New Hampshire renters facing eviction because their landlords want to repair, renovate or sell the property would be given more time to find new places to live under a proposal up for consideration at the State House this year.
Right now, New Hampshire law doesn’t clearly articulate regulations for these kinds of evictions. Landlords claiming they need to do construction or put their home on the market often file an eviction under a catchall category, “other good cause,” which gives tenants 30 days to leave.
A bill backed by a group of House and Senate Democrats would add new categories to the state’s eviction law requiring landlords looking to go this route to attest they plan to sell their property, perform “substantial renovation” or pursue repairs that “cannot be done safely while the tenant resides in the premises.”
The bill would also give tenants facing eviction for any of those reasons 90 days to find a new place, instead of the 30 days they’re usually given now — unless the landlord has been ordered to fix a safety issue and those repairs can’t be postponed, in which case the 30-day notice would still apply.
Portsmouth Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka, the bill’s lead sponsor, said she hopes clearly defining the terms of these evictions will also be beneficial — and help to protect tenants against situations where a landlord might cite a desire to renovate but doesn’t actually have substantial renovations planned.
“It’s valid if they are actually going to improve the house,” Perkins Kwoka said. “But it certainly shouldn’t be only for the reason of being able to find different tenants or to raise the rent — which is not to imply that that’s what landlords are doing. But by having this in statute, we just provide an additional protection that, you know, tenants can trust the process.”
Housing advocates say the need for more protection against these kinds of evictions is dire. In the last year, local media outlets have highlighted the stories of people facing evictions due to renovations (or rent hikes related to renovations) in Dover, Penacook, Peterborough and Keene.
Elliott Berry, co-director of New Hampshire Legal Assistance’s Housing Justice Project, said his team has also seen a significant spike in calls from people facing eviction because their landlord wants to renovate or sell their unit.
He said the most important thing is for tenants to get more time to cope with these evictions since it’s hard for anyone to secure a new apartment in the state’s tough rental market.
“This has nothing to do with anything that the tenant did wrong,” Berry said. “This is their home. And if they’re going to get displaced through no fault of their own, they’ve got to have more time. Otherwise, too many are going to end up homeless.”
Perkins Kwoka said she was encouraged by landlords’ willingness to work with her and other colleagues on various tenant protections passed last year and is eager to continue building consensus on this legislation.
“I’m hoping we can have a productive relationship with the landlords again this year on this bill. I look forward to their feedback,” she said. “The intent is just to make sure that both landlords and tenants are being treated fairly.“
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