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Fill out the Answer

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, with assistance from legal services offices in Massachusetts
Reviewed January 2022

What do I put in my Answer?

All the basic facts about the case like names and addresses go on the first page of the Answer.

All your defenses and counterclaims take up most of the Answer. This booklet includes basic defenses and counterclaims.

  • Defenses are the legal reasons your landlord should not evict you. For example, the landlord is evicting you because you did not pay the rent, but you did pay it.
  • Counterclaims are your claims against your landlord. For example, you may claim the landlord owes you money because they broke the law. Or, you may ask the court to order your landlord to fix your heat or stop locking you out of common areas.

The Answer form helps you figure out if you can file counterclaims as you go through the form. See Legal Defenses and Counterclaims.

You may have claims that are not listed on this form. The form has blank space to add other claims.

You also use the Answer to tell the judge and the landlord what you need.

On the last page of the Answer form, give the court at least one way to contact you. Put in your address and any phone numbers and email you use.

Fill out the Answer form as soon as you can

The letters and numbers in these directions match those on the form.

Fill out the top of the Answer form

a. Copy the county from the top left corner of the Summons and Complaint.

b. You do not need to put anything in b. The court decides your first court date and should mail you a notice of this date.

c. Copy your landlord’s name from the Summons and Complaint.

d. Write your name just as it is written on the Summons and Complaint. If your name is listed incorrectly, you can ask the court to fix it later. But if you do not copy your name exactly how it is on the Summons and Complaint, the clerk’s office may not file your Answer form correctly.

e. Copy the name of the court from the upper-right-hand corner of the Summons and Complaint.

f. Fill in the Docket Number, if you know it. The Docket Number is the number the court gives your case. The Summons and Complaint may have the docket number in the top right corner, or you can ask the court for the number. But it is also ok to leave this space blank.

After you fill out the Answer form, go back to the top of the Answer and check “Counterclaims” if you checked any boxes between 32 and 67 in the Answer form.

You must claim your right to a jury trial on or before your Answer deadline or you lose that right. If you claim a jury trial but change your mind later, the other party must agree with you to change the trial to one with a judge. Think about whether you want a jury to hear your case rather than a judge. To help you think about asking for a jury trial see the Note under Filing your Answer in Fighting an Eviction in court. If you want a Jury Trial:

  • On the first page of the Answer, check the box “With Jury Trial Request,” and
  • On the last page of the form, also check off “I claim my right to a trial by jury.”

Fill out the facts, defenses and counterclaims for your case

Facts

Fill in the facts and check the boxes in 1-8 that are true for you in the facts section.

Check the boxes in the Defenses and Counterclaims sections

Paragraph 9 in this Answer form begins a list of common defenses and counterclaims that tenants use to stop an eviction. Check the boxes next to the defenses and counterclaims that are true in your situation. If you do not check the box now, you will need to ask the judge to add a defense or counterclaim later.

  • If you are being evicted for nonpayment of rent, you can check defenses and counterclaims boxes 32-67 that are true in your situation.
  • If you are being evicted for a reason that is not your fault, you can check defenses and counterclaims boxes 32-67 that are true in your situation.
  • If you are being evicted for something the landlord says you did wrong, like destroying property or disturbing a neighbor (called a “fault eviction”) you may not be able to bring counterclaims.
  • If you are a former owner and the plaintiff did not foreclose on the property properly, you can check counterclaims boxes 47-67 that are true in your situation to challenge the eviction.

What I want the court to do

At the end of the Answer form, check off the boxes and tell the court what you need.

Do you need any information or proof from the landlord to help make your case?

When you are preparing for your case, you may need information that only your landlord has. Discovery is the court process that helps you get the information you need from your landlord. When you file your Answer, you can also file Discovery forms. You have the right to ask for Discovery.

To ask for Discovery in your case, see Booklet 4: Discovery.

Deliver your Answer form and Discovery

If you are asking for Discovery, file the Discovery forms when you file your Answer with the court.

  • Separate the instructions from the Answer form in this booklet.
  • Make 2 copies of the Answer form. If you are filing a Discovery form make 2 copies of that form also.
  • File the original, signed Answer and Discovery with the court by the Answer deadline. Call the clerk before you file and ask them what the best way is to file. You can:
    • Take it to the clerk’s office. If you hand-deliver to the court, ask the court to stamp the date on your copy so you have proof that you filed it on time.
    • Send it to the court electronically. Use the court’s online filing system or call and ask the court if you can email them. This is the best way if you can do it!
    • Mail it, but only if it is at least a week before the deadline to ensure that it arrives by the deadline. Mail is slow and not reliable.
  • Deliver a copy of your Answer and Discovery to your landlord’s lawyer or your landlord by the Answer deadline. Look at the right side of the Summons and Complaint.  If there is a number on the “BBO#” line, your landlord has a lawyer. To deliver a copy, you can:
    • Hand-deliver it to your landlord's lawyer or your landlord.
    • E-mail it. Your landlord’s lawyer must accept the copy you email them. You can find their email at the bottom of the Summons and Complaint. If your landlord doesn’t have a lawyer, ask your landlord if they will accept your Answer and Discovery by email. If they agree in writing in an email or text, you can email it. If your landlord does not agree, you must get it to them a different way.
    • Fax it. You can fax your landlord’s lawyer or your landlord, but only if they agree in writing to accept it by fax. If they do not agree, you must get a copy to them in a different way.
    • Mail it, but only if it is at least a week before the deadline to ensure that they arrive by the deadline. Mail is slow and not reliable.
  • Keep your copy of your Answer and Discovery safe. Bring it with you when you go to court.

Get ready for court

Congratulations on getting your court papers completed and filed. Now make sure you are ready for court. Read Booklet 1: Representing Yourself in Court. It will give you a useful checklist about what to bring to court.

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