A Massachusetts eviction notice is a written document that informs the tenant that they’ve violated the lease in some way. It gives the tenant a certain amount of time to correct the problem. The amount of time given depends on whether the tenant has a fixed-tenancy (a one year) or a month-to-month tenancy. Eviction notices are more commonly referenced as a notice to quit. They must comply with Massachusetts landlord-tenant law, which is well summarized on the Attorney General’s website.
A Massachusetts eviction notice should contain certain information so that the landlord can document what caused the issuance of the notice and the tenant understands why they received the notice. The components are:
There is no state law in Massachusetts that outlines how service must be done. The most common ways used throughout the United States include personally serving the tenant, serving someone who lives on the property, attaching the notice to the front door of the rental property (or attaching it in another conspicuous place where it is likely to be seen by the tenant), or mailing it via certified mail with a return receipt requested.
14-Day Notice to Quit for Non-Payment of Rent for Fixed-Term Tenancies
Fixed term tenancies are tenancies that have a definite ending date. A one-year lease is an example of a fixed term tenancy. A 14-day notice to quit for non-payment of rent for a fixed-term tenancy, the tenant is given 14 days to pay the past due rent and any other late fees as mentioned in the lease agreement. This eviction notice should list the total amount due in rent, the total amount in late fees or interest due, the date by which the past due monies must be paid, how it may be paid, and where it may be paid. This notice is governed by Ch. 186 § 11.
14-Day Notice to Quit for Non-Payment of Rent for Month-to-Month Tenancies
A month-to-month tenancy means that although there may be a written lease between the landlord and the tenant, the agreement is renewed on a monthly basis even if the parties do not sign a new lease every month. Although a 14-day notice to quit for non-payment of rent for a month-to-month tenancy appears to be the same as one for a fixed term tenancy, it’s not. The tenant is given 10 days to pay the past due amount and 14 days to vacate the property if they do not pay the rent. It should outline the amount past due in rent, late fees or interest, the date by which the past due monies must be paid, how it should be paid, and where it should be paid. The 14-day notice to quit for non-payment of rent for month-to-month tenancy is governed by Ch. 186 § 12.
30-Day Notice to Quit for Non-Compliance
A 30-day notice to quit for non-compliance informs the tenant that they have 30 days to correct a lease violation. The notice should explain how the lease was violated and give the date by which the tenant should either correct the issue or vacate the property. While 30-day notices for month-to-month tenancies with a lease violation are mentioned in Massachusetts landlord-tenant law, fixed tenancies are not. Landlords with a fixed term tenancy may wish to either follow the 30-day notice or talk with a landlord-tenant attorney about what they should do.
What about Evicting for Illegal Activity in Massachusetts?
If the tenant is involved in illegal activity on the rental property, the landlord does not have to use an eviction notice. They can simply file for eviction with the court.
30-Day Notice to Quit Month-to-Month Tenancy
A 30-day notice to quit for a month-to-month tenancy isn’t technically an eviction notice. The tenant doesn’t have to violate the lease for the landlord to decide to end the tenancy. Additionally, the tenant can also use this letter to inform the landlord that they will not renew the lease and will vacate the property within the 30-day deadline. The letter should include the date by which the tenant will leave the property. This letter is governed by Ch. 186 § 12.
It’s important for landlords to recognize that fixed-term tenants and month-to-month tenants who receive an eviction notice may be subject to a different timeline under the state’s landlord-tenant law. This depends on the type of eviction notice being issued. Landlords do not have to issue an eviction notice if the tenant is involved in illegal activities on the rental property.
For evictions caused by non-payment of rent or non-compliance with the lease, the landlord may not engage in self-help methods without a court order. Self-help methods include turning off the utilities, changing the locks, or removing the tenant’s belongings from the property. Using those methods without an order from the court is illegal.
Landlords also may not try to evict a tenant because the tenant reports the landlord or the property for code violations. Landlords have a legal obligation to provide a rental property that is habitable and safe according to the laws of the state. Landlords may not try to evict someone because of their real or perceived race, skin color, religion, country of national origin, gender, family status (including pregnancy or the presence of minor children), or disability. If a landlord engages in an illegal eviction, the tenant may have the legal right to financial compensation and possession of the rental property.
In Massachusetts, there are no laws that explain how an eviction notice must be served on the tenant. The most commonly used service methods include personal service on the tenant, serving another household member who resides on the rental property (although the landlord may want to ensure that the person served is of a reasonable age), by posting the notice on the front door or in another place where the tenant is likely to see it, or via certified mail with return receipt requested.
As a tenant, you have rights. You can find an online guide to your rights by clicking here. Landlords are required to issue an eviction notice for non-payment of rent or non-compliance of the lease. However, fixed-terms and month-to-month tenancies are treated a bit differently. Landlords do not have to serve an eviction notice if you are using the property to engage in illegal activities or if you are allowing illegal activities to take place on the property.
The landlord may not change the locks, remove your belongings, or turn off the utilities to the property unless they first get a court order. If they do those things without the order, that is illegal. You also cannot be evicted for reporting the landlord or the property for code or habitability issues. You have the right to live in a safe and habitable environment. The landlord may not evict you because of your skin color, race, religion, country of origin, gender, disability, or family status (including pregnancy or minor children).
If you are subjected to what you believe is an illegal eviction, you should contact a landlord-tenant lawyer to determine whether you have a valid claim. If you do, you may be able to file a lawsuit for financial compensation. Your other options include contacting a law school near you and asking if they have a legal clinic. Legal clinics provide low-cost or free legal services for the community. Many of them offer resources or help for tenants. Another option is to contact a legal aid office in your county. If you meet their qualifications, you could receive low-cost or free help. Legal aid organizations often have several free resources for tenants as well.
Landlords have rights and obligations under Massachusetts laws. Landlords do not have to issue an eviction notice for illegal activity taking place on the property. Landlords should understand that fixed-term tenancies and month-to-month tenancies have different deadlines for evictions. There are no laws that state how a landlord must serve an eviction notice. We’ve listed the most popular service methods under Legal Considerations and under the section that explain the components that should be included.
If you have questions about eviction notices, the eviction process, or your rights or obligations as a landlord, make an appointment to speak with an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer.