For second time this session, House passes bill to ease lease terminations

Holly Ramer

By MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

Monitor staff

Published: 05-09-2024 3:50 PM

Modified: 05-10-2024 10:24 AM


A bill passed by the New Hampshire House Thursday will make it easier for landlords to more quickly evict tenants.

For the second time this session, representatives passed the bill, which will allow landlords to terminate leases after six months with 30 days’ notice. The proposal was inserted as an amendment to Senate Bill 413, which intended to create civil actions for PFAS contamination.

Earlier this session, the House passed House Bill 1115, sponsored by Bob Lynn, a Windham Republican and former state Supreme Court Justice, which was then killed by the Senate. Thursday’s amendment inserted the exact same language onto the PFAS bill. 

The bill would allow landlords to terminate leases with contracts after six months. The landlord would not be required to give a reason for the termination.

Since PFAS and evictions have nothing to do with each other, Rep. Kathy Staub, a Manchester Democrat, urged her colleagues to reject the amendment. 

“This amendment is unrelated to the underlying bill regarding civil actions for PFAS contaminations, which I do support,” she said. “Instead, this amendment inserts language on this underlying bill to reverse a long-standing protection for New Hampshire renters.”

With a vacancy rate of less than 1 percent and median sale prices hitting $500,000 in the state, the current housing crisis is undeniable, said Staub. The bill would inadvertently affect senior citizens, people with disabilities and young people looking to rent in the state who are cost burdened by high prices. 

“Renting today in this very tight market isn't like what it was 20 years ago,” she said. “These people live in constant fear of losing their homes because if they do it will be nearly impossible to find another place.” 

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Rachel Gagne watched the vote from the gallery after she testified in front of the Senate Commerce Committee last month about her housing experience. She lived with her husband and granddaughter in an apartment in Manchester, dependent on disability pay. Their landlord evicted to renovate the unit but the mark on her rental history proved challenging as she looked for a new place. 

Prospective landlords also required her to provide proof that she made three times the rent, which she was unable to do. She and her husband were unhoused for two years, living in a hotel for a portion, until they found a new place.  

“If we pass this amendment Rachel and her family could find themselves in the exact same situation when their lease ends," Staub said. “Rachel’s case is not unusual." 

Lynn did not dispute the state is in the midst of a housing crisis, but said that stories like Gagne’s do not pertain to what he is proposing, discounting Staub’s testimony. 

To him, this amendment is “basic common sense” and restores a necessary piece of contract law that was eliminated from a state Supreme Court case in 2005 that cemented landlords could not terminate a lease without “good cause.” 

Lynn’s original proposal passed the House earlier this session 194-180 before it was killed in the Senate. This time, the vote was more narrow. Speaker of the House Sherman Packard had to break the tie on the amendment vote, with it passing 184 to 183. 

The bill, with the amendment included, passed 188 to 178. 

“When faced with the choice of facing the PFAS bill which the other body wants very badly or accepting the principle that a lease contract should mean what it says,” said Lynn. “I think we can be confident that the other body will see the light and accept our amendment.”