New Hampshire eviction laws vary from county to county, but they still follow the same required general eviction process:
Every eviction process is different and dependent on the lease/rental agreement signed by the tenant and the landlord. It is always best to exercise meticulous file-keeping to avoid errors that could be exploited by the tenant.
This article details a summary for landlords to refer to when evicting a tenant. Confirm procedures with your justice court to make sure the entire process goes as smoothly as possible.
Landlords may also ask for legal advice from an attorney.
1. Nonpayment of Rent
Landlords can evict the tenant for failing to pay the rent. Paying rent before being evicted usually stops the eviction process.
Rent is usually considered late a day past it is due. A grace period may be available if stated in the lease/rental agreement.
Before they can start the eviction process, a landlord must give the tenant an official written 7-Day Notice to Quit.
The landlord is under no obligation to let the tenant pay rent they may owe. However, landlords may give a second chance should they wish so.
If the tenant wants to avoid eviction, they have to pay rent.
2. Violation of the lease/rental agreement
Aside from being unable to pay rent, a tenant can be evicted for violating the terms of the lease.
The rental lease agreement has to be upheld by both tenant and landlord for the entire duration of their stay. Lease/rental agreements may vary from tenant to tenant.
If a tenant violates any terms of the lease agreement, the landlord must issue a 30-Day Notice to Quit. The landlord is not legally obligated to allow the tenant to resolve the violation before presenting them with the notice.
Lease violations may include:
- Damage to the rental unit
- Smoking in non-smoking areas
- Keeping pets in pet-free properties, etc.
If the tenant remains inside the rental unit by the end of the 30 days, then the landlord may continue with the eviction.
3. Conducting illegal activity
If a tenant has engaged in illegal behavior within the property, the landlord must give the tenant an official written notice called a 7-Day Notice to Quit.
Examples of illegal activities include, but are not limited to:
- Theft, violence, assault
- Possession and/or firing of an illegal firearm
- Involvement in the creation, distribution, or consumption of a controlled substance
A landlord must keep a close eye on their tenants to make sure illegal behavior does not go unnoticed.
4. Committing major property damage
In this case, tenants are usually not allowed to renew their lease. The landlord has to issue a 7-Day Notice to Quit.
Examples of such behavior include, but are not limited to:
- Damaging the electrical wiring of a unit
- Ruining the plumbing fixtures of a unit
They have no choice. The tenant must leave the premises before the end of the notice period to avoid eviction.
The landlord can continue with the eviction process if the tenant refuses to leave after the 7-day grace period.
5. Refusal to comply with maintenance
Sometimes, rental units require maintenance to get rid of pests such as cockroaches or rays, particularly when there is an infestation.
New Hampshire law takes into account the health and maintenance codes. If a tenant violates any of these codes, the landlord has to issue a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
A tenant can be evicted for refusing to comply with fumigation and other services if:
- They received the correct eviction notice detailing what the tenant has to do
- More than enough time has passed for the notice period
- The tenant refuses to comply with obvious intent
The tenant must move out of the rental unit within 30 days. If they are unable to do so, the landlord may continue filing for eviction.
6. Refusal to allow for temporary relocation
A tenant must be relocated if there are any hazardous materials in the rental unit that could harm their health.
For example, a situation that requires a tenant to temporarily relocate would be the presence of lead paint within the property.
Should the tenant refuse to do be relocated, the landlord can give them a 7-Day Notice to Quit that requires them to move out within 7 days, or else the eviction process will continue.
If the tenant continues staying in the rental unit, the landlord may continue with the eviction process.
7. Non-renewal of the lease after the rental period ends
In New Hampshire, the landlord cannot evict a tenant or force them to vacate the property without probable cause. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules, they can stay until their rental period ends.
But if they stay on the property even a day after their lease/rental agreement ends and have not arranged for renewal, the landlord can issue a written notice to move.
A landlord must issue a written notice called a 30-Day Notice to Quit regardless of the tenancy type or the length of the agreement.
Filing a Complaint
1. How to File a Complaint
The eviction process can only begin after the issuance of the appropriate written eviction notice. Enough notice time must have been allowed before filing for eviction.
The eviction process is as follows:
- Proceed to the justice court the rental unit belongs to
- File a complaint
- Pay the fees
It takes about 7 to 30 days from the issuance of the Notice to Vacate/Quit.
Serving the Tenant
1. How to Serve a Tenant
An official from the court delivers the court order a.k.a. the summons for the eviction hearing and the complaint to the tenant.
There are several methods available:
- Personal Service: The court official delivers the Summons and Complaint to the tenant in person
- Substituted Service: If the tenant is unavailable, a copy of the documents may be left at the tenant’s place of residence
If the abovementioned methods fail, other methods may be taken with the approval of a judicial officer.
2. After Serving the Summons and Complaint
The tenants must file for an appearance in court by the return date. This return date is found on the Summons.
An appearance is a document that the tenant files within the court so that they may be given permission to show up to the hearing.
If the tenant fails to file an appearance to the court, a default judgment may be given in favor of the landlord.
The documents should be served to the tenant as soon as the Summons and Complaint are issued by the judicial court.
The tenant has 7 days to file for an appearance otherwise, they may lose the case by default.
Either party may request for a postponement of a continuance for a maximum number of 30 days.
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgement and get a Judgement for Possession
The landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against the tenant. Should the tenant fail to show up to the hearing, the landlord wins by default.
If the landlord does not win, they can still appeal within 7 days post-judgment for reconsideration.
2. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and replied
In the state of New Hampshire, a reply from the tenant is necessary for a court date to be scheduled. It is held 10 days after the tenant files for an appearance in court.
The landlord needs to support the claim with evidence and show it during the hearing.
This could include, but is not limited to the following:
- Copy of the deed and lease
- Rent receipts and ledgers
- Bank statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations, correspondence, etc.
If the judge rules in favor of the tenant, the landlord has 7 days to appeal the ruling, and vice versa.
However, in cases about nonpayment of rent, the tenant and the landlord have the option to settle their issues outside of court.
If landlord and tenant come to an agreement before a Writ of Possession is issued, then the entire process is stopped.
The eviction hearing is scheduled 10 days after the tenant files for an appearance in court.
1. After the landlord wins the case
Provided that the tenant does not appeal for reconsideration, a Writ of Possession is issued 7 days after the judgment is passed in favor of the landlord.
The Writ of Possession gives the tenant a maximum of 7 days to vacate the rental unit.
However, if the judgment issued was a default judgment because the tenant was unable to file for an appearance, or does not appear to the eviction hearing, the Writ of Possession is issued in 5 days.
Once the Writ of Possession is issued, the tenant has a maximum of 5 days to vacate the property.
2. Move out process
Once judgment is passed in favor of the landlord, the tenant has to move out within 7 days.
However, the court can decide to grant a 3-month stay of execution if the tenant is deserving of it. Only applicable for a good cause.
Only the sheriff or the appropriate authorities are allowed to evict the tenant by force. Even if the landlord wins the case, they are not allowed to engage in illegal methods of eviction.
The state of New Hampshire requires the landlord to store any property left behind by the tenant for 7 days at their expense. Tenants should be free to reclaim their property during that period.
If they fail to reclaim the property within that timeframe, the landlord can get rid of it however they see fit within state laws. The landlord is not obligated to give the tenant prior notice before they dispose of the property.
However, common courtesy would dictate The landlord gives the tenant some kind of notice and a reasonable timeframe.
Tenants have 5-7 days to vacate the rental unit before they will forcefully be removed. Any possessions left behind will only be stored for a minimum of 7 days.
New Hampshire Eviction Process Timeline
Below is the average timeline for a complete eviction process. This timeline does not include special cases such as requests for an appeal or continuance.
On average, it would take anywhere between 4 weeks to 8 weeks for a complete eviction process. This does not include the extra time it will take when either party files for an appeal, continuance, or stay of execution.
Remember, a stay of execution is only applicable if the tenant has good cause. There may be different procedures depending on the reason for eviction
1. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the eviction request and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This can get very difficult to look through in a pinch, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other option that you can easily search.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
2. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - It could be important to point out any terms in the agreement that the tenant might have violated.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also, show any fees that have been imposed on you in order to be reimbursed.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
4. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If your surveillance system catches the tenant in the act, you can be confident that the court will rule in your favor.
- Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it specifically written in the agreement. As a good practice though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.
1. What is a self-help eviction?
Examples of illegal “self-help” evictions include changing the locks, taking the tenant’s belongings, removing the front door, or turning off the heat or electricity. Several states specify how much money a tenant can sue a landlord for in the case of such eviction. Some state laws also provide for tenant's court costs and attorneys' fees (if the tenant successfully sues the landlord) and/or give the tenant the right to stay in the rental unit.
2. Can I force a tenant to move out in New Hampshire?
In almost every state in the US, a landlord must never try to force a tenant to move out of the rental unit. It is only after the landlord has won the case that the tenant may be evicted from the property. Even then, the only person authorized to remove the tenant is a sheriff or constable. New Hampshire law has made it illegal for a landlord to personally remove the tenant from the rental unit.
3. What are the potential penalties for a self-help eviction?
According to New Hampshire Civil Code, you may be liable for Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees. The statute also gives the tenant the right to stay.
A tenant has the right to sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.
Can I force a tenant to move out in New Hampshire?
No. A landlord could be sued for forceful eviction of a tenant if they skip the proper eviction processes. Legal court proceedings are required.
In the state of New Hampshire, tenants may sue their landlord for the following amounts:
Actual damages or $1,000
Whichever is greater. If the landlord is found to have knowingly broken the law, this amount could be multiplied twice or thrice
The amount may also depend on the situation.
As another consequence of forceful eviction, the statute allows tenants to stay on the property and will pay for their court costs and legal fees. The welfare office will provide more details on the matter.
Which eviction methods are illegal in New Hampshire?
Self-help eviction is illegal. Examples of such acts include (but are not limited to):
- Cutting off the tenant’s electric, water, and/or heat supply
- Changing the locks to prevent the tenant from entering the property
- Vandalizing or destroying the tenant’s property
Is New Hampshire a landlord-friendly state?
Yes. There are little to no rent control policies and there are no state limits on certain fees. It provides shorter timelines on evictions. And, tenants must file for an appearance to save time on default judgments.
However, there are strict rules required about security deposits that have to be followed by the landlord.
Can a landlord enter without permission in New Hampshire?
No. A landlord must provide the appropriate notices before they can enter a property that is currently being occupied by a tenant.
What other laws should I know in New Hampshire?
The landlord should be aware of the changes made to the Eviction Policies in the state of New Hampshire. Especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There may be eviction bans and rent plus information on CDC moratorium on evictions.
It is also wise for a landlord to check out laws on Security Deposits. These deposits protect the landlord in case the tenants violate any terms in the lease/rental agreement or fail to pay rent.
New Hampshire legal assistance can be contacted for more information.
- eForms: New Hampshire Eviction Notice Forms
- New Hampshire Department of Justice: Consumer Sourcebook – Renting, Security, Deposits, and Evictions
- New Hampshire Legal Aid: Legal Issues During COVID-19 Crisis
- NOLO: Consequences of Illegal Evictions
- NOLO: The Eviction Process in New Hampshire: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers