Massachusetts Eviction - What if tenant is late with rent?

18 Replies

Hi Everyone,

Let me start with a possibly silly question. I'm in MA and may need to evict my tenant. I read a lot about the written fourteen (14) days notice to quit, and I read that the tenant has 14 days to pay or move out. If that doesn't happen I can start an eviction case against the tenant. 

My question is, what's the earliest you can serve the 14 days notice? Is that also 14 days, or different?

My second question: What can one do if tenant is always late with rent but pays first two weeks?

Thanks for your help in advance!

@Zoltan Fagyal Welcome.

I believe when it's due.

If being late bothers you enough, you should evict.

We had the Junkyard Dog speak at our last meeting.

Hi Zoltan,

I have been their.

I recommend you work with them as long as they pay rent.

You might ask them why they are late.  Maybe it is how they get paid.

See it you can collect so much on the first and the rest by the 10th.


@Mike Hurney, @Paul Donoghue, I appreciate both of your advices. It does bother me that the tenant is late with rent. This time she says check was sent out on the 25th and blames it on the post office. So we'll see. I just want be prepared when we get there. Hopefully we won't.

Any info on this please?

"My question is, what's the earliest you can serve the 14 days notice? Is that also 14 days, or different?"


@Zoltan Fagyal

My advice however take it with a grain of salt...I'm in Texas operating under Texas law...

In Texas, we use a 3-day notice to pay the rent or quit...14 days seems crazy to me, I'm not sure why MA law gives the tenant so much time.  It really makes it hard to run a business.  Concerning being late on the rent, I ensure a late few is charged if the rent is not paid on time. I add a clause concerning late fees to the lease.   I actually use a progressive late fee of $5 per day topped at $25.  If the tenant is paying the late fee monthly and taking care of the property, I wouldn't stress about it.  If it really bothers you, don't renew the lease after it expires.  Ultimately, I wouldn't incur court costs if I'm getting my money.  I hope this helps.  

Zoltan, with all due respect to @Kevin McNeely, you cannot listen to TX advice, MA is one of the two most tenant friendly states along with CA, and the laws are unbelievable.  The courts are even more so. 

Read up on MA law here:

I believe you can't serve the 14 day notice until they are 30 days late, but I"m not an attorney, and don't have rental properties in MA.  This is not legal advice.  

@Ann Bellamy , @Zoltan Fagyal ,

Ann is absolutely not listen to me.  TX and MA are two completely markets operating under different laws.  Whatever you do, ensure your i's are dotted and your t's are crossed in accordance with your state and local laws.  I'm not an attorney either and I do not intend to give legal advice.  I'm just a businessman...trying to make a TX not MA. From now on, I'll stay out of discussions from other states.  :)

@Zoltan Fagyal

The earliest is the 2nd day.  So, as you know in Massachusetts, there is no late fee until 30days have passed...hence I gave up on that and decide to go with 14 day notice.

Bad or habitual tenants, I serve right up when I have had enough.  Good tenants I expect the check on the first, but can give them to the coming Friday but require and have them trained to tell me its the case. (as we are all paid differently).

Rough draft of timeline and probably miss something (but someone will chime in and help).

1. 1st - rent day
2. 2nd - serve 14 days notice by sheriff/constable or yourself (my favorite way)
3. 2nd-15th - tenants has a right to "cure" it and pay the entire rent.
4. 16th (next business day)  - have sheriff or Constable server Summary Process (you can not do this).  It will cost $135 for housing court or $195 for district court and whatever the sheriff or constable charges.  My Constable charges $55 dollars and I gladly pay them another $20 to actually fill the Summary Process forms and submit to Courts.
5. Tenants have 10 days to respond to court order (hopefully they do not).
6. wait for court date (usually 14-21days) depending on when it was served to tenant and paperwork filed with court).

@Zoltan Fagyal the 14 day notice for non-payment can be served the day after the rent is due. Rent due on first, if not paid serve on the second. If they are a TAW they have one chance to pay the late rent within 10 days of being served and you must accept the rent and restore the tenancy. If they are late again and you serve them you can proceed with the eviction and accept any rent money for use and occupancy only. Dont let your tenant determine when their rent is due just like your bank wont let you determine when your mortgage is due.

@Zoltan Fagyal

If you don't mind a follow up question on: "serve 14 days notice by sheriff/constable or yourself (my favorite way)"

How can you / do you prove in court (if it comes to that), that the 14-day notice was served?

This is one of those fluky/flaky thing I never understood about the law when I read it and discuss with constable office folks (not the actual constable).  My understanding is that you don't have to prove it, you just need to hand it to them OR post one on their door OR slip one under the door AND mail one first class postage to them.

I still don't feel good about it.  I know, I know, I have trust issues with tenants ;).  So I take the original 14 day notice and at the bottom, draw a Sign______ Date _____ line.

Thankfully, I the few times I have had to do the 14 day, the tenants have not objected and have signed it (bring two copies and you keep the signed one for the sheriff/constable)

Thanks @Rich N. , this is great, I love it: 

"So I take the original 14 day notice and at the bottom, draw a Sign______ Date _____ line."

Hopefully it won't come to that, but I want to arm myself with info and be prepared for it. Thank you again for your help!

yep, my thoughts too, I would rather be ready for it.   Please bear in mind IANAL (I am not a lawyer) and so far I have not been challenged/ask by a judge how I know they got the notice or not.  Is the judge just assuming that the 14 day was done and the sheriff/constable has done the right thing with the Summary Process?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Maybe someone else knows here ?

* So, I really can't say it will work or not, but I feel better with their signature than without.

You "prove" the service by attaching a Certificate of service and keeping a copy.

"On September 9, 2015 I served  a 14 Notice to Quit on Tenant by leaving a copy (tape to the front door) at 123 Main Street, Any town" or insert by mailing first class or if you go out to the apartment and the tenant is there  by giving in hand (You could also have them sign an acceptance or acknowledge if you are able to get them in hand)

Or use a constable/sheriff to serve and they will fill in the return of service part.

But this goes back to the bigger question as to why they are late and what do you want to do about it. 

If you want them out, you might be better off giving them a 30 day notice if TAW or simply let the lease run out and tell them you are not renewing, no reason needed

Originally posted by @Robert Nason :
It's my understanding that you can send a notice of quit the moment the rent is later than the agreed upon date.

 Correct. Rent due on 1st. Notice to Quit sent out on 2nd if its not paid.