Notice to Quit

When you decide to start eviction by giving a tenant notice to quit, you enter a minefield of delays and surprise costs. Take the time to read this brochure, take advantage of MassLandlords.net services, or call an attorney before you give out a notice.

If you are serving your tenants with a notice to quit, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends you notify your tenants that they may be eligible for eviction protection. This will save everyone time in the long run. To that end, we have updated the notice to quit forms at the bottom of this page to reflect the CFPB's suggested verbiage.

May be Inadvisable during CDC COVID-19 Eviction Moratorium.

Read our Eviction Moratorium FAQ as well as this article on the legality of serving notices to quit during the CDC eviction moratorium. Also, read this helpful trial court FAQ about the CDC eviction moratorium.

Notices for Nonpayment Must Comply with Additional State Requirements.

A new state law, signed on New Year's Eve, took effect on January 4, and affects Notices to Quit served for nonpayment, and eviction filings. Read about the additional form you must give, the wording your notice must have, and where to send a copy at Mass.Gov/NoticeToQuit.

Types of Forms

Downloadable forms are available at the bottom of this page.

If, after reading the boxes above, you decide to serve an NTQ, which form you use depends on whether you have a lease or a tenancy-at-will. Leases have a fixed term. Tenancy-at-will is also known as “month to month”. If you don’t have a written agreement, you have a “tenant at sufferance” and should get an attorney (the rules may be simpler in some ways but they’re less commonly practiced). See our page on rental agreements for more information.

Notice to Quit with a Lease

When dealing with a lease, you have two choices: evict for non-payment or evict for any other reason (“cause”).

To evict for non-payment of rent prior to COVID, you could use a 14-day notice to quit. This is the shortest legal notice for nonpayment, even if your lease specifies a shorter period. Properties covered under the CARES Act must serve a 30 day notice for nonpayment, even though Massachusetts law still specifies 14 days. Don’t use less than the minimum required notice for non-payment. If your lease specifies a longer period, you must use the longer period specified. If you are unsure whether your property is covered by the CARES Act, serve a 30 day notice and/or consult with an attorney.

To evict for cause, you cannot use the 14-day notice. You must go with what the lease says. The MassLandlords lease and others that follow common conventions call for a 7-day. You must indicate which specific part of the lease has been breached. Collect your evidence.

If your lease doesn’t say anything about the notice periods, you should have used our lease! Contact an attorney.

Please note: courts have tended not to grant 7-day notice except in cases of illegal firearms, illegal use of firearms, or drugs.

Notice to Quit with a Tenancy at Will

You can use a 14-day notice for non-payment of rent, unless your property is covered under the CARES Act. For CARES Act properties and all other reasons, you must give what’s called the “30-day notice.” Really it’s 30 days or “one full rental period.” This has implications for the month of February: you have to give notice before January 28 if you want the tenant out by March 1.

What if the Tenant Pays but you Still Want Them Out?

If the tenant pays you fully after you issue their first notice to quit, and it was notice for nonpayment, you’re both back in business together. You cannot refuse the money because the tenant has the right to cure. Be nice when you give notice because they might cure. Depending on the type of business you operate, anywhere from zero to 100 percent will cure.

Is More Better?

If you issue multiple notices to quit, the judge will have to determine which set of case law they want to follow. Suppose you issue one 30-day notice that you think was ignored, so you issue a second one. Well, the tenant might have seen both and can ask to have the later one reset the clock. The same goes if you issue a 14-day and a 30-day. The judge might decide to disallow the 14-day notice and go with 30 days. Or if the judge thinks you were trying to deceive the tenant out of their right to proper notice, the judge might decide to disallow both notices. Attorneys familiar with different courts can advise you about your specific jurisdiction. We recommend you just pick one notice, serve it properly, and stand behind it.

What if the Tenant Neither Pays Nor Quits?

If the tenant ignores your notice and continues to occupy the premises on the 7th, 14th, or 30th day after the date of the notice, depending, you will have to seek to enforce the notice by filing for eviction in court. Make sure to count whole days.
The day after the day you give notice is day one, not day two.

Delivery

Once you've filled out the form, you must serve the notice to the tenant. You can attempt to do this in a variety of ways:

  • Hand deliver it
  • Hire a constable to hand deliver it
  • Mail it
  • Tape it to the door

You must prove that the tenant actually received the notice. For this reason, you cannot tape a notice to a door in Massachusetts (no proof of receipt).

You can attempt to mail it, but if the tenant knew what was good for them, they would say they never got it. Even if you require a signature, the savvy tenant can refuse to sign for it. Even if you send it certified, that’s only proof of mailing and not proof of lawful delivery.

The only option we can recommend is hand delivery, face-to-face. You can do it yourself or hire a constable or sheriff (typically around $50) to provide a third party witness.

If you are hand-delivering something uncontested (e.g., a friendly notice to quit), we suggest you get your tenant's signature at delivery. You will want to have a sheriff deliver notices that will be contested.

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Sample of Massachusetts tenancy at will rental agreement

MassLandlords is a nonprofit dedicated to helping owners rent their property. We try our best, but we can't guarantee these forms will always work. We provide legal information but never advice particular to your situation. Nothing on this site is meant to create an attorney-client relationship. We advise you consult with an attorney.

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