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Common questions about housing and evictions

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed November 2021

Take action and get the help you need to protect your housing.

What can I do if there are bad conditions in my apartment?

In Massachusetts, the state sanitary code gives tenants the right to decent housing. It is important to document what is wrong by taking pictures and telling your landlord about the problems.

Take action

Use MADE: Up To Code to learn about the conditions your apartment must meet.

For more information, see Bad Conditions: Getting a Landlord to Make Repairs.

 

What can I do if I get a notice that says my rent is going up?

If you live in private housing that is not subsidized, your landlord can ask for as much rent as they want. You do not need to accept the increase. If you get a notice that says your rent is going up, you can try to negotiate an affordable increase. You can join with other tenants to negotiate together. If you have a lease, a landlord cannot raise your rent during the lease.

Take action

Learn more about your rights.

For more information, see Rent Increases.

 

What does it mean if my landlord is offering to pay back rent from a program called SHERA?

If you live in public or subsidized housing and you owe rent, you may be able to get help. Your landlord can apply for rental assistance for you through the Subsidized Housing Emergency Rental Assistance program (SHERA). You must give your landlord permission to apply. The state then pays the rental assistance directly to your landlord.

If SHERA pays back rent to your landlord, you will be protected against eviction for non-payment of rent for 6 months after the last SHERA payment. Immigrants can apply and do not need a social security number.

Tell your landlord about any changes to your income between April 1, 2020 – March 31, 2021 before you give them permission to apply for SHERA, so your landlord gets the amount of rental assistance right.

Take action

Learn about SHERA.

For more information, see Where can I get help paying my rent?

 

Can my landlord evict me if I applied for rental assistance?

If you are being evicted for non-payment of rent and you apply for any type of rental assistance, a court must pause your case until after the rental assistance agency approves or denies your application. The court cannot order an eviction while your case is paused.

Take action

For rental assistance, call 2-1-1 or find your local housing agency.

For more information, see Where can I get help paying my rent?

 

What can I do if my landlord locks me out of my apartment?

Your landlord is breaking the law if they move your belongings out of your apartment, change your locks, shut off your utilities, or interfere with your use of your apartment. Learn more about your rights.

Take action

If your landlord locks you out or turns off your heat, call the court right away.

For more information, see Lockouts and Utility Shutoffs.

 

What can I do if my landlord sends me a "Notice to Quit"?

You do not need to move out. A Notice to Quit says you must leave your apartment by a certain date, but you do not have to move out by the date on the notice. After that date passes, if your landlord wants to evict you, they must take you to court. It is illegal for a landlord to evict you without going to court.

If your landlord is evicting you for non-payment of rent, your landlord must send you a special form with the Notice to Quit. This form tells you about the help you can get to stop an eviction. If your landlord does not give you this form, it is against the law for them to file a non-payment eviction case in court. You may be able to stop the eviction.

Take action

Find legal help in your area

For more information, see Receiving Proper Notice.

 

What can I do if my landlord sends me a “Summons and Complaint”?

Do not ignore it. You do not have to move out. A Summons and Complaint means your landlord is taking you to court to evict you.

As soon as you get a Summons and Complaint, fill out this form. Then file it with the court and send your landlord or your landlord’s lawyer a copy. This form will make sure the court knows your side of the story.

Take action

Find legal help in your area

For more information, see Fighting an Eviction in Court.

 

What can I do if I am being pressured to sign an agreement?

If your landlord offers you an agreement outside of court or in court mediation, get legal help. You do not have to sign anything. Get legal advice before you sign any agreement with your landlord or their lawyer. A landlord’s lawyer represents the landlord, not you.

Take action

Find legal help in your area

For more information, see Negotiating a Settlement of Your Case.

 

What can I do if my eviction is in District Court?

If your case is in District Court, you can transfer it to Housing Court where you can get more help.

Take action

Fill out the transfer form and file it with the court.

For more information, see Fighting an Eviction in Court.

 

What can I do if I get to court and I do not have a lawyer?

Many Housing Courts have free lawyers and paralegals that can help you through Lawyer for the Day Programs. You can ask to talk to them before mediation or at any point in the process.

Take action

Ask for a lawyer as soon as you speak with court staff.

For more information, see Using the Court System.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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