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How should landlord serve notice to quit?

My tenants refused to sign any notices delivered to them. So, I sent a certified mail. They were very upset that I took that approach. I explained that I have to cover myself by making sure that I have something as proof in writing, just in case there should be any disputes later. Since then, a letter regarding a rent increase was hand delivered the same day the rent was collected. They refused to sign that they received the letter; furthermore they refused to note on my copy the date of receipt. I would like to give them a letter that I am terminating their month to month lease and requesting that they vacate the premises. I am afraid that if I send this letter by certified mail, they will not pick up or accept, and therefore use the excuse that they did not receive any letter to leave the premises. I'm also very concern about having a date of receipt because I don’t want them to say that they received the letter less than 30 days. Is there an alternative method that I can use to make sure that they sign and date the letter upon receipt? Thank you.

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The best way to serve a Notice to Quit or other correspondence is by using a sheriff or constable (find them in the phone book).  It will cost about $30, but it's worth it.  If the tenant plays games or refuses to open the door, the constable will leave a copy of the notice on the door and mail a copy to the tenant.  The constable will then give you a copy of the served document along with a 'Return of Service.'  You then file this Return of Service along with the Notice to Quit when/if you need to start the eviction.  This process creates 'prima facie' evidence of service and the court will consider the notice properly served.  The burden then shifts to the tenant to prove he or she was not served (and most housing court judges have heard all the stories and excuses and will not be impressed.)  With particularly difficult tenants, or if things get messy, you may want to find a MA lawyer with housing court experience. 

I should clarify here that there are other perfectly legal ways to deliver a notice to quit.  The landlord can tape it to tenant's door, give it to the tenant's spouse, send by mail, or use any method that results in actual delivery to the tenant.  The problem is, if the tenant decides to deny that he received the notice to quit, the landlord must prove that the tenant actually received it.   So, for example, if the landlord fails to obtain a signed receipt that shows proper service (either an actual receipt for hand deliver or a signed receipt for registered or certified mail) then the matter can degenerate into a "he says, she says" dispute.  That is why I think it is worth the money to pay a constable.


Thanks for your input. I wrote a "Notice to Terminate Tenancy/Notice to Vacate Premises" letter to the tenant. I had it notarized before sending to the Sheriff's office for delivery to tenant.

I feel much better that I will have evidence that the notice was delivered and the date of delivery.

Thanks again.

ALWAYS use a constable. Don't be afraid to ruffle your tenant's feathers. This is a business decision.

You should try this class, risk-free:

It's a soup to nuts training on how to evict your MA tenant taught by me, a Landlord Tenant Attorney.

Submitted Thu, 07/03/2014 - 13:28

You should also consider hiring a Massachusetts attorney to handle the eviction for you. A typical flat fee for a simple eviction that does not involve defending any counterclaims or other issues is usually less than $1,000.00. The fee I charge is substantially less than $1,000.00. Although going the DIY route may seem appealing, it may not be worth it to save a few hundred dollars in legal fees if, by chance, you mess up a technicality and do not process the eviction correctly. I have seen many evictions thrown out by housing court judges because of a mere technical defect with a Notice to Quit or other document, even when a lawyer was involved in preparing the documents. Massachusetts law is strictly construed against landlords and if you don't get it right, it could cost you more than the legal fees you would spend for professional assistance.

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