant to
section one hundred and twenty-seven L of chapter one hundred and eleven and such other damages as may
be authorized by any law having as its objective the regulation of residential premises.
Whenever any counterclaim or claim of defense under this section is based on any allegation concerning the
condition of the premises or the services or equipment provided therein, the tenant or occupant shall not be
entitled to relief under this section unless: (1) the owner or his agents, servants, or employees, or the person
to whom the tenant or occupant customarily paid his rent knew of such conditions before the tenant or
occupant was in arrears in his rent; (2) the plaintiff does not show that such conditions were caused by the
tenant or occupant or any other person acting under his control; except that the defendant shall have the
burden of proving that any violation appearing solely within that portion of the premises under his control
and not by its nature reasonably attributable to any action or failure to act of the plaintiff was not so caused;
(3) the premises are not situated in a hotel or motel, nor in a lodging house or rooming house wherein the
occupant has maintained such occupancy for less than three consecutive months; and (4) the plaintiff does
not show that the conditions complained of cannot be remedied without the premises being vacated;
provided, however, that nothing in this clause shall be construed to deprive the tenant or occupant of relief
under this section when the premises are temporarily vacated for purposes of removal or covering of paint,
plaster, soil or other accessible materials containing dangerous levels of lead pursuant to section one hundred
and ninety-seven of chapter one hundred and eleven. (Amended by 1987, 773, Sec. 15.)
Proof that the premises are in violation of the standard of fitness for human habitation established under the
state sanitary code, the state building code, or any other ordinance, by-law, rule or regulation establishing
such standards and that such conditions may endanger or materially impair the health, safety or well-being of
a person occupying the premises shall create a presumption that conditions existed in the premises entitling
the tenant or occupant to a counterclaim or defense under this section. Proof of written notice to the owner or
his agents, servants, or employees, or to the person to whom the tenant or occupant customarily paid his rent,
of an inspection of the premises, issued by the board of health, or in the city of Boston by the commissioner
of housing inspection, or by any other agency having like powers of inspection relative to the condition of
residential premises, shall create a presumption that on the date such notice was received, such person knew
of the conditions revealed by such inspection and mentioned in such notice. A copy of an inspection report
issued by any such agency, certified under the penalties of perjury by the official who inspected the premises,
shall be admissible in evidence and shall be prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.
There shall be no recovery of possession pursuant to this chapter pending final disposition of the plaintiff's
action if the court finds that the requirements of the second paragraph have been met. The court after hearing
the case may require the tenant or occupant claiming under this section to pay to the clerk of the court the
fair value of the use and occupation of the premises less the amount awarded the tenant or occupant for any
claim under this section, or to make a deposit with the clerk of such amount or such installments thereof
from time to time as the court may direct, for the occupation of the premises. In determining said fair value,
the court shall consider any evidence relative to the effect of any conditions claimed upon the use and
occupation of residential premises. Such funds may be expended for the repair of the premises by such
persons as the court after a hearing may direct, including if appropriate a receiver appointed as provided in
section one hundred and twenty-seven H of chapter one hundred and eleven. When all of the conditions
found by the court have been corrected, the court shall direct that the balance of funds, if any, remaining with
the clerk be paid to the landlord. Any tenant or occupant intending to invoke the provisions of this section
may, after commencement of an action under this chapter by the landlord, voluntarily deposit with the clerk
any amount for rent or for use and occupation which may be in dispute, and such payments shall be held by
the clerk subject to the provisions of this paragraph.
There shall be no recovery of possession under this chapter if the amount found by the court to be due the
landlord equals or is less than the amount found to be due the tenant or occupant by reason of any
counterclaim or defense under this section. If the amount found to be due the landlord exceeds the amount
found to be due the tenant or occupant, there shall be no recovery of possession if the tenant or occupant,
within one week after having received written notice from the court of the balance due, pays to the clerk the
balance due the landlord, together with interest and costs of suit, less any credit due the tenant or occupant
for funds already paid by him to the clerk under this section. In such event, no judgment shall enter until
after the expiration of the time for such payment and the tenant has failed to make such payment. Any such
payment received by the clerk shall be held by him subject to the provisions of the preceding paragraph.
Any provision of any rental agreement purporting to waive the provisions of this section shall be deemed to
be against public policy and void. The provisions of Section two A and of section eighteen of chapter one
hundred and eighty-six shall apply to any tenant or occupant who invokes the provisions of this section.
Chapter 239: Section 9. Stay of proceedings.
Section 9. In an action of summary process to recover possession of premises occupied for dwelling
purposes, other than a room in a hotel, or a dwelling unit in a lodging house or rooming house wherein the
occupant has maintained such occupancy for less than three consecutive months, where a tenancy has been
terminated without fault of the tenant, either by operation of law or by act of the landlord, except by a notice
to quit for nonpayment of rent as provided in section twelve of chapter one hundred and eighty-six, a stay or
stays of judgment and execution may be granted, as hereinafter provided, for a period not exceeding six
months or for periods not exceeding six months in the aggregate, or, for a period not exceeding twelve
months or for periods not exceeding twelve months in the aggregate in the case of premises occupied by a
handicapped person or an individual sixty years of age or older, as the court may deem just and reasonable,
upon application of the tenant or the surviving spouse, parent or child of a deceased tenant if such spouse,
parent or child occupied said premises for dwelling purposes at the time when said tenancy was terminated
and such occupancy was not in violation of the terms of the tenancy; provided, however, that a stay or stays
of judgment and execution in the case of premises occupied by an employee of a farmer conditioned upon his
employment by such farmer and which employment has been legally terminated shall not be granted for a
period exceeding two months or for periods exceeding two months in the aggregate. For the purpose of this
section, the words "handicapped person" shall mean a person who: (Amended by 1986, 452.)
(a) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits such person's ability to care for
himself, perform manual tasks, walk, see, hear, speak, breathe, learn or work; or
(b) has a physical or mental impairment which significantly limits the housing appropriate for such
person or which significantly limits such person's ability to seek new housing; or
(c) would be eligible for housing for handicapped persons under the provisions of chapter one hundred
and twenty-one B.
Chapter 239: Section 10. Stay of proceedings; hearings.
Section 10. Upon application for such a stay of proceedings, the court shall hear the parties, and if upon the
hearing it appears that the premises of which possession is sought to be recovered are used for dwelling
purposes; that the applicant cannot secure suitable premises for himself and his family elsewhere within the
city or town in a neighborhood similar to that in which the premises occupied by him are situated; that he has
used due and reasonable effort to secure such other premises; that his application is made in good faith and
that he will abide by and comply with such terms and provisions as the court may prescribe; or that by
reason of other facts such action will be warranted, the court may grant a stay as provided in the preceding
section, on condition that the terms upon which such stay is granted be complied with.
In any action to recover possession of premises occupied for dwelling purposes brought pursuant to this
chapter in which a stay or stays of execution have been granted, by the court or by agreement of the parties,
or in any such action where there is an agreement for judgment that grants the tenant a right to reinstate the
tenancy, no execution shall issue prior to the expiration of the period of such stay or stays or such
reinstatement period unless the plaintiff shall first bring a motion for the issuance of the execution and the
court after a hearing shall determine that the tenant or occupant is in substantial violation of a material term
or condition of the stay or a material term of the agreement for judgment. (Amended by 1987, 357, Sec. 3.)
Chapter 239: Section 11. Stay of proceedings; deposit of applicant.
Section 11. Such stay shall be granted and continue effective only upon the condition that the applicant shall
make a deposit in court of the entire amount, or such instalments thereof from time to time, as the court may
direct, for the occupation of the premises for the period of the stay, at the rate to which he was liable as rent
for the month immediately prior to the expiration of his term or tenancy plus such additional amount, if any,
as the court may determine to be reasonable. The deposit shall also include all rent unpaid prior to the period
of the stay. The amount of the deposit shall be determined by the court at the hearing upon the application
for the stay, and such determination shall be final and conclusive in respect only to the amount of the
deposit, and the amount thereof shall be paid into court, in such manner and in such instalments, if any, as
the court may direct. A separate account shall be kept of the amount to the credit of each proceeding, and all
such payments shall be deposited by the clerk of the court, and paid over to the landlord or his duly
authorized agent, in accordance with the terms of the stay or the further order of the court.
Chapter 239: Section 12. Stay of proceedings; validity of waiver in lease.
Section 12. Any provision of a lease whereby a lessee or tenant waives the benefits of any provision of
sections nine to thirteen, inclusive, shall be deemed to be against public policy and void.
Chapter 239: Section 13. Stay of proceedings; costs.
Section 13. Costs recoverable under section three shall, in actions to which sections nine to eleven, inclusive,
apply, include only legal costs covering actual disbursements and shall not include fictitious costs, so-called.