The most common problem we run into for our clients who are landlords is where a landlord is confused, or not aware of, the strict eviction process required in the State of New Hampshire. They end up attempting to evict a tenant in the wrong way, which causes them to open themselves up to liability to the tenant, their own attorney’s fees, the tenant’s attorney’s fees, and the costs that they did not anticipate. The question is always asked, in the future, how do I avoid this problem?
First, it is important to understand the nature of a tenancy. There are three general forms of tenancies that we should start with. The first is when a tenant has a written lease with a landlord for a term of time. Often, this is for a year. The second is a “month to month” tenant who generally does not have a written lease, but pays their rent at the same time each month and contacts the landlord if problems need to be addressed. The third is called a “holdover tenant”. This is the tenant who stays beyond the time agreed to with the landlord and effectively overstays their welcome. This holdover tenant is often the one that needs to be evicted.
Second, the most important step is to terminate the tenancy. This is often forgotten by landlords or confused with evicting tenants. In order to terminate the tenancy, you need to provide written notice that the tenancy has been terminated. This is generally done by email or letter, but either way, it is important to keep a dated copy. Termination of a tenancy with a lease must be done thirty (30) days prior to the expiration of a lease. For example, a lease that runs from January 1st, 2012, through January 1st, 2013, requires a written notice of the intent to not renew the lease (and thereby terminate the tenancy) no later than November 30th, 2012. In a month to month arrangement, the termination is fairly similar, but a landlord must know the date rent is received. At least thirty (30) days’ notice is again required. So, for example, a month to month tenant that pays on the 15th of every month requires written notice of the termination of tenancy no later than the 14th of the month before the landlord wants the tenant to leave. In this example, if a landlord wants someone out by April 15th, they need to provide the written notice of termination no later than March 14th of the month prior. A holdover tenant usually has the tenancy already terminated, so often additional written notice is not required. Make sure to consult with an attorney prior to assuming how much time you have to give to provide proper notice to a tenant to terminate their tenancy.
Once the tenancy is terminated, it gives the landlord the right to evict the tenant. For a renter, this involves posting an eviction notice on the door of the tenant’s home that provides seven (7) days for the tenant to leave. If the tenant does not leave after the seven days, the landlord then has the right to file a Landlord and Tenant Writ with the Court. The landlord and tenant writ request an order from the Court granting the landlord physical possession of the property. Once granted, a copy of this is provided to the local sheriff’s office, and then on the first Tuesday of every month, they enforce these writs and physically eject the tenant from the premises. Before you post an eviction notice or file an action in court, it is best to consult with an attorney to assure all necessary steps have been complied with.
Landlord Tenant law is wrought with minefields that, if a landlord isn’t careful, can create substantial liability to the tenant. It is strongly encouraged that if you need help with an eviction, or even just a better understanding of the process, that you meet with an experienced lawyer at Parnell, Michels & McKay that can help guide you through the process. If you find yourself in need of assistance, contact our office and put our experience to use.