State is required to have ‘model eviction’ forms posted online

Although attorneys Fred Mayer and Christine Wellington often find themselves on opposite sides of the law in landlord-tenant disputes, one thing both agreed was helpful to landlords is the model eviction notice forms the state is required to make available on its judicial Web site.

The forms were made available in January 2007 as part of a new law that also changed the name of what was formerly known as a “notice to quit” to “eviction notice.”

Prior to the availability of the forms, newer landlords would get themselves in trouble by not including certain legal language that was required in such notices, Mayer said.

“The court had no form for notice to quit or demand for rent that they could hand out, and the sheriffs had no form to hand out, yet if the landlord doesn’t get his form correct, the action would be dismissed,” Mayer said.

Although the law does not require the landlords use them, the new model forms do include the required language.

Leases are another problem for landlords, Mayer said.

“They (landlords) assume that because they have a lease, if the tenant breaks the lease, then it is just that simple. But the statute isn’t that simple. The New Hampshire Supreme Court has made it very clear that the contracts between landlords and tenants are not treated like ordinary contracts,” he said.

Mayer said he frequently discourages landlords from using generic form leases such as those found online, or in office supply stores, because the leases are not tailored to New Hampshire law and can actually increase a landlord’s burden in case of eviction.

One example Mayer cited was the law that states that a landlord must serve an eviction notice to a tenant in hand or at the tenant’s usual abode.

If a landlord uses a generic lease form that states notices are to be sent through certified mail, and the landlord complies with that provision of the lease, the case will be thrown out of court for violation of the statute, Mayer said.

Mayer handles cases for landlords statewide who own anywhere from one rental property to thousands. He said the legal problems landlords bring him typically depend on the experience of the landlord.

“If there is a mistake that inexperienced landlords and inexperienced property managers make again, and again, and again, it is starting the eviction process too late,” Mayer said. “If rent is due on the first of the month and the tenant doesn’t pay you on the first of the month, then before the month is over, you need to start the process.”

Mayer said he discourages landlords from entering into any kind of payment schedule or agreement without starting the eviction process first. If the tenant fails to follow through on the payments, then the landlord has to start the eviction process from scratch, all of which costs the landlord more money.

“Assuming there is no appeal, it is a six- to eight-week process,” Mayer said.