Handling a Tenant's Property in Massachusetts: After an Eviction
Learn the rules landlords in Massachusetts must follow to deal with property abandoned by a tenant after an eviction.
If you’ve won an eviction lawsuit – called a “summary process” action in Massachusetts -- you may feel like tossing the tenant’s belongings out into the street. But Massachusetts law sets out specific procedures for landlords to deal with a tenant’s property after an eviction. (See Massachusetts General Laws §§ 239-3 and 239-4.)
Here’s a brief overview of the process:
1. You get a court order. When a landlord wins an eviction lawsuit in Massachusetts, the court will issue an order called a “writ of possession” or “order for possession.” This order gives the local constable permission to remove the tenant and the tenant’s property from the rental unit.
2. The constable evicts the tenant and moves the tenant’s property. The constable will give the tenant at least 48 hours' notice of the eviction. If the tenant doesn’t move out voluntarily, the evicting officer will remove the tenant from the rental unit and deliver the tenant’s personal belongings to a public storage warehouse. You should not move the tenant’s personal belongings on your own.
3. You pay the costs of moving the tenant’s property. As the landlord, you are required to pay for moving the tenant’s abandoned property from the rental unit to the storage facility. You must seek reimbursement from the tenant for these costs.
4. After six months, the tenant’s property may be sold. If the tenant doesn't reclaim the abandoned property within six months, the warehouse may auction it off. The warehouse can keep enough of the sales proceeds to cover the storage fees. The rest of the money must be turned over to the tenant or anyone else who would have had the legal right to reclaim the property.
To find out more about Massachusetts landlord-tenant law, see the extensive list of resources offered on the website of the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries.
For a quick overview of your basic rights and responsibilities as a landlord, read the article Top 9 Landlord Legal Responsibilities in Massachusetts.
If you want a comprehensive legal and practical handbook for residential landlords, check out Every Landlord’s Legal Guide, by Marcia Stewart, Ralph Warner, and Janet Portman (Nolo).
If you want to speak to a lawyer about rules that may apply to your situation, you can search for an experienced Massachusetts landlord-tenant attorney using Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.