New Hampshire Eviction Process
November 2, 2023
We’d love to connect with you.
Eviction In New Hampshire
If you own and rent properties in the state of New Hampshire, you are responsible for complying with New Hampshire eviction laws. In this article, we break down each step of the legal eviction process in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire’s eviction laws can be found at NHRS § 540.
Eviction Process in New Hampshire
- Landlord serves a seven- to 30-day eviction notice.
- Landlord files an eviction lawsuit with the court.
- Court serves tenant a summons.
- Tenant files an appearance.
- Landlord and tenant attend court hearing and receive judgment.
- Writ of restitution is served.
- Sheriff returns to forcibly remove the tenant.
According to New Hampshire law, tenants can be evicted for any of the following reasons:
- Failing to pay rent when due
- Substantially damaging the premises (or allowing a guest to)
- Violating a lease term
- Behaving in a way that adversely affects the health or safety of other tenants, the landlord, or the landlord’s agents
- Not accepting suitable temporary relocation due to a lead-based paint hazard
- Refusing to prepare the unit for pest control when there is an infestation, after receiving reasonable written notice of the required preparations and time to complete them
- Other good cause
1. Landlord Serves a Seven- to 30-Day Eviction Notice
If any of the above lease violations occur, the landlord must first serve a New Hampshire eviction notice and state that the tenant has the appropriate number of days to remedy or cure the violation. There are three possible eviction notices a landlord may send in New Hampshire:
- Rent Demand Notice: 7 days to pay or quit. If rent is unpaid when due, the landlord may deliver this notice stating the amount of unpaid rent required to remedy the breach and the date on which the lease will terminate if it is not paid (not less than seven days after receipt of the notice) (NHRS § 540:2(II), 540:3(II), 540:9).
- Lease Violation Notice: 30 days to quit. If a tenant violates another lease term, the landlord may deliver this notice stating the breach and the date on which the lease will terminate (not less than thirty days after receipt of the notice). The landlord does not have to give the tenant an opportunity to fix or “cure” the violation. A 30-day notice should also be given for other “good causes” for eviction, such as a legitimate business/economic reason of the landlord (NHRS § 540:2(II), 540:3(II)).
- Unconditional Notice to Quit: 7 days to quit. This notice gives no opportunity to “cure” the violation and applies if the tenant causes substantial damage to the premises or behaves in a way that adversely affects the health or safety of others on the leased premises (NHRS § 540:2(II), 540:3(II)).
Additional Information About Nonpayment Cases:
Tenants in New Hampshire have a remedy to withhold rent in certain cases, which may interfere with an eviction based on nonpayment. For example, if a tenant is forced to take over utility payments that were originally the landlord’s responsibility, the tenant may withhold the amount of the bill from rent without being evicted for nonpayment. However, the tenant must keep receipts/proof of payment from the utility company.
Additionally, to remedy a rent demand notice, the tenant must not only pay their overdue rent, but also $15 in liquidated damages and any filing/service charges the landlord incurred. It’s also important to note that tenants in New Hampshire cannot defeat an eviction for nonpayment this way (by paying their overdue rent) more than three times within a 12-month period.
2. Landlord Files an Eviction Lawsuit with the Court
The next step in the New Hampshire eviction process is filing a complaint in court. If the tenant has not cured the breach or moved out by the end of the notice period, the landlord can then file a possessory action (the eviction lawsuit) in the New Hampshire District Court in the county in which the property is located (NHRS § 540:12). The landlord will also be required to pay a filing fee of $125.
3. Court Serves Tenant a Summons
After the landlord files the possessory action, the court will issue a summons to be served to the tenant. The summons states that the landlord is entitled to possession of the premises. It also allows the landlord to make a claim for unpaid rent (NHRS § 540:13(III)).
The summons must be served to the tenant with a notice from the district court. This notice states that:
- If the tenant wants to contest the eviction, they must file an appearance in the district court no later than the return day on the summons.
- The tenant cannot be evicted without a court order, which may be granted to the landlord by default if the tenant doesn’t file an appearance.
- When filing an appearance, the tenant may request that the court record the hearing.
- If the tenant wants to appeal the court’s decision, they must:
- File a notice of intent to appeal with the district court within seven days of the decision date
- File a notice of appeal in the supreme court within 30 days of the decision
- Pay all rent, as it becomes due, up until the final disposition of the appeal
To have the summons served by the sheriff’s office, the landlord will need to pay a fee of $30 (NHRS § 104:31(I)).
4. Tenant Files an Appearance
The summons is “returnable” seven days from the date it is served, which means that the tenant has seven days to file an appearance with the court. The appearance gives the tenant an opportunity to establish any defenses, claims, or counterclaims against the landlord’s claim for possession and/or monetary judgment (NHRS § 540:13(III)).
If the tenant files an appearance, a hearing will be scheduled to occur within ten days after the appearance was filed, unless the court extends this period for discovery. The date and time of the hearing will be mailed to both parties at least six days prior. However, if the tenant does not file an appearance, the court will mail them a notice stating that the landlord was awarded the judgment by default, three days after which the court will issue a writ of possession (NHRS § 540:13(V)).
5. Landlord and Tenant Attend Court Hearing and Receive Judgment
On the day of the eviction hearing, the landlord should bring copies of the lease agreement, the eviction notice with proof of service, the complaint, and any evidence of the lease violation. Both the landlord and tenant will present their cases and any evidence to the judge, who will afterwards issue a judgment.
Writ of Possession and Money Judgment
If the judge rules in the landlord’s favor, the court will issue a written decision explaining the basis of the decision. Seven days later, the court will also issue a writ of possession, which authorizes the sheriff to remove the tenant from the premises. For cases where the tenant failed to attend the hearing and a default judgment was awarded to the landlord, the writ will be issued at least five business days after the clerk’s notice of default (NHRS § 540:14(I), Rules of the Circuit Court of the State of New Hampshire, Rule 5.7).
For nonpayment cases, the court will also award the landlord a money judgment, which is limited to a maximum of $1,500 (this is also the highest amount the tenant can receive in a counterclaim). If the landlord wants to recover more than this amount, they can make a subsequent claim to recover the remaining costs (NHRS § 540:13(III), § 540:14(I)).
Note that for nonpayment cases, the tenant may still pay their overdue rent plus all court costs and service fees to avoid eviction—so long as the landlord agrees to accept it. The landlord and tenant must sign a written agreement stating the final payment amount and the date it was made and then file it with the court. In this case, the writ of possession will not issue, and the tenant waives their right to appeal (NHRS § 540-13-c(II)).
Either party can appeal the judgment to the supreme court within seven days of the date the judgment was entered. The appealing party would need to file a notice of intent to appeal in the district court, which retains exclusive jurisdiction over the case for the purpose of collecting rent while the appeal is pending. If the tenant is the one appealing, they are also required to pay the current rent into the court in advance of each week until the appeal has been decided. The landlord can ask the court to recover this rent money at any time while the appeal is pending (NHRS § 540:20, § 540:25(I)).
6. Writ of Restitution is Served
Once the writ has been issued, the landlord may take it to the sheriff’s office. At the landlord’s request, the sheriff will serve the writ at the tenant’s unit (NHRS § 540:14). Generally, this is done via personal service or by posting a copy on the front door.
7. Sheriff Returns to Forcibly Remove the Tenant
New Hampshire law does not say how quickly the sheriff must return to forcibly remove the tenant and restore possession to the landlord if the tenant does not move out. In most states, tenants are given 24 hours to a few days to move out.
Evicting a Squatter in New Hampshire
A squatter is a person who moves into a vacant or abandoned property without getting permission from the owner or paying rent. Squatters can usually be charged as criminal trespassers and be evicted like any other tenant. However, some squatters can receive the right to possession by meeting certain state-determined criteria. In New Hampshire, squatters must have lived in the property for 20 consecutive years to invoke New Hampshire squatters rights and claim right of possession (NHRS § 508:2(I)). Their possession must also be:
- Hostile/Adverse—The squatter must not have a valid lease with the owner
- Actual—The squatter must be actively residing on the property
- Open and Notorious—The squatter is openly and obviously living there.
- Exclusive—The squatter does not share possession of the property with anyone else.
- Continuous—The squatter must hold continuous and uninterrupted possession.
While relatively rare, if a squatter meets all these criteria, they have “color of title”: the right of legal ownership without having a written deed to the property. They can file an action for adverse possession in New Hampshire to legally obtain the title to the property. However, in most cases, a squatter will not meet the criteria and can be removed. If you think a squatter is living in your vacant property in New Hampshire, you should:
- Call local law enforcement.
- Determine whether the person is a trespasser or a squatter.
- If the person is a trespasser, they can be removed immediately by a police officer.
- If the person is a squatter, you must contact the sheriff’s office.
- Send the squatter an eviction notice as per New Hampshire eviction law.
- If the squatter does not vacate the premises by the end of the notice period, file for eviction and follow the typical eviction process.
- Only the sheriff can physically remove a squatter from your property. You cannot do so, and neither can a police officer.
New Hampshire Eviction Cost Estimates
This chart shows estimates of the approximate cost of an eviction in New Hampshire, according to civil procedure in the state and iPropertyManagement. A highly accurate estimate of an eviction is impossible to provide, as cases and circumstances vary so widely. Remember to factor in other losses due to an eviction as well, such as lost rent, time, and stress.
|Service of writ of summons||$36|
|Service of writ of possession||$30|
|Average locksmith fees||$160|
|Storage fees for abandoned property||Varies|
|Tenant turnover costs||Varies|
New Hampshire Eviction Time Estimates
The chart below shows an estimate of the duration of each part of the New Hampshire eviction process timeline. Keep in mind that the length of eviction cases varies widely depending on the complexity of the eviction, the court’s current caseload, and whether or not the tenant contests or appeals the lawsuit.
|Eviction notice period||7-30 days|
|Tenant response/appearance period||7 days|
|Eviction hearing||10 days after appearance is filed|
|Issuance of writ of restitution||5-7 days after judgment is entered|
|Appeal period||Within 7 days after judgment is entered|
|Time to quit after writ is posted||Unspecified|
|Total||1 –3 months|
- Demand for Rent
- Affidavit of Damages and Statement of Claim
- Landlord’s Petition Under RSA 540-A:4
- Tenant’s Claim or Counterclaim Against Landlord
- Landlord/Tenant Affidavit of Noncompliance
- Agreement to Stay Writ of Possession
- Notice of Intent to Appeal (Landlord-Tenant Action)
- Rules of the Circuit Court of the State of New Hampshire, District Division – This site includes the specific rules of civil procedure and District court policies in New Hampshire.
- Landlord-Tenant Forms, District Division – PDFs of the various landlord-tenant forms that may be necessary during an eviction case in New Hampshire.
- Circuit Court Filing Fees – This document lists the various court fees and costs to file a case in each division of the circuit court.
The eviction process in any state can be long and complex, so hiring an eviction attorney is advised in most cases. It’s also important to note that municipalities and local governments often have stricter laws and requirements for landlords, so be sure to check local statutes as well as state ones. However, by reviewing the legal procedures and New Hampshire laws on eviction, you can feel more confident pursuing an eviction in this state.
Innago does not provide legal advice. The content and materials provided in this article are for general informational purposes only and may not be the most up-to-date information.