I can’t tell you how many phone calls I’ve gotten from Massachusetts Landlords that have engaged in self-help evictions over the past year. Self help evictions are when the Landlord either:
1-Physically locks the tenant out of their apartment by changing the locks;
2-Interferes with the tenant’s utilities so as to make the premises unlivable (for example, intentionally turning the heat off in the middle of winter), or
3-Otherwise interferes with the premises making the apartment uninhabitable.
Under G.L ch. 186 secs. 14 and 15F a landlord that engages in this type of activity is not only liable civilly for multiple damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs, but CRIMINALLY. That is, Landlords that engage in this type of behavior can be put in jail. I recently witnessed the statute(s) in action in Northeast Housing Court when a Landlord was placed under arrest in the Court Room after it was established that he intentionally locked a mother of three out of their Lowell Duplex.
To avoid liability under the self-help statute, Massachusetts Landlords need to proceed lawfully and commence a summary process action to evict the occupants. You’d be surprised how many landlords take the law into their own hands and attempt one of the above.