Boston Housing Authority

Departments > Operations > Manager's Manual > 11 - Procedure for Eviction of Squatters


These procedures describe the process by which to evict squatters.  A squatter is a special type of trespasser who attempts to occupy a vacant apartment without right.  Either the civil or the criminal procedure described below may be instituted against squatters, depending on the circumstances.  It is important that the forms attached to these procedures be used.  However, in addition to the forms, a Manager should post vacant apartments as "no trespassing" areas if there is trouble with squatters, as well as giving personal notice to the squatters to vacate the premises. 

I.    Definition of Squatter

M.G.L. ch. 266, § 120, the Massachusetts criminal trespassing statute, enables the BHA to evict squatters through the criminal process.  Only squatters (who qualify if they can be considered trespassers under the definition of § 120) can be evicted through the criminal process (See Part III (B) below). Anyone other than a squatter must be evicted through a civil summary process action.  Section 120 defines a "trespasser" as:
 
"Whoever, without right, enters or remains in or upon the dwelling house ... of another, after having been forbidden so to do by the person who has lawful control of said premises, either directly or by notice posted thereon ..."
 
Therefore, since a squatter is someone who entered the unit without a right to do so, she/ he can be evicted through the criminal process.  Anyone not invited into the unit by a former Resident is a squatter against whom a criminal complaint can issue.  However, anyone invited into the unit by the current Resident of a unit or by the former Resident upon his/her vacation of the unit is not a squatter.  If a Resident permits others to live in his/her apartment (e.g., vacates and gives another person(s) a key), the person(s) now in occupancy can only be evicted by recourse to the civil summary process squatter procedure (Part III (B) below).  If a Resident "invites" a person(s) to move into a vacant apartment, other than that Resident's apartment, the person invited into the vacant unit is still considered a squatter, since the Resident has no right to occupy that other unit. 

II.   Eviction Process for Squatter Distinguished From That For Residual Tenant 

A residual applicant is someone who, although not a Resident on a lease, was reported as a family member on the Tenant Status Report client worksheet ("TSR") of a Resident and remains in occupancy after the Resident vacates the premises.  A putative residual applicant is someone who was not a reported member of a Resident's household, but who claims to have  resided in the unit with the Resident without BHA authorization.  Such an individual must be allowed to apply for residual tenancy, but should be rejected by the Occupancy Department as not qualified for residual tenancy.

(a)  Process For Residual Applicants and Putative Residual Applicants

If the residual applicant is accepted by the Occupancy Department, the Manager should follow the Residual Tenancy Procedure (Section 7). After the Manager has received notification of   the rejection by the Occupancy Department of a residual applicant or a putative residual applicant, the Manager should initiate the eviction procedure in accordance with the Residual Tenancy Eviction Procedure (Section 7).

(b)  Process For Occupant Who Refuses To Apply For Residual Tenancy

If a person who was invited to reside in an apartment by a former Resident (whether or not that individual was on the TSR) refuses to sign a residual tenancy application (including the accompanying Use and Occupancy Agreement), or fails to apply for residual tenancy in the required time period, the Manager should use the Civil Squatter Eviction Procedure, (Part III (B) below), to evict the individual. 

(c)  Process For Occupant Invited Into Unit By Resident After Resident Leaves

An occupant who was invited to reside in the unit by the Resident after the Resident has vacated, can only be removed from the premises through the Civil Squatter Eviction Procedure (Part III (B) below).  If the occupant admits that he/she never resided with the Resident as a member of the Resident's household, the occupant has no right to apply for residual tenancy.

(d)  Process For True Squatter

A true squatter is a stranger to the Resident.  That is, a squatter never lived with the Resident prior to vacation by the Resident, and was not invited there by the Resident; whereas a residual applicant was purportedly a member of the Resident's household.  A true squatter can be evicted by either the Criminal or the Civil Squatter Eviction Procedure (See Part III below), depending on the circumstances. 

III.  Procedure for Evicting Squatters

(A) Which Process -- Civil or Criminal -- Should be Used?

Neither a residual applicant nor any other person invited onto the premises by the Resident can be evicted through the criminal process.  Either the Criminal or Civil process can be used to evict true squatters.  Which process to use in case of a true squatter is largely a question of fact.  The criminal process can result in quicker removal of thesquatter; however, it is more time consuming for the Manager and is not alwaysnecessary unless the circumstances warrant it.  The criminal process should be initiated against those who pose a threat to BHA security (e.g., drug pushers, drifters, alcoholics, gang members).  The civil process should be used if the squatter/occupant is peaceful and has not caused any problems.It is important to emphasize that squatters must be evicted and the criminal process should be instituted against all those who pose any threat or danger to BHA Residents or property. 

(B) Civil Summary Process Squatter Eviction

This process should be used for:
      (a)  an occupant who, although qualified, refuses to apply for residual tenancy;
      (b)  an occupant invited into an apartment after a Resident vacated; and
      (c)  a true squatter, if she/he is causing no problems.

1.  The vacant apartment should be posted as a "no trespassing" area pursuant to M.G.L.ch. 266, § 120.
2. The Manager and a BHA police officer should inspect the premises.
3.  If someone is occupying  the premises, the Manager should demand that she/he identify herself/himself.  If she/he fails to do so, the civil eviction procedure documentation can be initiated against John Doe or Jane Doe.
4.  The Manager should fill out the attached form (Squatter Notice to Quit, Form SQ-01).
5.  The Manager should either:  (a) hand deliver the Squatter Notice to Quit, Form SQ-01, to the squatter; or (b) (if the person is attempting to evade the Manager) the Manager should slide the form under the door and mail a copy first class, addressed to the individual or to "occupant" (if her/his name is unknown) at that address.
6.  Submit Squatter Notice to Quit (Form SQ-01) and Military Affidavit (Form SQ-03) to the Legal Department for processing. 

(C)  Criminal Procedure

This process should be used in regard to a true squatter, with no contacts with the prior Resident, when the squatter is causing problems or there is other good reason to move quickly to evict the squatter.

1. The vacant apartment should be posted as a "no trespassing" area pursuant to M.G.L. ch. 266, § 120.
2. The Manager and a BHA police officer should inspect the premises.
3. If someone is occupying the premises, the Manager should demand that she/he identify herself/himself.  If she/he fails to do so, the criminal eviction procedure documentation can be initiated against John Doe or Jane Doe.
4. The Manager should fill out a Squatter Notice to Vacate Immediately (Form SQ-02).
5. The Manager should hand deliver the Squatter Notice to Vacate Immediately (Form SQ-02).  If a person is attempting to evade the Manager, the Manager should slide the form under the door and mail a copy first class addressed to the individual or to "Occupant" (if her/his name is unknown) at that address.
6. The Manager should orally order the squatter to vacate immediately.
7. If the squatter does not leave immediately upon receipt of the Squatter Notice
If the squatter does not leave immediately upon receipt of the Squatter Notice to Vacate Immediately Form (Form SQ-02) or if the Manager allows the squatter's request for a short period to remove her/his belongings from the apartment and the squatter does not leave within that period, the Manager should commence the criminal eviction procedure.
8. The City of Boston Police Department should be notified immediately.
9. The Manager should ask the Public Safety Department to arrest the squatter and have her/him charged as a trespasser, for violation of M.G.L. ch. 266, § 120.
10. If the squatter is arrested for trespassing, then the Manager should immediately secure the apartment by changing the lock.  If the squatter is not arrested for trespassing or the Court does not allow the squatter to be held long enough for the locks to be changed, the Legal Department can process an eviction against the squatter.  The Manager should sent the Notice to Vacate Immediately (Form SQ-02) and the Military Affidavit (Form SQ-03) to the Legal Department.  If the squatter or a guest of the squatter has committed violations of M.G.L. ch. 139, § 19, the Legal Department can process the case for a speedy eviction through an injunction.  The Manager should send any police or incident reports or some other description of the conduct to the Legal Department along with the Squatter Notice to Vacate Immediately (Form SQ-02) and the Military Affidavit (Form SQ-03).
11. If the Manager is necessary in court to testify in a criminal trial against the squatter, the Manager will be notified by the BHA Public Safety police officer and/or the District Attorney's office when to appear in court.

IV.   What Managers Should Not Do

As mentioned above, BHA policy on squatters is to remove them from the unit as quickly as possible by legal means.  The Manager should not under any circumstances shut off the electricity or heat in the apartment occupied by a squatter.  This manual delineates the procedure to be followed by a Manager when evicting squatters from BHA property.