The LARC Advocate
“We stand alone, together.”
A monthly newsletter from
the Legal Advice & Referral Center
Issue 14 | APRIL 2021
Bart enjoying early spring!
In this issue:
More help with rent and utility bills
Free help sessions for tenants facing eviction
CDC eviction moratorium extended to June 30, 2021
A Question of Law: rent withholding
Help with COVID-related funeral costs
Going to family court - videos
More help with rent and utility bills: NH Emergency Rental Assistance Program (NHERAP)
If you are a NH resident who cannot pay your rent and utility bills due to the COVID -19 pandemic, a new rental assistance program may be able to help. Apply to see if you are eligible. Apply through your Community Action Partnership (CAP) at the link below.
- Funds can cover current and past due rent, as well as utility and home energy costs for eligible households.
- This assistance is available retroactive to April 1, 2020 through the date of application, and the applicant may also receive assistance for these same expenses going forward.
- Households may receive assistance for a total of 12 months.
- Payments will be provided directly to the landlord or utility provider on behalf of the household. Landlords, with the tenant’s permission, may apply for assistance on behalf of their tenant.
- This program is only for eligible renters and landlords, not homeowners, per federal rules.
To be eligible, at least one person in the household:
- must qualify for unemployment benefits, had their income reduced,
- have had significant costs, or
- had other financial hardship due to COVID-19.
- The household must also be at risk for homelessness and
- meet certain income requirements.
Go to the program’s website or read the fact sheet.
Go directly to the CAP website to apply.
Free help sessions for tenants facing eviction: Online – Every other Wednesday
New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) and the Legal Advice and Referral Center (LARC) offer free online help sessions for tenants facing eviction.
During these Eviction Clinics, legal aid attorneys and paralegals will explain tenants’ rights during an eviction and answer questions. They cannot provide legal advice for specific cases at the clinics.
The sessions will be recorded and available on NHLA’s YouTube channel.
NO SIGN UP NECESSARY
When: April 7 and April 21 from 2-3:30 PM
Where: via Zoom. Get the link at nhla.org and NHLA’s Facebook page under ‘events.’
More information: call 603-224-3333 or 1-800-639-5290.
Help with COVID-related funeral costs
In early April, FEMA will begin providing financial assistance for funeral expenses for deaths related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The assistance will be available nationwide to families who incurred eligible funeral expenses after January 20, 2020. For more information and eligibility criteria, view the COVID-19 funeral assistance program webpage.
A Question of Law
Question: Is it lawful to withhold rent when a landlord refuses to make repairs?
Answer: Rent withholding may be available as a possible defense in an eviction for nonpayment of rent. In order to use rent withholding as a defense for a nonpayment eviction, the tenant must show that all elements of NH’s rent withholding statute - RSA 540:13-d, Defenses to Violations of Fitness – were satisfied before rent was withheld. An inability to show that all elements were satisfied will make this defense unavailable to the tenant at an eviction hearing.
Here are the elements that must be satisfied:
1. The reason for withholding rent must be a serious violation of state or town housing codes.
2. The landlord must be given written notice of the code violation.
3. The tenant must be current with their rent payments at the time they notify the landlord of the code violation.
4. The landlord must fail to fix the code violation within 14 days of getting written notice.
5. Neither the tenant nor tenant’s guest(s) can be responsible for causing the code violation.
6. Extreme weather conditions did not prevent the landlord from making the repairs.
7. The tenant did not prevent the landlord from making repairs by refusing to let the landlord into the apartment, and;
8. The tenant must set aside the withheld rent and be able to pay it into the court at the eviction hearing.
Ultimately, it is up to a judge to decide whether a tenant succeeds or fails when raising a defense to violations of fitness. Since no one can predict the judge’s decision, rent withholding is risky!
If you know a tenant who is thinking of withholding rent, urge them to call LARC for help with planning the best course of action. Also, urge them to read LARC’s article on rent withholding.
CDC eviction moratorium extended to June 30, 2021
The CDC moratorium on nonpayment evictions has been extended to June 30, 2021.
The eviction moratorium puts a hold on the eviction process until after June 30th for evictions based on nonpayment of rent. To qualify for the protections of the moratorium, every adult in the household must give their landlord a signed CDC declaration and meet these five conditions:
- You have used best efforts to obtain all government assistance for rent (For example: you applied to your local welfare office and the NH Emergency Rental Assistance Program)
- You expect you will not earn more than $99,000 in 2021
- You are unable to pay rent due to a substantial loss of household income, loss of hours at work, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses
- You have used best efforts to make partial payments to your landlord if you are able to
- If you are evicted, you would likely be homeless or forced to move into a situation where you would be living in close quarters with others
If you are a tenant who has already given your landlord a CDC declaration then you should not need to give your landlord a new one, but there is no harm in doing so. Find the new CDC declaration here.
If you have been unable to pay your rent due to a loss of employment or hours at work, you should apply for the NH Emergency Rental Assistance Program as soon as possible.
Going to family court – videos
Watch the two court videos on the NH Legal Aid website to see what happens when you go to family court for mediation and for a first appearance.
Free tax preparation
The deadline for individuals to file 2020 federal income tax is extended from April 15, 2021 to May 17, 2021. There are no walk-in free tax services available in New Hampshire this year. If you would like someone from NH Tax Help to contact you, please submit a request for help, and a volunteer will contact you. Because they anticipate a high volume, it may take up to 14 days for a volunteer to reach you.
Learn more from the IRS about free tax preparation.
Good client story
"Sarah" was a 42-year-old woman living with her two children in a seacoast apartment. Sarah was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. The landlady, who also lived in the building, ordered Sarah to leave by the end of March so a family member could move in. The landlady even pressured Sarah into signing a document consenting to her own eviction. Sarah immediately regretted signing away her tenant rights and called the Legal Advice & Referral Center (LARC) for help.
LARC advised Sarah that the agreement she signed was unenforceable. LARC advised that only a judge had the legal authority to sign an order that would obligate Sarah to leave. LARC then described all the steps in New Hampshire's lawful eviction process which the landlady was required to follow before a judge would even consider Sarah's eviction.
LARC was relieved to learn that Sarah had already applied for an emergency Section 8 voucher at New Hampshire Housing based on her terminal illness. LARC urged her to also apply for Housing Relief funds at Community Action Program which she could use to secure a new apartment. LARC invited Sarah to call back if she had any other problems with her landlady. LARC promised to help Sarah navigate the entire eviction process.
"I was so scared before I made this phone call," Sarah told LARC. "You've put my mind at ease."
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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. Make a difference for New Hampshire’s most vulnerable citizens by donating to the New Hampshire Campaign for Legal Services. Your donation will provide vital support to the Legal Advice & Referral Center and New Hampshire Legal Assistance. Help us ensure that New Hampshire's poor and elderly have a place to turn when they need legal help.