In Massachusetts, "housing court" refers to the special set of courts that deal exclusively with housing related matters. This is different from land court, which deals with foreclosure, tax liens, and title. It's also different from district court, which deals with all matters, including crimes and misdemeanors. In housing court, you can file eviction cases and small claims.
- Past Presentations
- Video: Housing Court eFiling Training
- What It’s Like Going to Court via Zoom Meeting
- See Also
- External Links
Community Mediation Alternative
Instead of eviction, or in parallel with a court filing, remember you can also try non-court community mediation. The Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration uses state funding to train and supervise volunteer mediators.
In the first six months of 2021, MOPC oversaw 441 mediations:
- 80% of cases settled without going to court;
- 95% were happy with the process; and
- 100% of participants thought the mediators were fair.
There are no income eligibility requirements. LLCs, Incs, and other entities do not have to hire an attorney.
Housing Court Introduction
Housing Court has jurisdiction over a variety of housing related matters, including eviction, property damage caused by a tenant, payment plans post-move out, and restraining orders.
Since Housing Court expansion in July 2017, there have been five housing court divisions covering all of Massachusetts:
Housing court shares jurisdiction for eviction and small claims with the District Court. Tenants have a right to transfer cases filed in District Court to Housing Court, which would add delay to your case. Filing in Housing Court also offers two more advantages:
- Mediation can create binding, enforceable agreements without having to go before a judge.
- The Housing Courts specialize in housing matters and are generally knowledgeable and accessible.
That said, an attorney may advise you to file in District Court for your particular case, especially if they are aware of timelines or circumstances that make District Court a more favorable venue for you. Listen to your attorney. If you are a scrupulous landlord, odds are good that you will navigate any court just fine.
Housing Courts Travel
Housing Courts have a primary seat and a circuit. At their primary seat, they tend to hear cases on a Thursday. For instance, the primary seat of the Central Division is Worcester, so Worcester court day is a Thursday. But the Central Division also travels to Marlborough (among other places) and hearing day in Marlborough is Friday. Always file your case at the primary seat of your court, but pay attention to where your case will be heard and on which weekday.
Check your court day before relying on this information, for instance (dates are for private landlords):
- Boston: Thursday
- Hadley: Monday
- Springfield: Thursday
- Worcester: Thursday
We'll add more in the future.
Much has changed because of COVID-19. All hearings with rare exception are taking place over zoom. Always look for notice from the court about when and where your next court event will take place.
Housing Court offers a service called mediation. Before COVID-19, this would take place the morning of your case, when you and your tenant appear in court. Now, it takes place at a mandatory Tier 1 "status hearing." At mediation, you will have the option to sit with a housing specialist to discuss your situation.
You should always choose to do mediation. Mediation has a bad reputation in some circles, but here's the truth:
Mediation is binding.
If a tenant agrees to do something in mediation, it gets recorded by the mediator. The fact of the agreement appears in the official records. Suppose they said they would move out by the 15th. Or maybe they agreed to pay an extra $100/mo to pay back rent. Such agreements are binding on them. You can get what you want without having to appear before the judge.
If you go through mediation and you fail to come to an agreement, you go on to see the judge. And now that you've just been talking to the tenant, you know exactly what they are going to tell the judge. You just heard their whole case. You can now craft rebuttals in your head, on paper, or with your attorney before the judge sees you.
Suppose you do mediation, you skip the judge, and the tenant doesn't do what they said they would. In that case, it's as if they broke a promise to the court. You can take the tenant back to court, the judge will see you without further mediation, and things will now be very much slanted in your favor.
So always do mediation. You have lots to gain and nothing to lose.
Court records are increasingly searchable online, going back many years. This means housing court and district court.
Be careful when you search. Landlords might have filed for eviction in housing court or district court for any of the tenant's previous addresses. You also need to try variations on their name to avoid those few records that might have typographical errors.
Court records may also be available at the terminals in the physical housing courts.
Evictions: In the Court Room
Do not expect equal treatment.
Do not expect fairness.
Your job is to make no errors.
Your goal is to regain possession.
You will almost certainly lose money.
- H. John Fisher, HAP Housing, landlording expert
The type of case you have depends on how you filed it. Eviction (aka "summary process") is about breach of agreement. Breach of agreement means unpaid rent or another specific violation. Note that eviction cases do not allow for damages. If you want the tenant to pay you back for damage above and beyond the security deposit, you must file a separate small claims case after eviction. A tenancy at will might also allow eviction without cause.
You should prepare yourself for court by collecting all of your papers and evidence. Courts are public, so if you have time, attend a hearing before your hearing to watch how it works. Ask the court when they are hearing cases and what the procedure is for visitors either on zoom or in person.
If you will be in court for the first time, ask your local landlord network for an attorney. Don't be penny wise, pound foolish: an attorney can save you ten thousand dollars or more. If you are a corporation or LLC, you must have an attorney. If you are a sole proprietor, you should pay for an attorney unless you are confident in your knowledge of the law, and your adherence to all of it.
In the court room, do not lose your cool, and try not to make procedural mistakes. Judges rarely cut landlords any slack. (On the other hand, judges may cut tenants slack if they perceive the tenant is being steamrolled.) Remember, you initiated the action, and the judge needs to ensure fairness for the uninformed tenant.
Be honest with yourself; is the real root of your problem the fact that you didn’t do a good job of tenant screening.
- H. John Fisher, HAP Housing, landlording expert
Our Eviction Study showed that, if one party owes money, 99.8% of the time it will be the landlord who gets the judgment in their favor. But that doesn't matter. You will probably not be able to collect the judgment against the tenant. All you can hope for is to get your apartment back and generating income again.
If you want to file for damages above and beyond the security deposit, you can file a separate action in small claims court after you have your apartment back. Whatever judgments you get are good for 20 years. if the tenant starts making real money, or wants to buy a house, this judgment may become collectible.
Just remember that regaining possession of your property is your goal. Keep that in clear focus and set all quibbles and monetary damages aside until you get your apartment back.
Central Housing Court Covers Ring, Blacklists, Prepayment and More in Worcester June 2018
On June 13, 2018, officials from the Central Division of the Housing Court, including but not limited to First Justice Diana Horan, Judge Donna Salvidio, and Clerk Magistrate Nickolas Moudios, presented at the Worcester Technical High School. They covered a variety of issues they see owners and managers making. The notes below are intended to be a summary for experienced owners of the new points addressed, rather than a comprehensive review for beginner owners. Any errors are our own.
Is it Lawful to use the Ring Doorbell System?
A member wanted to know if they could use the Ring doorbell system with its audio and video in their common areas (the stars, hallways, basement , decks, porches and attic) and/or around the perimeter.
Rather than answer specifically, the court staff answered generically: You can't use any system that records audio. It's a criminal offense in MA if there's no consent.
Our take on Ring is that you can use it as a doorbell, without any recording, but you can't use any of the recording features, since they don't separate out video vs audio.
Can I Blacklist a Tenant by Publishing My Eviction Story?
A member wanted to know if they could share their list of bad tenants in print or online.
Court staff said that you can't post tenant recommendations or non-recommendations. Anything you say about a renter must be "crystal clear truth," they said. They said if you want others to know that you had a serious problem with a renter, you should file your case in court and let their name appear in MassCourts.org, and let that public record speak for itself.
You might try to skirt this advice and advertise the public record at MassCourts.org in connection with a renter’s name. “Hey, look at MassCourts.org before you rent to John Doe.” The court staff said that could expose you to claims.
The court staff did not address this, but we want to cite MGL Chapter 93 Section 49, which states in a roundabout way that landlords may be violating the state Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by communicating information about non-payment specifically to anyone other than the courts or the tenant.
Can I Transfer Security Deposits Between Outgoing and Incoming Roommates?
The scenario presented was as follows: Tammy Tenant leaves a roommate situation. Rachel Roommate wants to take Tammy’s place. Can you switch the numbers on the account from Tammy to Rachel, and have Rachel pay Tammy?
The answer from the court officials was pointed: No, you must return the security deposit. You cannot in any way transfer credit to a new renter.
When asked what happens when Tammy cannot be contacted and has left no forwarding address, the court staff advised to leave the money in the bank account for one year.
When asked what happens if the renter is deceased but you have their direct deposit information, the court staff advised against knowingly doing that. Probate or their family should instead be notified that you are holding the deposit and wish to receive instructions.
What’s the Craziest thing Anyone Has Ever Done in Housing Court?
The judges and the clerk magistrate agreed: the craziest thing they’ve seen is anyone who refuses mediation, whether a landlord or a tenant. That’s your last chance to obtain a mutually agreeable and yet legally binding judgment. It’s a chance to avoid being called out for any legal noncompliance. And it’s not a material delay. If you can’t reach a mediated agreement, you can go through the door to see the judge immediately after.
Can I Prepay Rent?
An attendee wanted to know how they were supposed to approve a rental application for a family with substantial assets but no income. The law specifically forbids collecting rent in advance, doesn’t it?
The court officials said the law prohibits requiring rent paid in advance. If there’s a new rental agreement, freely entered into, and the tenant is volunteering to prepay, then that may be permitted. “There cannot be even a whiff of a hint of being required or desired by the landlord,” otherwise it would be unlawful.
Another attendee asked if someone prepays for a year, does that create a rental period of a year? The answer was no, the notice requirement is not changed by prepayment.
The court staff also noted that Chapter 186 Section 15B, which regulates prepayments, has one ultimate paragraph that says this restriction shall not apply to rentals of 180 days or less or vacation rentals.
Many judges now feel that the Hatcher case applies to the notice-to-quit as well as the summons and complaint. This means if you are an LLC, you need to have an attorney draft all notices.
The appeals court in Massachusetts have clearly established that homelessness beats economic loss every time. You must show due process to a renter. Don’t expect lost rent or a tied-up unit to sway a judge.
The maximum court-charged late fee is 12% of rent. This is not interest, this is a one-time fee.
What It’s Like Going to Court via Zoom Meeting
By Kimberly Rau, MassLandlords writer
When the COVID pandemic hit in March 2020, Massachusetts initially shut down many of its courtrooms, later reopening them in an online format. And while the state offered tutorials about how to access court service centers online, the prospect seemed daunting. How was one supposed to find out what Zoom meeting ID to use to access the meeting? Could anyone attend a public hearing, like they would be able to in a physical court room?
In covering one landlord-tenant nonpayment dispute, we had the opportunity to find out.
First, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that finding the correct Zoom “courtroom” was easy. We accessed the case we were following on the Massachusetts electronic court database, searching by the appropriate region and court (in our case, the Southeast housing court) and then first and last name of someone involved in the case (here, plaintiff Dawn McGuire). On the page that had updates for the case, we were able to see when the hearing had been scheduled. That line also had the Zoom ID and password, so, on the correct date, it was a matter of signing in at the right time.
Our reporter Jennifer Rau signed in a few minutes before the hour, providing her real name, and shortly, a court clerk signed in as well to ask if she was a witness for either the plaintiffs or the defendants. Rau said no, identified herself as a representative of MassLandlords, and was told to sit tight while everyone else signed in. The screen went back to a “waiting room” screen until everyone was present. The chat remained open during this time, and a telephone number was provided where someone could phone in and hear the checking-in process if they desired.
Around 15 minutes after the scheduled hearing time, the hearing began. In this instance, it was just the plaintiffs, defendants, judge, clerk and assistant and our reporter present. The clerks did not remain on video during the hearing.
The judge kept the meeting orderly, reminding people to wait their turns to speak, because, just like in person, people trying to talk over one another makes it difficult to hear anything. This is compounded by internet lag time. As in in-person court, evidence was supposed to be submitted ahead of time for the judge to review.
Overall, attending the hearing (and another follow up at a later date) was a simple, painless process. In terms of accessibility, accessing online hearings over a computer is the easiest option, but if you can’t use a computer, you can also dial in (the phone number should be provided along with the meeting ID). At this time, it does not appear as though there is an option to attend a virtual hearing in person. But, if you do not have a smart phone, another option is to see if your local library will allow you to sit in on a Zoom meeting on one of their computers (just bring your headphones).
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Housing Court eFiling Training and Procedural Updates and Landlord/Attorney Feedback
Benjamin Adeyinka – Ben
Charles Sweeney – Charles
Sam Kirby - Sam
James Sharpe – James
Keith Tan - Keith
Caroline Quan – Caroline
Douglas Quattrochi - Doug
Doug: My name is Doug Quattrochi. I’m the executive director of MassLandlords. I want to thank you all for being here today. We’ve got a great presentation for you, as usual, and we’re going to just start by giving an overview, because it’s a free event ad membership is not required, a little overview about MassLandlords, and what we’re all about, so that’s my first segment here.
Our mission at MassLandlords is to create rental housing. We’re a 501(c)6 nonprofit designed for owners rent property with compliant quality businesses. Property value is important because that’s how we provide housing year-after-year. Compliance is also important because we have to follow all the laws and quality in the sense that we want to be proud to be associated with one another, we’re doing the right thing, we’re running good businesses.
Our goals for 2020 are to have the first state-specific market certification for landlords. We launched level 1 in the fall and then levels 2 and 3 are about to launch here. We originally targeted for January. It’s probably going to slip into February and really to get that first public recognition of that certification, meaning having renters care about it and public officials, particularly reps and senators.
I want to acknowledge the volunteers who put their time into helping events like the state. We got a whole network of people all over including in Worcester, and we got a statewide board of directors, all volunteers as well, listed up at the top. I just want to give you a sense for the team that we have at MassLandlords because although I’m at event and a lot of folks are starting to get to know me, it’s much more than me.
We’ve got a whole bunch of people who work with us including Jillian, who you interact with, who is your information manager, Peter and Sue who run the helpline, Peter Vickery, our legislator affairs counsel, Alex who is part-time controller. We got a lot of admin and videography and content support, Fatima, Paul, Paul Ssemanda, Jessica Thrower. We’ve also got Emerson and Vipan for admin and bookkeeping, and then we’ve got Prospero for admin and Kim and Eric for writing as well on the newsletter, and they’re able to do journalist support, too. For instance, if we had a hearing at the state house on Tuesday, Kim is going to do some follow-up for that.
Our growth curve is slow but steady. We really don’t advertise. We’re still all word of mouth until we get the certification lodge. We started 2019 with about 1400 members and we ended with about 1,700, so that’s good growth for us. We’ve got a lot of resources available to folks who are new to MassLandlords, so this helpline is a good resource, business advice and legal information and referrals to attorneys for legal advice particular to your situation. We’ve got message boards. You can ask for input and help from other members, rental screening coupons, save-on paint, virtual office manager at RentHelper, all kinds of stuff, so please make sure to take advantage and look at the resources sheet if you’re not already a member for reasons to join.
This certification is live. I just want to talk about this a little because it’s a big deal for us. The purpose is to make you look great in front of your renters, but we realize that it’s a pretty tight rental market at the moment, so renters aren’t really going to check their landlords the way landlords check their renters, not now. We really want to be a credible advocate for you, particularly at the state house. When they’re talking about change in policy, at every hearing, there’s a whole bunch of folks who come and testify that they’ve got a slumlord and there needs to be tougher laws. The slumlords who are generating those stories make it harder for the rest of us who do a good job with their business, so we really want to try to raise the bar and show that when we testify, we’re particularly differentiating ourselves from the horror stories reps and senators have heard.
Certifications are going to have three levels. The first level is a commitment to follow certain best practices. Level 2 is going to be a test of basic legal competence. Level 3 is going to be continuing ed requirement, so as laws and markets change, we stay current and we know that we’re staying up to do date.
I wanted to just show what this will look like. There is my professional profile on the site. You can put as much or as little information as you want. It’s up there, and it’s going to have a logo at upper right, which says, CML, Certified Massachusetts Landlord Level 1. The idea is that as you progress, the site will automatically update, and that’s basically working now. You can certify as level 1 and make that commitment to best practices.
I want to talk about the level 2 certification a little bit as well. Here’s an example. It’s a question that you will be asked if you want to take this optional test basically with competence. Landlords who take a security deposit are legally required to provide monthly statements of interest like a bank. Show of hands. How many people think true? Okay, good. Good job. See? The test is going to be easy to pass for folks who participate. It’s an annual statement, which you have to provide, and the keyword there is monthly.
All right, let’s see how you do this one. “Failure to comply with the security-deposit statute can lead to ______ damages and legal fees?” Double? Triple? Quadruple?
Doug: Okay, everybody is shouting it. Does anybody think double? Let me just check. It’s okay. It’s a safe space. No treble? Show of hands. Yes, okay good. A lot of us now what that word is. Anybody think quadruple after I told you the right answer? Okay, very good. Thanks for paying attention. What’s that?
Brian: The resident?
Doug: The resident?
Brian: The resident.
Doug: Yes, the resident, so people might think depending on what you do with the deposit, they’re entitled to more, but that’s the basic idea. It’s supposed to be pretty straightforward and the test is going to be adoptive, so it’s going to ask you a softball, and if you get it right, it’s going to ask you a harder one. If you get that right, it’s going to ask you a harder one, so you can quickly zero in on your ability. We don’t want you sitting in front of your computer for 4 hours. I think it’s going to be possible to evaluate skill levels in about 30, 45 minutes here.
I’ll give you one final one. “A security deposit likely cannot be used by a landlord to pay for which of the following?” Don’t shout it out. Carpet steam cleaning. Cracked windows. Stolen refrigerator, or unpaid rent. You likely can’t use a security deposit for –how many people think carpet steam cleaning? Okay. How many think a cracked window? Okay. How many people think a stolen refrigerator? Okay. How many people think unpaid rent?
Okay, so it’s very clear that you can use the security deposit for unpaid rent, so that’s not the correct answer. The intent here with carpet steam cleaning was that that’s probably normal wear and tear, and you’re probably not going to be able to deduct for that. but what really bothers me and this is why the test is not live yet is because this particular question, we have one of our court staff who says stolen refrigerator here, not allowed. Clerk Magistrate Moudios, would you like to elaborate?
Doug: No, okay.
Doug: As we develop these questions and we run them by folks, we get input on what stands for them and what’s not and that’s part of what I’m doing here, but I also want to show you that there is a level of difficulty where the questions start to become really esoteric and nuanced, and you might not have to know that particularly as a landlord to be certified if you run into that situation and you are certified, you know where to get specific information about it, but the easy stuff like knowing whether you have monthly or annual statements and whether you can shove a security deposit under a mattress for safekeeping like that kind of stuff, we want to make sure everybody who’s certified has a solid foundation on.
Definitely talk to Naomi at the desk if you’re interested in getting continuing ed credit for today. We can make that happen, and if you join as a member, you will get that. That’s basically my update. Remember to sign with your cellphones if you haven’t already so we don’t interrupt anybody or mar the recording here.
I want to introduce just one person who’s going to introduce the rest of our panel this afternoon. I want to introduce Ben Adeyinka, Administrative Attorney for the Housing Court. In 2002, Ben started a career in banking and real estate. In 20009, he began working with Orlans Moran PLLC as paralegal and subsequently as an attorney. Ben has represented numerous financial institutions, litigation matters, bankruptcy, landlord-tenant law. He’s practiced in the United States Bankruptcy Court District of Massachusetts, the land courts, superior district and housing courts.
In December 2014, he decided to leave private practice to serve the public, so thanks for that, Ben and he currently works as the deputy court administrator for housing court. He works closely with Chief Justice Tim Sullivan. Ben received his bachelor’s in communications from the University of Buffalo, master’s in business administration from –I’m going to push that, I’m sorry – Medialle College and a juris doctorate, JD, from the Massachusetts School of Law with a concentration in real estate law. A round of applause for Ben Adeyinka.
Ben: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much for the introduction, Doug. Thank you for the opportunity to be here and present today. Again, as Doug mentioned, my name is Ben Adeyinka. I’ve had the privilege and the honor of serving as the deputy court administrator for the housing court. I must apologize today. The chief justice of the housing court, who’s my partner in justice, could not make it today, but he asked me to send his gratitude for MassLandlords for allowing us to continue to hear your concerns, continue to talk to you, and engage with you regarding the issues that impact what you do.
Before we begin the program, the housing court needs to say a special thank you to Doug Quattrochi. Doug has really done a tremendous amount of work within this organization. I remember when we first started this court, the organization was trying to organize itself and as you’re saying today, he’s done tremendous amounts to bring educational programs to your organization and also make sure that he’s the voice, so a [unintelligible 0:09:50].
Ben: There are tons of things you need to organize and help to coordinate this program, so [unintelligible 0:09:55] thank you as well. Before we begin the program, just to set the tone, what we’re trying to do here today is we’ve undertaken a major step in the trial court to launch what we call the first step ties in with the court’s operation, eFiling.
But before we begin with that presentation, I’d like to introduce the panel to you and they’re just going to raise their hands so you know who they are. We have from the administrative office of the housing court, Charles Sweeney. Charles Sweeney is a remarkable individual. He’s an attorney, one of three law clerks who will discuss the holding in days versus common court. There was an important decision that came down, and I understand that counsel for MassLandlords also [unintelligible 0:10:40] Peter Vickery, so we’re going to talk about the holding of the case a little bit today. Again, this is not legal advice, but then maybe some procedural guidance on how that case applies.
Also with me today, I have the pleasure of having a new department has been created in [unintelligible 0:10:58] and we have the director of that department, Sam Kirby. Sam has an extensive background in automatizing courts. He’s done that work successfully in Seattle, and he’s going to talk to you a little bit about what his vision is and what his role would be within the next few years to get the court up to date and modernized.
We also have from e-Courts, James Sharpe. James Sharp is a remarkable individual. He’s worked closely with the housing court pretty much on a weekly basis to get us where we are today. He’s been involved in pretty much every aspect of where we are pertaining to eFiling and other aspects as well within the housing court operations. Jim also has a background, I believe, in software engineering, and he is also very business-savvy. We are grateful to have him as a member of the [unintelligible 0:11:52].
I also have the pleasure to introduce two dynamic individuals from the administrative departments of the housing court, Keith Tan. Keith Tan is our field coordinator. He has done a tremendous amount of work since he’s come on. I think it’s been 1-1/2 years or so since November he’s come on. What he’s done in that short amount of time was really helpless to see how behind we are in [unintelligible 0:12:15] specifically in the housing court typically in the housing court when it comes to digitization and modernization.
We also have performance analyst, Caroline Quan. She’s here as well. She will lead the demonstration on how to do eFiling. She started I think in September, and in the short amount of time that she has tenured on this really critical and important role of performance analyst, she started to provide more than digital presence for the housing court. You know that she will have any handouts, correct? We are going to try to push more information to you online, digital, so she has been a tremendous asset to the department and she’s helped to do that, so thank you, Caroline.
We also have someone that you all know very well, someone who has been consistently in housing court, Mr. Nick Moudios, our clerk magistrate in the central division. Not only is Nick the clerk magistrate of the Central Division of Worcester Housing Court. But Nick has also helped to lead some or all of the clerks. We have six clerk magistrates, appointed officials who have kind of styles and practices, not everyone embraces technology. Mr. Moudios is not one of those individuals. He has been a champion, among all the clerks, to rally us to try to figure out how can we best modernize the practices within the housing court. His role today, he’s going to speak to you and answer the questions from the clerk’s perspective on how eFiling will impact your business moving forward.
Before we begin the presentation, just a quick update on expansion. The housing court was created in 1972, and it originated in Boston to combat urban blight. You’ve heard Doug talk about slumlords. That was a major problem and that was [unintelligible 1:14:13] the creation of the Housing Court in Boston. Fast forward to July 2017, the housing court expanded, which was codified by Chapter 47 of the Acts of 2017.
Based on expansion, 84 municipalities and towns previously did not have access to housing court now have access to a housing court. Again, we share jurisdiction with the district court. We have contrary jurisdiction, but now you have the option of coming to a housing court and those communities that previously did not have a housing court.
Very briefly, the makeup of the housing court, we have roughly 137 fulltime employees and 15 judges, 6 clerk magistrates. Two of our new judges, you may have come in contact with, Judge Jonathan King. Has anyone come into the Worcester Housing Court and seen Judge King? He is one of our new judges and Judge Michael Malamut.
Just to talk about our status, how many cases do we have in a fiscal year? Previously in FY 2019, we handled roughly 40,000 case filings. Remember, we have 137 fulltime employees and we were able to handle 40,000 case filings. Of those case filings, we did roughly 31,000 summary process, landlord-tenant divisions.
We comprise the six divisions, the Eastern Housing Court, which was formerly known known as Boston. We have the central division of the Housing Court, which was formerly known as the Western Division. Our newest division that was create was the Metro Housing Court, and we also have the Northeast and Southeast Worcester Housing Court.
Each of those divisions are comprised of three divisional leaders. We have the first justice. We have a court magistrate, and we have the chief housing specialist. If you have any issues or concerns that will need to be addressed, those are the leaderships you should go to and voice those concerns. We are also available for those [unintelligible 0:16:22] leaders in the divisions.
You may know that the Housing Court is very nomadic. We travel. We set in about 22 locations per week, so we take our show on the road, so to speak. We bring the court to the community in some cases.
So pursuant to our statutes, General Laws 185C governs the jurisdiction of the housing court. What kind of cases do we hear? We have jurisdiction in law and equity over all civil and criminal matters. People think the Housing Court has no criminal jurisdiction, but we do. We have jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters involving the use of residential property and the activities conducted thereof.
Our purpose is to maintain healthy, safe, and compliant housing stock and that is our goals. An individual comes into our court and they have those issues, we are here to address their concerns. From the landlord’s perspective, you also have issues. If you can’t get access, you need to come into court ASAP and file a motion for access. We will create a case so you can get access and that’s something we should bring affirmatively.
We also hear evictions, as I stated before. Small claims cases, civil actions involving personal injury, so when we have slipped and fell in a home that maybe within the purview of the housing court. Property damage, breach of contract. Remember, anything has to relate to residential housing.
Foreclosure challenges throughout, that’s one of our problems. A small part of our work, it takes a lot of time to hear those claims and defenses, and we also adjudicate, call law enforcement and appeals of local zoning board decisions.
What makes the housing court unique? Our judges, our clerks like Mr. Moudios and individuals who serve in the court. We are user-friendly court, stress the emphasis on user-friendly. We have a high population of self-represented litigants, people that come into our court without attorneys. We also have a very diverse staff. We are one of the most diverse departments in the metropolitan and the reason being is that we need to reflect the population we serve.
The housing specialists are also an invaluable part of the department, as you know. Some of those individuals makes multiple managers, but they are able to help you and they can help you not only you don't need to have a case on them. Typically, you can schedule mediation with a housing specialist for a date that is convenient for you and the other party, and we will accommodate that.
We also have lawyer for the day program, and I want to stress something about the lawyer for the day program. There may be some misconceptions out there that it’s not available for landlords. Incorrect. First come, first serve basis. We should have lawyers for both landlords and tenants. Now that means that generally speaking, tenants are predominantly unrepresented in court. The stats show about 92 percent self-represented tenants that come into court for a summary process eviction do not have an attorney. On the other side of the view, the landlords, because of case law, certain case law requires you if you’re a landlord or you have LLC, you must have an attorney.
On the other side of the meeting, we have more individuals who are landlords that don't have attorneys. But for those individuals here today who choose to represent themselves, we’re going to give you some information, particularly on how you can bring claims affirmatively specifically for use in articles.
Some of these issues that come into our court have to do with the challenges of the society that live in peace. What comes into our court? We have individuals that we’re dealing with that have some serious issues, some mental health issues, domestic violence issues come into our court, individuals who have substance abuse, just to name a few. The reason I’m telling you this is because every year I check our staff who receives annual training on how to handle these sensitive issues. Another part of our court’s mission is to make sure we are focused on balance. Balance is an important part of what we are striving to achieve in the housing court against the tip of scales of justice. We want to do that.
During this presentation, I ask that you to consider any questions that you have. Please write them down. The program is going to be a robust one. We’re going to start off first with Attorney Charles Sweeney. He’s going to give you an overview of the [unintelligible 0:21:24] case and give you some procedural. Particularly when it comes to the eFiling presentation, please, if you can write your questions now so we can get through the presentation. We will take all of those towards the end. Thank you so much for having us here, and we will just start the program now. Thank you.
Charles: Thank you, Mr. Adeyinka. Thanks, ladies and gentlemen, for coming. Again, my name is Charles Sweeney. I’m a law clerk for the housing court, and I want to talk to you a little bit about the case that you may have heard about that came down in September from the SJC called Davis and Comerford. That is specifically allowing landlords to bring a motion before the court to ask the court to order tenants to make use-and-occupancy payments.
As Mr. Adeyinka referenced, this is something that you guys need to facilitate for yourselves. The court is not going to bring it up on their own motion. You need bring up notice to quit for nonpayment of rent or after you start process for a 30-day eviction, the tenant stops paying, you may bring a motion before the court to ask the judge to order use-and-occupancy payments throughout the summary process case. Davis and Comerford, for the SJC listed several important factors that a trial judge is going to have to consider in order to make this order for use-and-occupancy.
I keep repeating use and occupancy because it’s not necessarily a rental payment. It’s not going to be necessarily the rental amount that you and the tenant have agreed on. The judge has to make the determination of what’s a fair market value for the property. Once you bring the motion, an evidentiary hearing, use and occupancy hearing is going to be scheduled for the judge to be able to hear both sides and make a fair determination of what is fair market value.
The SJC has also laid out a guideline of what a judge needs to consider, so basically also what landlords and tenants need to provide the judge in order for them to make this determination in order for them to make an order, in order for you guys to get paid on a monthly basis.
First off, judges are supposed to consider the time delay before resolution. Of course, if the tenant makes a jury trial demand, that’s going to increase the time period before a final resolution for control of the property, so they will consider that. They will also consider how much back rent is allegedly due. The higher that goes, the greater weigh that will be for landlords. They will also consider months without even a partial payment, so if the tenants try and they’re making some payments, too, but maybe not a full payment, they’re going to consider that as well.
Obviously important is a landlord’s monthly obligations. This is why you’re going to be wanting to ask for an order for use and occupancy. If you have a mortgage payment, you’re falling behind, the bank is maybe threatening foreclosure, those are all things that a judge is supposed to consider. Obviously, there are other monthly expenses that could also be considered, things like taxes or any kind of physical upkeep that you guys are having to expense and not getting any intake value from that.
On the other side, a judge is going to have to weigh your interest against of course the interest of your tenant, specifically if a tenant is bringing any defenses and counterclaims specially if those defenses and counterclaims have anything to do with the physical condition of the premises. They’re going to consider if the tenant is alleging that they are rightfully withholding rent. If there is a claim for warranty of habitability breach, if there’s a breach of quiet enjoyment. These are things the judge is going to consider the overall totality of circumstances.
Along those same lines, they’re not just going to consider what’s alleged but whether there’s a likelihood of success for a tenant to be able to decrease this fair market value. A tenant maybe making out of pocket expenses, certain things that they have to correct on their own. That might also decrease the fair market value finding of the judge. Landlords’ prior knowledge of defects, and of course extensive violations whether there’s some substantial breaches.. Maybe refrigerator is missing or it maybe it’s something smaller that could be fixed with simple access.
Then of course, there’s going to be documentation of any of this evidence for both sides. You can’t just go in and tell the judge, as you know you have to be able to prove your point a little bit here. This is an evidentiary hearing, and it’s trying to make a fair finding, so it’s hard for a judge to do that without any evidence before them.
They will consider the financial positions of the parties, so along the lines of whether you’re granted with foreclosure, whether the tenancy has been asked for down payments, whether they’re able to make the rental payment or not.
After a judge considers all of this 11 factors, they obviously have to make a determination, a finding. They can do that either orally or in writing, so you can’t necessarily [unintelligible 0:28:11] to a written finding of all these determinations. A judge doesn’t necessarily, by the ruling of Davis and Comerford, make a finding on each single one of those 11 factors. It’s an overall balancing act where the judge has to consider in order to make a fair market value determination and whether or not a landlord is entitled to continue to collect monthly payments.
If the landlord is entitled to continuing monthly payments, the question then becomes where do those payments go to, and the SJC has outlined three possibilities for that. The tenant might pay directly into the court and ask for an amount of whatever that fair market values, or they might pay into your attorney’s account, or if the tenant has an attorney, and so their attorneys are [unintelligible 0:29:18] account.
The third option, of course is direct payments to you. Now this is where the judge is going to need to make a written finding. If you’re going to be paid directly, don’t need to make a written finding expressing why and ask your payments is not going to be enough in order to keep everybody honest. Again, that goes back to do you have mortgage payments that you’re so far have all done that you’re being threatened with foreclosure. Are there physical upkeep means that you need the cashflow in order to make sure that the unit stays up to code?
There may be other substantial factors for to why you, any particular individual may need that monthly rental income, and that is all fair game for you to bring into court before a judge to make a determination on.
Of course, your trial judge is going to have substantial discretion in any of these matters. They get to hear the evidence and decide, make a determination of what’s fair. To appeal that, it would be a standard abuse of discretion for the trial judge, which is a burden that you would have to prove at a later date, but basically it’s giving the judges substantial amount of leeway to hear all the evidence before them and decide what’s fair.
Again, I think if anything more needs to be discussed on this case, I’m happy to provide MassLandlords a writeup of this short discussion. Thank you.
Ben: Thank you for that briefing. For additional info, I’m also going to stress out to be proactive. It’s one thing to be proactive. If you find that you need to have that motion, if you need to have rental income to be restored, come to court sooner rather than later to make [unintelligible 0:31:49]. Again, as Attorney Sweeney mentioned to you, the judges have discretion and that’s what Justice [unintelligible 0:31:51] issued a decision for the SJC to stress that judges have discretion and they also have equitable powers to remedy wrong. We encourage you, know that it’s going to be a hearing, be put in for that hearing. Bring your documents, bring everything you can because you have to prove [unintelligible 0:32:15] Attorney Sweeney just stated.
Now moving on to the next order of business on the program. We do have the e-Courts director, as well as Jim Sharpe is also with e-Courts. They’re going to give you a glimpse into where the court is going into the next thing, so thank you so much.
Sam: Thanks for having me. I’ll give you a little bit of an idea of where we’re going, but also how we’re going to try to get there. We’ll have this [unintelligible 0:32:57]. Next slide. I’m going to give you a little bit of context of what e-Courts is and how we’re organized. Hopefully, we’ll accomplish our goals, kind of the approach we’re using to get there, what does it mean to do a redesign, and then kind of what we focus in in the next year to give you some context.
What is e-Courts?
Doug: Get the mike [unintelligible 0:33:25].
Sam: I’m not going to sing, I tell you that much right now.
Sam: Me, too. A lot of you are here probably to find out a little bit about the last element, the eFiling component of it. What I want to say is that e-courts is not eFiling. eFiling is part of the larger e-Courts. What we tried to do with the concept of the e-Courts is think about it as not just technology or going paperless. It’s really an opportunity for the court to use technology to change the way we think and to make changes on how we deal with you guys externally, but also how we operationalize things internally. It’s trying to look at our court processes from the beginning all the way to the end and trying to figure out how can we digitize it, as Keith has been working on.
In many ways, think about it as modernization of the court. Other places where you, guys, do business, more and more stuff is electronic in nature, the court isn’t that way right now, so we’re trying to figure out how to do that here at the court.
What it really is—if you go to the next one—for you, we have some goals established, 1, 2, 3, and 4. Two, three, and four are probably more internally, but really one is what impacts you, how do we make our services more accessible electronically, save you the trips downtown, how can you get your information, you file it, with your attorneys or yourselves, and file your information and you have to go down to court. But the other side of that is how can we give you information electronically, so you don't have to wait for it in the mailbox. You can get it more instantaneously.
Also, what services can we provide that we’ve done electronic. You can stay in your office and a magistrate or a judge is downtown, so you’re not having to go and make those trips. Ben mentioned this is the second course that I’ve done these things. The concepts we’re going to working in the trial court, too, are not new. It’s just figuring out how to apply them here.
The goal obviously is to create efficiencies inside the court, but it’s also to create efficiencies for folks litigants on that side of things. One of the big challenges we had in Washington, in Seattle [unintelligible 0:36:05] Boston, I’m from Washington, traffic is terrible, parking is expensive. Not only you have to come down to court, we had to pay for parking, we had to come down. More and more services we could provide that allowed you to do it electronically to save you money or save you a bill from your attorney because they’re able to do it in that manner. That’s kind of our goal kind of component.
How is the trial court going to support those goals that I kind of rambled on about? I think one of the significant thing the trial court has realized you have to take it seriously. I think in six months, six months ago, they created a program that I’m heading up. It’s a dedicated e-courts program and we report to the court administrator, and that court administrator overall the trial courts. It’s a dedicated, independent program with this focus, and I’m starting to staff up. Jim is part of the staff and the other staff. We are able and the trial court is taking it seriously. Concepts and things that have been talked about for years in the trial court now has kind of a way of bringing it together, we hope.
What’s our focus? First and foremost is take all these disparate ideas that are out there because it’s not new. Everything that we talk about happens at federal court, happens in Washington, happens in other business, but how can we make a common vision here at the trial court and across all the trial courts, not just housing, land court, district, BMC, superior, and hopefully, allow everybody to understand what each one of what that vision means.
The part of what I think the program aims to do is, okay we created this, where do we want to go. Keep us on track so we get there. This is just like in any business or anything, you get distracted, so part of our job is to keep us focused and keep us marching if this is what we want to do. If we want to be more of a digitized court, how we’re going to get there. Well, here are the stats we’re using. Let’s stay on track.
Probably the next two big things is kind of ties to Keith and Ben. Our job is to really help trial court departments, people like Keith and Ben, understand what it requires to get to where they want to go. Jim’s expertise, both technology and business, I think I bring some expertise in the court systems and other document management, transformational projects, organizations I worked with, so take up all we know and helping them see what is going to take to kind of get there and help them identify where they’re going to have to change their processes, where they might be statutes or rules that have to change if we’re going to change kind of the way we do business, and what technology really is needed to try to achieve this.
Then really, you’re going to see some work done later today on e-File. Keith, Caroline, they run it. I’m not trying to take away from Jim. Jim supported them in that and that’s what our job is to do is to help them get to where they want to go and support them when they get in there. It’s getting some dedicated staff to help fill the gaps, help them get to the quality of information they’re trying to provide you.
This is more just a read, I guess, but we kind of here in this one little spot, we’re starting to define where we want to be and this is kind of high-level approach I’m not going to get a lot, but it’s a planning approach. We’re taking it seriously and following a process and steps to get us there, understand what the environment is, where we want to be, understand the gaps, and the gaps are, “Okay, where all the things need to change to get us there, and then come up with a strategy and a plan. There’s time to do that, but underneath it, we’re making incremental changes. You, guys, the eFiling is an incremental change to get there. The whole large digitized court process isn’t there yet, but we got a plan to get us there.
How we approach it internally just giving a little bit of view into your world. We look at it with kind of two facets. We don't have multiple different trial courts. They do business, similar but different, so we’re looking kind of what we call vertical paths we’re helping them understand what it looks like to be digitized, and then we’re going to cross all of them to see what’s common, we’re going to see some common tools and some common changes. We’re going through that process right now, trying to come up with what it’s going to look down the road to kind of get the larger trial court to more of a digitized environment.
This kind of gives you some of those things I talked about, kind of our timeframe for things from a larger, more high-level, strategic world of things, trying to figure out what does it mean trying to get each trial court to understand and articulate when they say we want to go digitized, what does it mean because it’s different in every court.
Highlighting all the things that need to be changed because those things that need to be changed become then what your action plan is. You want to remodel a house, you got to look at it and say, what are you going to remodel and what are all the pieces, and you got to put a plan to do that. That’s what we need to do, that’s what we’re doing with the trial court process.
Probably one in here that is probably not as relevant to you, but unless we go to digitalization, as there’s a lot of our litigants that are pro se, they’re representing themselves. We have to have an approach that supports them also. It gives them equal access to the same information and to justice as the attorneys, so we have to figure out how we’re going to do that. That’s all going to roll into an overall strategy and a plan, and this is kind of where we march into.
Our focus is, I don't know if I mentioned this because I was rambling, the program started about 6 months ago. My first six months, I was trying to understand the organization, get staff, understand the environment, and recognizing I have to put together an overall plan, but we also have to have actionable items coming up in the near term.
Again, a little bit of a flavor and I’ll try to explain some of this. Our focus, obviously as I talked about, what is going to be our long-term strategy and plan for technology and such in our approach, as we figure out where we want to go, how we’re going to gradually get there. e-File, you guys are going to be exposed to that some more today. It’s been around for four years here at the court, but it really hasn’t expanded much. We were trying to look for opportunities to expand that service but also recognizing we have to make it work better with internally on how it comes through our systems, so we’re going to be looking at how to optimize that process.
Concept of e-Delivery, that’s a big one for this upcoming year. We ask you guys, your attorneys, to give us stuff, but you’re getting nothing back from us, so we’re looking at approaches at how we can deliver stuff back to you from the court electronically. Obviously, notices, rather than wait it for it to come through snail mail in the mail; we can get you an email that says here’s your notices. But other court documents we’re looking into, how can we supply to them electronically versus having to wait for the mail. That’s a big initiative for this upcoming year.
The other big one in this world is e-Pay. Ben brought it up at a recent meeting. On the criminal side, we allow for electronic payment, but we don’t on the civil side. How can we do that? How can we provide you the ability to pay civil actions or whatever you need to pay on the civil side, but don't have to mail in a check or come downtown.
We’re looking for other services that we ask you for but you can do electronically and pay rather than come downtown and get copies of a document, that kind of thing. I think I rambled, I rant. Is that making somewhat sense, maybe. Questions? Yes.
Male Audience 1: [unintelligible 0:45:50] does this like that?
Sam: The concept of email it to me, and this is still has to be worked up, is an optional service. The idea would be somebody would sign up and say, “I’m a litigant on this case. I prefer method of delivery would be email or traditionally by mail.” We have to recognize that not everybody has email, just as like everybody doesn’t always have the same phone number on a regular basis, so.
Male Audience 1: Notices available [unintelligible 0:46:33] on your website.
Sam: What’s that?
Male Audience 1: Would notices be available on [unintelligible 0:46:36] website, so I can go [unintelligible 0:46:41] notices for that.
Sam: We have some area there that we have to work on, so public site is very limited on what documents are available. If you’re an attorney, you have access to the documents. What we have to work on is if you’re not an attorney, how can you get legal access to your documents? That’s an area where we talk about, SRL. It’s self-registered [unintelligible 0:47:07] pro se, your pro se, how you’re going to deal with that. We have to give them equal access to justice. How can give somebody who isn’t an attorney access the same documents? That’s the challenge we have over the next year to work on.
Male Audience 2: Why [unintelligible 0:47:24] why does access have to be different for attorney and [unintelligible 0:47:30]?
Sam: One of those rules and statutes that are sitting up there, something we’re working through, so yes. But it’s acknowledged.
Doug: If you don’t mind, read the questions so we can share it to everyone.
Sam: [laughter] I think the question, I’ll paraphrase is—
Doug: [unintelligible 0:47:46]
Brian: Hopefully, I’ll talk loud enough so you can get this one.
Sam: Save me the repeat.
Brian: Sure. The writing is on the wall. Everything is going to go digital. That’s pretty good. Embrace technology, embrace innovation. On our side of the fence, we still have to mail the 14-day notice, stuff like that. At what point is there anything in the plans for me to be able to deliver a 14-day notice or some other notice or violation or stop your dog from barking. When and at what point if I do it digitally will it be acknowledged by the court as being received or being sent?
Sam: I’m not going to take the fifth here, but I’m going to say I’m not an attorney, but that is acknowledged. It’s been in conversations. I mean Ben and internally, we’ve had conversations about that same topic. What I’d like to say is what we’re building, I say 2020, is drilling the foundation and then we’re [unintelligible 0:49:05] as things. That is not off the table, what you’re talking about. It’s just not a 2020 thing, but yes, it’s—
Brian: I know this will save the courts [unintelligible 0:49:15] but it will also save, I’m a property manager, I administer a lot of units, for me to have staff sending out a number of 14-day notices beginning of every month.
Sam: I’m probably more transparent, but I’m on cam, so what the heck?
Sam: There’s a bottom goal, going back to goal is create a culture of change. What we’re talking about is a trial court system that has been around for years in a certain way. Part of the job is to start to create that it’s a change, and part of that change means you have to convince and change practices but then when appropriate, look to change the rules and the statutes are out there.
We’re building, confident on the change, going digitized, and then starting to hit these other layers that not only make it efficient for us as a court system and how we direct this way, but also for the people working around us, kind of what you’re saying. It’s not a one-year. It’s a multiyear thing.
Male Audience 3: I assume that you have to create account to have access to e-File, e-Pay, and e-Court for that matter. Would that be [unintelligible 0:50:35].
Sam: I have my vision. In Washington, we create one account that allowed you to see your case information, file your documents, and communicate, one account. That’s the goal here, but we’re building it in pieces. At the moment, you would probably have an account for eFiling, just the major stuff, and then probably in a way of accessing your information, a portion would be separate. Our goal is to bring them into one, so again its ease of use, one password versus ten or whatever, I’m exaggerating but yes. But that’s where we want to be. Left to right.
Male Audience 4: A couple of things. Summary process, you got to go by that. Can you just add vitals on the final [unintelligible 0:51:44] unrelated? And the other one is only one execution, mailing takes a few days [unintelligible 0:51:52] how are we going to be able to receive that electronically?
Sam: I’ll let the lawyer handle that one.
Ben: That’s a great question. One of our champions are trying to figure out how to make this come [unintelligible 0:52:04]. He’s been knocking at our door every day. Why can’t we just have that summons online, download it, and take on the back end when we enter the case? That makes sense. However, as the statutes are written today of rules, physically you have that summons with the seal from the court. Again, rules and statutes are at play that need to be modernized. I’m grateful for the fact that we have an e-Courts department now. We have a vision. We have steps that we are working towards. In time, we will get there, I believe so. I believe so. But we are working with a rule that was codified in 1980, the summary process [unintelligible 0:52:57] in 1980. We’ve come a long way almost 40 years, but we still have a long way to go.
Male Audience 4: But you use digital.
Brian: But you have to change the statute.
Sam: [unintelligible 0:53:01] But you have the way it works elsewhere, but you have culture, and a series of change. When we talk about the delivery here, we’re in the process of starting to understand which documents, we as a court system, create, that we know we can just email, it’s not a problem. We also know there’s documents that we create, but then we have to print, have somebody sign them, put the fancy seal on, seal, and then mail it to you because you need the original. That’s because of the statute. We will be, in some cases, addressing that this year, which may rule in the summons component. These areas where we say you got to have that seal. How can we globally address that and modernize that practice so then we can turn it around and address your issue, how to make it more efficient. We’re tied to statutes for now.
Doug: I think in the next section where we do the demo aspects [unintelligible 0:54:10] probably we will get [unintelligible 0:54:00] legal aspects to rent [unintelligible 0:54:10].
Sam: Just one more. You had a question [unintelligible 0:54:18] jump on. I’m sorry.
Male Audience 5: It ties somewhat to what [unintelligible 0:54:22] was saying here. This is what [unintelligible 0:54:27] the court into digitizing the process [unintelligible 0:54:30]. It sounds like the lawyers have some access to [unintelligible 0:54:35] but the same thing goes about the confidence 20 years ago [unintelligible 0:54:42] rather than [unintelligible 0:54:42]. Then we have QuickBooks that did 90 percent of the work that used to be done by; same thing with lawyers and [unintelligible 0:54:54] and so on. My question is specifics, is there going to be some specifics today that we would be able to start doing things differently that what have done until now?
Sam: Differently in what manner? I’m sorry.
Male Audience 5: For example, getting those documents, the judgment itself, coping with the judgment [unintelligible 0:55:17] even the court scheduled for them. You go, find and see what documents [unintelligible 0:55:20] looking at the court [unintelligible 0:55:28] see at least a couple of simple things like that.
Sam: We have a focus this year, which is to improve our access beyond just the attorneys. We have a focus for delivering documents that didn’t deliver documents just to attorneys. It’s to other litigants that isn’t an attorney, but it’s also access to information that may an attorney has that other litigants do not have and improve, so that you don't have to come down to see that board, that kind of concept.
Male Audience 5: So, I’ll go to my lawyer and get some [unintelligible 0:56:08].
Male Audience 5: That I can’t access myself rather than obtain from a lawyer. To access a document costs me $20 each single time. Something is wrong.
Sam: That is access to information, access to justice that we’re working on this year, so that is something.
Male Audience 5: It sounds like you have a lot of well-meaning, full-paid [unintelligible 0:56:30] correct?
Sam: We have low-hanging and then we have the larger picture, so we’re working on some low hanging
Male Audience 5: How do we get communication so that we know you’ve resolved that issue and we can start using that or accessing that?
Sam: This is a forum, MassLandlords.
Doug: In the next section, we’ll use that [unintelligible 0:56:65] in the future and we’ll see [unintelligible 0:57:01].
Ben: We’re going to move along to the next, Doug mentioned [unintelligible 0:57:18] here. You’re asking what’s the first step. You made a great point, low-hanging fruit. Here’s a low-hanging fruit. This is not mandatory for you to utilize. If you want to take advantage of the eFiling system, it’s totally [unintelligible 0:57:30]. You can go on after this presentation and start using it. However, before you start using it, let’s train you, make you accustomed to the system. We will walk you through it. Jim, as I mentioned before, he [unintelligible 0:57:45]. He’s the one in the office to get this together, working to keep it down the line, but if you have questions, specific questions on how the process works, again use your voice. Doug has your voice and will continue to be your voice. He will get those questions to us and we will make sure you get your response.
Now without further ado, I’d like to introduce Keith and Caroline. They’re going to walk you through the eFiling presentation. Again, I just ask that you write your questions there and towards the end, we will be happy to address it. Thank you so much.
Keith: Hi, everyone. When we get started, I’m not going to take any questions during this presentation because of technical reasons, not because I don’t want to, so I just want to clear that. Even if you raise your hand, I’m just going to keep moving on but not to disrespect you, guys.
Here’s my first question to you all. Who has an email address? Raise your hand.
Male Audience 6: We’re not going to answer that.
Keith: No [laughter]
Caroline: Great response.
Keith: Technically speaking, I like that. How many people check it daily? Raise your hand. Good, good. That’s easy.
Male Audience 6: Daily? How about hourly?
Keith: Yes. I’m going to show you real quick. This is just a regular Gmail email address that I just created within 3 minutes, so everyone can have that. Here’s the first thing that you have to do. You have to have an email address if you want to use Tyler e-File, and this is the website right here. You can see that there’s a sign-in. There’s a register. Also there’s a message of the day right here, and as you can see right here, it has us, as the housing court. We’re having the mandatory for January 27, 2020, for summary process and small claims cases for attorneys.
For us, let’s start this and we’ll go register. I’m just going to put my name. You put your email address.
Doug: I suppose if anyone is having trouble seeing this, just [unintelligible 1:00:30].
Nick: Keith, again, that’s the password for e-File not the password associated with your email account.
Keith: Correct. This is a security question so that just in case if you forget your password, you’ll get it. After that, we’ll hit next. All right. We’re going to do landlords right here. I’m just going to do 2-25. Is it 2-15 or 2-25?
Nick: 225 Main Street.
Caroline: If there is a red box, it means it is required, so you do have phone number.
Keith: What’s the zip code?
Caroline: No dashes.
Keith: Put your telephone number there. Hit next. This is just the terms and conditions. I guarantee everyone likes to go like this, but I am recommending you guys to read it. Then, I agree, create my account. It says, “A verification email has been sent to you.” Let’s see here. All right. Have you made any online accounts? This is probably very normal that you have to click on a link. Just click on activate your account. If you like ease of access, you can always have your browser remember the password and then you don't have to click into it.
All right, so this is what it looks like when you first log in. As you can see in the big red box, you need to put a payment account. Who wants to volunteer and use their credit card? No takes? This pop-up message, just make sure to read it, and then afterwards, you can just say I understand and agree. We’re going to add a payment account right here. Don’t worry. We will have tutorials and stuff like that, so this is just real quick to show you guys what it looks like. Payment account name, so let’s say Bank of America checking account. If you have whatever you want to call it, that’s just what you ought to know so that when you’re electing a payment account, when you’re done with your file, you know this is a credit card, this is a checking account, whatever it is, and right here, you can see we have the option of using the credit cards, e-checks, and a waiver process where if you are indigent and you have to prove it, then you can use the waiver option.
Since I didn’t get any volunteers, I’m just going to use the waiver process. I was hoping someone was going to volunteer, but no one ever does, so it’s okay. If you guys have credit cards that allow you to get points, 3 percent cash back on online purchases or whatever, you want to use that, you can do that. It’s really whatever you guys would like to. I’m just going to go back to home. Now, on the left-hand side, you see there’s pending, accepted, returned, drafts, and served. We’ll go back to that at the end, but really you should focus on right here, start a new case or file into existing case. Today, we’re going to file into new case.
All right, so first off, we’re going to pick the right court. As you can tell, there’s a lot of courts here, so we’re going to take Clerk Moudios’ court. Can you tell we don’t send something in? Can you text it? We’re just going to do a summary process. We’re going to do summons complaint, nonpayment of rent. these lower courts, lower court, agency, case number, short title, that’s if you’re doing anything with appeals. We’re not. We’re just trying to create a case.
All right, plaintiff. Sorry. Here is this part. I will be the plaintiff. Now you see that? It just filled it in for me. How nice. I love technology when it works. All right, I need a defendant. I’m going to volunteer my buddy right here, Caroline.
Brian: She’s going to win.
Keith: Don’t say that.
Caroline: With a smile [laughter]. I’m [unintelligible 1:08:34] three months.
Keith: All right. everyone with me so far? It’s simple data entry at this point. Now, here is the interesting part. This is where you’re actually trying to select the filing court. For e-file, for a summary process case, we need the affidavit of compliance. We’re filling it up on behalf of me. So filing description, you can call it whatever you want. It says so what you know what you’re putting in. Client reference number, you really can ignore that. It’s really for firms that have their own individual billing numbers, so but if you have one within how you do business, feel free to put it there.
Comments to the court. If you let’s say for example you aren’t make sure if you selected the right filing code. you can type here, “I really wanted to file X, Y, and Z.” Not sure if this the correct one. You can write that. courtesy copies is just if you want, instead of you forwarding the email that you will receive once you get this submitted, you can do it right here.
Brian: How many people you have lost so far?
Keith: Okay, I will slow down a tad a bit. What we have to do is upload the documents. Right here, I have an affidavit of compliance. Let me just go back up. What we’ve done so far right now, we picked the location, we picked the category, the case type. Next is the party information, right, so plaintiff, defendant. We’ve put all that there, and that was with the address and phone number part and now we’re at the filings. Right here, I choose affidavit of compliance.
Ben: Can you just explain why we use the affidavit of compliance because we may not have heard of that, but the affidavit of [unintelligible 1:11:40] The affidavit of compliance is again, as Sam suggested, there are surface statutes and rules that prevent us from doing certain things. What affidavit of compliance allows you to do is to file your summons or complaint electronically without having to bring that into the filing because the same [unintelligible 1:12:01] to file your case, you must bring that original affidavit, the summons and complaint with the terms and service into court, how to bring that original instead of digitized copy. Hence the reason why you created that affidavit of compliance. The long line is a simple affirmation of the fact that you have served the original summons and complaint.
On the other side, you receive the copy and you will provide the court upon entry of judgment that document, the one that you pick up from Clerk Moudios is obviously paid that $5 for you. You’re going to have to bring that piece of paper physically into court in your trial dates. Does that make sense?
Audience: [unintelligible 1:12:55]
Male Audience 6: The original served to the person that’s being evicted per se [unintelligible 1:13:01] copy.
Ben: I’m sorry. Can you repeat the question?
Male Audience 6: The original is given to the person that’s being evicted, so you get a copy back from the sheriff’s office.
Ben: You will have the return of service from the sheriff’s office, but we need to make sure that we see that document, the original that you want from Mr. Moudios sealed in order to enter judgment.
Male Audience 6: And the original back from the sheriff’s ?
Ben: Yes. That’s a great question. [unintelligible 1:13:25].
Male Audience 6: Do you have to just bring the files to keep working the file [crosstalk 1:13:30] task done?
Male Audience 7: With the reseal [unintelligible 1:13:42].
Doug: [crosstalk 1:13:40] order here. We are about to be logged out or something. Do you need to press on?
Doug: You can come back.
Keith: Let’s go back to that question [unintelligible 1:13:48] great. I just don’t want again this is [unintelligible 1:13:55] kick me out and it’s only because of my laptop, not because of the [unintelligible 1:13:59] system. As you guys can see, I still run Windows 7. We’re on a budget.
Keith: As you guys can see, I saved the first one. The first filing. It says affidavit of compliance right there, so now I’m doing the second filing, which is going to be, and you guys can see there’s a bunch of filing codes that you guys can select from, so you got to use the –I almost chose the wrong one. One more, one more. Actually, guys, this is the hardest part of using the system is the uploading part. If you guys have it ready and you guys know where on the computer your documents are, then it will be a lot easier and faster.
Ben: I think the hardest thing is going to be deciding on which [unintelligible 1:15:10] dropdowns.
Keith: Actually you have a good point there.
Male Audience 7: If [unintelligible 1:15:20] electronic docket to fill out, you’re scanning in your document and uploading it.
Keith: Correct, correct. Then the last thing is going to be the notice to quit. Yes. Just take note is PDF format only. There’s a reason for that, so no docs, no Excel spreadsheet. PDFs only.
Caroline: No cameras.
Keith: No JPEGs, no JPG. Yes. All right, so now I’m going to look back up here. These are the files I have—the affidavit of compliance, the summons and complaint for nonpayment of rent, and the notice to quit.
Male Audience 7: Keith, the questions I understand, but there is no error message either. If someone started the summons and complaint and didn’t get around doing the affidavit, which makes anything you’re trying to file here noncompliant, so there is no set cards or anything right now as far as show how the pro se is done.
Nick: Correct. The clerk’s office is the check. For instance, if someone tried to file without an affidavit of compliance, we would reject the filing and we would write in there why it was rejected, but the system itself is not going to stop you from filing without an affidavit of compliance. That’s our job.
Keith: Yes. I did this in this format, but you do not have to follow this. I just like to do it because I know that, in the clerk’s office, they would like to see it in this format, so let’s say you do the notice to quit first, that’s okay. It’s not the end of the world, but they will love you more if you guys do it sequentially for them, just like how you would like to have it if you were trying to go through your documents and whatnot.
Male Audience 7: Ben said [unintelligible 1:17:26] you have cause if it has [unintelligible 1:17:30].
Keith: Actually, real quick before I move. We’re done. We’re ready here, so we’re ready to get the payment part. It breaks it down for you right here, so you have the 135 and there is the e-File fee. Then your total envelope cost is $141. This is what I mean by writing out the payment account, so this is where you want to choose whether you want to use had you set up multiple payment accounts, this is where you would have the dropdown to select whichever one that you want. All right, hit save changes.
Now we have two submission agreements that you just have to make sure you read and then check off. Then I’m going to hit summary. Let’s say, there’s another option right here, save as draft. Let’s say, you don't have time, you want to come back to it, this is where you can stop right here and just click on, “save as draft” and you can always get back to it.” Or you find out, “Actually, I need another filing on top of the three that we already had, so you want to add a fourth one. That’s where you can just always go back to it.
This is just a summary, so this is where we’re filing it. It’s going to be in Central Housing Court summary process, nonpayment of rent. These are our parties. These are our filing codes right here. You don't have to worry about service context, so I’m going to minimize that, and then these are the fees. Then make sure you look over everything just to make sure that you got everything that you want, and then if not, there’s the back button, so that you can go back to the previous screen and get it fixed. However, sometimes we can fat finger things and mistype something and as you guys all know, if you misspell things, it becomes difficult later on in the court process for summary process cases, right? We want to make sure we got the right spelling right off the bat.
We hit submit. All right, so now we have this right here, confirmation envelope 2-0-0-5-2-9, 200529 is submitting. Right here, I’m going to go back to my email and see if it comes through. While we wait, if you have any drafts, right here where you would go do it. So, pending, so we should have one pending.
Brian: [unintelligible 1:21:08]
Keith: As you guys can see, this is the one that we just did together, right in there in this presentation, so that’s where you guys can see if the court hasn’t accepted it yet or reject it, then that’s where you know it’s still pending and we’re usually pretty good. I would say within 24 or 48 hours, we will get to it for sure. But if anything greater than that time period, I would pick up the phone and start calling the clerk’s office, tell them the envelope number that you submitted, and have them checked on the status of that envelope. Same thing with any accepted or returned, so if you go in there, that’s how you can tell, you wanted to know what was done in those—
Male Audience 8: Is that the goal, 24 to 48 hours of response?
Keith: I will let Clerk Moudious answer that.
Nick: Yes, so I could tell you, you won’t get that kind of response time in Worcester. By the end of the day, most of the time, things there filed after 3:30, 3:45, once we stop, in other words, we’ve done our money reconciliation for the day, those will not be acted upon until the next morning, but we always have a primary and a backup. Every day, with that Tyler open on their monitors, waiting for the cases to come in.
Male Audience 8: And you do have [unintelligible 1:22:30].
Nick: Absolutely. There’s a primary and there’s a backup every day, but don’t forget, you will get a response by email that says that it’s been submitted, so you got some proof when you submitted that, when we act on it is immaterial. For purposes of filing deadlines, etc., it’s when it was submitted. Even if we accept it two days later, the filing date and time will be the date that you submitted it.
Brian: What if someone [unintelligible 1:23:05].
Nick: Then you will have to refile.
Male Audience 8: I could refile—
Nick: It’s going to be the refile—yes, under the rules. That’s why what our parents used to tell us as little kids was what? Don’t wait until the last minute, so if you wait until Friday, I’m sorry until Monday at 5, 6, 7 o'clock at night, and by the way, this is open 24/7. It’s like Denny’s.
Nick: It’s open all the time. If anything filed up until 11:59 on Monday evening is considered filed on that Monday entry date, so you don't have to worry about us closing at 4:30 and you can’t conduct any business. Don’t wait, especially in the beginning, don’t wait until Monday to file the thing because if we reject it and you file the next day, now you’re late. Please don’t wait until the last minute in the beginning.
Brian: Can we start asking questions? First of all, is this the response in the email?
Keith: Yes, this is the response. As you guys can tell right here, you’re getting an email confirmation that you have submitted this to the court, so when the court reads it over and they accept it or reject it, you get another email saying that and then not only that. If they accepted it, you would get a docket number. Then that way, now let’s say you want to file back into that case, now you can file into an existing case and you just put in that full docket number. It has to be all caps and you have to write out all the zeros, unfortunately.
Nick: Now one cool feature, guys, is that in your response email, it says “download document.” If you’re ever saying what does my notice to quit say, what does my summons and complaint say? You will have it your email. How cool is that? By viewing the download document. That PDF that you scanned ad uploaded onto Tyler, there’s a link to it from the responsive email that you get from Tyler.
Caroline: I just want to add to Clerk Moudios point, though. It’s like it’s only active for 45 days, so just as a heads-up.
Nick: And you can save that so if you want, you can certainly download the document and save within a file folder in your phone, so you have unlimited access to it, so that if it’s a default situation and you forget your notice to quit, you can simply come here to the law library, or some other place, print up your notice to quit, and you can hand it to me in court room 7 without having to go back to your offices or to your homes to get the notice to quit. Okay?
Keith: And then—
Sam: I will just jump going back into an earlier question, that area we are working on, so that thing is filed, be sure you will be able to look at your case and hold the file document from that.
Male Audience 8: Anytime.
Sam: Anytime. But it’s a work in progress now.
Keith: All right, so that’s really it for eFiling aspect of how to use it. Before we take questions, I want to turn it over to Caroline and have her talk about the eFiling webpage for the housing court. I put a lot of effort into making this for people, for the public, so I’m just going to turn it over to her.
Male Audience 9: Questions?
Keith: What’s that?
Male Audience 9: Questions?
Keith: We will get back to it. We just want to go, maybe this part will help answer some questions that you guys may have, and after that, we will take Q&A after that.
Caroline: Thank you, Keith. I’m just going to the very beginning and then I’ll show you guys. Typically, this is where you go, Mass.gov. I hope you guys are all familiar with this website. This is the general Mass Courts system website, but I’ll show you how to navigate to our page. Simply just go the search bar here. Type in housing court, search. It’s almost like Google. It should have more than zero results but it’s loading. I just want to show you guys how to navigate to those sites, that’s all.
Male Audience 9: What happened to Google?
Caroline: Well, it wasn’t working for me, so.
Male Audience 9: It’s not working. I don’t use Google. My wife knows everything.
Brian: She’s not here. She’s [unintelligible 1:29:05].
Male Audience 9: I don’t even Google. My wife knows everything.
Caroline: Just click on search, housing court. It should bring you a link to this site. This is our main site now, the housing court site. It gives a little synopsis of who we are and then the most requested links, where are our locations, where we hold our sessions, the housing court forms, eFile the housing court. That’s what I’m going to talk about today. Searching court, docket calendars, case in file, then of course the housing court’s guide to landlord and tenant issues. I’m sure you guys are familiar with that one. The FAQ.
We’re going to go to the eFiling in the housing court, and this is the website. It’s basically a brief overview of the eFiling process. As you can see, there’s a table of contents. As you can see, over here the eFiling process, who can e-file, which case can be eFiled, how to eFile, and frequently asked questions, and additional resources. Bless you.
Male Audience 9: Bless you, too.
Caroline: Sorry. I really want to cover the how to eFile. This goes to explain how to register account. Where you can eFile, the hyperlink is right here. Then the admin office actually created a guide, so everything that Keith just showed you just now is actually documented in a manual. That’s why you guys will have handouts because it’s on our website.
Keith: You can actually download right now.
Caroline: You can download it right now, exactly. I made it easy for you, guys, so there’s actually the hyperlink here, so you’ll never forget it. Then there’s the index. If you actually just click on the hyperlink index, it goes straight to that section of the page, so you don’t need to keep scrolling through. We provided screenshots, explanations, simple things such as what’s the maximum size to upload a PDF file. For the filing, it would be 25 Mb. It would be found right here. Basically, [unintelligible 1:31:08] all the information that Keith just went through, adding a payment account, etc. This is free for everyone to look at. Okay. Go back.
Brian: In the next version, can we get back to table of contents?
Caroline: Maybe, 2.0. Here’s also some additional frequently asked questions. Then some common reasons that maybe rejected, maybe clear but not limited to untimely filings, lack of jurisdiction such as filing in the wrong division or incomplete submission, what documents do you need to submit to the preferred payment waiver. I imagine you guys saw Keith entered in waiver for payment account type. If you’re choosing waiver, you do have to click affidavit of indigency to prove that you are qualified for that waiver. One method of payment can be used to file in Tyler, court associated fees, etc. All that information is here.
Now I showed you the guide, the manual that you guys just saw. I will also show you that we actually created a step-by-step video guide as well, so if you like to hear my voice, I created clips here that you could actually view. Let’s give a second to [unintelligible 1:32:22]. There are actual embedded clips from the website. As you can see here—
Brian: What did you do, that?
Caroline: Here. I’ll show you again.
Nick: It’s off of the same website that we were just talking.
Caroline: On the very bottom of the page, the additional resources, and then you got a step-by-step video guide. The same on Tyler, the table of contents, so you don’t have to keep scrolling through, but here are the videos. We do offer that as additional resource if you are more a visual learner rather than read through the manual. Again, it’s exactly what Keith just demonstrated but with my voice.
Keith: Her voice is better.
Brian: I told you she’s [unintelligible 1:33:22].
Male Audience 9: It would be more efficient in [unintelligible 1:33:22] the homepage in that.
Caroline: The help button? I’m sorry. Almost like a—
Male Audience 9: Like a dropdown where you can see video guide.
Caroline: That’s a good point. I will definitely consider that and we’ll work that into the website as well. That’s pretty much it for the Mass.gov, what we have for eFiling in the housing court. Are there any questions? I will take.
Keith: Yes. We will take questions now.
Caroline: Keith? [unintelligible 1:33:55] Yes, sir?
Brian: Well, first, I want to say this is a fabulous presentation. You guys did a great job.
Caroline: Thank you.
Brian: I had nine questions. I only have three left.
Caroline: Very good. One of them is a yes or no. Can a business registered to eFile and how else do you [unintelligible 1:34:16]?
Brian: That was an easy one.
Nick: Anybody can.
Brian: I’m a property manager. I work for many different landlords. Do you [unintelligible 1:34:32] different landlords. I did see there was an e-check method.
Brian: Through our software, we are able to do ACH and payout to those landlords as long as I have a written permission from that landlord, I couldn’t set up a separate account for each landlord, so John Smith has an eviction [unintelligible 1:35:00]. Mary Margaret has an eviction, her account information, and then select, and correct all that I need?
Keith: I’ll be a little bit more precise for your question. Let’s say you have two landlords, right? You only need one account, Tyler account, that you need to log into. If you log into as yourself—
Brian: [crosstalk 1:35:25]
Keith: But when you get into the payment account options, so let’s say landlord Keith, whether it’s a checking account or credit card, whatever they provide to you—
Nick: Landlord 1 account.
Keith: Yes. Make sure that you just write it down so that you know yourself when you guys are going to the payment option because otherwise, someone is going to be angry on the other line that they’re going to call you, so you don’t want that.
Brian: We have numerical codes for each landlord.
Keith: Yes. However you guys want to set it up, just make sure that you know what you’re setting it up as in the payment account option, and you can have multiple payment accounts on that.
Brian: [unintelligible 1:36:06]
Brian: Two answers. Definitely really good. I’m not an attorney. I don’t pretend to be one. I don’t play one on TV. But you are putting in some of the legal names of things that I’m sure I’ll find some of it when I go through it. I only do summary process for nonpayment of rent. I’ve got to do five of those. Later when I look through my filings, I’m going to see five, all named the same, summary process, nonpayment of rent. Is there somewhere in that naming process that I could say, “This is 0037 client. This is 004—
Keith: Are you asking in terms of when uploading the PDFs or—
Brian: Well, if it’s a 45-day lag, if I got five different clients that I’ve got five different evictions for, when I opened it up—
Keith: When you opened what, Brian?
Brian: When I—
Keith: It sounds like your own [crosstalk 1:37:25]
Brian: Yes. I’m learning just like, how many different envelopes or cases I open. Is there—
Keith: They’re all there for you.
Brian: They’re all there, but if they’re all named exactly the same, how do I know which one is which?
Keith: No. They’re going to be different because the docket is going to be different, so you’re not going to have—unless they’re all in the same premise, it’s going to be different. You’re talking about five different cases, not five different tenants in the same premise.
Brian: You filed a case against Caroline. If you call up your director, what is in there to tell you that that what was Caroline?
Nick: Among 600 new files.
Keith: When it gets accepted, you’re really going to—
Brian: [crosstalk 1:38:15] dependent.
Caroline: It will still be rejected.
Brian: Okay, so it’ going to be rejected.
Nick: They have a name, Brian. Their name.
Caroline: They have names on them. I’m just going to show you.
Nick: They have a name, so you’ll see Northeast Properties vs John Jones, Northeast Properties vs Mary Smith, Northeast Properties, so that’s how you identify them.
Brian: That’s my first take [unintelligible 1:38:40] in here.
Caroline: This is a dead case.
Nick: All right, it doesn’t matter.
Caroline: I’m sorry?
Brian: If it says [unintelligible 1:38:49].
Caroline: Once it’s been approved, it’s going to have a docket number, so the 28H, whatever the location card of the court, 0001, and then it’s going to say Keith Tan vs Caroline Quan. It’s going to say right up here. Because it’s rejected, I can’t show you that. If it’s been approved, it would say [unintelligible 1:39:10] dependents’ information there.
Ben: Caroline has a great way of explaining things. Thank you for clarifying that, but before we get to that question, one thing that we did discuss is how much does it cost. Jimmy, can you explain the difference between credit card check payments, etc., and the cost to the user?
James: Sure. Every time you’re going to submit, you’re going to submit something called an envelope and your envelop will have multiple documents. The envelope has numbers as you can see, so when you go into your process, it’s an envelope with a number. At the bottom, the fee structure basically there’s three parts. There’s court fees. Can I ask you if there’s a directory—
Brian: It’s $135 to file [unintelligible 1:39:50]
James: Yes. The court’s filing fees is right. Each envelope itself is going to have a $6 fee for the product and service that we’re using with you just filing your application.
Brian: Six dollars per envelope or $6 for every document in the application?
James: Per envelope.
Caroline: You can go up to as many docu codes as you want.
Nick: The best way to remember is during Christmas time, you can get a box from the post office and regardless of how much it weighs, is one fee. I don't know if anybody saw that commercial? You can get a box from the office, fit as much as you want in it, and the mailing fee is one price because of the size of the box. It’s the same thing with the envelope.
Brian: That’s one fee at Christmas that I got to do this.
James: There’s three parts. There’s the court fee, the $135, there’s $6 for the envelope, then there’s like anything else when you put a credit card in or use a checking account or something, there’s a processing fee for the bank for you to do that processing.
Brian: 2.89 percent.
James: 2.89 percent, right. For credit cards, it’s 2.89 percent of the total amount, so $6+$135. For credit card, $6+$135, 2.89 percent of that is your processing fee and then your total billing is something like $145, something like that. If you use a checking account, that’s $0.25, so not 2.89 percent. It’s $0.25 for the application.
Brian: It’s $135+$6, what else?
James: Plus either 2.89 percent for the credit card or $0.25 for the checking account.
Male Audience 10: Free for PayPal.
James: No PayPal yet.
Caroline: And you guys are not—
Brian: It’s $145.074?
James: Right, for credit card or $141.25 for the checking account. But you know, the checking account is money taken out right away where the credit card is going to be something you pay in the bank.
Brian: It gives [unintelligible 1:42:01] letters to our landlords to authorize this.
James: Yes. Can I just offer that when you do payment account setup like what they were saying, be as specific as you can and want to—landlord name, type of account, last four digits of the number, etc., so when you go into that payment account, you don't have to think about it because, “Oh, 629 is what I owe you,” because you can put as many of them as you want. You can have 50 payment accounts. There’s also the client reference number. You saw the filing screen. If you have a reference number for your landlords, you could put them in there as well.
Brian: If it’s 0035—
James: Yes. You will have to put it in all filings unfortunately, so if you have six documents in an envelope, you will have to put it in all six just for consistency for yourselves.
Brian: I absolutely wanted to do that; otherwise, I’m going to be looking at a basket full of worms.
Doug: If I could just jump in at that.
Doug: It’s a good opportunity maybe to remind folks that if you do have an LLC, you must be represented by an attorney, so the documents you’re uploading are going to be signed by an attorney, not as you as the manager. We’re all clear on that?
Brian: Right. My attorney, when I get my summary process, I wouldn’t touch it until they sign it, and I hope I’m not paying for [unintelligible 1:43:43].
Brian: It must the attorney that’s going to get called. All my summary process is signed by him, so I use them as I need them?
Brian: [unintelligible 1:43:52]. Is that okay?
Keith: Let’s jump to another question to this side.
Male Audience 10: When there will be eFiling, do we have the ability to invite somebody else into the account? As you know, when you file a summary process, you did file payment [unintelligible 1:44:08] instead, I opt for my constable to upload the [unintelligible 1:44:18] for me without deposit. I was just trying to get it back into the mail, it might be too late. [unintelligible 1:44:22]
Nick: What’s going to happen is that since many constables, as part of their business plan, they file the cases for you right now. They come to the counter and give us a check. They will be able to e-File those cases for you, but the constable will have to set up their own account. Anybody can e-File for anybody; there’s nothing magical here. In other words, Frank Trapasso or Kevin Rice up in North County where Brian comes from, they can set up an account within the e-File here, efilema.com. Then they can e-File the summons and complaints and the notice to quit for you. But I’m not sure if they want to add on, the extra steps that it takes, but a constable is able to file on a plaintiff’s behalf.
Male Audience 10: [unintelligible 1:45:20]
Nick: Yes, unless you want to give them your log-in, it’s not that way. It’s not that way.
Male Audience 10: So, inviting them [unintelligible 1:45:35] for me under control.
James: If someone else files on your behalf—
Male Audience 10: [unintelligible 1:45:35]
James: The filing screen for the courtesy copies, you can ask them to put your email address in, then you can notify that they have filed. That’s what the first account is for. It’s not a legal communication. It’s not serving or anything like that, but it is an FYI that will allow you to know that something is happening, you tried something [unintelligible 1:46:07].
Sam: We’re just illustrating [unintelligible 1:46:05] get documented and you’re wanting access [unintelligible 1:46:22] that’s something we talked about. We have to wait on that for private search.
Male Audience 10: Let’s say the primary [unintelligible 0:00:00] because I’m head of LLC, he filed and the constable can access the serves [unintelligible 1:46:32] can I have access to the case to forward to or on to ask the lawyer to [unintelligible 1:45:00] the case.
Nick: Yes, whoever files the case is the only person that’s going to have access through efilema.com. Multiple users can’t log into the same account.
Ben: This question [unintelligible 1:47:20] you’re using if that attorney, let’s say you’re working with an attorney, file something on their behalf, is that what you’re asking?
Male Audience 10: Yes. Since I have to do it with an attorney and the constable has to serve it, I won’t be able to see I wasn’t able to goe down for [unintelligible 1:47:37] be the beneficiary of the process, getting updates and so on rather than going ahead [unintelligible 1:47:47] I don’t think my attorney is going to be accessing the account. I have no problem opening the account, but it’s not my case because it was started by my attorney, still my case, but I don't have any answers [unintelligible 1:48:01].
Sam: I think this little ties into an earlier question. I’m thinking, brainstorming here, you mentioned filing in the court, there’s a case number. Once you have that, we have be able to give you access to see where your case is even though your attorney is doing their thing, you should get your check and see the status of your case there.
Male Audience 10: [unintelligible 1:48:20] tracking
Sam: Right. Once you get the tracking number, you should be able to use it. That’s what we need to get the services, too.
Ben: In the interim, I will strongly suggest your attorney have him listed as an LLC [crosstalk 1:48:35] receive two copies.
Male Audience 10: I mean today we’re going to e-File and you can view the case or not. That’s because you’re not open.
Ben: [unintelligible 1:48:40] filed, you know the envelope number, and you will be up to date, but again you will get more from emails every time your attorney files something on your behalf.
Male Audience 10: Just to be clear, the courtesy copy in other words specific for me because my attorney doesn’t work only for me. He works for other people, so he probably files a lot of cases.
Nick: Whatever email address is entered by the attorney [crosstalk 1:49:11]
Male Audience 10: For each case has to be addressed or?
Nick: No, no. If he’s filing for you, he’s got to enter your email address.
Male Audience 10: I see, okay.
Nick: If he’s filing for me, he’s going to enter my email address.
Male Audience 10: All I have to do is to ask him to put my email address when he files the case?
Nick: Yes, which is courtesy copy.
Male Audience 10: I will get also the emails. Now, if I get the emails and I open an account, can I also go into the case or not?
Sam: One thing you can do is I don't know, Mass.gov has some access to information on a case. It’s just an access to documents, so you could see the case, you can see what’s happening. You just won’t have access to the actual documents.
Male Audience 10: If keep the same process [unintelligible 1:50:00].
Sam: Impossible hands.
Ben: Some people back [unintelligible 1:50:02] that’s exactly what you’re getting to. Every time something that doesn’t need to happen, you want to know, right? You want to know did your attorney said what they were going to do. Good question. I mean that’s being transparent, and this is the [unintelligible 1:50:00]. Keith, could you show them the records? This is the most important piece for all of you. If you have attorney doing things for you, as [unintelligible 1:50:00] Tim suggested, you do have MassCourts.org, an external facing website. We are all familiar with that website, I’m sure because Doug have made that available for you to preserve.
But as Tim suggested, we are [unintelligible 1:10:00] where we can see the documents electronic. You can just see it case [unintelligible 1:50:10] but if you want to know if Mr. and Mrs. Attorney is doing what they’re supposed to do, this hold them accountable. You said you filed something for me, I want to know when it got filed and I want a courtesy copy to know when it was accepted. Again, you’re making a [unintelligible 1:51:05] because you’re going to get a notice of every time they do something within the court is accepted. Does that make sense?
Male Audience 10: It makes sense. I definitely want more. I want access to the documents. I want access to every task they put in the case because it’s my case and he’s my lawyer.
Male Audience 10:That’s what I’m looking for. I spend [unintelligible 1:51:26] I’m saying that you go, and it doesn’t seem like something that we have been waiting for, even here.
Ben: That’s what we have said.
Caroline: Right. Under the filings tab, which [unintelligible 1:51:38] what Keith was talking about, this is the courtesy copy, this is where your attorney will put your email. Once he puts your email and then he submits it, you’re going to get the exact same email he gets once he submits it. You would actually also get the download document hyperlinks as well. It’s a duplicate email, so it’s the exact same email your attorney is getting. That courtesy copy will go to you. You can download the same documents. Every time he files and if he’s good about it and puts your email down, then you’re going to get the exact same email.
If you’re not getting those emails, you should probably contact your attorneys and say, “Hi! I thought you were going to put me down for courtesy copies, but I haven’t seen anything. Have you been eFiling?” It’s how that conversation would have.
Male Audience 10: But not courtesy access to see what’s pending, what’s accepted, what’s rejected, just…
Nick: Well, you’re getting an email so you know.
Caroline: That’s been submitted.
Nick: You know when it’s been submitted, when it’s been accepted, if it’s been rejected. Guys, it’s very, very important. MassCourts.org has been available for about 3, 3-1/2 years now. That’s also a wonderful resource. You can see the docket. You won’t be able to see the documents, but you’ll certainly see that the case was filed.
Keith: Speaking on that, just real quick. You see this? This is all caps, right? It says submitted. If it gets rejected, the reject in all caps, or returned, and it was accepted, it will say accepted. I mean I didn’t show you, guys, that’s why you literally about to get bombarded with a lot of emails. I’m just saving you from not seeing it yet, but you will. If your attorney puts you as courtesy copy, anything that touches that case, you’re about to get, depending on how many filings there are on your case, you’re getting one email per filing.
Male Audience 10: I’m thinking that’s exactly what it’s looking for.
Keith: Yes, so you’re going to be happy. You just have to go—
Male Audience 10: To me, this is the front end. This is the submittal process, then Mass.gov website, the status of the process from submittal—
Nick: No, that’s the docket. It’s not Mass.gov. It’s MassCourts.org. That is the electronic docket that we see that we generate that we see and you folks see. The public side. We have a little bit more information on our end, but you can see and this got . It was entry package, after date of compliance. It will show you the date. Entry packet, just the same thing. That’s why you want to pick the correct docket code because that throws the data entry into the docket, so someone looking at it knows what happened and when it happened. It’s all there for you.
Brian: At least be patient—
Nick: No. You know what, and I’m glad you mentioned that, it’s one of the things that we discussed as sort of the department is that the first couple of weeks, we’re going to be gentle with folks. We’re going to gentle with folks, and we understand. The example I give is the distracted driving bill that’s going to take effect February 23rd. The governor has already said the first couple of weeks, they’re only going to issue warnings. We’re not going to go from 0 to 100 miles an hour at the same time. We’re going to be gentle. We’re going to work with you. I call people up. I pick up the phone, and I call people. If you rejected, we’re going to let you know why it was done.”
An attorney in Framingham yesterday filed everything under affidavit of compliance. He didn’t break them up. We accepted it. I called them. I let them know what we did incorrectly. He says, “Nick, thanks. We’re going to work with you, folks.
Brian: Hopefully, in June when I have [unintelligible 1:55:42].
Caroline: The point he--
Male Audience 10: The case was a discovery [unintelligible 1:55:47] affidavit of complaint. How do I go back and add additional documents information.
Caroline: All right, I have too many tabs opened, guys.
Keith: You’re saying that you already have a case and docket number, and then you’re going back into it at a later stage in time. That’s when you would choose a file into an existing case.
Caroline: By then, hopefully it gets approved and you’ll have a docket number, a case number. That’s what you’re going to take in.
Nick: Remember, guys, once an attorney files a case, the only way they’re only going to be able to file anything in the case is through eFiling with the exception of what’s handed to us in court. If it’s default situation, I view the defaults in Marlborough and Worcester, you’re going to hand me the nonmilitary affidavit, and I’m going to save, and you can be on your way. We will scan and dock it.
The agreement for judgment that you folks enter into, we will make a photocopy for you, and it’s your responsibility to scan and docket the agreement for judgment. Now, if there is a breach two months later and you want to file a motion to issue execution, that has to be e-Filed if an attorney is involved, if it’s an e-Filed case. Understand?
Male Audience 10: Under an existing?
Nick: Yes. Exactly. Very easy. File it into an existing case, do the docket number, and it’s the same thing. you will have a dropdown of docket codes that correspond to the document that you’re filing. You upload it, you pay $6 and you’re all set.
Brian: How do you switch attorneys?
Keith: You have an attorney on a case, that attorney is discharged, and then you got a counsel coming in.
Brian: Yes [unintelligible 1:57:45].
Nick: Very, very easy. All I need is a withdrawal of appearance and a notice of appearance, and we will do that. In other words, you don't have the ability to docket for us. All you can do is upload documents. Once we get the withdrawal and the new notice, we will go into MassCourts.org and we will take out the old attorney and put the new attorney. Yes, David?
David: Can you talk a little bit more about that how often anytime—
Nick: Only in the initial filing. I know what your question is French. You only have to file the affidavit at the beginning of the case because now you’re committed to self to following the eFiling rules for the duration of the case.
Caroline: This is one time.
Brian: [unintelligible 1:58:35] security system because you’re [unintelligible 1:58:40] thousands of [unintelligible 1:58:50] in the database, what prevents a hacker from hacking into the system?
Nick: If the Pentagon can be hacked, everybody could be hacked.
Keith: Would you like it on Amazon Web Service?
Nick: That’s a good question. Mr. [unintelligible 1:59:04].
James: The eFiling material is while it’s in a draft, eFiling material is filed in a cloud server filing. I personally don't know where it is. The type of technology, company is located in Texas. It could be Texas, it could be Amazon’s offshore facility in the Gulf Coast, quite frankly. But the access is secure. Anytime you see an HTTPS, you know there’s going to be 128-bit encryption. User ID access, that’s why you want complicated passwords, but because it’s cloud access, it’s not located in one specific machine, you would somebody who is very, very skilled like an NSA hacker to be able to get into the server.
Brian: If I was an NSA hacker, I could go after a target, not Mass courts.
James: For you. But it is, for all intents and purposes, it’s as secure as anything that is secure on the Internet. That’s not a negative statement. That’s a positive statement. People say that the phone payments are more secure. No. Internet payments are more secure than phone payments. Just look in the table. Is that all?
David: Yes, thank you.
Male Audience 10: Just on eFiling, for example, if I have a case filed in 2005, those documents need to be decided at some point or does [unintelligible 2:00:30]?
Nick: No, no. from our perspective, it doesn’t make any sense because there will be very little demand. We started scanning I would say about three years ago, so really everything for the previous three years moving forward, we scan every piece of paper that’s filed with the court. But we’re not going to go back, but we do keep those files.
James: Actually, I’m going to pull this. He said one more thing. Did you see another link? She said this document is only available for 45 days? These documents that are retained in the title application do disappear. It’s a little longer than 45 days, but they are purged, so that’s another secure element. Once the documents are accepted by the court, they come into the court’s database system, which is all kind of firewall to the outside world. I want to make sure you saw that when the documents are accepted, they are no longer in Tyler after three months approximately.
Sam: But we retained the internal court system.
Male Audience 10: I’m sorry.
Brian: Go ahead.
Male Audience 10: Tyler will [unintelligible 2:01:55]
Brian: Again, thank you. you guys did an awesome job putting all this together. Sitting in this chair, I feel like I just need a glass of water in a firehose. If I’m looking for this maybe 40, 50 landlords, add a couple of zeros to that. That’s how many landlords need to start using this. I want to be your pulse. If you could break this down to one of the three things a landlord is docking today used to do like videos, if you meet a landlord, say, “Sorry. I just missed the presentation, but here are the three things you need to get up to speed.. What can I tell my [unintelligible 2:02:46]
Nick: Become a member of MassLandlords and watch the video.
Brian: [crosstalk 2:02:52] I wanted to be [unintelligible 2:02:57].
James: Go to the Mass.gov, the website that Caroline shoed you, Mass.gov. search for housing court. On the housing court page, the first picture in the correct order that has a link to it, eFiling housing court, when you go to hat page, at the bottom, the additional resources, there is the video and the manual.
Caroline: I’ll put some the link here.
James: Once you have those two, basically that’s the same information the folks went through today, the same local detail. Then if you have questions, take from there—
Male Audience 10: These are [unintelligible 2:03:39] agents for that [unintelligible 2:03:44].
Caroline: Sure. Thank you for that. I wish you [unintelligible 2:03:50]. What’s your name? [laughter]
James: Actually, can you talk about when I’m done?
James: If you go the e-File landing page right here, I’m sorry that’s the manual, when it says, get started here, what will be in the top of this section, you do have to scroll over a little bit, but there are these links, too. It says instructions for the housing court. That will bring you to that same eFiling housing court page with the materials at the bottom.
Caroline: It’s a quicker way to get there.
Nick: And if you’re looking for the affidavit of compliance, you got trial court eFiling forms that’s right on the home page, and there will be a link to that affidavit.
Brian: That is set 1 period. If they do that, they could—
Nick: That will show them how to register, set themselves up informationally, set up attorneys, set up users, set up payment accounts, and how to e-File.
Male Audience 10: I have a question for Mr. Moudios. [unintelligible 2:04:50] just for the hotline just for the time being until this machine is oiled in case [crosstalk 2:04:58]
Nick: No, there is no hotline. Call the respective clerk’s offices is what you need to do.
Male Audience 10: As far [unintelligible 2:05:08] I want to know
Caroline: It is on the housing court website. Our numbers are there.
Nick: Because you can’t call Tyler. They’re not getting paid to support the users. They get paid to support us, so call the clerk’s office of the respective division where you do your filing.
Male Audience 10: [unintelligible 2:05:28]
Nick: Yes. Well, just come down and talk to me.
Brian: I’ll do the best I can to get that information to our—
Nick: And Brian, when we do our next presentation up in Montachusett, certainly we’ll have an emphasis on eFiling this year.
Caroline: And I do have to mention, too, guys, I didn’t include on the webpage. I did include the Tyler number just because in case there is a “technical difficulty” you’re having with the website, that is a resource that instead of scrolling trying too to find a number. I did include on the very main page of the step-by-step video guide, so their number is there if ever you do have technical difficulties because going through the actual Tyler page is very hard to find, so I did put that there. But again, the housing court, please contact your local division clerk’s office for any procedural questions. That would be your best resource.
Female Audience 2: Are you going to accept only eFiling?
Nick: Only for attorneys. Starting a week from this Monday, Monday, January 7, lawyers must e-File all summary process cases in the State of Massachusetts. Yes, for non-lawyers, you can continue doing it the old-fashioned way, you can come into the counter with a cheque or mailing it into us.
Male Audience 11: This is compliance. It’s probably going to be as [unintelligible 2:06:55] manual. We don't have that option so we don’t forget. I guess my question is, can you make that in bold letter, red, right on the [unintelligible 2:07:09] there, right on the [unintelligible 2:07:08] first time when you’re coming for a scan and say you must find the [unintelligible 2:07:3] otherwise you find what’s [unintelligible 2:07:03] accepted. It is very technicality.
Sam: [unintelligible 2:07:25]
Male Audience 11: For these human elements, if you did file an affidavit, so we will not accept the case.
Nick: Like I said, we will reject it and let you know that it’s missing an affidavit of compliance.
Male Audience 11: it could be five days a week.
Doug: Yes, it’s a good point. It’s something I learned today, too, is when we talk about the documents required to initiate summary process, that affidavit of compliance is now one of your top three instead of just a notice and the summons.
Male Audience 11: Yes. I mean we used to file the notice and the summons—
Doug: And complaint, yes.
Male Audience 11: And this affidavit. I understand it’s compliant, but I mean concerning [unintelligible 2:08:08].
Nick: Kind of like before you begin—
Male Audience 11: Before you begin, make sure you file this. I mean just one line.
Nick: Or two lines.
Doug: Yes, because that’s what tripped up Brian at the very start, too. He started to take that and he’s like—
Male Audience 11: Or [unintelligible 2:08:19] it’s a standard affidavit. You could just say, I need electronic filing of some kind [crosstalk 2:08:26]
Sam: [unintelligible 2:08:30] have that [unintelligible 2:08:31]
Male Audience 12: That’s how he develops the relationship.
Doug: Yes, I agree. The courts will let us know. Probably a lot of filings will be rejected initially, yes.
Male Audience 11: I’m thinking to changing my dates if that was an eFiling.
Nick: No, no, no. It doesn’t change the dates. It doesn’t change anything. Just don’t file it at Monday at 3:30 in the afternoon. If you file it on Wednesday or Thursday prior to the entry date, you will have plenty of time to resubmit it.
Male Audience 11: If I don’t get it back from my constable by Wednesday or Thursday, I mean I did file.
Nick: I understand. Have your constable do it for you.
Doug: Yes, you will be okay because you are here and now you know.
Nick: we’re going to work with you. We’re going to be gentle.
Male Audience 10: It’s great stuff, absolutely.
Doug: It feels to me we’re wrapping up. Any last words of wisdom to share from any of the panelists?
Brian: My wife has a question.
Doug: Another question.
Brian: She wanted to ask it for her.
Nick: She just wants to see if you know it.
Brian: I’m smart enough to ask a question. We have our attorney sign on our summary process, all that stuff. The question is if it’s mandatory that the attorney needs to file it, but I have the summary process and I have the signature [unintelligible 2:10:6] can I file it?
Nick: You can file it.
Nick: You can e-File, absolutely.
Female Audience We cannot file all because—
Nick: No, you can’t. Once an attorney signs the complaint, if it’s an LLC, a lawyer signs the complaint, that triggers the mandatory eFiling.
Brian: Okay, so that’s not to say—
Female Audience 2: [unintelligible 2:10:35]
Brian: You can e-File even though you signed the summary process?
Female Audience 2: You have to—
Nick: At some point, it will prompt you. It will say, “Is there an attorney associated with?” You can set up a lawyer that represents you. Once you plug in the BBO number, the attorney on your profile, the attorney will be setup. Then once the time, you can select the attorney that’s associated with that filing. All you need is his BBO number.
Brian: Does she have to write on the summary process?
Nick: Yes. It’s what a lawyer would use. You can associate the filing with the attorney and her name will be listed on the docket with the Mass Courts and that’s where the correspondence will be sent.
Brian: Again, thank you. We’re landlords. We have a job—
Nick: I know.
Caroline: Of course.
Brian: We’re not attorneys.
Nick: I know, Brian. We got about three no-heat calls that you got to deal with.
Brian: They’re all taken care of. We got our main systems for that.
Nick: Just turn the [unintelligible 2:11:38].
Brian: I’m not an attorney. I don’t know what you know.
Sam: There is a question about three things [unintelligible 2:11:45] is that is the free materials that Caroline put in is a good start? Check out if you have not, MassCourts.gov. If that [unintelligible 2:12:02] check that out. Then remember the other thing is if you’re working with an attorney and you want to stay informed that courtesy thing, those three things should answer some of your questions here.
Brian: [unintelligible 2:12:15] I can pull my attorney’s email when I file?
Nick: Yes, exactly.
Male Audience 10: I have one more question. When you are done solving this problem, you go work on the MBTA problem?
Nick: There’s a lot of people show up [unintelligible 2:12:32].
Doug: There’s a lot of problems to solve. Yes. We’ll see what kind of response we get online. I don’t want to cut anyone off. You have a question.
Male Audience 12: [unintelligible 2:12:48] evictions. We got problems. They got problems, got [unintelligible 2:13:06]
Nick: I don't understand what the question is, sir. I’m sorry.
Male Audience 12: [unintelligible 0:00:00] an eviction, during an eviction—
Nick: When you levy on the execution, that’s right?
Male Audience 12: Yes.
Nick: You’re forcibly moving them out. Okay.
Male Audience 12: That’s the problem of the 20-mile radius. Even though there’s an advisory saying it that the 20-mile radius only applies to the tenants.
Nick: That’s correct.
Male Audience 12: But the judge, we can now has been thinking of an because the warehouse I live in 1 or 2 miles away from—
Sam: Now just before we answer that question, again we don’t want to get into legal advice, but procedurally, what you’re saying I believe is correct. Twenty-mile radius pertains to the defendant. That’s an advisory from the DOJ [unintelligible 2:13:55] as well as case law suggest that. I’m not sure what particular judge, but a judge has judicial discretion. If you disagree with the judge, you have the right to appeal a judge’s decision.
Male Audience 12: No, I understand. But it’s [unintelligible 2:14:08] addition and the letter [unintelligible 2:14:15].
Doug: Let’s talk offline [unintelligible 2:14:18]. Let’s end there. A round of applause for our panelists.
Doug: All right. Thank you all for coming, giving your time, sharing your expertise. Really appreciate it. Make sure to get credit for us today by beeping out with Naomi and join if you’re not. Thank you all for coming. Have a great afternoon.
- Related Article: First Batch of Eviction Data Released (April 14, 2015)
- Commission wants to expand Housing Court by 50% (April, 2015)
- Security Deposit Violation Delays Eviction (January, 2016)
- Unbelievably Good News About Court Records (February 17, 2015)
- Five New Housing Court Judges Confirmed (August 2018)
- Findings Unfounded: Appeals Court reverses $55K Housing Court Judgment (Lindquist v. Stella)
- Choosing Judges in Massachusetts: The Governor’s Council and Judicial Nominating Commission Then and Now (November 2018)
- Judge Winik Speaks on Landlord-Tenant Law and Housing Policy (March 2019)
- New Housing Court Judge and Clerk Magistrate (June 2019)
- Check event listings to see if a housing court judge will be speaking at a meeting near you.
- Related Page: The Eviction Process in Massachusetts
- Related Article: Can I represent myself in Housing Court?
- Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) for Landlords
- Changes to Court Procedure due to COVID-19
- Eviction Data for Massachusetts
Members can ask experienced landlords for advice over email and Facebook message boards, and can search our directory for attorney referrals.