According to a Princeton University study, 3.6 million legal evictions occur in the United States every year. This doesn’t consider the number of illegal evictions that also take place.
If you’ve been notified of an impending eviction or have been evicted from your Massachusetts or New Hampshire home, it’s important that you be aware of your renters’ rights.
Here’s how to know if you may have been subject to an illegal eviction and how to get the experienced legal advocacy and consumer protection you need.
What Is an Unlawful Eviction?
An unlawful eviction occurs anytime a landlord removes a tenant from a rental unit without following state and federal eviction laws and processes in order to do so.
A landlord may not illegally evict a tenant and may only demand their removal from the premises under certain circumstances. If a landlord fails to adhere to eviction laws, the tenant may have legal recourse available to them.
Legal Reasons to Evict a Tenant
There are several legal reasons a tenant can be evicted in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, including but not limited to:
- Nonpayment of rent or habitually late rent payments
- Damage to the property
- Ownership of a pet if it is against the lease
- Another type of lease violation, such as failure to maintain simple landscaping like mowing the lawn if the lease is written so that the latter is the tenant’s responsibility
- Conducting illegal activity on the premises, such as the sale or manufacture of illicit drugs
- The tenant is disrupting other tenants in a multi-family unit or apartment building
- The owner would like to move into the property themselves or they are taking it off the rental market (e.g., if the landlord plans to sell the home instead of continuing to rent it out)
Nonpayment of Rent
In some instances, a tenant may legally withhold rent payments from a landlord who has refused to make certain types of repairs to the home. However, to ensure that your renters’ rights are protected, it’s critical to consult an experienced attorney before withholding rent.
The most common valid reason that a tenant can withhold rent payments is because the landlord was made aware of serious issues that make the conditions in the domicile dangerous or unlivable and refuses or neglects to repair them.
For example, if the heat goes out during a bitterly cold New England winter, and your landlord refuses to fix the heating system or install a new one in a timely manner, you may be able to withhold rent.
You may be able to use these monies to fund a hotel stay, to purchase space heaters, or to encourage the landlord to fix the issue promptly.
What Does a Wrongful Eviction Look Like?
A landlord who engages in a wrongful eviction may:
- Change the locks on the doors so the tenant can no longer enter the property, even if their belongings are still inside the domicile
- Remove the front door of the rental unit so the tenant can no longer shut and lock the door for privacy
- Remove the tenant’s belongings without a court order authorizing them to do so; a landlord may move the tenant’s things into a storage unit or throw them to the curb
- Shut off heating, water, electricity, or other utilities in an attempt to force the tenant to leave the domicile
None of the above actions that landlords sometimes take are legal. If your landlord has evicted you or attempted to evict you and has engaged in illegal conduct to do so, it’s important to document everything. Obtain photographs of a removed front door or your belongings on a curb. Contact someone with extensive legal expertise to assist you.
How to Get Legal Help When Your Landlord Issues an Eviction Notice
If your landlord has issued an eviction notice or has filed a motion with the court to have you evicted, it’s critical that you obtain legal guidance as quickly as possible. You have certain tenant rights that your landlord may not violate, even if you haven’t paid rent on time or have damaged the property.
No-Fault Evictions in Massachusetts
If your landlord has filed a “no-fault” eviction case against you in Massachusetts, you may be able to seek a stay of execution. This usually means you will be granted extra time before you are required to leave the dwelling, generally up to six (6) months or a period of time decided by the judge presiding over your case.
In cases where the tenant or someone who lives in the home with them has a disability, the stay of execution may be extended for up to twelve (12) months.
What to Do If Your Landlord Wrongfully Evicted You
If it’s determined that your landlord did not follow state and federal guidelines regarding evictions, they may be held liable for damages. For example, you may be able to bring a wrongful eviction lawsuit against your landlord, seeking financial restitution for loss of your belongings, excess cost to find new housing so quickly, etc.
Contact Mazow | McCullough, PC today for more information about consumer protection, renters’ rights, and landlord tenant law.
Or, call now at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084. We have the skills and experience representing tenants who have been wrongfully evicted you need and can provide you with comprehensive, compassionate legal advocacy.