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File your Motion to Compel Discovery

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

If your case is in Housing Court and your landlord’s responses to your Discovery were incomplete, ask the court clerk if the Housing Court has any special requirements for filing a Motion to Compel.

Important: You must get the form to the court and your landlord or their lawyer within 5 business days of the date your landlord's response to your Discovery was due.

Fill in the spaces at the top of the motion the same as you did in your Answer and Discovery forms.

  1. Write in the date you mailed, delivered, or emailed your Discovery to the landlord or their lawyer. Copy this from the last page of your Discovery.
  2. Check the boxes next to the reasons you are filing this motion.
  3. On the bottom of the form check the box next to the way you plan to get the motion to your landlord or their lawyer.
  4. Fill in the date, your name, address, and telephone number. Sign the motion.
  5. Make 2 copies.
    • File the original with court.  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!
      • Do not mail it. There is not enough time.
    • Deliver a copy of your forms to your landlord’s lawyer or your landlord. 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:
      • Deliver it by hand or email it to your landlord's lawyer.  The lawyer's email address is at the bottom of the Summons and Complaint. If your landlord does not have a lawyer you need a written agreement from your landlord that says they agree to get your motion by email. It is important to deliver this by hand or email it, because the mail may be too slow.
    • Keep a copy for yourself. Keep it safe and bring it with you when you go to court.

Prepare for Court

The Court will send you a letter that tells you the date and time of the hearing for your Motion to Compel Discovery.

When your case is called, tell the clerk you filed a Motion to Compel Discovery. When you go before the judge, tell the judge that you requested Discovery, and that your landlord did not answer, or did not answer fully. Tell the judge why you need the information you asked for.

You can ask the judge to do a number of things, including:

  • Require the landlord to give you complete answers to your Discovery requests and put the case on hold until the landlord gives you answers to your Discovery requests.
  • End or "dismiss" the landlord's case and enter judgment in your favor.
  • Stop the landlord from being able to give the court information or evidence related to your defenses or counterclaims.

If you win this motion and judge orders your landlord to answer your questions and give you all the documents you asked for in your Discovery, the judge will also probably postpone your eviction trial.

If you lose this motion, you may have your trial that day. But you can ask the judge to schedule it for a different day. If you lose at trial, you may have the right to appeal, ask the judge for more time to move or both. See Booklet 7: Appeals and Booklet 8: Stay.

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