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.
Types of Forms
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, you can use a 14-day notice to quit. This the shortest legal notice, even if your lease specifies a shorter period. Don’t use less than a 14-day notice for non-payment. If your lease specifies a longer period, you must use the longer period specified.
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. For anything else, 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.
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
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.