In New Hampshire, as with any other state, if rent is paid in a timely manner in exchange for inhabiting property, a landlord-tenant relationship is established (even without a written lease), and with this relationship comes rights and responsibilities for both parties.
Basic Landlord Responsibilities
Keep the rental fit to live in. The landlord is required to provide housing that is habitable and to make repairs in a timely manner when required.
Quiet enjoyment. The landlord is required not to disturb the tenant’s rights to peacefully and reasonably use their rented space.
Basic Tenant Responsibilities
Pay rent on time. If the tenant does not pay rent in full and in a timely manner, the landlord has the right to take action to end the tenancy.
Cover excessive damages. Tenants are responsible to cover the costs of damages to the property beyond normal “wear and tear”.
With that said, New Hampshire varies from other states on additional rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. New Hampshire law even varies on both the interpretation of the above rights and the rules on handling violations.
Warranty of Habitability in New Hampshire
Landlord Responsibilities. Like in many other US states, landlords in New Hampshire are responsible for maintaining minimum standards for the health and safety of all of their rental units, even when they are occupied. In most states, these standards are referred to as a “warranty of habitability.” But in New Hampshire, these standards are merely minimum housing standards that apply only in cities, towns, and villages where the local government has not established their own set of housing standards.
New Hampshire’s core health and safety standards for rental housing are based primarily on essential amenities and services that a landlord must provide. Those essential amenities and services are as follows:
- Periodic pest inspection and abatement (as necessary)
- Functional plumbing
- Safe electric wiring, outlets, and fixtures
- Roofs and walls that are waterproofed
- Structurally sound walls, ceilings, floors, railings, stairways, and porches
- A sufficient number of garbage and waste receptacles
- An adequate supply of hot and cold water
- Fully sealed and operation gas lines
- In-unit heating that can raise the internal temperature to 65° F in all habitable rooms
At any point during the course of a lease agreement, a New Hampshire tenant may request that repairs be made to one of the amenities listed above or that one of the above services be provided at no added cost (so long as the issue at hand was not caused by that tenant). A New Hampshire landlord has 14 days to respond to this type of request, though more acute requests may justify a swifter response. If that landlord fails to act in the requisite time period, their tenant may be able take at least one form of “alternative action” or request an immediate lease termination on personal safety grounds.
Tenant Responsibilities. New Hampshire does not have a single statute that specifically dictates which responsibilities in a leasing relationship are always assigned to a tenant. That being said, most lease agreements in New Hampshire establish that tenants must keep their dwelling clean by removing trash and utilizing their amenities as they are intended to be used.
A New Hampshire landlord may enforce this standard by issuing a 30-Day Notice to Quit upon observing a standards violation. If the behavior or action is not remedied in that time period, the landlord in question may pursue formal eviction.
Tenants in New Hampshire may have the right to take at least one form of “alternative action” against their landlord when they fail to meet their health and safety code obligations. Specifically, a New Hampshire tenant may be able to unilaterally withhold rent payments if their landlord fails to adequately address a problem with one of their essential amenities within the mandated 14 day repair period.
New Hampshire tenants do not appear to be able to make repairs on their own and deduct the associated cost from a successive rent payment, however. This is because the state lacks a statute addressing this form of “alternative action.” That being said, many local landlord-tenant laws do allow for this option, so tenants should check with their own local housing authority or applicable lease agreement before pursuing this option.
Evictions in New Hampshire
In the majority of cases, a New Hampshire landlord will be able to justify an eviction against a tenant based upon documented proof of one of the following types of infraction:
- Nonpayment of rent – In New Hampshire, rent is technically due upon demand unless a due date or grace period is established through the terms of an applicable lease agreement. In either case, a New Hampshire landlord has the right to issue a 7-Day Notice to Pay or Quit if a tenant is unable or unwilling to pay their owed rent payments upon request. If the tenant in question still fails to pay up after those 7 days pass, then their landlord may move forward with formal eviction by filing a Summons and Complaint with a local court.
- Violation of lease terms – By default, New Hampshire tenants are entitled to receive a 30-Day Notice to Quit upon learning that they have committed a lease term violation from their landlord. This must usually include terms for curing the action or behavior that led to the violation. If those terms are not met by the end of the notice period, the landlord in question may pursue formal eviction by filing a Summons and Complaint with a local court.
- Illegal Acts – New Hampshire is unusual in that their current landlord-tenant laws do not actually establish illegal acts as a justifiable reason to evict a tenant. That being said, it is common practice to do so anyway, with language written into almost all leases dictating which illegal acts can be used to justify eviction. In these cases, it is customary to serve a tenant with a 7-Day Unconditional Notice to Quit that requires them to move out immediately or face a forced eviction.
Evictions without a lease. New Hampshire tenants who rent from a landlord without entering into a lease agreement are considered fully “at-will” and at the mercy of their landlord when it comes to the tenancy’s permanence. To that end, a New Hampshire tenant without a lease who rents on a month-to-month basis can be evicted, but only after receiving 30 days of advance notice. “At-will” tenants who can provide an established end date agreement in lieu of a full lease agreement are entitled to a delayed eviction until the conclusion of that agreement’s rental period.
Illegal Evictions. New Hampshire tenants are shielded from evictions carried out for explicitly or implicitly retaliatory reasons. As such, a New Hampshire landlord cannot seek to evict a tenant who reports a health or safety code violation or who chooses to join a tenant union. Along the same lines, it is fully illegal to evict a New Hampshire tenant on discriminatory grounds, in accordance with the state’s established fair housing statutes.
Security Deposits in New Hampshire
New Hampshire landlords who wish to properly collect, maintain, and redistribute their tenants’ security deposits must follow these statewide standards and regulations:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – New Hampshire’s landlord-tenant laws actually establish both a standard limit and a maximum amount that can be charged for a security deposit. As a base level, a landlord in New Hampshire can charge a $100 security deposit at the commencement of tenancy. However, they can charge as much as an amount equal to 1 month’s rent under the applicable lease agreement. These amounts do not include pet deposits, which are not considered “deposits” for these purposes.
- Interest and Maintenance – New Hampshire landlords must maintain their collected security deposits in a financial institution account that is separate from any account used for personal finances. After the first year that a deposit is held, a New Hampshire landlord must place it into an account that earns interest. A New Hampshire tenant is entitled to this interest and may request that it be dispersed to them every 3 years or at least 30 days before the end of tenancy.
- Time Limit for Return – Landlords in New Hampshire must return any and all maintained security deposits (and their associated interest) within 30 days of a tenant ending their lease. If deductions are made from this original deposit, the landlord must also provide an itemized list describing the nature of the repair or fee that the deduction covered.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – New Hampshire landlords who fail to return their tenant’s security deposit, in full or in part, may be liable to pay up to twice the amount of the deposit as a penalty. This penalty may also be applied to landlords who improperly withhold a tenant’s rightful security deposit interest or fail to provide the required deduction list.
- Allowable Deductions – Landlords in New Hampshire are generally able to make security deposit deductions for several common reasons, including to cover the cost of repairs or to cover unpaid rent. However, New Hampshire is unique in its allowance for landlords to use a deposit’s funds to pay a tenant’s share of an estate tax (but only if a provision allowing for this type of deduction is included in an applicable lease agreement.
Lease Termination in New Hampshire
Notice Requirements. Across the board, tenants in New Hampshire are always required to provide their landlord with 30 days of advance notice when they intend to move out or terminate their lease. This includes tenants who take part in month-to-month leases, as well as those that are signed onto yearly leases (either with or without an established end date).
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. To break off a lease early in New Hampshire, most tenants choose to invoke an early termination clause written into their lease agreement. This option is not available to all New Hampshire tenants, though, because the state does not require this kind of leasing provision. As such, it is important to know that a New Hampshire tenant may be able to end their lease early based upon one of the following alternative justifications:
- Active Military Duty – Federal law allows service members who are relocating due to deployment or permanent change of station to terminate their lease as early as 30 days from the next rent period.
- Unit is Uninhabitable – New Hampshire landlords are required to maintain any applicable health or safety code, including those set forth by their local jurisdiction or those established by the state (if their local jurisdiction lacks habitability standards). If they fail to provide any essential services or repairs, their tenant may claim that their unit is statutorily uninhabitable after a 14 day period. This unlivable condition can then be used to justify an immediate lease termination, on the grounds that the landlord in question did not meet their legally-mandated obligations.
- Landlord Harassment – New Hampshire tenants are entitled to an “adequate” amount of advance notice when their landlord intends to enter their unit to perform a repair or service. So long as this language is defined in an applicable lease agreement, that tenant’s landlord may not abuse their right of entry to invade their tenant’s privacy. Doing so routinely may be considered harassment, which an affected tenant may then use to justify an immediate lease termination.
Breaking off a lease early in New Hampshire does not always eliminate a tenant’s obligation to pay rent. In fact, some tenants may be required to pay rent or buy out their lease unless they can find a new tenant to take their place. This form of financial mitigation must fall squarely on the affected tenant, though, because New Hampshire law does not require landlords to take any reasonable step towards re-renting a unit of their own accord.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in New Hampshire
Rent control & increases. As it currently stands, New Hampshire state law prohibits local jurisdictions from instituting any policy that amounts to rent control or rent stabilization. As such, landlords operating in the state remain in full control of the ability to set their own rent prices.
However, these same landlords cannot raise their rent prices without providing proper advance notice to all affected tenants. To that end, all New Hampshire tenants are entitled to 30 days of notice before any new rent increase goes into effect for their lease agreement.
Rent related fees. New Hampshire has remained fairly lax when it comes to regulating what fees landlords operating in the state are allowed to charge. To this end, a lack of statutory guidance on late rent payment fees and application fees effectively mean that New Hampshire landlords can charge as much as they want for either.
Returned check fees are subject to some regulation, though. However, their actual value can vary depending on the value of the bounced check in question. As such, a landlord that charges a returned check fee may charge the value of the check, plus any processing fees, as a penalty. Failure to pay this kind of fee may result in a felony, too.
Housing Discrimination in New Hampshire
Federal Protections. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. However, the law does not apply to all housing, such as owner-occupied homes with 4 or fewer units or housing operated by religious organizations.
State Protections. New Hampshire’s civil rights laws establish 3 additional protected classes that go above and beyond the requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act. As such, no landlord in the state of New Hampshire may knowingly or incidentally discriminate against a current or prospective tenant based upon their age, their marital status, or their sexual orientation.
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. The New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights currently handles the administration and adjudication of the state’s fair housing legislation. As a result, they both establish the kinds of behaviors and business practices that are prohibited under the law, while also providing tenants with a venue to lodge complaints on those grounds. These are just a few of the prohibited activities for which a landlord may be justifiably investigated:
- Refusing to rent, sell, or negotiate housing
- Establishing different terms, conditions, or privileges between tenants
- Falsely denying the availability of housing for inspection, sale, or rental
- Publishing advertisements that imply a preference for one type of tenant over another
- Failing to make a reasonable accommodation
- Participating or facilitating “steering” or other forms of exclusionary zoning
The New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights allows current and prospective tenants to begin the complaint submission process online. There, a complainant will be required to fill out a questionnaire which will be used to initiate an investigation into their allegations. This investigation may result in a Probable cause finding, which the Commission then uses as the topic of a public hearing. These hearings can then determine if monetary relief is warranted on a case-by-case basis.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in New Hampshire
Here are just a few more important New Hampshire landlord-tenant laws that don’t fit under another category, but are still very important to understand if you want to maintain a peaceful leasing relationship:
Landlord Entry. New Hampshire’s standardized landlord entry policy is based entirely around providing “adequate” notice before entering an occupied unit. However, this language is not defined further by state. As such, landlords and tenants must establish their own entry policy based upon an hour-based definition for an “adequately” provided notice of intent. This lease-based policy should also set forth the several reasons why a landlord may justifiably request to enter a tenant’s unit.
This “adequacy” standard does not apply during emergency situations, though. In fact, New Hampshire state law recognizes that a landlord may only enter a unit without permission or advance notice when an emergency threatens the inhabitant’s safety.
Small Claims Court. Landlords and tenants in New Hampshire who find themselves mired in an intractable dispute may choose to settle their differences of opinion in the state’s small claims court. Cases brought to this venue can be valued at up to $7,500, though eviction cases are not accepted at all (regardless of their value). All cases brought before this court must fall within its statute of limitations as well, which is currently set at 3 years for both written and oral contracts.
Mandatory Disclosures. New Hampshire landlords only appear to need to make a single informational disclosure to new tenants. This disclosure is federally-mandated and covers the risks of lead-based paint in dwellings built before 1978. More information on this kind of disclosure and who must receive it can be found here.
Changing the Locks. Landlords in New Hampshire are generally prohibited from changing their tenant’s locks without their permission. This is because doing so may cause a lockout, which are prohibited by law in New Hampshire. Tenants in this state can request a lock change under one circumstance, though. If a New Hampshire tenant supplies proof of their status as a domestic abuse victim, they can request a lock change at no added cost.
New Hampshire Landlord-Tenant Resources
As you’ll see when you check out these digital resources, there’s still more to know about New Hampshire’s landlord-tenant laws:
New Hampshire Circuit Court District Division – Small Claims – This primer from the New Hampshire Judicial branch sets forth not only the basic facts relating to its small claims court, but also provides coinvent access to other resources that prospective litigants can use. This includes a sample complaint and a glossary of terms small claims court filers should know.
Consumer Sourcebook – Renting, Security Deposits, and Evictions – As part of the state Department of Justice’s “Consumer Sourcebook” series, this entry digs deep into the state’s statutes on renting, security deposits, and evictions. This entry goes past surface details though and demonstrates, using example cases, how the state’s laws have been applied and interpreted in the past.
To Withhold Rent Or Not To Withhold Rent – That Is The Question – Withholding rent as a form of alternative action can be a bit complicated in New Hampshire. This guide from a trusted New Hampshire legal aid group goes into detail about all of the state’s withholding requirements, as well as the defenses a tenant may use if their landlord attempts to evict them or fine them for not paying rent on these grounds.