You and the landlord will talk to a housing mediator. The housing mediator will try to help you make an agreement instead of having a trial. If you can come to an agreement, it will be put in writing and you, the landlord, and the judge will sign it. You will each get a signed copy of the agreement.
You can also make an agreement on your own with the landlord, but don’t sign anything until you talk to the housing mediator.
Important! Only sign an agreement if you can do what it says. Don’t let yourself be talked into signing an agreement that you won’t be able to keep. If you sign an agreement and then break it, you can be evicted very quickly.
If you can’t make an agreement, you will have a trial.
At the trial, a judge will decide your case. When the judge calls your case:
- The landlord will speak first and explain why you should be evicted. The landlord may show the judge papers or other evidence. If the landlord has any witnesses, they will testify next.
- The judge will then ask you to tell your side of the case. You should explain why you should not be evicted. You can also show the judge papers, photos, and other evidence. You can also call your own witnesses if you want.
- The judge may ask questions of you, the landlord, or any witnesses. You can also ask questions when it’s your turn.
- Often the judge will make a decision at the end of the trial and tell you and the landlord the decision right away. But sometimes the judge will decide later and the court will send the decision to you and your landlord by mail.
If you win at your trial, you get to stay in your apartment.
What happens if I lose?
If you lose your case, you will have to move out. The law gives you five days, not counting Sundays, to remove yourself and your belongings. The five days start on the day the judge’s decision is filed with the clerk, not on the day you get the notice. Call the clerk if you are unsure of the date.
If you haven’t moved out after the five days have passed, your landlord can get permission from the court to have a marshal carry out the eviction. A marshal must give you at least 24 hours’ notice before removing you and your things from the apartment. The landlord cannot remove you. Only a marshal can remove you from the apartment.
If you don’t move out before the marshal comes, the marshal will take your belongings from the apartment, even if you are not there, and have them stored by the town. Once your things have been removed, the landlord can change the locks and legally prevent you from coming back in.
Warning: You can be evicted even if you have small children, you get Section 8, or it is winter. Pack your things as fast as you can before the marshal comes back. Take the most important things first, starting with your medications and important legal documents, like birth certificates and ID cards. It can be very difficult to get your things back after an eviction has taken place.
If you have nowhere to store your belongings or you lose them in an eviction:
- Call 2-1-1 and ask for help finding a place to live or to store your belongings.
- Contact your DSS worker if you have one. DSS sometimes helps with housing and moving costs, or it may pay for the security deposit for your next apartment.
- You can get your belongings back from your town if you ask for them within 15 days. The town will charge you moving and storing costs, but you can ask them to lower or waive these costs. After 15 days, the town will sell your things at a public auction. You can try to buy your belongings back at the auction. Ask the town when and where the auction will be. If the town doesn’t hold the auction right after the 15th day, you might be able to get your property back even after the 15 days.
Can I ask for more time to move?
You can ask your landlord for more time, but they don’t have to agree. The best way to get extra time (more than the five days required by law) is by bargaining for it when you are in court in mediation—before the judge makes a decision about your case. If you agree in mediation that you will move out, be honest about how much time you need. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep.
You can come back to the court to ask for more time to move, but this is very hard to get. Ask the clerk or someone in the Court Service Center about filing a motion asking for more time. You can ask for up to six months (or up to three months if you are evicted because you didn’t pay rent), but you are not likely to get it. You will need to have a good reason, and you may have to pay the back rent. Be prepared to pay rent for each month you stay.