Landlord Tenant Disputes

Attorney Goar has represented residential and commercial landlords and tenants for the past two decades. Landlord-tenant law in Massachusetts is a product of common law (law developed by appellate judges with written opinions involving actual cases), and statutory law. Within this practice area, there is an important distinction between disputes involving residential tenants, and those involving commercial tenants. In general, there are many more laws and regulations that pertain to residential tenancies than to commercial tenancies. This is because the Massachusetts Legislature has determined that residential tenants are in need of protection against landlords with regard to the conditions of their rental premises, whereas commercial tenants, who are generally more sophisticated and have equal bargaining power with their landlords, and who do not use the leased premises for habitation, do not need such protections. If you have a dispute involving a residential or commercial tenancy, Attorney Goar can help you achieve a fair and efficient resolution.

Residential Landlord-Tenant Law

Attorney Goar has helped residential landlords and tenants since founding his law practice in 2003. The legal term for the eviction process in Massachusetts is “summary process.” It is called “summary” process because it is supposed to be an expedited process that avoids prolonged delays often associated with other types of civil lawsuits. When a landlord wants a tenant to leave the rental unit, unless the tenant voluntarily leaves, the landlord must obtain a judgment for possession against the tenant through a summary process action. Summary process cases are generally filed in the state district court or housing court which has jurisdiction over the town in which the rental unit is located. Before filing a summary process complaint in court, the landlord must notify the tenant that the tenancy (a legal term for the legal relationship between the landlord and tenant relating to the leased premises) is being terminated and that the landlord intends to file a summary process action unless the tenant voluntarily leaves. There are specific requirements for a notice to quit that depend on the type of tenancy (for example, whether it is based on a lease or is month-to-month) and the basis for terminating the tenancy.) After the notice to quit is properly served on the tenant and the requisite number of days elapses, the landlord serves a summary process complaint on the tenant and then files the complaint with the court. The tenant is then supposed to file an Answer to the complaint along with any counterclaims and affirmative defenses that he or she may have. Unless the parties engage in discovery pertaining to the claims and/or counterclaims, the matter will be scheduled for a trial.

If you are a tenant, there are many rights that are provided to you by Massachusetts statutes, regulations and common law. It is important that you consult with a landlord-tenant attorney such as Attorney Goar right away if your landlord is trying to evict you. If you are a landlord, Attorney Goar can assist you with the eviction process so that you are able to minimize your financial losses. In either case, Attorney Goar has navigated the intracacies of summary process law and procedure for years, and is well versed on the strategies employed by plaintiffs and defendants in such disputes. Let Attorney Goar put this experience to use to help you achieve a just and speedy resolution to your landlord-tenant dispute.

Commercial Landlord-Tenant Law

The procedure for termination of commercial tenancies is governed by the terms of the commercial lease. In fact, commercial lease terms may even allow the landlord to avoid the necessity of a summary process action in order to legally evict a tenant in certain situations such as a failure to pay rent. However, as a practical matter, in situations where there is no agreement by the tenant to voluntarily vacate, the landlord should file a summary process suit and obtain a judgement for possession from a court in order to avoid a claim by the tenant that it has been wrongfully evicted. The summary process rules are the same for commercial and residential evictions, however there are some important distinctions. For example, parties in a commercial summary process case must be represented by an attorney. Importantly, in a commercial eviction, a tenant may not file counterclaims against a landlord, and does not have the same affirmative defenses available to it as a residential tenant. The issues in a commercial eviction often revolve around whether the tenant has violated the lease in a way that is sufficiently material to justify an eviction, as well as the landlord’s damages resulting from the tenant’s conduct. In this way, commercial eviction law is closer to traditional contract law, and draws on many of the same legal principles.

Unless possession of commercial premises is in dispute, it often makes more sense for parties to a commercial landlord-tenant dispute that cannot be settled to file a traditional lawsuit in state District or Superior Court. For example, when a commercial tenant has breached a lease by failing to pay rent but has vacated the premises, there is no need to file a summary process action and a commercial landlord should file suit for breach of the lease in one of these courts in order to obtain a monetary judgment for the amount owed by the tenant. However, the landlord should be aware that, unlike in a summary process case, a tenant is entitled to assert any valid counterclaims against the landlord that it may have in such a lawsuit.

Attorney Goar has represented commercial landlords and tenants in lease disputes and eviction proceedings for the past two decades. If your business is involved in a lease dispute, contact Attorney Goar for a consultation concerning your rights and obligations. As with any legal matter, the earlier in the process you involve a lawyer, the better the chance of success.

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