If you are a landlord bringing a summary process (eviction) case against a tenant in Massachusetts, the rules have changed.

Previously, a landlord would send a Notice to Quit and, once it expired, would make legal “entry” to the apartment or tenement by serving and filing the Summons and Complaint with the local District or Housing Court. The parties would then congregate on “summary process day” at each respective court. In each Housing Court, there are “housing specialists” (mediators) employed by the court who would take the parties who wanted to try to resolve their dispute through mediation. If the parties could not reach an agreement, the court would hold a trial that day to determine the rights of the parties regarding possession, rent, and counterclaims. Parties would wait at court sometimes well into the afternoon before seeing a mediator because, under the prior system, all of the parties would show up on the same day, often encompassing hundreds of cases being dealt with at court on the same day.

The process remains largely unchanged, but, since 2020, the Housing Court has required the parties to engage in a “Tier 1 Status Conference,” which is mediation except no longer on the same day as trial – instead, it is scheduled on its own day and time, with the hopes the parties could resolve the case without rushing to trial and stressing an overburdened court system. It used to be conducted virtually but the court now requires parties to appear in person.

The landlord bringing a case in Housing Court is still required to serve the Notice to Quit and Summons and Complaint on the tenant(s). Once the case is filed, the court generates a “Notice of Tier 1 Status Conference” that is given to the landlord, who then must serve it on the tenant by constable no less than fourteen (14) days before the date of the Tier 1 Status Conference and then file the ‘return of service” with the court. The tenants are required to serve and file their Answer and Discovery, if any, no less than three (3) days prior to the date of the Tier 1 Status Conference.

The parties now meet with a “housing specialist” on the day of the Tier 1 Status Conference and attempt to resolve the issues of possession, rent, repairs, if any, and counterclaims. The “housing specialist” is a neutral party that attempts to show the parties the strengths and weaknesses of their respective case and may help refer the parties to a 3rd party like Tenancy Preservation Project or RCAP Solutions to determine a party’s eligibility for rental assistance.

If the parties cannot reach an amicable resolution at mediation, the court then schedules a “Tier 2 Status Conference,” which is a summary process (eviction) trial. If there is a jury trial claim or RAFT application pending the court may schedule a status conference or pretrial conference, in order to prepare the case for trial.

If you are seeking legal representation for a pending Tier 1 Status Conference or need to start an eviction case, please contact me today. Obtaining an experienced housing court attorney can greatly increase your chances of obtaining a favorable result in court. I have represented hundreds of litigants in every housing court in the state over the last decade, often with favorable results.

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