The LARC Advocate
“We stand alone, together.”
A monthly newsletter from
Issue 2 | APRIL 2020
In this issue:
Q. Must a town welfare office assist the homeless with shelter?
A. Yes. Under New Hampshire law (RSA 165:1), the local welfare office in any New Hampshire town has an obligation to “relieve and maintain” any person who is unable to support themselves whether or not that person lives in that town.
The above information is not a complete guide to the law. It is meant to serve as an aid in assessing possible options in the event of an eviction, but is not meant to replace the services of a lawyer. Be advised that changes in the law affecting the rights of landlords and tenants could occur anytime.
NH Governor Chris Sununu placed a moratorium on evictions from traditional housing to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. (Read Emergency Order #4)
The moratorium does not ban ejections from non-traditional housing: places like hotels, motels, inns, and rooming houses. This has caused confusion. Some residents in non-traditional housing have established tenant rights and deserve protection under the moratorium. The facts in each case determine who has tenant rights and the subsequent protection.
Do you have a client or patient living in non-traditional housing who's being threatened with ejection or who has already been ejected? Tell them to call LARC. LARC will examine their facts and help determine what legal rights exist. The courts are open to handle emergencies like unlawful ejections.
- Anyone with a problem involving eviction or ejection should call LARC @ 1-800-639-5290. Online applications at www.nhlegalaid.org .
- Anyone behind in rent has a right to apply for rental assistance at their Town/City Welfare Office.
- Any homeless person has a right to apply for shelter at their Town/City Welfare Office.
Ron was suddenly made homeless when his apartment building burned to the ground. Ron rescued his cat and some personal possessions and began couch surfing. Ron soon ran out of money and options, and he and his cat became homeless again a few days later.
Ron applied for emergency help at his Town welfare office. The welfare officer found Ron a bed at a nearby homeless shelter, but his cat wasn't allowed to accompany him. Ron told the welfare officer he suffered from severe PTSD, and his cat was an emotional support animal crucial to his emotional and mental stability. The welfare officer said his pet could go to the local ASPCA facility where Ron could visit it during the day. Frustrated, Ron left the town welfare office, and he and his cat continued to live in his car.
Does this local welfare decision sound fair to you? Does it sound lawful? If you said NO and NO, you're probably an advocate, and you are almost certainly correct!
The above scenario was actually a hypothetical presented by New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) at their recent Town/City Welfare training. NHLA would have challenged the Town's decision arguing that the Town had a legal obligation to provide Ron with appropriate and immediate relief and, if needed, continued assistance. NHLA would have argued that Ron's emotional support animal was a medical necessity, like a wheelchair or an oxygen tank, from which Ron should not be separated. NHLA would have insisted the Town put Ron up in a hotel room with his cat.
NHLA believes most Town and City welfare officials do a great job and typically show great compassion to those in need. But sometimes good people issue bad decisions. NHLA wants to challenge those bad decisions.
Do you have a client or a patient like Ron who was recently denied help from his Town or City welfare office, or maybe was told in the past not to apply again for help at local welfare? NHLA wants you to know these fundamental facts about local welfare:
- Everyone has a right to apply in writing for emergency assistance (shelter, rental assistance, utilities, gas voucher, help purchasing prescribed meds, etc.) at their local welfare office.
- Every local welfare office has a legal obligation to provide relief and maintenance to anyone in town who is poor and can't support themselves.
- Anyone whose written application for emergency assistance was denied is urged to call NHLA directly.
NHLA is a legal aid office with locations throughout NH. NHLA's legal services are free. NHLA's toll-free ph# is: 1-800-921-1115. When asked for your party's extension, press #4 on your dial-pad. Someone from NHLA will either answer your call directly, or you'll be invited to leave a voicemail message. If leaving a message, include your name, ph#, and the name of the Town/City that denied your application.
Special Note: NH RSA 165:1 Who Entitled; Local Responsibility. Whenever a person in any town is poor and unable to support himself, he shall be relieved and maintained by the overseers of public welfare of such town, whether or not he has residence there. For the purposes of this chapter the term "residence'' shall have the same definition as in RSA 21:6-a.
“Dotti” was a 59-year-old woman who moved into her rented room within a rooming house in the fall of 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic that hit in March of 2020 caused the McDonalds where she worked to cut way back on her hours. When Dotti told the property manager she’d be late with the weekly rent, the property manager threatened to lock her out.
Dotti told the property manager she suffered with diabetes and COPD.She explained that if left without a refrigerator to store her insulin or an outlet to run her nebulizer, she could die. Dotti also expressed fear that ejection would give her greater exposure to the corona virus. The property manager coldly told Dotti that people in rooming houses weren’t tenants and therefore could be removed at a moment’s notice.
Dotti called the Legal Advice & Referral Center (LARC) for help. LARC advised that NH law recognizes her as a tenant because she moved in over 90 days ago. LARC instructed Dotti how to file special paperwork at court should the property manager lock her out. This paperwork, LARC assured, would almost certainly get her right back in. LARC referred Dotti to New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) for possible representation.
“These are scary times,” Dotti told LARC. “Thank God for Legal Aid!”
If you know someone who had a good outcome in a legal case due to LARC’s help, please share that Good Client Story with us! We would love to share it with our readers. LARC will never use a client’s real name or any facts that could reveal who that client is. Send your Good Client Stories to: email@example.com and put “Good Client Story” in the subject line.
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Equal justice for all should not depend on whether you can afford it.
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