Thursday, May 17, 2018

Massachusetts Landlords Can No Longer Use Representatives In Evictions

If you are a Massachusetts landlord seeking to evict a tenant, or a Massachusetts tenant facing eviction, this case is of interest to you.

Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) its highest court, issued a decision this week prohibiting landlords from appearing in eviction cases through their property managers. The case and the lower housing court judge cited the pervasiveness of the practice. In its 27 page opinion, the SJC thoroughly reviewed the issue of non-attorneys representing landlords in evictions and set clear guidelines for landlords and judges in eviction cases.

The idea that property managers, individual or corporate, could appear in court for landlords in evictions appears to have existed in a gray area that, frankly, does not appear ever to have been lawful.  In regular civil cases, there is no question that non-attorney agents cannot appear in court for the parties. Also, corporations and LLC's have been prohibited from appearing pro se, that is, without an attorney, for some time.  By contrast, states such as Texas and Pennsylvania have rules and statutes regulating the appearance of non-attorneys for landlords in eviction cases.

If you are a landlord, you now either have to appear in court yourself or employ an attorney. If you are a tenant, unless your landlord appears in court personally or through an attorney, you have a complete defense to an eviction action.

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