Halting An Unlawful Eviction
Last week our office successfully defended an unlawful post-foreclosure eviction action brought by an aggressive mortgage servicer. In this case, the mortgage servicer (Wilmington Trust) served a “courtesy” 72-hour notice to quit on the occupants of a single family home in Winthrop, Massachusetts. We argued that the notice to quit was insufficient to terminate tenancy because the owner in foreclosure must serve on the occupants the notice to quit applicable to a tenant at will, which under G.L. c. 186, s. 12 is a three-month notice to quit. The Massachusetts Housing Court for the Eastern Division agreed. See Order Granting Summary Judgment.
In Massachusetts, renters of a foreclosed property have greater housing court protections than the mortgagor. But the tenants this case were not covered by the Act to Protect Tenants in Foreclosed Properties because they were not bona fide tenants (they are the family of the mortgagor). Still, the Housing Court found that the 72-hour notice to quit was insufficient and awarded possession to the occupants.
This decision (see attached) has relevancy outside of the day-to-day lives of the parties involved because these days there seems to be more unique living arrangements. A house doesn’t always shelter a nuclear family of four like it once did. Nowadays there are adult children living at home, older parents living in a spare room, roommates or extended family paying rent via Venmo. It is not just the dad or mom making a monthly mortgage payment. In today’s economy so many people are living together and sharing community expenses that there may be a legal requirement by foreclosing banks to serve each individual occupant with a three-month notice to quit instead of the typical 72-hour notice, even if the tenants are not “bona fide” per G.L. c. 186A.