The Basics of Housing Court

Mar 11, 20200 comments

Housing court is something that every investor hopes that they will never have to go to. The good news is that you can limit the possibility by thoroughly screening your tenants. But, you are still dealing with people and there is no way to predict and see everything they are possible of. For this, as a property owner you have to be aware of your rights to remove the tenant from the property. 

There are many different reasons that you would need to remove tenants. Most, if not all, will lead back to them breaking the lease one way or another. For example, they miss rent and are unable to pay you. How do you go about getting the money you are owed and also get them out of the unit? What it will usually come to is hiring an attorney and going to what is known as housing court. 

Let’s use the example of a tenant not paying rent. The first thing you would have to do is serve them a notice to quit. In Mass this is a 14 day notice and it states the tenant is responsible to pay or leave. After 14 days go by, you can now serve them with a notice of eviction which informs them when you will be going to court to remove them. This notice has to be delivered by a constable that you will pay to deliver it. Those charges can vary by area but, it can probably be a couple hundred dollars. Then with the attorney you will have to prepare for the first hearing. If the tenant files for discovery you will have to get together an answer for everything their paperwork asks for. 

What will you need to get the attorney and what is discovery? Discovery is a list of items and questions that your tenant is accusing you of and why they say they should be awarded the case. The more questions you can answer with evidence and paperwork the better. For example, one of these items might be that you left the house in terrible condition and didn’t respond to maintenance requests. If you have evidence of work being done such as paid invoices and paper copies of the maintenance requests then these will be perfect to supply. As a landlord you should make sure you have evidence of almost every action you perform at a property for cases just like this. 

Next, the court date will be set and you and your attorney will have to show up to make your case. If the tenant shows you will be sent to mediation and if you can’t reach an agreement you will go before the judge. If they don’t show, they will be in default. But, they still have 10 days after this to file for another hearing. If they don’t, a ruling will be given to remove the tenant in 10 days or more depending on what the court decides. If they do, a new court date will be set for a second attempt. On the second hearing a decision will be made whether or not the tenant shows. But if they do, the same process of mediation will be asked and then a judge hearing. 

When the date is finally set for your tenant to be removed you will still have to keep track of what is going on. If the tenant still doesn’t leave, you will have to ask the court to issue documents to have them forcibly removed. This usually takes about 2 more weeks and then the sheriff, whom you have to pay to be there, has to be present to remove them and you have to hire a moving company. One last thing a tenant can do is request you to store their items for them. You will have to pay for this as well. But, the tenant will have to pay you back to get those items back. 

For those who are keeping track, it will probably take almost 3 months to remove them. The costs would include the attorney’s fees, missed rent, storage fees, constable fees, sheriff fees, and probably repairs for the unit after eviction. This can be an expensive and time consuming process. Sometimes there are other possibilities such as cash for keys. The options need to be weighed but, always do the best for your business.

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