New eviction protections for NH renters enacted, days before eviction moratorium ends

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Jul. 27—New protections are available for the hundreds of New Hampshire tenants whose eviction cases are set to start again next week after the governor signed a new law and the courts moved to get the word out about emergency rental assistance.

The federal eviction moratorium is set to expire Sunday, but a bill signed Tuesday by Gov. Chris Sununu bars the eviction for nonpayment if tenants have paid or have qualified for rental assistance — and the courts announced Tuesday an effort to raise awareness of the emergency rental assistance made available by one of the three federal stimulus bills.

State Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka (D-Portsmouth), the prime sponsor of that section of SB 126, called the protection a "critical guardrail." In a statement Tuesday, Perkins Kwoka said she thought the bill would protect landlords' incomes and help tenants stay in their homes.

Eviction cases paused during the moratorium — about 700 in New Hampshire, according to circuit court Judge David King — will begin again Monday, and courts may order people out of their homes on that date. But the courts are trying to prevent those evictions by helping to spread the word about emergency rental assistance.

The courts will add information about the rental assistance program on certain forms, distribute informational postcards to people involved in eviction cases, and post signs around courthouses about the rental assistance program. Judges and court staff have also been trained to tell people about the program, and to direct landlords and tenants to their Community Action agencies to apply for aid.

"It's a little outside what we normally do," King said, because the courts are meant to be neutral, favoring neither the landlord nor the tenant. "But the great thing about the emergency rental assistance is it benefits landlords and tenants."

King said he considered the rental assistance money a "win-win-win." Getting assistance will keep tenants in their homes and get landlords paid, as well as reducing the community-wide ills brought on by housing instability.

With the new law, rental assistance becomes even more important. An approved application for rental assistance will be counted as "payment," and head off evictions for nonpayment of rent. The law took effect on Tuesday with Sununu's signature.

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