Eviction Overview with Doug Quattrochi
Eviction Overview Transcript
Doug: The purpose of this presentation is just to give you a little perspective, a little background in case you’re familiar with this, and I would be absolutely delighted if our guests would chime in and tell me I’ve got it wrong because that’s how I learned, too. But let me just whip through this. It will be about 10 minutes -- the eviction process from the landlord’s point of view. I will hear from our guest speakers.
All right, the idea is that the eviction process, we think about being in court, but from a landlord’s point of view has a lot of stuff before and after it.
When the rent first becomes late, you enter this grace period where the landlord, you, might be waiting to issue that notice to quit. This piece of paper is what starts the process. We’ll talk about serving notices tonight, I’m sure.
Once you issue that piece of paper, you have what’s called a notice period and once that notice period has lapsed, you have a file date. The file date starts the actual court action.
When you get all the way through to court, you have a judgment entered and there is an appeal period, then there is an eviction that’s called a physical eviction. It’s called the execution of the judgment. This is we’re going to carry out the eviction order.
Then afterwards, you have repair time.
The whole perspective from a landlord’s point of view can be quite long, so it’s really important that you understand this process and you hire an attorney first of all. First time through, always hire an attorney and secondly, don’t mess up because if you mess up, it could not only cause delays but it could derail your process and send you back to start, or go, or whatever it is.
All right, so we have studied evictions and the average for all of this stuff if the tenant takes full advantage of their legal remedy short of a jury trial, we’re telling you it’s going to be 90 days for this whole, everything that you experience, so this is serious business.
Let me just go through this scenario here.
Tenant loses her job in October and can’t find a new one. Rent in November goes unpaid. You, the landlord, are unable to convince them to move in with family or take roommates. The tenant doesn’t qualify for or already received what’s called Rental Assistance for Families in Transition, RAFT, or other stabilization assistance. The government is not coming to the rescue.
You have never done this before, and you don’t immediately hire an attorney, we’re going to show you some mess-ups here. We’re assuming you file in housing court, not district court, we’re going to talk about mediation, and mediation is highly recommended. That’s something that happens in housing court not district court.
All right remember: your major defense here is conversation. If you can convince a tenant that this tenancy is unstable and they voluntarily leave, that’s your best thing to do. If you can negotiate and resolve conflict verbally without going to court, that’s the best thing.
All right, scenario we’re saying rent is $800 a month – I have to update my numbers. These are old slides. But let’s say it’s $800 a month. On the first unpaid, you owe that. You say, “Rent was due.”
Tenant says, “Give me one more week.”
The landlord says, “Okay, one more week.” That’s probably too long. You don't have to wait. If the rent is late, you can issue that notice. But the landlord waits a week, and then hires a constable to serve that 14-day notice for nonpayment on the 11th.
The 11th or the 25th is the notice period. That’s that second bit we talked about, second part of the 5. The landlord is saying definitively when they issue a notice, “I am telling you, Tenant, you got to have another place to live.”
Notice day is day zero. You have to wait 14 full calendar days, that means this tenancy officially ends at midnight the 25th and you can’t serve this notice off hours. Let’s count. You serve the notice there, that’s day 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 full days, The tenancy expires there. Then you can hire a constable again to file the summons and complaint, more money.
By the end of November, your losses are about $1,000 on an $800 apartment. That starts the entry period. After the summons have been served, you can file it in court. Filings can be delayed by holidays.
There’s a thing called the entry date, which perhaps our speakers can elucidate. That’s only on a Monday and it’s only 7 to 30 days after the summons. In this missed time example, we’re going to have another week’s delay, so you got kind of November up there. You’ve got the summons and complaint served on the 26th. You can file it there on the 2nd and the entry date is the 9th in this example. You have the holidays, Thanksgiving up there, and because we’re in December, you lose rent again, okay so the clock is ticking.
At that point, the tenant can move to dismiss or compel Discovery. I’m sure we’ll talk about that. You want to have your paperwork ready, so you can answer Discovery quickly. If you haven’t hired an attorney now because you thought you could do it on your own, hire an attorney if you get Discovery, serious business here.
If the tenant files for Discovery in the 16th, that trial which would have been on the 19th is moved. You hire the lawyer. Five hundred dollars is probably way too cheap; if you have a relationship and you’re doing volume, maybe, but you’re going to expect to pay more.
By the end of December, your losses are about $2,200 on that $800 apartment.
The Discovery period is where you have to assemble documents like rent roll, proof that you are compliant with the security deposit. you have your rental agreement. You might have your other records you’re asked to provide.
Your earliest trial at this point is January 2nd; you lost another month’s rent. If everything goes smoothly, you can go, get your judgment. It will be entered on the 3rd, that Friday.
Before you actually go to trial, you have the option to do mediation. I’m telling you, as MassLandlords, our official position: always do mediation. You have absolutely nothing to lose. The agreements are binding. It’s kind of like a pause on the eviction. If there’s a noncompliance with the agreement, you come back where you were later. It will hurt the tenant.
You also have a chance to learn about their case and potentially settle so that you don't have to go in front of a judge and potentially lose.
Here are some things really and when we talked about having a bad day in court, it’s almost always your fault as the landlord -- improper paperwork, your timing, sanitary code violations. Your apartment has been in good shape if you get in there. Discrimination charges, if there’s any chance with that, you got to settle out, or if you’re evicting for cause and you haven’t pointed to an agreement, you haven’t get a cause in the agreement, all those things will screw up your case and mediation can be like your parachute. You’ll get out of jail free at that point. Always do mediation.
After the judgment is entered, let’s say you go into court and there’s a judgment entered. The tenant has time to appeal. There might be some rent escrow if the appeal is going to take a long time, but obviously, that’s not mandatory. That’s one of the things we’re trying to advocate for and mediated agreements for judgement, to my understanding, is cannot be appealed, so another reason to do mediation. No appeal there.
All right, so let’s say the 10-day appeal period has ended on the 13th of January, you can get a motion for execution file for that. You hire a constable to serve it and give the 48-hour notice on the 28th. That starts the clock.
Only a constable or sheriff can deliver an execution. We advise you hire someone so you can prove delivery, but if you’ve been doing it yourself all along, you have to hire someone for this step.
That move-out is 48 hours’ notice. That’s the real deal. Now note there could be additional delays between that motion and the grant of execution. When you ask for it, you will get it, and there could be more delays scheduling movers.
Okay, so let’s say the tenant moves out quickly and you pack their stuff into storage. you have to pay for that, remember? Then you have to do additional cleaning and removal.
Let me just point out that 48-hour notice period. You don't have to accept rent. Tenants sometimes have the right to cure if it’s their first nonpayment, so you don't have to take it at that point.
Your losses including all the stuff -- we’ve added bonded moving and storage, insect extermination, and actual storage if the company makes you pay -- about $5,000 on an $800 apartment, so you’re 3 months into it.
Don’t wait to serve notice. Hire an experienced attorney and run your business tight. If you have any problems like paperwork that can derail your case, then you’ll wish you have done it right the first time.
Not to make you angry, but remember the tenant hasn’t paid for very much and it’s really hard to collect judgment. Some people say it’s a fool’s errand. We’ll talk about that, I’m sure.
Make sure to check masscourts.org. Screening your tenants is really the best defense. You don’t want to have to do all this. You want to screen to find people who are going to be stable.
All right, that is, in a whirlwind 10 minutes, the eviction process, which --