Housing Court To Speed Up Eviction Cases and Shift To More In-Person Events

by Rich Vetstein on April 3, 2023

in Housing Court, Landlord Tenant Law, Massachusetts Real Estate Law, Rental Housing

New Rules Aimed At Reducing Pandemic Era Case Backlogs and Delays

Are the old days of packed Thursday morning summary process sessions coming back? They just may be. With the expiration of a pandemic era law called Chapter 257 and the end of the Covid-19 emergency, the Massachusetts Housing Court just released an important new Standing Order 1-23 which will speed up cases and move to more in-person hearings and less virtual appearances. The new Standing Order should be welcome news to housing providers whose cases have been delayed due to Chapter 257 and the backlog of post-moratorium pandemic era cases.

Expiration of Chapter 257

With the expiration on March 31 of Chapter 257 of the Acts of 2020, there is no longer an automatic hold on cases where there is a pending rental assistance application filed by the tenant. However, while a case with a pending RAFT application will continue to move forward, that is not to say that a judge would evict a tenant who expects to receive rental assistance covering an arrearage. The problem has always been that since the RAFT limit decreased to $10,000, many landlords are owed more than that, so those landlords will not be penalized by the Chapter 257 delay any longer.

More In-Person Events

Second, all “Tier I” mediations, evidentiary hearings, and trials will be held in-person going forward, unless there are extraordinary circumstances for a virtual appearance. Virtual/Zoom will continue for all case management, pretrial and status conferences, emergency motions on short notice, and certain non-evidentiary hearings. I have mixed feelings about this. Having virtual Tier I mediation events saves legal fees for represented parties and is much better for a busy lawyer’s scheduling. Now a landlord will be charged 3+ hours of lawyer time as opposed to 30 minutes if we are forced to drive to Boston, Worcester or Lawrence for mediation dates. Evictions are already a lose-lose financial abyss for landlords, so I would hope that judges will routinely grant attorneys’ motions for a virtual Tier I hearing.

New Modified Two-Tiered System

For cases filed after June 5, 2023 and certain cases in progress, there is a new modified Two-Tiered System, which should move cases far quicker than current practice. The Tier I court event (mediation/case management) will be scheduled between 30-60 days from the case’s filing. In a change to prior practice and one that will add expense to landlords, the notice of the first court event must be served by constable/sheriff by the plaintiff or its attorney. I was quite disappointed to see this, although local constables will be happy undoubtedly.

Quicker Trial Dates

In a much welcome change, if the case does not resolve at the Tier I event, trials will scheduled 2 weeks later. Currently, the wait for a trial date, especially a jury trial, can be several months. This is great news, and hopefully the Court can implement this despite the huge case backlog and staffing issues. Cases which were filed before June 5, 2023 and have already been scheduled for the Tier I event, shall stay on the prior “slow” track.


For agreements for judgment with a self-represented party, the new rules provide that such agreements must be approved by a Housing Specialist, Clerk or Judge who shall determine that the terms are fair and reasonable and that it was entered into voluntarily.

New Notice to Quit Affidavit of Compliance

Lastly, in all non-payment cases, a new affidavit of compliance with the Notice to Quit Attestation Form under G.L. c. 186, section 31 must be filed.

As always, if you have any questions about Massachusetts Evictions, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].

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