Review the link attached--see the Eviction link in the middle of the page for the process in your state. Contact your local county court and begin the court process.
I am licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, answering your query and my answer do not create an attorney-client relationship and I am not providing you legal advice. You should speak with an attorney to whom you have provided all the facts, before you take steps that may impact your legal rights--or rights to recovery of damages. I wish you the best of luck with your situation.
If your tenant is late on rent, you need to send a legally sufficient Notice to Quit and proceed with eviction immediately. Our office has a flat fee eviction structure, and can handle the matter for you entirely. Before commencing an eviction, you should also have your case reviewed by an attorney to ascertain your own potential liability for things like housing code violations, security deposit handling, etc.
It sounds like you a general understanding of the process. You are correct, you will need to serve the tenant with a 14 day notice indicating your intent to end the tenancy. Once the notice has been properly served, the 14 days have passed and the tenant has not caught up on the rent payments, you may commence eviction proceedings. To do this correctly I would recommend hiring a lawyer.
Before you start the legal process, you should be aware that the eviction process can be very lengthy. Unless the tenant leaves voluntarily, at this point, the soonest you can force them out is approximately 2 months from now. If the tenant decides to try to extend the process it could be 4-6 months (or more) from now. To get a feel for the timing of each step in the process, scroll down to the calendar on page 234 near the end of this guide http://www.masslegalhelp.org/housing/legal-tactics1/chapter13-evictions.pdf.
Even if the tenant doesn’t actually raise any defense or counterclaim, it’s not at all uncommon for tenants to ask the judge for additional time to find a new place to live. And judges do routinely grant tenants extra time. Judges tend to be quite generous with the amount of time they grant. This may be especially true if your tenant has children. Also, the fact that we’re heading into winter may tend to work to a tenant’s advantage in extending the deadline. As much as judges want to be fair to landlords they’re usually not terribly keen on throwing people out in the cold. Individual judges vary of course, and some may be more lenient than others, but in general I would characterize Massachusetts as a relatively tenant-friendly state.
On the other hand, on many occasions tenants often choose to just move out. Many tenants don’t know their legal rights so when they get formal looking notices telling them they have to leave, they simply comply. And some feel morally obliged to leave since they’re not living up to their side of the agreement. I certainly wouldn’t count on this being the case though.
Finally, have you considered talking to your tenants and trying to negotiate some sort of agreement? Keep in mind that if you ask lawyers for advice, here on Avvo or anywhere else, they (myself included) will tend to focus on the legal process. However, sometimes asserting your legal right to evict may not be the best tactical move. The eviction process is not only slow but it can be costly. If you add up the cost of an additional few months (or more) of missed rent payments, plus court filing costs, legal fees, constable fees, etc., you might be better off just offering your tenant money to leave. I know this is an idea that makes some landlords really angry. That’s perfectly understandable. But as a practical matter sometimes the cheapest, fastest way to move a non-paying tenant is to pay them to go. Banks routinely use this method for faster removal of tenants from foreclosed properties. If you do decide to go the “cash for keys” route, you’d need a signed agreement from your tenant relinquishing any rights to possession of your property. Again, for this I’d recommend hiring a lawyer.
Whatever you do, I wish you the best of luck.
I concur with most of what the other attorneys have written. However, please note under Massachusetts law, "No lease or other rental agreement shall impose any interest or penalty for failure to pay rent until thirty days after such rent shall have been due." Depending on how your lease is written, you may not be able to impose the late fee however justified it is. Also, a tenant under a written lease has the opportunity to cure their default by paying the amount due to the landlord or the landlord's attorney on or before the day the tenant is required to file a written answer or response in court in the landlord's eviction case. This is the tenant's legal right. Depending on the circumstances, your tenant may be justified in withholding rent or may have several legal defenses for nonpayment. Consultation with landlord/tenant law attorney is advised.
This "answer" is for information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship.