If you want to take your landlord to court, you will need to get the building owner's full legal name and address. Your landlord could be an individual, a corporation, or another type of company. If you don't know who owns your building, you may be able to find out by:
- Checking your lease.
- Checking your rent or security deposit receipts.
- Asking your property manager or people at the management office.
- Looking for a sign in your building (landlords of buildings with 3 or more apartments must post the landlord’s name, address, and phone number).2
- Going to the tax assessor's office in your city or town hall, which has information about who owns property organized by address.
- Going to the county Registry of Deeds office (which may have telephone staff who can help you) or looking at the Registry’s website. Locate the right Registry of Deeds office for your county online.
If your landlord has had the building taken away by a bank because she did not pay her mortgage, there may be a new landlord that you do not know about. Or a bank may own your building. You must find out whether there is a new landlord before filing a lawsuit. You also have to figure out if the problem is the former owner’s responsibility or the new landlord’s responsibility.
If you cannot find anything that shows that your landlord has been foreclosed upon, you can file the lawsuit against your landlord. But if the judge finds that the landlord has lost the property or has been foreclosed upon, or if the problems you are complaining about are the responsibility of the new owner, your lawsuit may be dismissed. For more about foreclosures, see Chapter 18: Tenants and Foreclosure.
If your landlord is in the middle of a bankruptcy action, you cannot bring a lawsuit or counterclaim against her in housing or district court.3 If you want your complaint heard by a judge, you must go before the bankruptcy court. You can ask the bankruptcy court to hear your complaint. Or you can ask the bankruptcy court for permission to have your case heard in housing or district court.
To see if your landlord has declared bankruptcy. you can call the bankruptcy court in Boston (617-748-5300), Worcester (508-770-8900) or Springfield (413-785-6900) The U.S. Bankruptcy Court is part of the federal court system. For more see www.mab.uscourts.gov. When you call, make sure you know exactly who owns your building.
3 . 11 U.S.C. §362 states that a petition for bankruptcy filed under the Bankruptcy Code operates as a stay as to all actions already filed or which may be filed in the future. To proceed with any action already filed or to start a new lawsuit, permission must be received from the bankruptcy court, or the case must be litigated in the bankruptcy court and not in any other court.