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Alkalay & Smillie, PLLC

in Mt. Washington Valley, New Hampshire

Office: (603) 447-8994
Fax: (603) 297-2866

Articles of Interest

Attorney Edward Alkalay writes a regular column for the Conway Daily Sun newspaper entitled "The Legal Corner." His articles address a wide variety of timely legal issues. Click on the titles below to review his past articles.

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The Legal Corner: The Legal Corner: What every landlord needs to know

September 4, 2011

In these difficult economic times, many landlords are struggling with tenants who are unable or reluctant to pay their rent or are otherwise being difficult. In this article, I will provide some simple, but very important tips for resolving disputes with tenants if possible, and evicting tenants when necessary.
First, as a landlord, you should not ignore a tenant problem and hope that it will magically go away. Whether the problem is your tenant damaging your property, violating a provision of the lease or not paying rent, these problems rarely go away by themselves. Moreover, unless you address a problem immediately, you will be giving your tenants more protection than they are entitled to by law.
Second, and just as important, do not allow yourself to get so frustrated by a tenant’s conduct that you do something stupid, such as turning off the water or electricity, or otherwise disturbing your tenant’s “quiet enjoyment” of the property. This can create more problems for you, including having to pay double or treble damages and attorney’s fees to a tenant who files a complaint against you in court.
The way to deal with a problem tenant is logically and methodically. If the problem is non-payment of rent, you will need to serve your tenant with a written demand for rent for the amount that is due. Do not demand more rent than is due! If you want to seek eviction you will need to serve the tenant with a notice to quit or eviction notice. This notice must: (1) be in writing, (20 state the specific reason or reasons for the eviction, and (3) give the tenant at least 7 days notice for eviction if the reason is for non-payment of rent. You must also give the tenant notice of his/her right to cure the nonpayment of rent by paying back all rent plus fifteen dollars by the date that the notice to quit/eviction notice expires.
If the reason for the eviction is a threat to health or safety of other tenants or the landlord or because of substantial damage done to the premises, you also need to provide 7 days notice. If the reason for the eviction is for any other reason, you will need to give at least 30 days notice. Both the demand for rent and the notice to quit or eviction notice must be either handed directly to the tenant or left at the tenant’s home. If you do not follow these specific steps a tenant can ask the court to dismiss any eviction.
After you have completed these steps and the 7 day (or thirty day) period has passed, you can file a landlord/tenant writ in court. This writ will be served by the sheriff and the court will provide you with a hearing date. At the hearing you must explain to the court why you are entitled to an eviction. Nonpayment of rent is usually simple. However, if you are seeking to evict for substantial damage caused by your tenant or due to a safety threat caused by your tenant, be prepared to provide proof to the court with pictures, witnesses, or other evidence.
A landlord can represent him/herself during the eviction process without an attorney’s representation. But, be careful! I have had several landlords hire me after they had filled out the paperwork incorrectly and/or had their writ dismissed by the court because they failed to follow the proper process. One landlord who had made a mess of the paperwork acknowledged after his case was dismissed that he had been “pennywise and pound foolish.” Whether you hire a lawyer or not, you should make sure that you completely and accurately follow the steps detailed above. You can find forms for the demand for rent or the eviction notice at http://www.courts.state.nh.us/district/forms/allforms.htm#lt.
Being a landlord can be frustrating at times. However, the frustration can be kept to a minimum if you deal with any problems immediately and follow the proper court procedures for resolving your dispute.

Edward D. Alkalay is a partner at Alkalay & Smillie PLLC and can be reached at (603)447-8994 or ed@northconwaylawyers.com. (This article conveys general information and should not be relied on for legal advice without further research and/or consultation with an attorney.)

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By: Edward D. Alkalay