NH lawmakers considering bill to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants
Measure would loosen current standard before allowing eviction
Tenants’ rights organizers are pushing back on a bill that would allow landlords to more easily evict people at the end of a lease.
Under current state law, landlords have to give a legally justified reason for an eviction, which could include failure to pay rent, or a “good” cause related to financial or business purposes. The NH Supreme Court upheld that interpretation in a tenant-landlord case in 2005.
But Rep. Robert Lynn – a Windham Republican who is sponsoring the bill would loosen the state’s eviction rules – said it’s needed to protect landlords’ contractual and property rights in a lease agreement. The legislation, House Bill 117, passed earlier this month in a House vote and is now under consideration in the Senate.
“Under the law, as it now stands, the landlord knows that if he rents the unit to this person, he may be stuck with him forever,” Lynn said in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Tuesday.
David Klein, a landlord, also told lawmakers the bill would help him when he wants to evict someone but can’t find evidence to move forward with the eviction process.
“It’s going to be a small amount of people whose behavior are bad, but we can’t totally prove it,” Klein said. “And it gives us a little bit of another weapon.”
Tenants’ rights advocates and organizations, including NH Hampshire Legal Assistance warn, however, that HB 117 would only exacerbate the statewide housing and homelessness crisis.
The number of court-ordered evictions increased by 13 percent between 2021 and 2022 in New Hampshire, and the number of landlord-tenant cases increased by 36 percent during the same time period. Those increases come as pandemic era housing assistance programs for tenants are winding down, and housing prices are going up.
Ellen Groh, who previously served as executive director for the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness, said the bill would erode legal protections for tenants at a time when the state is reporting a vacancy rate of 0.5 percent. (According to New Hampshire Housing, a vacancy rate of 5 percent is considered a more “balanced” environment for tenants and landlords.)
“Passing this legislation will allow landlords to send their tenants out into this impossible housing market for arbitrary reasons,” she said, adding that it could also fuel hidden discrimination.
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