Client Update: Changes to Housing Court Procedures and Summary Process in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Housing Court system recently issued its Third Amended Standing Order 6-20 (the “Standing Order”). The Standing Order appears to be the first step toward reincorporating in-person court appearances into summary process/eviction cases. As a result, several policies and procedures which went into effect during the pandemic will be coming to an end.
The Standing Order went into effect on July 1, 2021, and will impact cases being filed on or after that date. It will not impact current cases pending in the Housing Court.
Partial Return to In-Person Court Appearances:
For cases filed on or after July 1, 2021, the Housing Courts will schedule summary process trials, small claims hearings, and certain motion hearings for in-person appearances. They will not be held via Zoom. Tier 1 mediations, however, will still be held virtually via Zoom.
Notably, the Standing Order also states that the Court will, in some circumstances, allow parties to appear virtually for summary process trials and other in-person hearings. To do so, the party will have to file a motion and receive approval to appear virtually for the hearing.
For cases filed on or after July 1, 2021, a default judgment will be issued against a defendant if the defendant fails to appear for a virtual Tier 1 mediation. During the pandemic, no default judgments were issued when parties failed to appear for Tier 1 mediations.
RAFT Funding and Case Delays:
The Standing Order does not change the current rule in place which requires the Housing Court to continue cases where there is a pending RAFT application. Any cases in which there is an outstanding RAFT application will continue to be rescheduled to a later date when either the application is denied or payment is received.
Other Procedural Changes:
The Standing Order notes that the Housing Courts may continue to use staggered times for hearings. For example, instead of only having one calendar call for all summary process cases on a certain day (which was the standard process before the pandemic), the Courts may now schedule hearings for various times throughout the day to alleviate schedule congestion. This system has been working well and we believe it reduces attorney’s fees and excessive wait times before the Court calls a case.
If you have questions or would like to discuss these matters, please contact us at 508-541-3000.
This blog is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal advice. All those who read this blog should seek the advice of a professional before taking action based upon any information provided herein.
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