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Evictions, rent, landlord issues and more: Your questions answered about housing in N.H.

An illustration of NHPR's Know Your Housing Rights Logo depicts a scene of blue and green, with houses and tall buildings in the background
Sara Plourde
/
NHPR

At NHPR, we’ve been speaking with tenants, attending eviction hearings and digging into the problems that many people face when trying to keep a roof over their heads.

Along the way, we observed much of the information tenants need to understand their rights wasn’t easy to find. We wanted to close those information gaps. This guide is based on feedback from renters, advocacy groups and other organizations across New Hampshire about the problems people face when trying to find, and hold onto, a place to live.

When assembling the answers below, we relied heavily on resources already compiled by New Hampshire Legal Assistance, 603 Legal Aid, the Disability Rights Center of New Hampshire, Community Action Partnership agencies and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (or "HUD").

We also reviewed answers to legal questions in this guide with an attorney from New Hampshire Legal Assistance, to ensure accuracy. But these answers aren’t substitutes for actual legal advice. If you have legal questions about your housing situation you should talk to an attorney. Click here for a list of legal resources that might be able to help.

Click here to skip ahead to a specific section: Rent and security deposits Evictions Housing safety Dealing with landlords Fair housing rights and fighting discrimination Get housing help Get involved

If you have a question we didn't include here, let us know at voices@nhpr.org or leave us a voicemail at 603-513-7790. Click here to learn more about how you can help our reporting on housing and other issues. If this guide helped you out with a problem you're facing, we'd also love to hear from you!

We expect to update this post on an ongoing basis, as needed. It was last updated Nov. 30.


Rent, security deposits and other charges

A sign saying "Apartments For Rent" hangs from a local building.
Dan Tuohy, NHPR
If you have a question we didn't answer here, email us at voices@nhpr.org and we'll do our best to follow up.

My rent is going up. Is that legal and is there a limit on how much it can increase?

According to New Hampshire Legal Assistance, there is no state law limiting how much a landlord can raise your rent.

Can my landlord raise the rent without notice?

If you have a lease, in most cases your landlord cannot raise your rent before your lease expires, according to New Hampshire Legal Assistance.

If you do not have a lease, your landlord is supposed to give you at least 30 days’ notice about a proposed rent increase. If you don’t agree to that increase, you could face eviction.

However, according to New Hampshire Legal Assistance, since you never agreed to the increase, the eviction can’t be for nonpayment of rent. This detail can be important when you are trying to rent a new apartment.

My security deposit seems expensive. How much is a landlord allowed to ask for up-front?

In most cases, your security deposit can’t be more than one month’s rent. But your landlord can ask you to pay your security deposit and your first month’s rent at the same time. When you move in, you might have to pay your landlord the equivalent of two months’ rent. (For example, if your rent will be $1,500 a month, you could be asked to pay $3,000 up-front: $1,500 for your security deposit and $1,500 for your first month of rent.)

Find more information on the rules for security deposits in New Hampshire here.

If I push back on a landlord who requires me to pay an illegal security deposit, I’m worried they won’t consider my application. Are there any other options?

This is a legitimate concern, especially in New Hampshire’s tight housing market. According to New Hampshire Legal Assistance, if you really want the apartment and have enough money to pay what the landlord is asking up-front, you could move forward with applying for the apartment — and then pursue action against the landlord for a violation of the state’s security deposit law, after you have secured the apartment. Contact 603 Legal Aid at 800-639-5290 or 603-224-3333 for advice on your specific situation.

Can a landlord charge a pet deposit on top of a regular security deposit?

It depends. If your pet is not an assistance animal, your landlord doesn’t have to accept a pet at all. They might ask you to pay extra to keep a pet in the home. New Hampshire Legal Assistance says that this requirement might be considered an unlawful security deposit, but the law is not clear on this point.

If you are a person with disabilities and your pet is an assistance animal, your landlord must allow you to have it and cannot ask you to pay extra money to keep the animal, according to New Hampshire Legal Assistance.

A landlord asked me to pay for a tenant screening service or background check. Is this allowed?

Yes. According to New Hampshire Legal Assistance, there’s no law prohibiting this.

If you have a question we didn't include here, let us know at voices@nhpr.org or leave us a voicemail at 603-513-7790. Click here to learn more about how you can help our reporting on housing and other issues. If this guide helped you out with a problem you're facing, we'd also love to hear from you!


Evictions

A woman in a blue jumpsuit and a man wearing a black jacket stand in front of an apartment building door in their efforts to get the word out about the state's rental assistance program.
Gabriela Lozada
Martin Toe and Hulda Suazo of the Granite State Organizing Project knocked on doors in Manchester neighborhoods to let people know about the emergency rental assistance program, which was designed to help people avoid evictions during the pandemic. The two take time to help people with their applications.

My landlord says they’re evicting me. Do I have to leave immediately?

No. First, your landlord must serve a lawful eviction notice (more on that in the next answer). If you haven’t moved out by the date established in the notice, the landlord must file an eviction case in court. You can’t be evicted until a judge orders you to leave your apartment.

You have the right to defend yourself against eviction in court. 603 Legal Aid has more information on the steps in the eviction process here. You can also contact 603 Legal Aid at 800-639-5290 or 603-224-3333 for more information.

My landlord told me they plan to evict me over text message or email. Does that still count?

No. According to New Hampshire Legal Assistance, the eviction notice must be served in hand or left at your door and must include all of the information that appears on the official court form, which you can find a copy of here. Even after you receive an eviction notice, remember: You still have the right to stay in your apartment until a judge orders you to leave.

My landlord locked me out of my apartment, turned off my utilities or is trying to force me out of my apartment. What can I do?

Even if your landlord has served you an eviction notice, they have to wait for the court process to conclude before forcing you to leave.

If they are locking you out of your apartment, turning off your heat, electricity or other utilities, or taking other steps to make it difficult for you to stay in your apartment, you can file a special court petition to try to force your landlord to stop what they’re doing.

This is called a 540-A  petition. You can learn more about the 540-A process via 603 Legal Aid’s resource guide or by calling them directly at 800-639-5290 or 603-224-3333. More information on the 540-A petition is also available on the court website.

Can I get evicted during the winter?

Yes. Evictions can proceed at any time of year.

I have been evicted, but some of my items are still in my old home. Can I go back and get them?

You have seven days to retrieve your personal property from your former home after an eviction. According to 603 Legal Aid, your landlord must store your property for seven days — and may not charge you for doing so — but after that, your landlord can remove the items.

I'm worried that a past eviction might affect my ability to find an apartment. What can I do?

It mostly comes down to communication with your new landlord. If the eviction wasn’t your fault, do your best to communicate the facts of that situation to prospective landlords. For example, if you were evicted because your building was sold or the landlord is renovating the property, share those details with your new potential landlord.

If you were evicted because you didn’t pay rent, because you damaged the property or for some other reason that was within your control, it might be harder to find an apartment.

If you were evicted due to nonpayment, New Hampshire Legal Assistance suggests trying to repay your previous landlord what you owed them in back rent, if you can. That might allow you to make a good impression on that landlord and encourage them to serve as a reference for you for future apartments.

If you have a question we didn't include here, let us know at voices@nhpr.org or leave us a voicemail at 603-513-7790. Click here to learn more about how you can help our reporting on housing and other issues. If this guide helped you out with a problem you're facing, we'd also love to hear from you!


Housing safety and related issues

Tracey Hicks shows a portion of her ceiling that fell down
Casey McDermott, NHPR
One Manchester resident shows a part of her ceiling that fell down in a former apartment. She said she also dealt with roach infestations, leaks and other issues during her time there.

How do I know that the place I’m living in is safe?

No matter where you live in New Hampshire, you’re entitled to live in a place that:

  • Has working plumbing, without any back-ups caused by a faulty septic or sewage system
  • Has an adequate supply of water, with a functioning water heater
  • Has functioning gas lines and gas-powered appliances, if supplied by the landlord
  • Has functioning heating systems, capable of maintaining at least an average of 65 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Does not have rodents or insect infestations, including bed bugs (or the landlord should be making an effort to fix the issue)
  • Does not have exposed wires, improper connectors, defective switches or other conditions that could risk electrical shock or fire
  • Does not have leaking roof or walls
  • Does not have plaster falling from walls or ceilings
  • Does not have substantial holes in the floors, walls or ceilings
  • Does not have piles of garbage or rubbish in common areas, if the problem is due to the landlord providing insufficient removal or receptacles (unless the tenant is responsible for trash removal)

However, some communities have stricter rules than what we’ve laid out here. To learn more about the rules in your community, contact your local code enforcement official. You can find them at your city or town hall, or by calling 211.

What if I think my home is unsafe?

Notify your landlord in writing. This tool from 603 Legal Aid can help you generate a letter to send to them. Make sure you maintain a copy of that letter for your records, too.

If your landlord doesn’t address the problem, you can also reach out to your local code enforcement official. Depending on where you live, this might be someone with the local building department or health department. You can call 211 to connect with the code enforcement official where you live.

Is there a way for me to ask a city/public official to take a look at it without starting a formal complaint?

It’s generally standard practice for a code enforcement official to take down the name and contact information of someone who makes a complaint so the official can investigate the issue. But you should know that your landlord can’t punish you for reporting a serious code violation. Read the next question for more details on your right to be free from retaliation.

What if I’m afraid of retaliation for reporting problems with my apartment?

It’s illegal for your landlord to evict you for reporting a serious code violation. It’s also illegal for them to evict you for lawfully withholding rent (more on that below) or for organizing with fellow tenants. Click here for more details on your right to speak up about problems with your apartment and what protections you have against retaliation. If you think you are being retaliated against, you can also contact 603 Legal Aid at 800-639-5290 or 603-224-3333 for help.

My apartment needs repairs, but my landlord isn't fixing the problem. Can I withhold rent?

In some cases, yes. Before you do that, it’s best to get advice from a lawyer. You can reach out to 603 Legal Aid at 800-639-5290 or 603-224-3333 for a recommendation on your specific situation.

Click here for their guide to rent withholding.

If you do withhold rent, make sure you do not spend your rent money. When the case goes to court, you will be directed to pay the money into the court. Depending on whether or when the landlord makes the repairs, the court may return some or all of the money to you when the case is over.

According to 603 Legal Aid, if you can say yes to all of these things, you can probably withhold rent:

  • The problem with your apartment is a serious violation of the state or local housing code. (For the state code, click here. For details on your local code, call 211 and ask for your local code enforcement officer.)
  • You told your landlord about the problem with your apartment in writing. This tool from 603 Legal Aid can help you generate a letter.
  • It’s been more than 14 days since you told your landlord about the problem with your apartment in writing and they have not taken steps to correct the issue. In an emergency, such as loss of heat, the notice can be much shorter.
  • You were not behind on rent when you wrote to your landlord about the problem with your apartment.
  • The problem was not caused by you, your family or guests.
  • The landlord isn’t prevented from fixing the problem because of extreme weather.
  • You aren’t refusing to let your landlord into your apartment to make repairs.

I'm worried about lead exposure in my home. Where can I go for help?

If you’re worried that your landlord isn’t following proper practices for dealing with lead in your apartment, you can contact New Hampshire’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program by emailing LeadInfo@dhhs.nh.gov or calling 603-271-4507. You can also call your local health department, which you can find by calling 211. You can find more information on New Hampshire’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program here.

I think my apartment has bed bugs. What can I do?

Contact your landlord right away. Under New Hampshire law, according to 603 Legal Aid, they are required to investigate and take steps to get rid of bed bugs in your apartment within seven days. But you also have to make sure you provide your landlord with access to your apartment to deal with the potential bed bug problem.

You could also be asked to repay the landlord for the cost of bed bug treatment if you are found to be responsible for the infestation, but only for the treatment of the apartment in which you are living. If you can’t afford to pay all of it at once, your landlord must offer you a reasonable monthly payment plan. For more information, check out 603 Legal Aid's bed bug resources here.

I think my apartment has a mold problem. Where can I go for help?

Mold can be harmful to your health and is a common concern for New Hampshire renters. There are no state rules about mold levels in rental housing, but there might be local ones. Contact your city or town hall to find out more about the mold rules in your community. If you don’t know who to contact, you can call 211 for help.

For more information, check out these resources from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and 603 Legal Aid.

What should I look for when apartment hunting?

NPR’s Life Kit put together a guide to what to look out for when apartment hunting. They also put together this checklist that you can print out and use in your own search.

What kind of problems must the landlord fix before I move in?

Landlords have to make sure the property they’re renting is safe, habitable and compliant with state and local rules. That applies from the moment you move in through the end of your tenancy. If you move in and notice a problem, try following the steps outlined above to resolve the issue.

If you have a question we didn't include here, let us know at voices@nhpr.org or leave us a voicemail at 603-513-7790. Click here to learn more about how you can help our reporting on housing and other issues. If this guide helped you out with a problem you're facing, we'd also love to hear from you!


Dealing with landlords

A bus sits in the middle of Elm Street in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Dan Tuohy
If you have a question we didn't include here, email us at voices@nhpr.org and we'll do our best to follow up.

My lease and other housing documents are in English, but that’s not my primary language. Is there help out there to translate these documents?

If your landlord receives funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), then they may be obligated to provide a translation of vital documents like leases, recertification documents and any document or notification that could affect your tenancy. They should provide oral interpretation services to you free of charge. However, these obligations don’t apply to private landlords, and it would be up to the tenant to find their own translator for those documents, according to New Hampshire Legal Assistance.

It seems like there's a lot of ways for landlords to get information on tenants, and I think I should also know more about my landlord. How can I do my own research about a potential landlord?

Try calling your town or city clerk. If you need help reaching them, try 211. New Hampshire law requires many landlords to register with the community where they’re operating rental property. They are supposed to provide the name, address and phone number of a person in New Hampshire who’s authorized to handle legal proceedings on their behalf. If you ask for the registration form, you should be able to find out both the contact information for your property owner and their local representative, if that’s a different person. Here are examples of the forms used in Manchester, Nashua, Concord and Dover.

What if my landlord didn’t file one of those registrations?

Depending on the type of property they own, they might not be required to. But there are other ways to find out who owns your property using public records.

  • Property tax records: Try contacting your local tax assessors’ office and ask for information about who owns your home. Property records are public records that anyone is entitled to view. These records usually include the name of the property owner and their mailing address. In some communities, you might even be able to look up this information on your city or town website, without calling or making a special request. Some online property records are available in this database.
  • Local building files: Every community has a process for making sure rental housing is safe and follows the local building code. As part of that process, your city or town likely maintains reports or other documents related to building inspections. These documents might include the name of the landlord or property manager responsible for making repairs, along with their contact information. They could also give you a sense of whether your building has a history of housing code violations. To find out who’s in charge of building inspections in your community and how to review those files, try calling your city or town hall. You can also get the number for your local code enforcement department by calling 211.

What if my property owner is listed as an LLC or another business, not a specific person?

This is pretty common. But public records can also help you gather more information about that company.

Once you know the name of the company that owns your building, you can use public databases to locate documents about its owner. OpenCorporates is a good tool to look up this kind of information, or you can use the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Corporation Search tool.

If your property owner registered their company correctly, their paperwork in those databases should list a phone number, email address or other contact information.

Are there different rules governing how out-of-state landlords manage their properties?

There’s no major difference between the rules for in-state and out-of-state landlords.

What kind of notice does my landlord need to give before selling a building that is currently being rented?

In general, landlords are not required to tell their tenants that their building is going up for sale. However, if your landlord wants the building to be empty for its new owners they must go through the lawful eviction process, starting with service of a 30-day eviction notice. Check out our eviction section for more information.

If you have a question we didn't include here, let us know at voices@nhpr.org or leave us a voicemail at 603-513-7790. Click here to learn more about how you can help our reporting on housing and other issues. If this guide helped you out with a problem you're facing, we'd also love to hear from you!


Fair housing rights and dealing with discrimination

The exterior of new residential construction in Rye, NH, shows an unfinished home with exposed siding
Dan Tuohy, NHPR
If you have another question we didn't include here, email us at voices@nhpr.org. and we'll do our best to follow up.

Can a landlord refuse to rent to me because I have pets?

It depends. If your pet is not an assistance animal, you can likely be blocked from renting with your animal. If you really want to bring your pet to a new apartment and want to make a good impression on potential landlords, the New Hampshire Humane Society has some tips on how to do that here.

If your pet is an assistance animal, you can ask your landlord to accommodate them. You can find more resources on your rights in this situation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Disability Rights Center of New Hampshire and 603 Legal Aid.

What if I’m facing discrimination because of my race, sexuality or another aspect of my identity?

According to New Hampshire Legal Assistance’s Fair Housing Project, “it is illegal to discriminate in the rental, sale, or financing of housing based on someone's race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, or gender identity.”

A 2020 report found that more than half of the housing discrimination complaints reported in New Hampshire between 2015 and 2019 were related to someone’s disability. Complaints related to race, national origin and family status were also at the top of the list.

New Hampshire also provides some protections to people who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

If you think you are being denied housing or getting treated differently in the application process because of any of the above characteristics, here's where you might be able to find help:

Can a landlord refuse to rent to me because I have children?

It’s illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to someone who has children or to steer prospective renters to certain apartments because they have children. New Hampshire Legal Assistance’s Fair Housing Project has more information on the housing rights of families with children.

I have a disability. What are my rights as a renter?

As mentioned above, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to you because of your disability. They also can’t subject you to different rules because of your disability.

According to the Disability Rights Center of New Hampshire, your landlord is required to make “reasonable accommodations,” such as providing a reserved parking space or allowing you to have an assistance animal in spite of a “no pets” rule. They are also required to allow you to make “reasonable modifications” to your apartment — for example, installing a ramp or widening doors. In some cases, you might have to pay for the renovations. More information is available here.

The Disability Rights Center of New Hampshire might be able to help you with a specific situation you’re dealing with. You can contact them by calling 800-834-1721 or 603-228-0432. You can also email them using the form on this page.

If you have a question we didn't include here, let us know at voices@nhpr.org or leave us a voicemail at 603-513-7790. Click here to learn more about how you can help our reporting on housing and other issues. If this guide helped you out with a problem you're facing, we'd also love to hear from you!


Where to go for help

Signs hanging at the Manchester Circuit Court advertise the assistance available to tenants facing eviction. One reads: "Are you here for an eviction based on non-payment of rent or other charges? Help for landlords and tenants is available today! Go to the Second Floor Clerk's Office to learn more and apply for aid."
Casey McDermott, NHPR
Southern New Hampshire Services has been helping tenants and landlords access emergency rental and utility aid at the Manchester Circuit Court since September. Based on the success of that program, they recently expanded into Nashua.

What resources are available if I'm struggling to pay rent?

Call 211: You can call 211 to connect with lots of different resources, including programs that could help you with financial hardship. 211 can also help you find your local welfare office or code enforcement office, if you need to report a problem with your apartment that your landlord is not addressing. If you speak limited English, say “translator” or “interpreter” when you connect with a representative to request language assistance.

Your local welfare office: They can provide help paying “for basic needs like shelter, rent, mortgage payments, heat, lights, gas, water, food, necessary clothing, transportation and prescriptions,” according to 603 Legal Aid. Click here for more information on what expenses local welfare might be able to cover. To contact your local welfare office, call 211 or use this directory of city and town offices.

New Hampshire’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program: If you’ve lost income during the pandemic, and are struggling to pay rent, you can apply for assistance through your local community action agency. You can apply at CAPNH.org or print a PDF application to mail in. That program can help you pay rent owed and future rent payments, for up to 15 months. You will need to provide documentation of unemployment, job loss, hours being reduced or other financial hardship that you experienced during the pandemic.

Public housing assistance: While the wait times for rental assistance and public housing can be years long, it depends on your specific situation and help might be available sooner — so it’s worth applying if you qualify for this kind of help. New Hampshire Housing has more information here, or you can contact another local housing authority on this list.

Where can I go for help if I'm facing eviction?

Get in touch with 603 Legal Aid. You can call 800-639-5290 or 603-224-3333 Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. You can find other options for legal assistance here, too.

You can prevent your eviction for nonpayment of rent by repaying what you owe before your eviction hearing. According to New Hampshire Legal Assistance, that means paying all rent due and owing, plus $15 for the landlord's court filing fees, other court fees and other lawful charges contained in your lease. A tenant can only stop an eviction this way three times in a single one-year period.

You might also be able to avoid eviction if you have qualified for emergency rental assistance, so apply for assistance as soon as you can. Once you’ve applied for assistance, let your landlord know. New Hampshire Legal Assistance also recommends contacting the court to request a postponement of your hearing until you get a decision on your application. If you have an application for emergency rental assistance pending at the time of your eviction hearing, make sure to tell the judge, as well.

Where can I go for emergency housing assistance?

You can contact or go to your local welfare office or call 211, especially if you need help after 5 p.m. If you speak limited English, say “translator” or “interpreter” when you connect with a representative to request language assistance.

The 211 New Hampshire website has links to emergency housing resources, as well.

Community Action Partnership (or CAP) agencies in each county can also help you connect with emergency housing or other assistance. More details on those and other resources can be found below.

If you’re in need of emergency shelter due to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking, contact the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence’s 24-hour statewide helpline at 1-866-644-3574.

What kind of housing support is available for adults with special needs?

Help might be available through ServiceLink. Click here to find a program in your community. 211 also has information on group residences for adults with disabilities here. The University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability has more resources on community living here and here, too.

What kind of housing assistance is available for older adults?

Help might be available through ServiceLink. Click here to find a program in your community. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has more information on different types of housing resources for older adults here. Some communities have public housing or housing assistance programs specifically designed for seniors. Click here for a list of all public housing agencies in the state. This list from 211 has more information on housing resources for older adults, as well.

Is there a state-level directory of affordable housing?

New Hampshire Housing publishes a frequently updated list of vacancies in subsidized units by county. This includes information about towns, addresses and who to contact. The list is updated every few weeks, so be sure to keep checking this page.

New Hampshire Housing also publishes a Directory of Assisted Housing Units, by county. These are units that offer income restrictions or rent subsidies for low-income families and seniors. That list was last updated in May 2021.

If you have a question we didn't include here, let us know at voices@nhpr.org or leave us a voicemail at 603-513-7790. Click here to learn more about how you can help our reporting on housing and other issues. If this guide helped you out with a problem you're facing, we'd also love to hear from you!


How to make your voice heard on housing issues in N.H.

Photo of man holding sign that says the people demand housing
Todd Bookman, NHPR
If you have a question we haven't included here, email us at voices@nhpr.org and we'll do our best to follow up.

Who makes the rules for what landlords can and cannot do in New Hampshire?

In New Hampshire, a lot of the rules about the relationship between landlords and tenants are decided by state officials. State senators and representatives can suggest changes in the laws around evictions, rental arrangements and more.

You have the right to voice your opinion on what kind of changes you would like to see in the law. Sometimes these state officials can also help you connect with local officials that can address your concerns.

Click here to find out who your local representatives are and how to contact them. You can also go here to find out how to contact your state senator. For help connecting with local officials in your community, call 211 and ask to connect with your city or town hall.

Who is in charge of deciding what kind of housing is built, and how much?

A lot of these decisions are made at the local level, often by planning boards and zoning boards. Sometimes the people serving on these boards are elected to their positions, in other cases, they’re appointed. It varies depending on where you live. Some municipalities also have special task forces or commissions that deal with housing issues.

No matter where you live, you have the right to share your thoughts with the people who serve on these boards and other public officials who are making decisions about housing in your community. For help connecting with local officials in your community, call 211 and ask to connect with your city or town hall.

Did we miss something? Let us know at voices@nhpr.org or leave us a voicemail at 603-513-7790. Click here to learn more about how you can help our reporting on housing and other issues. If this guide helped you out with a problem you're facing, we'd also love to hear from you!