Move and Store
The “move and store” law can be found in MGL Ch. 239 Section 4, “Storage of property removed; liens and enforcement; penalties.” In a nutshell, the law requires the landlord to pay to move an evicted tenant’s belongings, and to store those belongings for three months.
Here is the detailed process:
1. Landlord carries eviction all the way through court.
- The landlord gets a “judgment for possession” and then an “execution” that says the tenant will be forcibly removed.
- A constable or sheriff is hired to deliver appropriate notices, including the selection of a final destination for the tenant’s belongings.
- The final destination must be a warehouse
- within 20 miles of the rented premises,
- licensed, and
- There are only 33 approved locations in the state.
2. Landlord Pays to Schedule the Move
In order to schedule the move, you will have to pay for the movers and for three months of storage.
- Movers usually charge minimums, so even studios may be subject to “two people, four hours each.”
- Insect extermination and other treatments are common up-charges and cannot be avoided.
3. Day of Execution
- If the tenant leaves in the 48 hours between notice and execution, you’re all set. You may request a refund from the movers.
- Most likely, if the tenant doesn’t leave, you or your agent will have to show up at the eviction.
- Also present must be the sheriff or constable and the mover.
- The tenant may request in writing that the mover take their belongings to a different warehouse.
- All belongings must be moved, even if they appear to be trash, unless they represent a blatant health risk.
4. Go Back to Court
After the move-out, you must file another lawsuit against the tenant to recover your money.
The law says, “The plaintiff [landlord] shall be entitled to reimbursement by the defendant for any costs and fees so advanced.”
Good luck collecting. MGL Ch 235 Section 34 says the following cannot be collected:
- Any cash that would cause the tenant to have less than $2,500;
- Any wages that would cause the tenant to dip below 85% of weekly wages or $450/wk ($550/wk by 2017), whichever is greater.
- Any value from public assistance (WIC, Section 8, unemployment, retirement, SSI, disability, etc.).
Most tenants who were just evicted are “judgment proof” and cannot be made to pay either rent owed or the cost of moving and storage
Judges will assume that a tenant receiving public assistance would be giving all of that value to a creditor. You shouldn’t even attempt argue that point. If the tenant receives public assistance, you will not be able to collect.
Judgments last for 20 years. Wait a while. It’s not unheard of that a tenant will seek to buy their first home, and then the judgment for unpaid rent will appear on their record, preventing them from securing a mortgage. In that case, they will contact you to atone.