What do I need to know about representing myself?

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

You do not have to move until a judge tells you to

You do not have to move out just because your landlord told you to move out, sent you a notice to quit, or sent you a Summary Process Summons and Complaint. 

You only have to move out if the court orders you to move out.

  • Send you a letter called a Notice to Quit telling you they want you to leave
  • Go to court,
  • Win the eviction case, and
  • Get a court order from the judge.

Read all the papers you get from the court

If a sheriff or constable serves you with court papers called the Summons and Complaint read the papers carefully.

Your landlord can only have the sheriff or constable serve you with a Summons and Complaint if:

  • The time on the Notice to Quit has run out, or
  • Your lease has expired.

The Summons and Complaint tells you:

  • The name and address of the court that is hearing your case.
  • You must file an Answer 3 business days before your "first court event."

You should get a notice in the mail from the court about 1 week after you get the Summons and Complaint. The notice should tell you the date and time of your first court hearing. It will also tell you whether the court hearing is in-person or over Zoom.

Go to court, or else you will automatically lose your case!

Do you have bad conditions?

If you have bad conditions in your home, like mice, no heat, or leaks, it is important to document them. If the landlord knows about these conditions, you may be able to prevent your eviction if you are facing a non-payment or no-fault eviction. A no-fault eviction is when the landlord does not state a reason for the eviction or states a reason that is not your fault. For example, the landlord may be evicting you because they want to sell the property.

Use MADE: UpToCode or Booklet 2: Housing Code Checklist to help you figure out whether there are problems that your landlord needs to fix. As soon as possible, tell the landlord about these problems in writing through a letter, text, or email – even if you already told your landlord. You can also call your town’s housing inspector right away and ask for a housing code inspection

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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