Foreclosure and Loan Workout Procedures - March 18, 2014 - Manchester, NH - William J. Amann, Esq.
The most common title issues most practioners encounter are a missing assignment to the foreclosing entity, seegenerallyDow v. Bank of NY Mellon Trust Co., 2012 Super. LEXIS 52 (Feb. 2012) or a missing homestead release (SeeNH Title Standard 5-2); Seealso, In re Schalebaum, 273 BR 1 (Bankr. D.N.H. 2001) and Stewart v. Bader, 154 NH 75 (2006). The standard FNMA mortgage includes a homestead waiver clause and that is why it is standard practice to have a spouse, even if not signing the promissory note, execute the mortgage to release his or her statutory homestead rights. If this is not done, a non-signing spouse can assert their statutory homestead rights as a defense to a foreclosure. This defense often takes the form of litigation. Nearly all residential mortgages held by lending institutions were issued along with a title insurance policy (lender). The good news is that the foreclosing mortgagee is usually covered by the title policy but this involves making a title claim which delays the foreclosure process. Proceeding with the foreclosure with unresolved homestead issues will result in a foreclosure on the signing spouse subject to the non-signing spouse’s homestead rights. Depending on the value of the collateral and the total debt, this may not pose a problem (if there’s equity above and beyond the homestead, the mortgagee can foreclose and tender the surplus of $100,000-the statutory homestead amount, to the non-signing spouse). However, as you can imagine this situation is increasingly rare with declining or flat home prices and will almost certainly require a quiet title petition to resolve title properly.
While a fair reading of the Dowcase seems to suggest that servicers or nominees, such as MERS, may foreclose on behalf of the holder of the note or mortgage (seeDow at p. 21 for a discussion on the concept of the necessity for the unity of the note and mortgage), no prudent mortgagee, in my opinion, would want to be overly susceptible to litigation on the issue in the form of an injunction petition due to the inherent cost, time and risk. Therefore, my humble suggestion is to have an assignment recorded into the holder of the note and mortgage (hopefully one and the same entity) who is going to initiate the foreclosure, before any foreclosure action (including demand and acceleration) is taken. This is the standard of practice in Massachusetts for example, that has evolved through a series of cases within the last several years. SeeUS Bank N.A. v. Ibanez, 458 Mass. 637 (2007) and Bevilacqua v. Rodriguez, SJC-10880 (SJC 2011). If, for whatever reason, this cannot be accomplished, I think it is imperative in New Hampshire, to be sure that any agent capacity, such as a servicer, is clearly delineated and that the named principal is in fact the holder of the note and mortgage. This should be done as early as possible in the foreclosure process. Seealsoand generally, Baril v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, NA, 2011 NH Super. LEXIS 48, July 20, 2011; Newitt v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA, 2011 NH Super. LEXIS 60, July 14, 2011 and Powers v. Aurora Loan Servs., 2011 NH Super. LEXIS 50, February 14, 2011.
B. Foreclosure Timeline
The truth is, you can hold a foreclosure sale in the Granite state within sixty (60) days. New Hampshire is a “non-judicial” process which simply means that a foreclosing mortgagee does not need to commence any legal action to foreclose its interest. With that freedom comes the requirement that a foreclosing mortgagee must strictly comply with the statutory foreclosure scheme (RSA 479:25, 26 and 27) assuming of course that the subject mortgage contains and grants to it the statutory power of sale. Most institutional mortgagees send the mortgagor(s) the necessary demand and acceleration letters before sending the file to foreclosure counsel. Therefore, your first job when receiving a file is to assemble all of the loan documents and correspondence and to review it for compliance with any notice requirements.
Once you are ready to send the notice of sale, keep in mind that the mortgagor is entitled to at least twenty-five (25) days’ notice prior to the foreclosure date. RSA 479:25, II. I do not count the day of the sale. Lienholders are entitled to twenty-one (21) days’ notice and the IRS, if there is a lien, gets twenty-five (25) days’ notice. All notices should be sent first-class mail and registered, return receipt requested. Take care to keep meticulous records; I always include the USPO “Z” # on any certified mail correspondence in order to match the receipt with the corresponding letter. In essence, I do a certificate of service on notices of sale so that subsequently I can easily establish who got notice and when. The notice of sale must also be published in a newspaper of general circulation within the town or county where the property is situated at least three (3) times (21 days) prior to the sale. It is advisable to publish thirty (30) days ahead of the sale in case there are errors in the notice of sale that need to be corrected immediately. My practice, whenever possible, is to give any person or entity of record with an interest on title, thirty (30) days notice of the sale. By doing this, you’ll meet all of the deadlines with room to spare. Below is a sample foreclosure checklist. In keeping with the, “look before you leap” theme, it’s a good idea to choose your foreclosure date first and work backwards and adjust timelines and notices appropriately.
I. Pre – Sale
1) File Review, environmental site assessment?:
2) Demand Letter to Borrower & Guarantor:
3) Request Title Search (Owner + 1) & UCC Search:
4) Review Title Search (Title Claim? Y or N):
5) Determine FINO:
6) Request Appraisal or BPO:
7) Engage Auctioneer:
8) Set Foreclosure Date:
II. Notice of Sale (Calendar Sales Dates & All Interim Dates)
9) 29 Day Title Rundown Needed?:
10) Prepare Notice of Sale (“NOS”):
11) Send NOS to Auctioneer:
12) Send NOS to Mortgagor (26 days) R-R-R:
13) Send NOS to IRS (if applicable) (26 days) R-R-R:
14) Send NOS to Lien Holders (22 days):
15) Write Down NOS Publication Dates:
16) Determine any Real Estate or Condo Taxes / Dues:
17) Prepare Memorandumof Sale:
18) Establish Bidding Procedure:
19) Date of Sale (Check BK):
III. Post – Sale: Record Foreclosure Deed within 60 Days of Sale
20) Report Sale Results to Client:
21) Prepare Foreclosure Deed & Affidavit
Demand letters or acceleration of debt letters need not be elaborate but they must comply with the loan documents. It is preferable that the mortgagee itself send any correspondence that contains dollar figures or could be construed as debt collection. SeeLeDoux v. JP Morgan Chase, NA, 2012 DNH 194 (2012); Marley v. Bank of America, et al, No. 10-10885-GAO (D. Mass. 2012); Beadle v. Haughey, 2005 DNH 16 (2005). If you or your firm do undertake debt collection activities, bear in mind that the federal (15 U.S.C. § 1601) and corresponding state Debt Collection Practices Acts contain strict requirements regarding notices and disclaimers that must be sent to debtors and a recitation of “mini-Miranda” language if a debtor telephones your office. My practice has always been to avoid being a debt collector and instead focus on conducting a valid foreclosure sale; this is not always easy as debtors will sometimes contact you asking for reinstatement amounts. When that occurs, I notify my mortgagee client and ask them to send reinstatement figures directly to the mortgagor with a copy to me or send the reinstatement to the debtor on the mortgagee’s letterhead.
D. The Foreclosure Action - Lis Pendens, Parties Named, Summons, Complaint
ALis Pendens is notice of a pending action, which gets recorded in the appropriate registry of deeds. Doing so without a court order is not a good idea. In Massachusetts for example, it is statutorily required to get a court order before recording a lis pendens. The standard required to record is simply having a colorable interest in the land; it is neither a lien nor an attachment. Furthermore, if you do so without a court order you run the risk of being sued for slander of title and/or having the notice stricken as invalid. SeeTopjian Plumbing & Heating v. Bruce Topjian, Inc., 129 NH 481 (1987) and RSA 511-A:8, III. If you are more concerned that the debtor may attempt to avoid the foreclosure by conveying the real property and perhaps valuable personal property, prior to sale (although the conveyance would still be subject to a properly recorded mortgage) then consider filing an ex partepetition for an attachment. If you hold the foreclosure and determine that property was already sold, the purchaser will have taken it subject to your mortgage, assuming it was duly recorded. Nonetheless, you’ll also likely have solid grounds to unwind the sale by bringing a fraudulent transfer suit under RSA 545-A.
To use the phrase “foreclosure action” is a misnomer in New Hampshire since foreclosures are non-judicial.
E. Foreclosure/Sheriff's Sale - Notice Requirements, Bidding Process, Closing, Etc.
Title LIV (Executions, Levies, Bail and the Relief of Poor Debtors) is where you will find the law governing Sheriff’s Sales. Sheriff’s sales of personal property are governed by RSA 528 and of real estate by RSA 529. Since this course is geared towards real property, we’ll focus on RSA 529. First, in order to conduct a 529 sale, you need to have a judgment. See RSA 529:1, which sates that such sales are authorized on, “All real estate, except the homestead right, may be taken on execution, and may be appraised and set off to the creditor at its just value in satisfaction of the execution and the cost of levying, except in cases where a sale of it is authorized by RSA 529:19.” Also keep in mind sales are subject to homestead rights, seeRSA 480:4. Three appraisers must be appointed as well pursuant to RSA 529:2 and 529:3. If the real estate is jointly owned, the sale will only affect the debtor’s interest. SeeRSA 529:8. If the property generates rent, a sale also attaches to the rent and tenants can be made to attorn to the creditor, failing which the tenant can be evicted. SeeRSA 529:11. The debtor has a one (1) year right of redemption, this is sometimes referred to as “clogging the equity” because a purchaser of the real estate, from a practical matter, cannot re-convey or improve the property within that time without the risk of the debtor redeeming the real estate. SeeRSA 529:19 and RSA 529:26. RSA 529:14 reads, “The extent shall be void if, within one year from the return day of the execution, the debtor shall pay or tender to the creditor the sum at which the real estate was set off, and all reasonable sums paid by him for taxes, insurance, repairs and improving the estate, with interest thereon from the times of levy and payments respectively, less the rents and profits received, or which might have been received, by him and with which he is justly chargeable.” Notice of the sale is different than under the power of sale, in short, debtors are entitled to thirty (30) days’ notice under RSA 529:20, 21 and the notice must be given to the debtor at his abode and posted at two (2) of the most public places in town. The creditor must advise the debtor of his homestead rights under RSA 529:20-a. Sheriff’s sales are completed by a deed pursuant to RSA 529:23.
F. Pursuit of Guarantors
1.Before Foreclosure Sale?
A guaranty is a contract and is interpreted by courts as one. SeeFleet Bank of NH v. Christy’s Table, 141 NH 285 (1996); Glick v. Chocura Forestlands Ltd P’ship, 157 NH 240 (2008) and Durgin v. Pillsbury Lake Water Dist., 153 NH 818 (2006). As a guaranty may be the primary factor in resolving the defaulted debt, one of the first questions in any loan default situation should be as follows: “Is there a guarantor for this loan?” If there indeed is, then the following issues should be addressed in workout or default situations.
As a guaranty is a contract under New Hampshire law, it is interpreted as such. See, Fleet Bank – NH v. Christy’s Table, Inc., 141 N.H. 285, 287 (1996). Thus, Courts will look to whether there was a meeting of the minds or adequate consideration. A meeting of the minds is usually evidenced by the execution of the guaranty itself or the making of the loan. Thus, the vast majority of litigation centers upon the issue of adequate consideration, with a focus upon the lender’s actions regarding the collateral securing the loan.
b) Language of the Guaranty
Should a Court find that a contract of guaranty exists, it will then review its language in order to determine the parties’ intent, which is a question of law. See, BankEast v. Michalenoick, 138 N.H. 367, 369 (1994).
The parties’ intent is determined from reviewing the contract as a whole, attributing to its language the common meaning of the words and phrases used by the parties. Id.
It is important to note that the guaranty’s language often significantly limits the guarantor’s defenses and provides the lender with a great deal of flexibility concerning the resolution of the matter.
c) Common Law Defenses
i. Good Faith and Due Diligence
New Hampshire law provides that a foreclosing mortgagee or lender has an obligation of good faith and due diligence that is basically that of a fiduciary. See, Murphy v. Financial Development Corp., 126 N.H. 536, 541 (1985). It should be noted that this duty extends to both the borrower / mortgagor and as well as to the guarantor. See, First NH Mortgage Corp. v. Greene, 139 N.H. 321, 323 (1995).
ii. Commercial Reasonableness
New Hampshire Courts have held that lenders have a duty to be commercially reasonable when liquidating collateral, securing the loan and in not impairing the guarantor’s position.
iii. Waivers of Lender Liability
While many guarantees provide for waivers of the lender’s liability regarding the handling of collateral, modification of the underlying debt or extension of terms and conditions, they may not be enforced where a lender affirmatively breaches its duties under Murphy v. Financial Development Corp., 126 NH 536 (1985).
iv. Statute of Limitations
In order to determine when the statue of limitations first begins to run, one should look to the note’s and guarantee’s language. Most guarantees are guarantees of the payment of the note, so if a payment is missed, the lender may make demand under the guarantee. However, some guarantees serve to guaranty only the collection of the money due under the note; in these cases, the statute does not begin to run until the lender cannot collect what is due under the notes.
Thus, one of the initial terms to review is whether a note has been accelerated by the borrower’s failure to make a payment.
d) Uniform Commercial Code Defenses
i. Uniform Commercial Code
A number of defenses become available to a guarantor under the Uniform Commercial Code. That being said, the guaranty must first be subject to the provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code; in order to be so, the guaranty must be a negotiable instrument. See, Prime Financial Group, Inc. v. Smith, 137 N.H. 74, 76 (1993). In order to be considered a negotiable instrument, a guaranty must include, amongst other things, an “unconditional promise to pay a sum certain in money on demand or at a definite time. See, RSA 382-A: 3-104.
ii. Accommodation Party
When a guarantor is deemed to be an accommodation party (see, Cole v. Hobson, citing RSA 382-A: 3-419), a number of defenses become available, which include those provided under RSA 382-A: 3-605, which include, but are not limited to, losses suffered by the guarantor due to an extension of the due date of the note, a material modification of the note or the impairment of the collateral securing the note.
RSA 382-A: 3-419 defines an accommodation party as one who “signs the instrument for the purpose of incurring liability on the instrument without being a direct beneficiary of the value given for [it].” There is a presumption that a party is an accommodation party if their signature is accompanied by words indicating that they are signing as a guarantor.
II. Lender Liability Issues & Workout
A. Circumstances with Most Risk of Lender Liability
Lender liability is the term used to describe the range of possible claims that may arise out of the loan relationship that borrowers may assert against lenders.
When Counsel is in the process of evaluating a lender’s position, they should be aware of the broad categories of such claims as listed below.
B. Breach of Oral Agreement
In considering a lender’s conduct, Counsel should look to see whether the lender has made oral representations to the borrower which go beyond the terms of the loan documents.
C. Breach of Contract
In considering a lender’s conduct, Counsel should look to see whether the lender followed the terms and conditions of the contract between the parties.
D. Breach of Obligation of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
For more information on this issue, seeCentronics Corp., v. Genicom Corp., 132 NH 133 (1989); Griswold v. Heat, Inc., 108 N.H. 119 (1967) and Seaward Construction Company v. City of Rochester., 118 N.H. 128 (1978). Under an agreement that appears by word or silence to invest one party with a degree of discretion in performance sufficient to deprive another party of a substantial proportion of the agreement's value, the parties' intent to be bound by an enforceable contract raises an implied obligation of good faith to observe reasonable limits in exercising that discretion, consistent with the parties' purpose or purposes in contracting. A claim for relief from a violation of the implied covenant of good faith contractual performance potentially raises four questions: (1) Does agreement ostensibly give defendant a degree of discretion in performance tantamount to a power to deprive the plaintiff of a substantial proportion of the agreement's value? (2) If ostensible discretion is of that requisite scope, does competent evidence indicate that parties intended by their agreement to make a legally enforceable contract? (3) Assuming an intent to be bound, has the defendant's exercise of discretion exceeded the limits of reasonableness? (4) Is the cause of the damage complained of defendant's abuse of discretion, or does it result from events beyond the control of either party, against which the defendant has no obligation to protect the plaintiff?
Also known as intentional misrepresentation, this requires materially false representation of fact or intention, expectation of reliance by the lender and reasonable reliance by the borrower thereon to their detriment.
F. Negligent Misrepresentation
This requires negligent misrepresentation of material fact by the lender, as well as reasonable reliance by the borrower thereon to their detriment. See, Ingaharro v. Blanchette, 122 N.H. 54, 57 (1982).
G. Best Practices for Avoiding Lender Liability
Counsel should advise their lender clients, they should make them aware of the above as well as ensure that its practices are within the range of normal lending practices in the particular jurisdiction. SeegenerallyBarrows v. Boles, 141 NH 382 (1996); McCabe v. Arcidy, 138 NH 20 (1993).
H.Working it Out-Sort of
Workouts - The Various Tools in the Toolbox for Working Out Troubled Real Estate Loans
a) Pre-Negotiation: Any smart negotiation starts with knowing what your position is relative to your opponent’s position. So, knowledge is power. It’s also important to know what perceptions are involved in your relationship. In other words, what your opponent thinks it knows, correct or not, is just as important as what it actually does know. Before you get into negotiating terms, I always define what each of the parties’ goals is and are there alternative ways to get there? I think these concepts are fundamental and obvious to anyone who’s negotiated at all quite frankly. Putting strategy theories aside, pre-negotiation starts with defining the parameters of the discussion: What’s at stake? What are each of our respective strengths and weaknesses? What are the costs, financial and non-financial, involved? What are the risks to each side in not negotiating and just fighting? So, before you negotiate, I think you have to review your documents, know the applicable law, know your objectives and chances of getting there and then you can start communicating with your opponent.
b Forbearance: Forbearance often makes sense but only if there are definable, measurable milestones that the parties agree must occur to keep the forbearance in place. In other words, perhaps continuing payments is a condition that must be met, or insurance be maintained or the right to inspect accounts and property. I view forbearance as a cease fire and an opportunity to maintain the status quo with a plan to resolve the underlying problems. A standard forbearance agreement recites facts and the debt, usually includes mutual representations and warranties to each party and then proceeds to set out a payment schedule and language that preserves each other’s rights. Defining terms of default and that strict compliance is commonplace. I tend to like specific language and terms over phrases that are more susceptible to interpretation. Of course it depends on your client’s position. However, instead of defining a term as “30 days after X”, I try to use specific dates. If a payment is required on a date certain, state that time is of the essence and require certified funds or a wire transfer. Be detailed and specific and preserve your client’s rights in the event the forbearance doesn’t work.
c) Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure: I am not a fan of DIL’s mainly because they can be voided in a subsequent bankruptcy and they don’t extinguish junior liens. If you must pursue a DIL, I recommend being aware of tax ramifications if you represent the Debtor and securing a vacant property if representing a creditor. Again, I shy away from DIL’s but understand the desire, on both sides, to dispense with foreclosure and convey the property to avoid that or in exchange for a deficiency waiver.
d) Loan Modifications: Be prepared for a long, frustrating process. My experience with loan modifications is that the banks (typically) are slow, rigid and uncreative and misplace much of what is submitted to them for review. Again, if you’re going to seriously pursue a loan modification, I think you must know under what program your client is trying to qualify. Is it HAMP? HOPE? HARP? A successful loan modification, at least for residential real estate, could yield better results than bankruptcy but again, I think it’s imperative to know your client’s position relative to the creditor (or vice-a-versa) and what the best alternatives are in the absence of modification.
e)Discounted Payoffs: Sometimes a return ofprincipal is better than a return onprincipal. I haven’t seen a creditor accepting a discounted payoff other than in a short-sale where accepting a third-party sale at a price less than the payoff is a better option than foreclosing.
I.Post-foreclosure and Eviction
a) Eviction and Ejectment
b) Eviction Procedures and Issues
The eviction process in New Hampshire is governed by RSA 540. The procedure is initiated by serving a thirty (30) day notice to quit upon each adult occupant (RSA 540:3). For this reason, it is very important that the name of each adult occupant is known; therefore, at the time of the foreclosure sale, an effort should be made to ascertain the name of each adult occupant of the premises.
If the occupant fails to quit the premises on or before the “Quit Date” set forth in the notice, then it becomes necessary to have a Sheriff serve the occupant with a Landlord/Tenant Writ which shall assert that the occupant is in possession of the premises without right (RSA 540:13). This writ is returnable approximately two (2) weeks after being forwarded to the Sheriff for service; the occupant must be served at least seven (7) days before the return date. If either the occupant, or an attorney on his/her behalf responds by filing an Appearance on or before the return date, the matter will be scheduled for a hearing within
approximately two (2) weeks. Should the owner prevail at the contested hearing, it shall be entitled to a Writ of Possession unless the occupant, within seven (7) days of the date of the notice of judgment, files a Notice of Intent to Appeal to the Supreme Court (RSA 540:20). If a Notice of Intent to Appeal is not timely filed, the Writ of Possession is served by the Sheriff and typically within three or four (3 or 4) days of service, possession is recovered.
If a tenant leaves personal property behind after vacating the premises, the owner must reasonably store such personal property for seven (7) days. After seven (7) days, the owner may dispose of such personal property without notice to the occupant. (RSA 540:A:3 VII). This used to be twenty-eight (28) days.
c)Ejectment Procedures and Issues
d) Liability for Code Violations, Taxes, Homeowner Dues, Etc.
PROCEEDINGS IN SPECIAL CASESCHAPTER 540-A
PROHIBITED PRACTICES AND SECURITY DEPOSITSProhibited PracticesSection 540-A:1 540-A:1 Definitions. – As used in this subdivision:
I. "Landlord'' means an owner, lessor or agent thereof who rents or leases residential premises including manufactured housing or space in a manufactured housing park to another person.
II. "Tenant'' means a person to whom a landlord rents or leases residential premises, including manufactured housing or a space in a manufactured housing park.
III. "Premises'' means the part of the landlord's property to which the tenant is entitled exclusive access for living or storage as a result of the rental or lease agreement.
Source. 1979, 305:1. 1985, 100:3, eff. July 9, 1985.
Section 540-A:2 540-A:2 General Prohibition. – No landlord shall willfully violate a tenant's right to quiet enjoyment of his tenancy or attempt to circumvent lawful procedures for eviction pursuant to RSA 540. No tenant shall willfully damage the property of the landlord or prevent completion of necessary repairs or willfully deny tenants their right to quiet enjoyment of their tenancies.
Source. 1979, 305:1, eff. Aug. 21, 1979.
Section 540-A:3 540-A:3 Certain Specific Acts Prohibited. –
I. No landlord shall willfully cause, directly or indirectly, the interruption or termination of any utility service being supplied to the tenant including, but not limited to water, heat, light, electricity, gas, telephone, sewerage, elevator or refrigeration, whether or not the utility service is under the control of the landlord, except for such temporary interruption as may be necessary while actual repairs are in process or during temporary emergencies.
II. No landlord shall willfully seize, hold, or otherwise directly or indirectly deny a tenant access to and possession of such tenant's rented or leased premises, other than through proper judicial process.
III. No landlord shall willfully seize, hold, or otherwise directly or indirectly deny a tenant access to and possession of such tenant's property, other than by proper judicial process.
IV. No landlord shall willfully enter into the premises of the tenant without prior consent, other than to make emergency repairs.
[Paragraph IV-a effective January 1, 2014.]
IV-a. Entry to make emergency repairs as authorized by RSA 540-A:3, IV includes, but is not limited to, entry by the landlord to evaluate, formulate a plan for remediation of, or engage in emergency remediation of an infestation of rodents or insects, including bed bugs, provided such infestation-related emergency entry took place within 72 hours of the time that the landlord first received notice of the infestation.
V. No tenant shall willfully refuse the landlord access to the premises to make necessary repairs, or to perform other reasonable and lawful functions commonly associated with the ownership of rental property, at a reasonable time after notice which is adequate under the circumstances.
[Paragraph V-a effective January 1, 2014.]
V-a. No landlord shall willfully fail to investigate a tenant's report of an infestation of insects, including bed bugs, or rodents in the tenant's rented or leased premises, within 7 days of receiving notice of such alleged infestation from the tenant or a municipal health or housing code authority, or fail to take reasonable measures to remediate an infestation.
[Paragraph V-b effective January 1, 2014.]
V-b. No tenant shall willfully refuse the landlord access to the premises to:
(a) Make emergency repairs as authorized in paragraphs IV and IV-a of this section; and
(b) Evaluate whether bedbugs are present after the landlord has received notice that bed bugs are present in a dwelling unit adjacent to the premises or a dwelling unit that is directly above or below the premises, provided the landlord gives the tenant 48 hours written notice of his or her need to enter the premises to evaluate whether bed bugs are present.
[Paragraph V-c effective January 1, 2014.]
V-c. No tenant shall willfully refuse to comply with reasonable written instructions from a landlord or pest control operator to prepare the dwelling unit for remediation of an infestation of insects or rodents, including bed bugs, provided that such instructions are given to an adult member of the tenant household such that the tenant household has a reasonable opportunity to comply, and in all cases at least 72 hours prior to remediation.
[Paragraph V-d effective January 1, 2014.]
V-d. Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, a landlord may only enter a tenant's dwelling unit without the consent of the tenant:
(a) To make emergency repairs pursuant to paragraphs IV and IV-a; or
(b) If the landlord has obtained an order authorizing the entry from a court of competent jurisdiction pursuant to RSA 540-A:4.
VI. No tenant shall willfully damage the property of the landlord.
VII. Other than residential real estate under RSA 540-B, a landlord shall maintain and exercise reasonable care in the storage of the personal property of a tenant who has vacated the premises, either voluntarily or by eviction, for a period of 7 days after the date upon which such tenant has vacated. During this period, the tenant shall be allowed to recover personal property without payment of rent or storage fees. After the 7-day limit has expired, such personal property may be disposed of by the landlord without notice to the tenant.
Source. 1979, 305:1. 1991, 373:2, eff. Jan. 1, 1992. 1998, 25:8. 2001, 277:2. 2003, 271:1, eff. Jan. 1, 2004. 2011, 247:1, eff. Jan. 1, 2012. 2013, 48:4, 5, eff. Jan. 1, 2014.
Section 540-A:4 540-A:4 Remedies. –
I. All district courts shall have concurrent jurisdiction with the superior court to enforce the provisions of RSA 540-A:2 and RSA 540-A:3.
II. Any tenant or landlord may seek relief from a violation of RSA 540-A:2 or RSA 540-A:3 by filing a petition in the district or county where the rental premises are located.
III. No filing fee shall be charged for a petition under paragraph II, and the plaintiff may proceed without legal counsel. Either a peace officer or the sheriff's department shall serve process under this section and the cost of such service shall be billed as directed by the court pursuant to paragraph X. Any proceeding under this subdivision shall not preclude any other available civil or criminal remedy.
IV. The clerks of the district courts shall supply forms for petitions for relief under this subdivision designed to facilitate proceedings.
V. The findings of facts shall be final but questions of law may be transferred to the supreme court in the same manner as from the superior court.
VI. The court shall hold a hearing within 30 days of the filing of a petition under paragraph II or within 10 days of service of process upon the defendant, whichever occurs later.
VII. Upon a showing of a violation of RSA 540-A:2 or RSA 540-A:3, I, II, or III, the court shall grant such relief as is necessary to protect the rights of the parties. Such relief may include:
(a) An order prohibiting the defendant from continuing the activity or activities which violate RSA 540-A:2 or RSA 540-A:3; and
(b) An award of damages to the plaintiff for the violations of RSA 540-A, breach of warranty of habitability, breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment or any other claim arising out of the facts alleged in the plaintiff's petition.
VIII. Upon the showing of an immediate threat of irreparable harm, the court may issue such temporary orders as it deems necessary to protect the parties with or without actual notice to the defendant. If temporary orders are made ex parte, the party against whom such relief is issued may file a written request with the clerk of the court and request a hearing on such request. Such hearing shall be held no later than 5 days after the request is received by the clerk. Such hearings may constitute the final hearing described in paragraph VI.
IX. (a) Any landlord or tenant who violates RSA 540-A:2 or any provision of RSA 540-A:3 shall be subject to the civil remedies set forth in RSA 358-A:10 for the initial violation, including costs and reasonable attorney's fees incurred in the proceedings. Each day that a violation continues after issuance of a temporary order shall constitute a separate violation.
(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraph (a), a landlord who violates RSA 540-A:3, VII shall be subject only to an award of actual damages, plus costs and reasonable attorneys fees.
(c) The provisions of subparagraph (a) shall not apply to petitions brought in good faith by a landlord or a tenant to determine whether a request for entry under RSA 540-A:3, V is reasonable and lawful.
[Paragraph IX(d) effective January 1, 2014.]
(d) The provisions of subparagraph (a) shall not apply to any violation of 540-A:3, V-a, V-b, or V-c.
[Paragraph IX(e) effective January 1, 2014.]
(e) Landlord damages for any unlawful dispossession or lock-out of a tenant from the premises where the landlord has re-let the premises or has a new tenant in the premises shall not be less than $3,000. In the event the damages exceed the $3,000 minimum, the award shall not exceed the amount that would have been awarded pursuant to subparagraph (a).
X. If an action initiated under RSA 540-A:3 is found to be frivolous or brought solely for harassment, the plaintiff shall pay to the defendant the costs of said action including reasonable attorney's fees. If such frivolous action was brought by the tenant, he shall not be entitled to the protection of paragraph XI of this section.
XI. No action for possession may be maintained by the landlord against a tenant who proves a violation of RSA 540-A:3 except for nonpayment of rent, violation of a substantial obligation of the rental agreement or lease, or violation of this subdivision within 6 months of an action instituted under this subdivision by a tenant; nor shall the landlord take any other action in reprisal.
[Paragraph XII effective January 1, 2014.]
XII. Relinquishment of possession or abandonment of possession shall be an affirmative defense to an action brought pursuant to this chapter.
(a) Relinquishment of possession occurs when the landlord receives a statement signed by each adult tenant of a rented or leased premises stating that the tenant has relinquished possession of the rented or leased premises and has no intent to return.
(b) Abandonment of possession means all tenants have physically vacated the premises without the intent to return. There shall be a rebuttable presumption that the tenants have abandoned the premises if:
(1) The landlord provided all tenants with a written property abandonment notice, by leaving the notice at the rented or leased premises and by sending the notice by certified mail to the last known address of at least one adult tenant. The property abandonment notice shall also comply with subparagraph (d); and
(2) At least 2 of the following conditions were present:
(A) All adult tenants of the rented or leased premises have notified the landlord in writing of their intent to vacate the premises by a certain date and that date has passed, provided that the written notice of one adult tenant who has lawful possession to the premises pursuant to an order under RSA 173-B shall suffice.
(B) All keys to the rented or leased premises have been returned to the landlord, which shall include leaving all keys in the rented or leased premises.
(C) The tenant or tenants have removed from the rented or leased premises all or the majority of their personal property, and the only items remaining in the premises are inconsistent with the continued use of the premises.
(D) The tenant or tenants have failed or neglected to pay rent for the rented or leased premises for a period of more than 91 days, provided that during those 91 days the landlord, if requested to do so, provided ordinary and reasonable verification of rental information to any agency assisting the tenant or tenants, and that the landlord did not refuse to accept payment on behalf of the tenant or tenants by any agency offering assistance.
(c) The defense of abandonment does not abrogate the landlord's duty under RSA 540-A:3, VII to maintain and exercise reasonable care in the storage of the personal property of tenants who have vacated the premises for a period of 7 days after the date upon which such tenants have vacated the rented or leased premises. The 7 days shall begin the day after the landlord serves the written property abandonment notice.
(d) In providing the property abandonment notice required under subparagraph (b), the landlord shall use conspicuous language identifying, with specificity, the reasons the landlord deems the property abandoned. The notice shall also advise the tenant or tenants of their right to retrieve any personal property as well as their right to file an action under RSA 540-A. The notice must be signed by the landlord, or the landlord's agent. The use of the following notice language, in at least 12-point type, shall be deemed sufficient notice language:
NOTICE OF PROPERTY ABANDONMENT
This residence, known as __________________________, has been abandoned. I certify that, on this date, the property is believed to have been abandoned for the following circled reasons:
(1) You notified me in writing that you intended to vacate the premises.
(2) You have returned your keys to the premises.
(3) You have removed from the premises all or the majority of your personal property, and the only items remaining in the premises are inconsistent with the continued use of the premises.
(4) You have failed or neglected to pay rent for the premises for a period of more than 91 days.
Because you have abandoned the premises, we will retake possession of this property and the locks may be changed. We will store your personal property for 7 days from the date of the notice, and you have a right to get your personal property during that time.
If you disagree with any action we take, you should notify us immediately. You are also entitled to file what is called a "540-A petition'' at your nearest court. You may have other additional legal rights as well.
Signed: ________________________________________ Date: ____________________
Landlord's or Landlord's Agent's Mailing Address: ____________________
Landlord's or Landlord's Agent's Telephone Number: ____________________
Source. 1979, 305:1. 1985, 100:4, 5. 1990, 218:1. 2003, 271:2, eff. Jan. 1, 2004. 2010, 116:1, eff. June 1, 2010. 2011, 247:2, eff. Jan. 1, 2012. 2013, 48:8, 237:1, 2, eff. Jan. 1, 2014.
Security DepositsSection 540-A:5 540-A:5 Definitions. – As used in this subdivision:
I. "Landlord'' means a person and his or its employees, officers or agents who rents or leases to another person a rental unit, including space in a manufactured housing park as regulated by RSA 205-A and in manufactured housing, for other than vacation or recreational purposes. A person who rents or leases a single-family residence and owns no other rental property or who rents or leases rental units in an owner-occupied building of 5 units or less shall not be considered a "landlord'' for the purposes of this subdivision, except for any individual unit in such building which is occupied by a person or persons 60 years of age or older.
II. "Security deposit'' means all funds in excess of the monthly rent which are transferred from the tenant to the landlord for any purpose.
III. "Tenant'' means any person who rents or leases residential premises owned by another, including space in a manufactured housing park regulated by RSA 205-A and in manufactured housing, for other than vacation or recreational purposes.
IV. "Rental unit'' means each separate part of any residential premises which has full facilities for habitation, including contiguous living, sleeping, kitchen and bathroom facilities, which is held out for rental by the landlord.
Source. 1985, 100:6, eff. July 9, 1985.
Section 540-A:6 540-A:6 Procedure. –
I. (a) A landlord shall not demand or receive any security deposit in an amount or value in excess of one month's rent or $100, whichever is greater.
(b) Except as provided in subparagraph (c), upon receiving a deposit from a tenant, a landlord shall forthwith deliver to the tenant a signed receipt stating the amount of the deposit and specifying the place where the deposit or bond for the deposit pursuant to RSA 540-A:6, II(c) will be held, and shall notify the tenant that any conditions in the rental unit in need of repair or correction should be noted on the receipt or given to the landlord in writing within 5 days of occupancy.
(c) No receipt shall be required when the tenant furnishes a security deposit in the form of a personal check, a bank check, or a check issued by a government or nonprofit agency on behalf of the tenant. Regardless of whether or not a receipt is required, the landlord shall provide written notice to the tenant that a written list of conditions in the rental unit in need of repair or correction, if any, should be given to the landlord within 5 days of occupancy.
II. (a) Security deposits held by a landlord continue to be the money of the tenant and shall be held in trust by the person with whom such deposit is made and shall not be mingled with the personal moneys or become an asset of the landlord until the provisions of RSA 540-A:7 are complied with, but may be disposed of as provided in RSA 540-A:6, III.
(b) A landlord may mingle all security deposits held by him in a single account held in trust for the tenant at any bank, savings and loan association or credit union organized under the laws of this state in satisfaction of the requirements of RSA 540-A:6, II(a).
(c) A bond written by a company located in New Hampshire and posted with the clerk of the city or town in which the residential premises are located in an amount equivalent to the total value of a security deposit held by the landlord on property in that city or town shall exempt the landlord from the provisions of RSA 540-A:6, II(a) and (b).
III. (a) Any landlord who holds a security deposit shall turn the security deposit over at the time of delivery of the deed or instrument of assignment, or within 5 days thereafter, or within 5 days after a receiver has been qualified, to one of the following:
(1) his grantee upon conveying the premises in which the rental unit is located;
(2) his assignee upon assigning his lease to the rental unit;
(3) the receiver in a foreclosure action or other lien of record affecting the property in which the rental unit is located, upon the judicial appointment and qualification of the receiver; or
(4) the purchaser at a foreclosure sale or other lien of record, if a receiver has not been qualified, upon the conveyance to another person by the referee of the property in which the rental unit is located.
(b) The landlord shall notify the tenant by registered or certified mail of such turning over, including the name and address of the grantee, assignee, purchaser, or receiver who then holds the security deposit.
(c) Any landlord who turns over to his grantee, his assignee, a purchaser at a foreclosure sale, or the receiver in a foreclosure action the amount of such security deposit with interest due, if any, is thereby relieved of liability to the tenant for repayment of the deposit. The transferee of the security deposit is then responsible for the return of the security deposit to the tenant or licensee, unless, before the expiration of the term of the tenant's lease or licensee's agreement, he transfers the security deposit to another, pursuant to RSA 540-A:6, III(a) and gives the requisite notice pursuant to RSA 540-A:6, III(b). A receiver shall hold the security subject to its disposition as provided in an order of the court to be made and entered in the foreclosure action.
(d) RSA 540-A:6, III(c) shall not apply if there is an inconsistent agreement between the landlord and tenant or licensee.
IV. (a) A landlord who holds a security deposit for a period of one year or longer shall pay to the tenant interest on the deposit at a rate equal to the interest rate paid on regular savings accounts in the New Hampshire bank, savings and loan association, or credit union in which it is deposited, commencing from the date the landlord receives the deposit or from September 13, 1977, whichever is later. If a landlord mingles security deposits in a single account under RSA 540-A:6, II(b), the landlord shall pay the actual interest earned on such account proportionately to each tenant.
(b) Upon request, a landlord shall provide to the tenant the name of any bank, savings and loan association, or credit union where his security deposit is on deposit, the account number, the amount on deposit, and the interest rate on the deposit and shall allow the tenant to examine his security deposit records.
(c) Notwithstanding RSA 540-A:7, I, a tenant may request the interest accrued on a security deposit every 3 years, 30 days before the expiration of that year's tenancy. The landlord shall comply with the request within 15 days of the expiration of that year's tenancy.
Source. 1985, 100:6. 1988, 167:1. 1992, 184:4. 2006, 296:1, eff. July 1, 2006.
Section 540-A:7 540-A:7 Return of Security Deposit. –
I. Except as provided in RSA 540-A:6, IV(c), a landlord shall return a security deposit to a tenant and pay the interest due, if any, within 30 days from the termination of the tenancy. If there are any damages to the premises, excluding reasonable wear and tear, the landlord may deduct the costs of repair from the security deposit. The landlord shall provide the tenant with a written, itemized list of any damages for which the landlord claims the tenant is liable, which shall indicate with particularity the nature of any repair necessary to correct any damage and satisfactory evidence that repair necessary to correct these damages has been or will be completed. Satisfactory evidence may include, but not be limited to, receipts for purchased repair materials and labor estimates, bills or invoices indicating the actual or estimated cost thereof.
II. If the tenant is required under the lease agreement to pay all or part of any increase in real estate taxes levied against the property and becoming due and payable during the term of the lease, or if there is unpaid rent due, or if there are other lawful charges due under the lease which remain unpaid, the landlord may deduct such share of real estate taxes or unpaid rent or unpaid charges from the amount of the security deposit. The landlord shall provide the tenant with a written, itemized list of any claim for unpaid rent or share of real estate taxes or unpaid charges for which the landlord claims the tenant is liable, which shall indicate with particularity the period for which the claim is being made.
Source. 1985, 100:6. 1988, 167:2. 2006, 296:2, eff. July 1, 2006.
Section 540-A:8 540-A:8 Remedies. –
I. (a) Any landlord who does not comply with RSA 540-A:6, I, II or III shall be deemed to have violated RSA 358-A:2.
(b) Any landlord who does not comply with RSA 540-A:6, IV or RSA 540-A:7 shall be liable to the tenant in damages in an amount equal to twice the sum of the amount of the security deposit plus any interest due under this subdivision, less any payments made and any charges owing for damages, unpaid rent, or share of real estate taxes as specified in RSA 540-A:7.
II. Notwithstanding RSA 540-A:6, 540-A:7, and 540-A:8, I, a landlord shall not be liable nor forfeit any rights if his failure to comply with said sections and paragraph is due to the failure of the tenant to notify the landlord of his new address upon termination of the tenancy. Any deposits plus interest due on the deposit that remain unclaimed after 6 months from the termination of the tenancy shall become the property of the landlord, free and clear of any claim of the tenant, absent fraud.
III. Any provision in any lease or rental agreement by which the tenant is purported to waive any of his rights under this subdivision, except as provided in RSA 540-A:6, III(d), shall be void.
Source. 1985, 100:6, eff. July 9, 1985.
RULES OF THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE -- DISTRICT DIVISIONLANDLORD AND TENANT ACTIONSRule 5.1. Landlord and Tenant Writ.
The Clerk shall deliver blank writs for landlord and tenant actions to no one except attorneys who have been admitted to the Supreme Court or to individuals who shall elect to prosecute their own suit or to have a citizen of good character who is not an attorney of the Court prosecute their suit for them. Blank writs delivered to individuals not attorneys of the Court shall be entitled by the Clerk.
No attorney who has been admitted by the New Hampshire Supreme Court shall cause any blank writ to be used by any other person than himself or some attorney of the Court.
Rule 5.2. Return Day.
Return day for writs brought pursuant to RSA 540 shall be only on such days that the Court is open for business. There shall be no trial on the return day.
Rule 5.3. Entry of Actions.
A. Landlord and Tenant Writs shall be entered with the Court prior to service of process on the defendant. At the time of entry, the entry fee is payable to the Clerk of Court and the case shall be docketed. At the time of entry, the writ shall be accompanied by proof of service of the eviction notice. Proof of service must be shown by a true and attested copy of the notice accompanied by an affidavit of service, but the affidavit need not be sworn under oath. See RSA 540:5.
B. Writs may be accepted by the Court where a mailing address has been listed by the landlord, provided that the landlord also signs a statement on the writ attesting that the Court has jurisdiction over the action.
C. The return of service of process upon the defendant shall be filed by the plaintiff with the Court on or before the earlier of the following: (1) the day following the return day named in the writ; or (2) the time at which the hearing scheduled pursuant to RSA 540:13, V is scheduled to begin.
D. The Clerk may refuse to accept any pleading or motion that the Clerk determines does not comply with these rules. In the event an objection is made to such determination, a written motion may be made to the Court to rule on such determination.
Rule 5.4. Failure to Answer.
If the defendant does not file an appearance on or before the return day, a notice of default shall be issued that the plaintiff may recover possession of the demanded premises and costs; and, if the writ includes a claim for unpaid rent the notice of default may include the amount of unpaid rent claimed, not to exceed fifteen hundred dollars ($1,500.00) in addition to the costs. A writ of possession and notice of judgment shall also issue, but not until the expiration of at least three days after the Clerk's notice of default and upon the filing of a military affidavit and, if the writ includes a claim for unpaid rent, an affidavit of damages.
Rule 5.5. Appearance, Setoff and Counterclaims.
A. If the defendant files an appearance in an action which has been docketed prior to service of process in accordance with Rule 5.3(A), the matter will be set for trial to occur within ten days following the date of the filing of the appearance. If (1) service of process occurs prior to the action being docketed, (2) the Court waives the violation of Rule 5.3(A) and allows the action to be docketed, and (3) the defendant files an appearance prior to the action being docketed, then trial will be scheduled to occur within ten days following the date of the docketing of the action.
B. If the plaintiff claims unpaid rent, and if the defendant files any claim or counterclaim which offsets or reduces the amount owed to the plaintiff, then any such claim or counterclaim must be filed on or before the RETURN DAY set forth in the Landlord and Tenant Writ and a copy thereof shall be mailed or delivered to the plaintiff or plaintiff's attorney. No such claim or counterclaim shall be afterwards received except upon leave of Court for good cause shown and upon such terms as justice may require.
C. The Court may in all cases order either party to plead and also to file a statement in sufficient detail to give to the adverse party and to the Court, reasonable knowledge of the nature and grounds of the action or defense. Upon failure to comply with such order, the Court may take such action as justice may require.
Rule 5.6. Discovery and Continuances.
A. Both parties to a landlord and tenant action shall have a right to engage in discovery prior to the hearing on the merits, subject to the time frames set forth below:
1. All requests for discovery shall be made within five (5) days of the RETURN DAY.
2. Responses to interrogatories, requests for admissions and production of documents shall be made within fourteen (14) days after receipt of said requests.
3. Depositions shall be taken no less than three (3) days from the date of the notice of deposition and within no less than seven (7) days of the scheduled trial date.
B. Upon the request of any party, the Court may grant a continuance of the scheduled trial date to allow time to complete discovery. Landlord and tenant actions shall be given priority on the Court's docket and, whenever possible, rescheduled within thirty (30) days.
Rule 5.7. Writ of Possession and Judgment.
A. If the defendant fails to appear for trial, or if upon trial it is considered by the Court that the plaintiff has sustained the complaint, judgment shall be rendered that the plaintiff recover possession of the demanded premises and costs, and a writ of possession shall issue.
1. If the defendant failed to appear for trial, then the writ of possession and notice of judgment shall not issue until the expiration of at least three days after the Clerk's notice of default and, if the writ includes a claim for unpaid rent, upon the filing of an affidavit of damages.
2. If upon trial the plaintiff sustained the complaint, then the writ of possession shall not issue until the expiration of the seven day period for filing a Notice of Intent to Appeal set forth in RSA 540:20. If the defendant files a timely Notice of Intent to Appeal, then the writ of possession shall not issue until the expiration of the appeal period set forth in Supreme Court Rule 7, except as otherwise provided in RSA 540:25, I, or following an order from the Supreme Court dismissing the defendant's possessory appeal or deeming the defendant's possessory appeal waived for failure to comply with RSA 540:25, II.
B. In all cases in which a judgment for plaintiff is rendered where the action is based upon nonpayment of rent, the Court shall determine and set forth in its order the amount which must be paid into Court on a weekly basis in the event defendant appeals. This amount is equal to the actual weekly rent or the periodic rent converted into a weekly sum.
C. In all cases which include a claim for unpaid rent the Court's judgment shall include a money judgment on the plaintiff's claim and any setoff or counterclaim by defendant.
Rule 5.8. Damages.
A. The Landlord and Tenant Writ shall contain a space for the plaintiff to claim damages for nonpayment of rent and require a statement of the amount thereof.
B. In rendering judgment the Court is limited to a judgment of not more than fifteen hundred dollars ($1,500.00)
Rule 5.9. Notice Form.
The Landlord and Tenant Writ shall incorporate or have attached to it the following notice:
If you desire to be heard on the matters raised in these papers, you must notify the Court by filing an appearance form with the Clerk of Court on or before the date specified on this writ next to the words "RETURN DAY". (These forms are available at the Clerk's Office.) Once you have filed your appearance, a date for a hearing will be set by the court and you will be notified by mail. You do not have to physically appear in court on the RETURN DAY since there will be no hearing on that day. If the landlord claims unpaid rent and if you file a claim or counterclaim which offsets or reduces the amount owed to the landlord, you must file the claim or counterclaim on or before the RETURN DAY shown on this Landlord and Tenant Writ. Space is provided on the appearance form for making the claim or counterclaim. IF YOU DO NOT FILE AN APPEARANCE FORM, IT WILL BE ASSUMED YOU DO NOT WISH TO CONTEST THE ACTION, A DEFAULT JUDGMENT WILL BE ENTERED AGAINST YOU, WHICH MAY INCLUDE ANY UNPAID RENT CLAIMED BY THE LANDLORD, AND A WRIT OF POSSESSION MAY ISSUE.
Rule 5.10. Post Trial Motions and Appeals.
A. Post trial motions in all cases shall be filed within seven days after the date of the Clerk's Notice of Judgment.
B. Appeals are initiated by filing a Notice of Intent to Appeal with the Clerk within seven days after the date of the Clerk's Notice of Judgment. If the possessory action was based on nonpayment of rent and the defendant files a Notice of Intent to Appeal, the defendant must, at the time the defendant files the Notice of Intent to Appeal, pay into Court one week's rent as determined by the Court. The appeal shall otherwise be filed in accordance with Supreme Court rules.
C. At any time during the pendency of the appeal, the landlord may file a motion to the district court for recovery of the rent money that has been paid into court pursuant to RSA 540:25, I. The court may grant such motion unless the tenant objects and the court rules that the landlord is not lawfully entitled to the full amount of rent. If the court rules that the landlord is not entitled to the full amount of the rent, it shall release such portion of the rent to which the court deems the landlord is lawfully entitled, if any, and make specific findings in support of its decision to deny or partially deny the landlord's motion. The rent money retained by the court shall be apportioned between the landlord and the tenant upon final disposition of the appeal.
D. The filing of a post trial motion does not stay the running of the seven day period for filing a Notice of Intent to Appeal.
Rule 5.11. Dismissal of Appeals.
A. Possessory Action Instituted for Nonpayment of Rent
If the possessory action was instituted on the basis of nonpayment of rent, during pendency of the appeal, rent is payable to the Court on a weekly basis and is due on the same day of the week on which the Notice of Intent to Appeal was filed. If rent is not paid by the due date, the Court shall immediately mail a notice of default to the tenant and issue a writ of possession to the landlord. If, however, the tenant pays the Clerk the entire amount of rent due since the filing of the Notice of Intent to Appeal prior to the service of the writ by the sheriff, the writ of possession shall be recalled and the appeal shall be reinstated. Unless the appeal is reinstated, the District Court shall vacate the appeal and award the plaintiff the rent money that has been paid into Court. The District Court shall notify the Supreme Court of any such action.
B. Possessory Action Instituted for Reason Other than Nonpayment of Rent
If the possessory action was instituted for a reason other than nonpayment of rent, the defendant shall pay into the Court or to the plaintiff, as the Court directs, all rents or portions thereof becoming due from the date the Notice of Intent to Appeal is filed with the District Court. In any case in which the duty to pay rent or a portion thereof is in dispute, the defendant shall be required to pay such portions of the rents becoming due after the notice of intent is filed into Court, as the Court may direct, which amounts shall be held in escrow until a final decision is rendered. If the defendant fails to make a rental payment as it comes due, the plaintiff shall file an affidavit setting forth the defendant's failure to make timely payment along with a motion to dismiss defendant's appeal. A copy of the motion and affidavit shall be filed with the Supreme Court. The District Court shall file a written recommendation to the Supreme Court that the motion be granted unless, within five (5) days of the filing of plaintiff's motion, defendant files an affidavit setting forth that timely tender of payment was made or that defendant had a lawful reason for failing to tender payment. If defendant files such an affidavit in a timely manner, a hearing shall be scheduled on the motion within ten (10) days of the filing of defendant's affidavit. Following hearing, the District Court shall recommend in writing to the Supreme Court what action should be taken on the motion.
Rule 5.12. Dismissal of Writs After Sixty Days.
Whenever a Landlord and Tenant Writ has been entered with the Court, and neither an appearance nor the return of service of process has been filed with the Court within sixty days following the date of said entry, such action may upon motion or upon the Court's own motion be dismissed. The order of dismissal may be vacated upon motion after notice for cause shown upon such terms and conditions as the Court may impose. Any motion to vacate shall be filed within seven days after the date of the Clerk's Notice of the order of dismissal.'
Court Service Center
New Hampshire Circuit Court
LANDLORD AND TENANT CHECKLIST
To start this case type you must present the court with an expired Eviction Notice and Demand for Rent (if applicable). Expired means you cannot start a case until the day after you gave on the eviction notice.
The court will not sell blank writs to anyone except attorneys. Court staff will entitle the writ for you. It is your responsibility to fill out the rest of the writ, with the exception of the return day.
The writ may be filed in the court with jurisdiction over the town where the plaintiff or the defendant
resides or the property is located.
You may request up to $1,500 back rent on a landlord-tenant writ. Amounts owed in excess of this may be dealt with in a small claims action.
Refer to RSA 540 and District Court Rules 5.1- 5.12 for more information on this process.
Forms listed below are needed to start this action:
Other items that may be needed:
Photo identification is required if you want court staff to take your oath on the Affidavit of Damages or Military Affidavit.
Information needed to fill out the writ:
Mailing addresses for yourself and the defendant. Court name and address, information regarding
eviction notice and property address.
How much will this cost?
The landlord and tenant writ costs $1.00 and the filing fee is $125.00.
You will be responsible for sheriff’s service fees as well. This fee varies. If you win the case, the
defendant can be ordered to pay this cost, but you must pay it up front.
What happens next?
Court staff will assign the case a docket number and return the original writ to you for service along with copies for yourself and the defendant. You must bring the original and defendant copy to the sheriff’s department where the defendant resides for service.
The sheriff’s department will instruct you what return day to enter on the writ.
After service, you must return the original writ and return of service to the court. The court has no way of knowing the return day until this is done.
The defendant has until the end of the return day to ask the court for a hearing by filling out an
appearance form. The return day is NOT a hearing date. If the defendant requests a hearing, one will be scheduled for a date within 10 days.
Court Service Center
New Hampshire Circuit Court
If the basis for the eviction is any other reason than non-payment of rent, the tenant has the right to have the case heard in the court for the town where the tenant lives. If the basis is non-payment of rent, the tenant may request a transfer, but it is not automatic.
If the defendant fails to file an appearance or appear for the hearing, a notice of default may issue. A writ of possession may issue in due course, on the date indicated on the notice.
The writ of possession is the document you take to the sheriff to have served to remove the tenant from the property and change the locks.
If the plaintiff fails to appear for the hearing, the case can be dismissed.
Parties reserve the right to work out an agreement prior to the hearing date.
If the case proceeds to trial, the judge will make an order for judgment for the plaintiff or the defendant.
Any notice of intent to appeal the Court’s decision must be received within 7 days after the notice of the decision. The appeal must be filed with the Supreme Court within 30 days from the date of the notice of decision. If the defendant appeals a decision on a non-payment of rent eviction, all rent will be paid weekly to the court while the appeal is pending.
Forms and Instructions are available at any NH District Court
Additional information can be found at:
Bar News - May 18, 2012
Real Property Law: A Primer on Leases and Evictions
By: Steven Slovenski
The landlord-tenant relationship is one of the most storied in the world of real property. Since the days of kings, knights and serfs, landlords and tenants have been defining and redefining their relationship.
In feudal times and early America, leasing real property was considered a conveyance of a real estate interest known as a "leasehold" interest. Today, leasing real property is considered less of a real estate conveyance than a matter of contract. As the New Hampshire Supreme Court noted in the landmark landlord-tenant case of Kline v. Burns, 111 NH 87 (1971), "the legal rules for leases should not be tied strictly to common law principles that were ‘remnants of an ancient feudal system and anachronisms in our present society."
Based on the perceived abuses and imbalance in power and money between landlord and tenants, legislatures in New Hampshire and elsewhere began to pass laws in the 1970’s and 80’s which were more favorable to tenants. Those laws, enforced by the Courts, created due process procedures and placed limits on landlord evictions and provided tenants with new tools to require landlords to improve housing quality. The days when landlords could change the locks on a cold January night when a tenant did not pay their rent are long gone.
Unless the landlord and tenant enter into an agreement governing the essential terms of the tenancy, all tenancies or occupancies in New Hampshire are "deemed to be at will." RSA 540:1. Since a lease conveys an interest in real property, it must be in writing to be enforceable pursuant to the Statute of Frauds. RSA 506:1. The Statute’s purpose is to promote certainty and to protect from fraud and perjuries in land transactions. Halstead v. Murray, 130 NH 560 (1988).
Although the intent of the parties is the key factor when courts interpret a lease, certain essential features are important to a well-drafted residential or commercial lease, including the names of the parties, description of the leased premises, the lease term (dates), the financial terms (including rent and utilities) and default provisions. Commercial leases should also include more specificity as to use of the premises, square footage, fit up costs, rent particulars and extensions. Regardless of whether the laws favor the landlord or tenant, the law must be obeyed and since modern landlord-tenant law in New Hampshire is primarily statutory, the law is strictly construed. Buatti v. Prentice, 162 NH 228, (2011). In New Hampshire, landlords can terminate a tenant’s written or verbal lease for many reasons, but the most common are breach of a lease term, non-payment of rent, substantial damage to the premises, or good cause. If the landlord decides to evict the tenant, the landlord must follow the state law, RSA 540, which makes a distinction in tenancies between "Restricted property" and "Non-restricted property". RSA 540:1-a defines "Restricted property" as "all real property rented for residential purposes, except those properties listed in paragraph 1." The exceptions cited in Paragraph 1 include single family houses (if owner doesn’t own more than three single-family houses), rental units in an owner-occupied building with fewer than four dwelling units and single family houses acquired through foreclosure.
The owner of non-restricted property pursuant to RSA 540:2 may commence termination of the tenancy by giving the tenant or occupant a written notice to quit. See RSA 540:3, Eviction Notice and RSA 540: 5, Service of Demand and Eviction Notice. However, the owner of restricted property may only commence eviction proceedings for one of the reasons cited in RSA 540:2, II,(a)-(f), including non-payment of rent, substantial damage to the premises, breach of a lease term, adverse tenant behavior or "other good cause", which includes "business reasons".
RSA 540:5 requires the landlord to serve a Demand for Rent on the tenant if the tenant has not paid the rent, prior to or simultaneously serving the Eviction Notice. The tenant can escape eviction by paying the past due rent within the demand period up to three times in a 12 month period. The Eviction Notice (formerly known as a Notice to Quit) shall include the same information as is requested and provided on the forms available from the Circuit/District Court clerks. Once the Eviction Notice is served on the tenant, and the notice periods have lapsed, the landlord can file a landlord—tenant Writ with the Court and a trial will be scheduled. If the tenant defaults or the landlord prevails at trial, the Court will then issue a Writ of Possession which will entitle the landlord, after the 7 day appeal period, to regain possession of the premises. If the tenant prevails, sometimes based on statutory defenses such as Retaliation (RSA 540:13-a) or Violation of Fitness (RSA 540:13-d), then the tenant will be entitled to remain in the premises. A landlord in a residential or commercial eviction, may be awarded up to $1,500 in a "money judgment", but will usually have to file a separate action in court to collect the balance of any money owed.
Landlord–tenant law, evictions and real property leases are relatively complex matters that are fraught with risk. For instance, there are significant penalties if a landlord commits a "prohibited act" as defined in RSA 540-A:3, or does not account or return the security deposit within the statutory time frame. This is one area of law where preventative lawyering is highly recommended.
Other landlord-tenant related topics beyond the scope of this article include the New Hampshire Security Deposit law (RSA 540-A:5-8), the Manufactured Housing "Bill of Rights" (RSA 205-A), and common law covenants, such as the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
Landlords as Cops: Tort, Nuisance & Forfeiture Standards Imposing Liability on Landlords for Crime on the Premiseshttp://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1161170
Barbara Glesner Fines
University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law
July, 16 2008
Case Western Reserve Law Review, Vol. 42, 1992
This article provides an exhaustive review of landlord liability and the trend toward broadening landlordliability for criminal activity on rental property. In particular, it reviews laws penalizing landlords through forfeiture of such property and considers the philosophical shift that has accompanied these legal developments. The article rejects the assumption that increased liability standards provide incentives for increased control by landlords for several reasons. First, from the landlord's perspective, the utility of these standards is doubtful. Practical enforcement methods would encourage landlords to violate other standards designed to protect tenants from discrimination, invasion ofprivacy and negligent maintenance. Further, the increased costs of heightened regulation is likely to reduce the availability of quality, affordable rental housing.
Second, from legal and societal perspectives, the assumption that these increased standards provide effective incentives entails costs in itself. While the new standards may increase the acceptability of hidden, private enforcement costs, little evidence suggests that they will actually decrease crime. Moreover, while these reactive standards create an image of effective crime control, they distract the community from more effective uses of tort, nuisance and criminal laws in the prevention of crime. While these standards seem to enhance important community involvement, the growth of community is an organic process which must be facilitated through nurturing, not intimidation or threats.
e) Property Preservation Problems
When dealing with residential property, always follow through the eviction process until you get a writ of possession or the tenant(s) abandon in writing. $1,000 per day damages were upheld against a landlord who locked out a tenant removed their personal belongings without process of law. SeeJohnson v. Wheeler, 146 N.H. 594 (2001). See also 1
In Greelish v. Wood, 154 N.H. 521, 527 (2006) the Court concluded that, “the time when the public interest required the existence of self-help for a purchaser at a foreclosure sale to recover possession from a tenant at sufferance has passed. Cf. Standish, 93 N.H. at 205.”
The Court noted that RSA 540:12 provides in part that the purchaser at a mortgage foreclosure sale may recover possession thereof from a person in possession, holding it without right, after notice in writing to quit as prescribed in RSA chapter 540 and that an owner may terminate "any tenancy" by giving an occupant a notice to quit. Id. at 527 citing AIMCO Props. v. Dziewisz, 152 N.H. 587, 589, 883 A.2d 310 (2005) ("any tenancy" includes tenancies at sufferance).
The Greelish Court also remarked that the modern trend to evict versus exercising self-help eviction is, "’founded on the recognition that the potential for violent breach of the peace inheres in any situation where a landlord attempts by his own means to remove a tenant who is claiming possession adversely to the landlord.’" Citing Berg v. Wiley, 264 N.W.2d 145, 151 (Minn. 1978). In Evans v. J Four Realty, 164 N.H. 570 (2013) the Court rejected the argument of a successful purchaser at foreclosure that it was entitled to exercise self-help to evict and held, “[A] purchaser at a foreclosure sale may not use self-help to evict a tenant at
sufferance.” citing Greelishat 527.
Is THE FORECLOSURE SALE COMPLETE
Notwithstanding Barrows v. Boles, 141 N.H. 382, 393 (1996)(holding mortgage loses legal and equitable title once the auctioneer’s hammer falls and the memorandum of sale is signed), the Defendants did not become owners of the Premises at the foreclosuresale. Under New Hampshire property law, title and ownership generally pass through foreclosure upon the completion of a process which is not completed until the recording of the foreclosure deed and affidavit. See RSA 479:26, III and In re Beeman, 235 F.3d 519, 526 (Bankr. D.N.H. 1999).
BEWARE OF CONVERTING PERSONAL PROPERTY
The necessary elements of conversion, to wit, intentional exercise of unauthorized dominion or control over the Plaintiff’s property that seriously interferes with the Plaintiff’s right to the property. See generally Marcucci v. Hardy, 65 F.3d 986, 991 (1st Cir. 1995).
“Abandonment depends upon the occurrence of two (2) factors: (1) an intention to abandon or relinquish the use, and (2) some overt act of failure to act which carries the implication that the owner neither claims nor retains any interest in the use. The decisive test is whether the circumstances surrounding such cessation of use are indicative of an intention to abandon the use and bested rights therein.” Lawlor v. Town of Salem, 116 N.H. 61, 62-63 (1976)(citations omitted).
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