New Hampshire Rent Control Laws in 2024

New Hampshire House rejects bill enabling rent controls

The New Hampshire House of Representatives recently voted down a bill that would have allowed cities and towns to enact rent control policies. The proposed legislation faced opposition from landlord groups, real estate agents, developers, and other industry representatives. 

Supporters of the bill argued that giving municipalities the option to limit how much landlords could raise rents each year was necessary to help make housing more affordable across the state. Proponents said the bill would have helped protect vulnerable tenants from sudden large rent increases that could force them out of their homes. 

However, critics contended that rent control policies could worsen broader housing shortages over time by discouraging new construction. Opponents said limiting rent increases could disincentivize developers from investing in new housing projects, which could reduce overall housing supply. Industry groups lobbied heavily against the bill.

In the end, the bill did not have enough support in the NH House to pass. For now, New Hampshire cities and towns do not have the ability to institute any form of rent control ordinances. The failed vote highlights the continuing debates around the best policies to address affordable housing access in New Hampshire.

NH rent control bill seeks to help tenants

A proposed bill in New Hampshire sought to enable cities to enact rent control policies to protect tenants from unaffordable rent hikes. The bill would have allowed cities to limit how much landlords could raise rents each year. 

Supporters of the bill argued it was necessary to make housing more affordable for renters in the state. As housing costs continue rising, many tenants are facing rent increases they cannot afford. Rent control policies could help protect tenants already residing in apartments from being priced out of their homes.

Proponents said rent control can be an important protection for vulnerable tenants. Limiting large rent hikes can help families, seniors, and low-income residents remain in stable housing even as rents rise around them. With housing comprising the largest expense for most renters, supporters said tenants need reasonable protections from dramatic rent increases that could force them to move or even face eviction.

By empowering cities to enact rent stabilization measures, proponents said the bill would have given local governments an important tool to promote affordable housing within their jurisdictions. With skyrocketing housing costs increasingly pricing out long-term residents, they argued rent control could be part of the solution to keep communities affordable for all.

Opponents argue rent control could worsen housing shortage

Opponents of rent control measures argue that imposing limits on rent increases could end up worsening New Hampshire's housing shortage and affordability issues over the long term. 

They contend that rent control policies disincentivize the construction of new rental housing by reducing potential returns for developers. With profit motivation diminished, developers may scale back plans for building new apartment complexes and other rental properties. This could lead to a constrained supply of available rental units.

In addition, critics say rent control can cause landlords to pull properties off the rental market entirely. Rather than accept reduced revenues, they may opt to convert apartments into condos or shift to short-term rentals. Limiting the supply of rentals through conversions could also negatively impact affordability.

With lower supply comes increased competition for available units. Even with rent control capping increases, the lack of supply could drive up rental costs overall. Some opponents argue this makes rent control counterproductive as a means of improving affordability.

Instead of rent control, critics advocate for policies that encourage building more affordable housing units to meet demand. Streamlining permitting processes, providing tax incentives, and allowing increased housing density are some measures aimed at boosting supply. 

The argument is that increasing rental inventory will help curb rising rents naturally, without the need for government imposed price controls. However, others counter that supply alone won't fully address affordability issues. They maintain that tenant protections are still warranted.

New Hampshire Landlord-Tenant Responsibilities

Under New Hampshire law, landlords and tenants each have certain responsibilities they must uphold. Landlords are required to maintain rental properties in a habitable condition by complying with housing codes and performing necessary repairs. This includes keeping electrical, plumbing, sanitation, and heating systems functional. Landlords must also make reasonable provisions for the extermination of rodents and insects. 

Tenants are responsible for paying rent on time as specified in the lease agreement. They must avoid intentionally or negligently damaging the rental property, and notify the landlord promptly about any repairs needed. Tenants are expected to keep the unit clean and dispose of waste properly.

New Hampshire law also outlines responsibilities for security deposits, lease terms, and the eviction process. Landlords typically collect a security deposit from tenants, which they can use to cover any unpaid rent or damages beyond normal wear and tear at the end of the tenancy. Landlords must return any unused portion of the deposit along with an itemized statement within 30 days after the tenancy ends. 

The rights and obligations of both parties during the rental term and at termination are usually detailed in a written lease agreement. Landlords must follow proper procedures for lease termination or non-renewal, which involves providing advance notice to tenants. Similarly, tenants must provide sufficient notice if they intend to vacate at the end of a lease term.

If tenants violate lease terms or fail to pay rent, New Hampshire landlords can legally evict them through a court process. No self-help evictions are allowed, and landlords must provide proper notices to tenants before filing for eviction. Tenants are entitled to receive these notices and have opportunities to respond or remedy lease violations prior to being removed.

Rental applications and screening

Landlords in New Hampshire have the right to screen prospective tenants through credit checks, background checks, and other application requirements. However, landlords must be careful to follow anti-discrimination laws during the application process. 

Landlords typically require rental applicants to fill out a written application and pay an application fee. The application generally asks for information on the applicant's identification, income, employment, rental history, credit history, criminal background, and references. Landlords can use this information to assess a tenant's ability to pay rent on time and properly maintain the unit.

Running credit checks on applicants is a common screening practice. Landlords want to verify an applicant's creditworthiness and identify any past rent payment issues or evictions. However, landlords must obtain the applicant's permission before running a credit check. 

Landlords may also conduct criminal and eviction background checks. This allows them to uncover any convictions or prior evictions that might make the applicant an unsuitable tenant. As with credit checks, the landlord needs the applicant's consent to run a background screening.

While screening helps landlords evaluate tenants, they cannot unlawfully discriminate against applicants based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, disability, or other protected classes. Landlords also cannot arbitrarily reject applicants who receive public assistance funds. Doing so violates state and federal fair housing laws.

If a landlord denies a rental application, they must promptly notify the applicant in writing and explain why they were rejected. This allows the applicant a chance to correct any inaccuracies or provide additional context. Denied applicants can also review their screening reports for any erroneous information that may have impacted the decision.

Rental Agreements and Leases

New Hampshire does not have any specific state laws dictating what needs to be included in a rental agreement or lease between a landlord and tenant. This gives both parties flexibility in crafting lease terms. 

The most common type of rental agreement in New Hampshire is a 12-month lease. However, month-to-month rental agreements are also allowed under state law. The main difference is that a 12-month lease provides more long-term security for both the landlord and tenant, while a month-to-month agreement provides more flexibility.

If a landlord or tenant wishes to terminate a 12-month lease early, proper notice is required, usually 30 days or one full rental period in advance. For month-to-month agreements, either party can terminate with proper notice, but typically only 30 days is required. 

When a lease term ends, landlords in New Hampshire are not required to renew the lease. However, they must provide tenants with proper notice that the lease will not be renewed, usually 30 days in advance. Tenants must vacate the property by the end date of the terminated lease agreement if it is not renewed.

Security deposits

New Hampshire does not have any limits on the amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit when renting residential property. Landlords have full discretion to require any security deposit amount they deem necessary. Typically security deposits range from one to two months' rent.  

State law requires landlords to return security deposits to tenants within 30 days after the tenancy has ended and the tenant has vacated the unit. Before returning a security deposit, the landlord can deduct amounts to pay for any unpaid rent owed by the tenant or to repair any damages caused by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear. 

If retaining any portion of the security deposit, the landlord must provide the tenant with an itemized list of deductions and the balance within 30 days. Tenants should carefully review the list to ensure no unfair charges were assessed. If disputes arise over deposit deductions, tenants can take legal action against the landlord within one year of vacating the unit.

Rent Payment Laws

New Hampshire does not currently have any statewide rent control laws or limits on how much landlords can raise rents each year. This means that landlords have the ability to raise rents by any amount when a lease term expires or the rental converts to month-to-month. There are no caps on the percentage increase even if it is a substantial hike. The failed 2022 House Bill 95 would have allowed cities to enact rent control policies, but it did not pass.

Landlords can charge late fees for overdue rent payments if this fee is included in the original lease agreement. The late fee acts as a penalty for paying rent past the due date outlined in the lease. However, tenants have a mandatory 5-day grace period before late fees can be applied. This means rent is not considered officially late until 5 days after the due date passes. Within that 5 day window, landlords cannot assess any late penalties even if the monthly rent is not paid on the exact due date.

Repairs and maintenance

In New Hampshire, landlords are responsible for maintaining rental units in a habitable condition. This includes ensuring that essential utilities and facilities are in working order, such as:

  • Electrical systems
  • Plumbing and hot water
  • Heating and air conditioning
  • Sanitary facilities 
  • Ventilation
  • Smoke detectors

Landlords must make repairs to keep these systems functioning. Tenants should notify the landlord as soon as possible if they experience any failure of these systems or facilities. 

Tenants are expected to properly use and operate all electrical, plumbing, and other fixtures. Tenants should take reasonable care to avoid damaging the rental property. Any damages caused by tenants may be deducted from the security deposit at the end of the lease.

If a landlord does not make necessary repairs in a timely manner after being notified, tenants may have several options:

  • File a complaint with the local housing, building, or health department about any code violations
  • Hire a repair person themselves and deduct the cost from rent, with proper documentation 
  • Sue the landlord for failing to maintain the rental in a habitable condition
  • Break the lease if the property is deemed uninhabitable  

Tenants should consult local tenant advocacy organizations to understand their rights and options for compelling landlords to make repairs. Withholding rent without proper cause can lead to eviction, so tenants should proceed carefully and with legal guidance.

Eviction Laws

In New Hampshire, landlords must go through the court system to legally evict a tenant, and cannot engage in "self-help" evictions by changing locks or removing belongings. 

Before filing an eviction case, landlords must provide tenants with proper notice. This includes a 7-day notice to quit for nonpayment of rent, or a 30-day notice for lease violations or no cause terminations.

Once an eviction is filed, court proceedings happen quickly in New Hampshire. Tenants typically only get 7 days to respond after receiving the court summons. It's important for tenants facing eviction to seek legal aid immediately, to understand and protect their rights in the process.

Eviction cases are handled in New Hampshire's district courts. If the court rules in the landlord's favor, the tenant will receive a notice of judgment and writ of possession, giving them a short window to vacate before the sheriff returns to forcibly remove them. Tenants should take any eviction notice seriously and make preparations to find new housing right away if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much can a landlord raise rent in NH?

In New Hampshire, there is no state law that caps how much a landlord can increase rent. Landlords must provide a 30-day written notice for rent increases if the lease is month-to-month. For fixed-term leases, rent can't be increased until the lease term ends, unless the lease explicitly allows for increases.

What are renters' rights in New Hampshire?

Renters in New Hampshire have rights to a habitable living environment, privacy (landlords must provide a 24-hour notice before entering the property, except in emergencies), and protection against discrimination and retaliation. Tenants also have the right to withhold rent under certain conditions, such as the landlord failing to make necessary repairs.

What is NH statute 540-A?

New Hampshire Statute 540-A deals with the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants, particularly around issues of security deposits, eviction notices, and the maintenance of a habitable property. It outlines the legal procedures landlords must follow to evict a tenant and specifies how and when a landlord can withhold or must return a tenant's security deposit.

Is New Hampshire landlord friendly?

New Hampshire provides a balanced framework of rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. While the state does not impose strict rent control measures, making it somewhat favorable to landlords, it also ensures strong protections for tenants, particularly in terms of eviction proceedings and maintenance of habitable living conditions.

Can a landlord evict you without a court order in New Hampshire?

No, in New Hampshire, a landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without obtaining a court order. The eviction process must begin with a proper eviction notice, followed by a court hearing where both the landlord and tenant can present their case. Only after a judge issues an eviction order can the eviction proceed.

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