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How to remove a default judgment

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

Fill out the Motion to Remove Default

Use the free online tool, CourtFormsOnline.org/housing/#nan to help you complete this motion. Or complete the form in this booklet.

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

a. Write the name of your county.
b. Copy your landlord's name from the Summons and Complaint.
c. Copy your name from the Summons and Complaint. Spell your name the way it appears on the Summons and Complaint, even if it is wrong. You can ask the court to fix mistakes later.
d. Copy the name of the court from the Summons and Complaint.
e. Fill in the Docket Number, if you know it. The Docket Number is the number the court has assigned to your case. It may be on the top right corner of the Summons and Complaint. You can ask the court clerk for it.

  1. If you missed your court date and you:
    • Did not file your Answer, check the box ◻ next to: "Permit me to file an Answer late and schedule a new court date" Use Booklet 3 and attach your Answer to this motion.
    • Already filed your Answer check the box ◻ next to: "Schedule a new trial because my Answer has already been filed"
    • If you are attaching your Answer to this motion check the box ◻ next to "I am attaching a copy of my Answer to this motion."
  2. Check box 2 if you are filing your motion within 10 days of the default judgment.
  3. Check box 3 if you are filing your motion more than 10 days after the default judgment. If you check this box, you also ask the court to stop the eviction until you can have a hearing on your motion.
  4. Tell the court why you missed your court date. Check one reason and explain why you were not in court on the scheduled court date.
  5. If you are not attaching your Answer to this motion, use the language in Booklet 3: The Answer, to describe your "good defense to the landlord's case, as specified below." For example: if you lived with bad conditions that your landlord knew about, that may be a defense.    
  6. Ask the clerk at the court when a hearing can be scheduled, and if it will be a phone, zoom or in-person hearing. Ask if the clerk will put this information in the motion or do you have to.
  7. Check the box next to the way you plan to get your motion to your landlord or their lawyer, and write in the date you will hand-deliver or mail it.
  8. Sign and write your name, address, and phone number on the bottom of the form.
  9. If you got a 48-hour notice of eviction from a sheriff or constable, check box 9. Check both boxes and fill in the date and time on the sheriff's or constable's eviction notice. When you bring this motion to court, tell the clerk, "I would like to speak to a judge right away before the sheriff moves me out.”

Fill out an Answer

If you have not done so already, fill out the Answer form in Booklet 3.

Your Answer tells the court why you should not be evicted and the things your landlord did that were wrong. File your Answer with this Motion to Remove a Default.

If you are about to be moved out, ask to speak to a judge right away!

If you get a 48-hour notice from a sheriff or constable, ask to see a judge to Stay the Execution or stop the eviction until the judge can hear your motion. Check #9 on the Motion to Remove a Default.

Deliver the Motion

Make 3 copies of the Motion to Remove Default and the Answer forms, if you are attaching it. Do not include the instructions.

  • File the original forms with the court as soon as possible. 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!
    • If you absolutely cannot deliver it in person or send it electronically after talking to the clerk, you can mail it. But the mail is slow and you risk being evicted if the court does not receive it in 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:
    • 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 forms 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 if you absolutely cannot deliver it in person or send it electronically.
  • Keep a copy for yourself. Keep it safe and bring it with you when you go to court.

Prepare for court

Read your Answer so you remember your defenses and counterclaims before you go to court.

When you go to court, bring any papers that can help you prove why you missed your court date. For example, medical records can show you were at the hospital, or you may have a doctor's letter that says you could not travel. Also bring papers and witnesses that help you prove your "defenses" and "counterclaims." See Booklet 3: The Answer.

When the clerk calls your case, tell the judge:

  • The reason you missed the scheduled court date.  Tell the judge you have proof and show them your papers.
  • Your "defenses" and "counterclaims" from your Answer.  Tell the judge if you have proof or witnesses with you.

After court

If you win your motion, the judge will remove the default. The judge may:

  • Order your trial for the same day as the hearing on your motion, while you are still at court.
  • Schedule your case for another day.

The judge may say they will remove the default if you pay your rent money to the court while the court is hearing your case.

If you lose your motion, the judge will not let you have a new court date. Ask the court for more time to move if you need it. See Booklet 8.

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