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Alan Cohen

Property Managers Cannot Evict Tenants

Property owners can no longer use property managers to file suit in the name of the owner in summary process actions for evictions. The Law Offices of Alan M. Cohen LLC can help you with your evictions.

Property owners and managers should be aware that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently dismissed a summary process matter brought by a property manager to evict a tenant from a property for which the property manager was neither the owner nor the lessor. The Court in Rental Prop. Mgmt. Servs. V. Hatcher, 479 Mass. 542 (2018) dismissed the property manager’s case because the property manager could not bring a summary process action in his own name: A person may only file a complaint to evict a tenant and recover and recover possession of property if the person is the actual owner or lessor of the property. See G. L. c. 239, § 1. As the property manager was not the owner or lessor, he was not being harmed by the actions or inactions of the tenant and therefore could not sue for any harm.

To the extent that the property manager was acting on behalf of the true owner of the property when he filed the complaint, the Court held that his conduct constituted the unauthorized practice of law. The Court warned property owners and managers that when such a court filing by a property manager is not inadvertent but by design, or part of a pattern, the court could impose sanctions, including attorney’s fees and other costs. It doesn’t matter whether the plaintiff is the agent of the owner or lessor, or whether the plaintiff has obtained the express approval of the owner or lessor to bring the action in the plaintiff’s name. Only a person entitled to the property as owner or lessor may be the plaintiff in an action to recover possession of that property. See G. L. c. 239, § 1. Even if the property manager identifies the true owner of the property in the summary process complaint, his act of signing the complaint as the “Plaintiff or Attorney” and then filing the complaint now suffices to warrant dismissal based on the unauthorized practice of law.

In light of the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision, it would be prudent for property owners, and condominiums and property managers to call the Law Offices of Alan M. Cohen LLC to learn how they can help.


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