Rules governing court-ordered rental payments while eviction litigation is pending

When a landlord sued to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent, the court ordered to make rental payments (for "use and occupancy") during trial. The Massachusetts Appeals Court held that before ordering such payments, the trial judge must hold a hearing to determine whether the payments should be reduced because of defective conditions in the property. Davis v. Comerford, 133 N.E.3d 373 (Mass. App. Ct. 2019). And while such payments are normally paid to the court and held in escrow, they may be delivered directly to the landlord if needed to make mortgage payments on the property. The court interpreted a state statute making tenants at sufferance liable for "use and occupancy" but noted that case law did not measure the value of use and occupancy by the agreed-upon rent but upon the "sum which the trier of fact finds the use and occupation were reasonably worth," 133 N.E.3d at 381, and "conditions-related issues such as breaches of the warranty of habitability or covenant of quiet enjoyment may reduce the fair value of the premises," id. at 382.