Go to court

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

Complete your court forms

Complete your Answer. Use the Answer form in Booklet 3: Answer or the Massachusetts Defense for Eviction (MADE) free online Answer tool: GBLS.org/MADE

Complete your Discovery. The Discovery form lets you ask for information and documents from your landlord to help you win your case. Use the form in Booklet 4: Discovery or use MADE to help you complete a Discovery form: GBLS.org/MADE

Prepare for your court date

Before you go to your first court date:

  • Use the What to Bring to Court Checklist in this booklet to help you organize what you need to bring. Having the items on this checklist with you could be one of the most important things you do.
  • Think about the things that are most important to you. You and your landlord may go to mediation to try to settle your case. Use Booklet 10: Negotiating a Settlement of Your Case to help you think through the terms you want in an agreement. Then you will be ready to tell the mediator about the things you need. For example, you might agree to pay part of the rent you owe if your landlord makes repairs, and you can stay in your home.

Go to court

If you do not attend your court hearing, you will lose your case. The judge may order you to move out quickly. You may have to move within 2 weeks of the court date.

If you make an agreement with your landlord before your first court date, you must still go to court. You have to make sure the agreement is "accepted by the court."    

When you go to court it can feel scary to speak up for yourself. But the more prepared you are the better you will be able to tell the mediator or the judge what you need.     

Even if the mediator or the landlord has an idea about how to resolve your case, you do not have to agree. You can still talk to a judge.

  • Do not agree to move out if you do not have another place to live.
  • Do not agree to pay an amount of money that you cannot afford.

If you do make an agreement with your landlord, be sure to get a copy that is signed by both parties. Keep the agreement in a safe place.

If you do not come to an agreement with the landlord, you can talk to a judge. You may convince the judge to let you stay in your home. The judge can also order your landlord to:

  • Make repairs.
  • Lower the rent you did not pay because of the bad conditions in your apartment.
  • Let you stay in your home longer, while you apply for rental assistance.
  • Let you stay in your home longer, while you find a new place to live.
  • Pay you money, if you prove your landlord broke certain laws.

When it is your turn to speak to the judge, keep it simple and brief.

  • Stick to the information you put in your Answer.
  • Show the judge the documents you brought.
  • Introduce witnesses who can testify about events or conversations that are important to your case.
  • Be clear about the things you are asking the judge to order.

Did you miss your hearing?

If you missed your eviction hearing, file the forms in Booklet 6: Removing a Default. File the forms right away. You may still have a chance to tell the judge why they should not evict you.

Do not give up even if you lose your case

  • Appeal
    If you think the judge or jury decided wrong at trial, you may appeal your case. See Booklets 7, 7A, and 7B: Appeals.
  • Stay
    If you lost at trial but you need more time to move, you can ask the court to delay or “stay” the eviction. See Booklet 8: Stay.

GOOD LUCK!

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