NH Law About... Clean and Safe Rentals

Introduction to... Clean and Safe Rentals

Posted April 19, 2016.

The Read About section of this guide refers to resources about the law and will provide context and key terms. Read the Law links to selected law and should be used as a jumping off point for further research. Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive. It is intended as a starting point, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.

All the resources mentioned in the introduction are linked to below.

All leased or rented housing in New Hampshire must, by law, meet certain minimum standards to be considered livable. The burden of keeping rental housing clean and safe falls on the landlord and tenants have several options if a landlord is not doing so. The Tenant's Rights Overview website from NH Legal Aid will explain what actions tenants can take. 

The statute governing statewide minimum housing standards is RSA 48-A.  Several other statutes contain sections relating to RSA 48-A.  RSA 540:1-b III sets out the procedure for service of process for the enforcement of RSA 48-A.  RSA 540:13-d provides a defense against eviction of tenants for non-payment of rent when the premises are in substantial violation of standards of fitness for health and safety under RSA 48-A or local codes.  RSA 540-A:4 VII (b) gives the district court jurisdiction to award damages to a plaintiff for violations of breach of warranty of habitability of the premises.  And finally, RSA 595-B requires authorities to obtain an administrative inspection warrant from a court which enables them to gain entry to determine habitability when entry is initially denied.  

Towns and cities are allowed to create stricter housing standards than the state's minimum standards, so it's important to check local ordinances as well as state requirements. For example, if you compare Manchester's code with RSA 48-A, you'll see that Manchester's requirements for adequate heating are stricter. Local housing standards can usually be found on the town's website, or if not, with a call to the town code enforcement officer.

When researching this topic look for the phrases "implied warranty of habitability," "implied covenants in leases," and "housing standards" as well as the broader topic of landlord and tenant law.

For New Hampshire-specific books look at § 9.03[A] in Real Estate by Charles Szypszak, and Residential Landlord and Tenant Law in New Hampshire which has a chapter entitled “Prohibited Practices in Residential Tenancies” with a short discussion of damages in relation to implied warranty of habitability in New Hampshire. 

Every Landlord’s Legal Guide and Every Tenant’s Legal Guide are written for non-lawyers and are very helpful but are not about New Hampshire law. Any information in these books should be checked against New Hampshire law. 


Read about... Clean and Safe Rentals

WEBSITES

New Hampshire Legal Aid. Tenants' Rights Overview  GO>

Link verified on: April 19, 2016


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Real estate / by Charles Szypszak. LexisNexis, 2003.   GO>

Link verified on: December 16, 2016

Residential landlord and tenant law in New Hampshire / prepared by Fred K. Mayer III , Brian C. Shaughnessy. Eau Claire, WI : Lorman Education Services, c2014.

The eviction process -- The security deposit statute -- Leases -- Ethical considerations -- Collecting rent -- Prohibited practices in residential tenancies -- Residential landlord and tenant law.   GO>

Link verified on: February 22, 2017

Every landlord's legal guide / Marcia Stewart, Ralph Warner, & Janet Portman. [Berkeley, California] : Nolo, 2016.

Screening tenants : your most important decision -- Preparing leases and rental agreements -- Basic rent rules -- Security deposits -- Discrimination -- Property managers -- Getting the tenant moved in -- Cotenants, sublets, and assignments -- Landlord's duty to repair and maintain the premises -- Landlord's liability for tenant injuries from dangerous conditions -- Landlord's liability for environmental health hazards -- Landlord's liability for criminal activity -- Landlord's right of entry and tenants' privacy -- Ending a tenancy -- Returning security deposits and other move-out issues -- Problems with tenants : how to resolve disputes without a lawyer -- Late rent, terminations, and evictions -- Lawyers and legal research -- Appendix A. State landlord-tenant law charts.   GO>

Link verified on: February 22, 2017

Every tenant's legal guide / Attorney Janet Portman and Marcia Stewart. 8th Edition. Berkeley, CA : Nolo, 2015.

Finding a place to rent -- Leases and rental agreements -- Basic rent rules -- Security deposits -- Discrimination -- Inspecting the rental unit and moving in -- Roommates, guests, and Airbnb -- Major repairs and maintenance -- Minor repairs and maintenance -- Making improvements and alterations -- Your right to privacy -- Injuries on the premises -- Environmental hazards -- Crime on the premises -- How tenancies end or change -- Moving out and getting your security deposit back -- Termination notices based on nonpayment of rent and other illegal acts -- Evictions -- Resolving problems without a lawyer -- Lawyers and legal research -- State landlord-tenant law charts -- How to use the interactive forms on Nolo Website.   GO>

Link verified on: September 9, 2016

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Read the law about... Clean and Safe Rentals

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATUTES

RSA 48-A. Housing Standards  GO>

Link verified on: December 9, 2016

RSA 130-A. Lead Paint Poisoning Prevention and Control  GO>

Link verified on: September 9, 2016

RSA 540. Actions Against Tenants   GO>

Link verified on: February 22, 2017

RSA 540-A. Prohibited Practices and Security Deposits

Link verified on: December 16, 2016

  GO>

RSA 595-B. Administrative Inspection Warrants  GO>

Link verified on: April 19, 2016

Learn About New Hampshire Statutes: New Hampshire statutes are the laws of the State of New Hampshire as enacted by the New Hampshire General Court. GO>
 

NEW HAMPSHIRE CASES

106 N.H. 481 (1965). Dover Housing Board v. Colbath

Link verified on: October 3, 2016

"The general purpose of this chapter [RSA 48-A] is to impose housing standards for dwellings and it provides authority for their repair or demolition, whether occupied or unoccupied, when they are unfit for human habitation."   GO>

111 N.H. 87 (1971). Kline v. Burns

Link verified on: October 3, 2016

"In our opinion the above considerations demonstrate convincingly that in a rental of an apartment as a dwelling unit, be it a written or oral lease, for a specified time or at will, there is an implied warranty of habitability by the landlord that the apartment is habitable and fit for living. This means that at the inception of the rental there are no latent defects in facilities vital to the use of the premises for residential purposes and that these essential facilities will remain during the entire term in a condition which makes the property livable."   GO>

135 N.H. 311 (1992). LeFavor v. Ford

Link verified on: April 19, 2016

"This statute provides a standard of conduct for landlords, which is maintenance of the porches, stairs and railings in a structurally sound condition. If the porches, stairs or railings are not structurally sound, regardless of whether the landlord acted reasonably in the maintenance of the building, the statute is violated and the landlord is guilty of legal fault".   GO>

159 N.H. 269 (2009). Tulley v. Sheldon

Link verified on: April 19, 2016

"[W]hen a premises leased or rented for residential purposes is in substantial violation of the standards of fitness for health and safety, and the violation materially affects the habitability of the premises, the tenant has an affirmative defense to an action for possession based on non-payment of rent."   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Cases: New Hampshire case law consists of the published opinions of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. GO>
 

LOCAL ORDINANCES

City of Manchester, NH. Code of Ordinances. Chapter 150 Housing Code

Link verified on: December 9, 2016

This is an example of one city's housing code ordinance establishing minimum standards for heating facilities. Most towns and cities in NH have ordinances online; if not, check with the town.   GO>


FOR MORE HELP ...

LawLine

Link verified on: February 22, 2017

Volunteer attorneys are available to answer legal questions through LawLine, a free service of the NH Bar Association. LawLine is held on the SECOND Wednesday of each month from 6:00 p.m. ~ 8:00 p.m. To reach LawLine, call (toll free) 800-868-1212.   GO>

New Hampshire Law Library

Link verified on: February 22, 2017

The state's only public law library. Call, email, or visit, we'll be happy to help.   GO>


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