The New Hampshire eviction process begins with a written notice to the tenant advising him or her that rent is overdue and owing, or that a particular provision in the lease has been violated. The type of notice for a landlord to serve on the tenant depends on the reason for the attempted eviction.
Demand for Rent
In any landlord-tenant matter where the tenant has failed to pay rent, the landlord must first serve a written notice called a Demand for Rent or serve it at the same time as the Eviction Notice. The notice must specify the amount owed and be either personally served or left at the unit with a subtenant of suitable age and discretion or conspicuously posted such as on the unit’s front door. The New Hampshire eviction process permits a landlord to combine the eviction proceeding with an action for money damages such as rent owed.
New Hampshire Eviction Notice
Along with the Demand for Rent, or for other violations of the lease, the landlord must also serve an Eviction Notice stating the specific provision in the lease agreement being violated.
If the reason for eviction is nonpayment of rent, the Notice must state that the tenant has 7-days to leave along with the right to cure by paying the rent within this time. The tenant must also pay $15 along with total amount of rent due to remain. If the tenant has been served three times in a 12-month period for nonpayment of rent, the landlord can proceed with the eviction with no right to cure by the tenant.
The 7-days also applies if the reason for the eviction is for conduct that has harmed the safety or health of other tenants or that substantial damage has occurred to the rental property. If the landlord claims the tenant did something or failed to do some act that constitutes good cause for the eviction, the landlord has to give written warning first before the Notices are issued.
For all other reasons such as for termination of the lease, the Notice must be for 30-days to vacate.
Writ of Summons and Appearance
If the tenant has not cured the rent or other lease violation and remains, the landlord must file a Writ of Summons to be served by the sheriff. This advises the tenant that he or she must request a hearing and file and serve an Appearance within a certain time. Failure to do so will result in a Writ of Possession being issued 3 days after the date for filing the Appearance has passed.
Should the landlord be combining the New Hampshire eviction process with a claim for monetary damages, he or she must also file and serve with the Writ of Summons an itemized Statement of Damages. A claim for damages in a New Hampshire eviction cannot exceed $1,500 or it will be dismissed.
The landlord can choose to pursue a separate money judgment in small claims court in lieu or combining the money damages if the damage exceed $1,500.
If an Appearance is filed, a hearing will be typically be held within the next 10 days. A tenant may conduct discovery before the hearing date. The tenant does this by submitting within 5 days of the hearing date written questions called interrogatories to the landlord. These questions ask for information about the facts and circumstances of the reasons for the eviction. If the landlord does not respond, the tenant can request a postponement of the hearing until the landlord responds.
Defenses a Tenant can Raise in New Hampshire
Should the tenant have any available defenses to the eviction, he or she must indicate them in writing on the Appearance form. Some defenses include the following:
- The landlord failed to file a proper Notice
- There is no lease violation
- No good cause exists to evict
- The tenant does not owe the money or rent claims
- The eviction is for a discriminatory purpose–age, sex, pregnancy, disability
- The eviction is in retaliation for the tenant exercising a valid right
- There is a valid reason for withholding rent–unfit living conditions, landlord turned off utilities or denied tenant access to the unit
Failure to raise a defense may prohibit the tenant from raising it at the hearing.
At the hearing, the landlord must present evidence to prove the violation of the lease as specified in the Notice to Evict. The standard of proof is preponderance of the evidence or that it is more likely than not that the tenant violated a provision of the lease. If the landlord prevails, the court will issue a Writ of Possession.
The Writ of Possession is served by the sheriff who will usually give the tenant some time to vacate. If the tenant fails to vacate, the sheriff can return and physically remove the tenant and all personal belongings. If the belongings are not taken, the landlord is obligated to allow the tenant 7 days to return and remove the personal items without charging any fees or costs. After the 7 days, the landlord may dispose of the property.
A tenant has the option of asking the court to delay the eviction or issuance of the Writ of Possession for up to 90-days. This determination can be based on the difficulty the tenant may have in locating another residence, in removing children from school or other circumstances. The court will also consider the harm to the landlord if the tenant is allowed to stay.
The tenant must, however, pay the rent due on a weekly basis and in advance during the period of the discretionary stay. One missed payment and the landlord may return to court for the Writ of Possession, which must be served on the tenant. The Writ must also be obtained at the end of the stay period.