There are some programs in place to help tenants with eviction proceedings. It is also important for tenants with pets to know their rights when facing eviction proceedings.
This page compiles information and resources to help tenants understand the eviction process, respond to eviction notices, and find additional assistance and/or legal representation, with the ultimate goal of keeping more people and pets in their homes. Please note that this list may not be exhaustive and there may be additional organizations and resources in your community that may offer services and assistance.
The Massachusetts COVID Eviction Legal Help program gives free legal help to low income tenants and owner-occupants living in 2- or 3-family houses in Massachusetts.
CELHP will provide advice, referrals, legal information, and legal representation. A lawyer can help advise you about your case, fill out court papers, respond to deadlines, and prepare your case for court.
If you are eligible for CEHLP you will get legal help in Housing Court. Some programs may also be able to help if you are in District Court or if you are at risk of losing your housing subsidy before or during court.
A nonprofit corporation that provides free civil legal services to low income families, elders, victims of crime, and people with disabilities in our communities (Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket, and Plymouth Counties and the Towns of Avon and Stoughton in Norfolk County).
Short-term financial assistance for families who are homeless or who are at risk
You can only be approved in the region where you plan to use your RAFT assistance. To find a regional agency, call 1-800-224-5124 or visit the site above.
Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) program
Statewide fund provides direct funding to eligible households who have suffered financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic and State of Emergency.
ERMA can provide rental and mortgage assistance to low-income households who have been impacted by the crisis and may not be eligible for traditional or COVID-19 RAFT.
This program is available for households within the 50-80% range of Area Median Income (AMI). Like the RAFT program, ERMA may provide up to $4,000 for eligible households to assist with rent or mortgage arrears accrued after April 1, 2020 and/or with upcoming rent or mortgage payments.
Households can look at regional income levels to assess their eligibility, which can be found below.
Go to Massachusetts on the drop-down menu to find organizations working on affordable housing, to prevent eviction and reduce family homelessness.
ABOUT THE EVICTION PROCESS
In Massachusetts, a landlord may only force tenants to move, or evict them, if the landlord has first obtained permission from a court to do so. A landlord must follow the proper legal process in order to evict tenants — in other words, landlords cannot just change the locks, remove a tenant’s belongings, or resort to harassment or intimidation.
The landlord must provide the tenant with a “Notice to Quit,” which tells you to leave in a certain number of days. As a tenant, it is important to understand that you do not have to leave by the date on the Notice to Quit, but you do need to respond to the eviction proceedings.
A summary of the eviction process in Massachusetts can be found in the state’s website here. This website (Mass Legal Help) provides helpful information and links to resources for those facing eviction. For a full explanation of the eviction process, this chapter from the Eighth Edition of Legal Tactics: Tenants’ Rights in Massachusetts (May 2017) covers it well.
This state resource provides an explanation of what to expect when you go to court. Eviction self-help forms and sample letters are available at Mass Legal Help here.