The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that a 2010 Massachusetts law that prevents eviction without just cause is applicable to no-cause summary process cases that were already pending when the law went into effect. The September 6 decision came in a case brought by a foreclosing owner to evict a residential tenant. The eviction notice did not state any cause and the owner conceded that it did not have just cause for the eviction. After the tenant refused to move out, the owner filed a summary process complaint to obtain possession of the premises. The summary process complaint was filed before Chapter 186A of the General Laws of Massachusetts, established by Chapter 258 of the Acts of 2010, became effective on August 7, 2010. Chapter 186A provides certain protections to tenants of foreclosed properties and prohibits institutional lenders and certain financial institutions that own foreclosed properties from evicting a tenant without just cause. There is an exception in the statute for eviction after a foreclosing owner has entered into a binding agreement to sell the property to a bona fide third party. The court ruled that the provision of Chapter 186A that prevents eviction without just cause applies to protect all residential tenants on foreclosed properties who, on or after August 7, 2010, had yet to vacate or be removed from the premises by an eviction.

Nutter Notes:  The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the tenant protections under Chapter 186A apply to pending summary process claims even where the owner foreclosed on the property before the act’s effective date and initiated a summary process action before that date. The court rejected an argument that application of the statute to owners that had foreclosed before the act’s effective date would be an improper retroactive application of the law. The court noted that the statute’s impact on the fair market value of a property in foreclosure would be modest because the foreclosing owner may evict a tenant without just cause once a binding agreement for the sale of the house or apartment has been executed. The court likened the burden to a new property tax, zoning regulation, or other statute that merely upsets the reasonable expectations of the acquirer of the property. In addition to the provisions prohibiting eviction without just cause, Chapter 186A requires that tenants in foreclosed residential properties be informed of the name, address, and telephone number of the foreclosing owner and the building manager, and the address to which rent should be sent, no later than 30 days after the foreclosure. The notice must be provided in 3 ways: by posting in a prominent location in the building, by first class mail to each unit, and by sliding the information under the door of each unit. A foreclosing owner may not evict a tenant, even for just cause, until the notice is posted and delivered, or until 30 days after the posting and delivery of the notice, depending on the nature of the eviction.