Eviction Study for Massachusetts Part One

Below is a summary and downloadable PDF of “Summary Process Judgments in Massachusetts, Part I: Analysis of Public Data,” an eviction study for the Commonwealth. MassLandlords staff, volunteers, and impartial third party contractors were used to prepare the study and findings.

The study uses public records for over 8,000 eviction cases.

Eviction Study Key Findings

  • Cases filed in Housing Court were three times as likely as cases in District Court to last longer than 90 days.
  • There was a small but statistically significant difference in the size of judgments between Housing Court and District Court.
    • District Court was 30% more likely to issue a judgment under $1,500.
    • Housing Court was 18% more likely to issue a judgment over $10,000.
  • 99.8% of all cases with judgments were decided in favor of the landlord.
  • The average court duration was over 38 days.
  • The average eviction time, including time before and after court, was over 55 days.
  • The longest eviction case in the study set was 1 year, 3 months, 2 weeks, and two days, and ended in the landlord’s judgment for possession.
  • The most expensive eviction in the study was $32,776.90 awarded to the landlord.

Download the Eviction Study

 

Funding and Licensing

This study was paid for by MassLandlords Members and Partners, although once funded these contributors had no influence over the report’s outcome.

Unlike other non-profits who advocate exclusively for tenants, MassLandlords seeks to be a policy resource for both sides of the equation (see, for instance, Homelessness). As of publication, we had never been supported by public funds or grants.

The underlying data are publicly available. The report and graphs may be redistributed or built upon with attribution under license CC-BY 2.0.

 

Feedback on this Study

The following items are paraphrased and grouped by venue where feedback was received.

  • Massachusetts Bar Association on 2016 April 12:
    • The difference in housing and district court durations may be due to housing court’s role in deciding bank foreclosure evictions. These can take many years.
    • The choice to study certain courts based on their anecdotal relevance may have biased the results, how much we can’t say. Study all housing courts and perform a random sampling of district courts.
    • Study the difference in cases brought by housing authorities and cases brought by commercial landlords. Housing authorities may experience greater delays.
    • [MassLandlords: We’re very appreciative to the MBA for hosting our presentation. Thank you!
      • We are not sure how much of the housing court tail represents foreclosures. We will investigate and issue an update.
      • Study size was restricted due to budget and schedule, but if we can expand our survey in the future we will.
      • We can already separate housing authorities from non-housing authorities. We will include this in our update.]
  • Staff of the Worcester Housing Court 2016 April 13:
    • We’re glad you mentioned you weren’t sure whether foreclosure cases were included. This is important to know.
    • You should look at cases where no judgment was entered.
    • This study is a very important first step for MassLandlords.
    • Housing court offers procedural remedies not available in District Court, mediation, and lower filing fees than District Court.
    • Where landlords have a choice, state-wide, 80% of landlords choose to file in Housing Court.
    • Note the study’s finding that over 99% of cases where a judgment was entered were entered for the landlord.
    • Most tenants appearing in court are judgment-proof. These judgments are never collected. Landlords should be concerned with using the process as it stands to achieve the fastest recovery of possession and forget late fees or other smaller issues that have no bearing on possession.
    • Massachusetts should have legislation to ensure that all visa holders and visa waivers have either an SSN or a TIN or a security deposit waiver for the purpose of opening a security deposit account.
    • Upon review of our internal processes, we have decided to start awarding pre-judgment interest of 12%/yr.
    • [MassLandlords: Thank you to our Housing Court staff! We are extremely grateful to your volunteering time at our April meeting to come speak to the 119 landlords who came to see you.
      • We will differentiate between cases where no judgment was entered and a judgment was entered.
      • We recommend mediation to all our members.
      • Thank you for awarding pre-judgment interest. We hope this practice will be shared with other divisions, like Western Housing Court.
      • We will see what can be done about the security deposit law and visa holders/waivers.]

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