Frequently Asked Questions


1. Only a judge can evict you. You may get a verbal notice of eviction, or a notice to quit, or a summons to court.
Don’t ignore these notices, but none of these things means that you have to move out. Only a judge can evict you!
You have more rights than you think and you can use those rights to defend yourself in court or to get a decent
settlement. Warning: If you receive a 48-hour eviction notice, that probably means there is already a judgment
against you, perhaps because you “defaulted” (see #10). If you receive such a notice, call the court or City Life or
legal aid right away.

2. There are 3 kinds of evictions in MA. (a) Eviction for non-payment of rent. (b) Eviction for fault (lease
violations or illegal activity). (c) Eviction “no-fault” – no reason given.

3. There are two kinds of notices to quit you are likely to receive. A 14-day notice to quit is if the owner is
claiming you didn’t pay rent. A 30-day notice to quit (actually one full rental period) is usually if the owner
wants to terminate your tenancy no-fault.

4. Counterclaims. In no-fault or non-payment eviction cases a tenant can raise counterclaims. These are claims
against the landlord usually arising from bad conditions. These counterclaims will be considered in an eviction
trial. In a no-fault case, you only have to show $1 in damages to win.

5. If you are behind on your rent, you can apply for the state RAFT program (Rental Assistance for Families in
Transition). You can potentially receive up to $10K in back rent help. A small owner (less than 20 units) can
apply for RAFT on your behalf with your permission. If your landlord won’t accept RAFT or wants to evict you
anyway, you can use other rights at your trial in defense. You may be able to get assistance at court with RAFT
issues. You can also apply to the City of Boston Rental Relief Fund (google that) if you live in Boston.

6. A tenant has many potential defenses in an eviction case. These include retaliation, discrimination,
counterclaims, violation of consumer protection, mishandling of security deposit. You have the right to demand a
jury trial. If you have bad conditions (counterclaims), you should inform the owner, call Inspectional Services,
and bring evidence to court.

7. Court notices. After receiving a notice to quit, you will get 3 notices of court dates. There will be an initial
summons announcing that you will be getting court dates. Then you will receive a notice for a “First Tier”
mediation session. If there is no agreement and no request for a jury trial, then you will receive a notice of a
“Second tier” court event two weeks after the first tier. If you do ask for a jury trial that will likely not happen for
several weeks or months.

8. If you get a summons to court, you have until 3 days prior to “First Tier” court date to file an answer and
discovery. Don’t wait. File the answer and discovery right away. You can get help from Harvard Legal Aid and
Greater Boston Legal Services free legal clinics. The answer allows you to claim everything in #6, including the
jury trial. You must ask for a jury trial at the time of the answer. The discovery allows you to ask the landlord
questions or ask to produce documents that you need in your defense. The landlord must respond.

9. Zoom court hearings. Most court proceedings take place on zoom. If you can’t use zoom, then call the court to
arrange for some other alternative. Or call the City Life hot line for advice.

10. Defaults. If you don’t attend your court hearing (you “default”). A judgment can be entered against you and you
can be evicted. You can ask the court for the default to be removed.

11. Executions. If you lose your eviction case the landlord can seek an “execution.” That allows the landlord to hire
a constable, send you a 48-hour notice, and evict you at the end of that notice.

12. CDC federal moratorium. If you were faced with forcible eviction (an execution) in recent past you were able
to make a declaration that gained the protections of a federal moratorium. These protections expired July 31.
President Biden has asked Congress to renew them but that has not happened yet.

13. Tenant associations. If you live in a building where the landlord is trying to clear everyone out, or raise
everyone’s rent, you may want to form a tenant association. You have the right to engage in tenant organizing
without retaliation from the landlord. Members of tenant associations have negotiated strong multi-year
agreements with their landlords by working together and bargaining collectively.

14. Landlord harassment. Sometimes landlords will harass tenants in various ways. The landlord cannot take any
steps to force you out without a court order. Call City Life for more information.

15. Public letters. City Life usually recommends that tenants, or tenant associations, send a letter to the landlord
describing what is going on and asking for what you need. These letters are “public” because they are on City
Life letterhead and because they are cc’d to public officials.

16. Small landlords. If you live in the same building where your landlord lives, we urge mediation to try to arrive at
a reasonable settlement for both parties. City Life represents both tenants and small owners.