A monthly newsletter from 603 Legal Aid
Issue 3 | August 2021
In this issue:
After assessing financial eligibility and identifying the issue, 603 Legal Aid will connect individuals with the appropriate information, resources, and organizations. If an individual requires representation, 603 Legal Aid may provide direct representation, referrals to a volunteer attorney through our pro bono program or to New Hampshire Legal Assistance.
603 Legal Aid and NHLA serve a client population with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level, as well as older adults. 603 Legal Aid and NHLA work exclusively with clients facing civil legal issues - not criminal cases. These issues include: rental housing and home ownership; domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking; family law, including divorce, custody and visitation; public benefits; utilities; consumer issues; and issues impacting older adults and youth.
You can connect with 603 Legal Aid at:
-Call center: 800-639-5290
On August 3, 2021, the Biden Administration and the CDC announced they would be reinstating and extending the CDC eviction moratorium for 60 days. This Order is in effect from August 3, 2021, to October 3, 2021.
The very important change to note is that this version of the moratorium ONLY covers tenants who are living in counties who are experiencing substantial to high transmission of COVID-19.
The Order extending the moratorium directs people to the CDC COVID tracker to determine if their county is experiencing substantial to high transmission. If you are living in a county with substantial or high transmission and are facing eviction for nonpayment of rent, then you may be covered.
If you are covered, you must submit a CDC declaration* to your landlord. You also must make under $99,000 a year, have experienced a loss of income or employment, and have applied for all available rental assistance.
All tenants in New Hampshire who are behind on rent should go to www.capnh.org to see if they qualify for emergency rental assistance.
*We expect the CDC to make the form available again asap.
Recently, Emergency Housing Vouchers in the Concord area have been approved for seven individuals. These vouchers will pay market rates and landlords can get a $1000 bonus for housing someone with one of these vouchers. More information on the vouchers can be found here. Any landlords interested in working with these tenants to secure housing should contact the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness immediately.
Stay up to date on all the changes at NH Legal Aid’s website’s special COVID page.
The best source for up-to-date information is the IRS webpage "Advance Child Tax Credit Payments in 2021."
The IRS webpage cited above includes links to several important tools and resources. These include:
- Eligibility Assistant, which helps you find out if you qualify for the advance payments of the Child Tax Credits
- Child Tax Credit Update Portal, which allows you to:
- check if you’re enrolled to receive advance payments,
- unenroll to stop getting advance payments,
- provide or update your bank account information for monthly payments, starting with the August payment,
- provide a change of address, beginning in August,
- make changes to your marital status, income, and list of dependents, beginning in September.
- Child Tax Credit Non-filer Sign-up Tool, which allows you to electronically file a 2020 tax return to claim the advance payments of the Child Tax Credit and the first and second stimulus payments as the Recovery Rebate Credit if you didn’t already receive them. If you qualify for the third stimulus payment but didn’t receive it, using this sign-up tool should trigger the IRS to issue you the payment within a few weeks. If you had any earned income for 2020, however, and qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, it’s best to file a tax return using normal software. This sign-up tool won’t allow you to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. Free tax return software can be found here, //www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free , and here, https://www.myfreetaxes.com/ .
- Frequently Asked Questions, which provides answers to numerous questions about the advance payments of the Child Tax Credit.
- Resources and Guidance, which includes a step-by-step guide to using the Non-filer Sign-up tool to file a 2020 tax return, as well as social media resources to spread the word about the advance payments of the Child Tax Credit.
Watch the video, “Child Tax Credit Q&A” with the director of 603 Legal Aid’s Tax Clinic and tax attorney, Barbara Heggie, Esq.
The CDC eviction moratorium on non-payment evictions expired for some tenants on July 31, 2021. A new CDC order has been issued covering some tenants in counties with substantial to high transmission of COVID-19. For more information, scroll up to the article “CDC eviction moratorium extended for some.”
Legal help: Have tenants call 603 Legal Aid to apply for free legal help as soon as they get an eviction notice. Remind them to have their eviction notice and other related papers with them when they call.
- 800-639-5290 or 603-224-3333. Phones are open 9 AM to 1 PM and they can leave a message if they call outside those hours.
- Or they can apply online
Rental assistance: Encourage tenants to apply for rental assistance. There is still a lot of money to be distributed.
- Apply for NHERAP (NH’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program) through the CAP’s. Go to the program’s website or read the fact sheet .
- Apply at the CAP website .
- Apply for the Rockingham’s Rental Assistance Program .
This summary will help tenants understand the eviction process in NH:
- The eviction notice must be in writing.
- You do not have to move out when the eviction notice expires.
- The landlord and tenant writ will come from a sheriff. After the date on the eviction notice passes, your landlord must ask a judge’s permission to evict you. The landlord asks for a “landlord and tenant writ.” The sheriff will bring the writ to your home. You do not have to move out when you get the writ.
- Do you want to fight the eviction? If you want to fight the eviction, tell the court. To do this you must “file an appearance” with the court. The court should send you this simple one-page form or you can get it at the court. Use a guided interview to fill out an appearance form.
- If you do not file an Appearance, the court may find you in default and that means your landlord can evict you within 5 days.
- You must return the appearance form to the court by the return day on the first page of the landlord and tenant writ. You can hand deliver or mail the form to the court. Allow at least two days for delivery if you mail it.
- Court date. Once the court gets your “appearance form,” it will send you a “notice of hearing.” This will have the date and time of your hearing.
- Go to your hearing or you could lose the case and be evicted. Do not miss your hearing even if your landlord says that you do not have to go!
- Talk to the judge. At your hearing, tell the judge why you should not be evicted. If you need help with what to say, call 603 Legal Aid. Even if there is no legal defense against the eviction, you can ask the judge for up to 90 days to move.
- What if you lose? If the landlord wins, the judge will sign a “writ of possession.” You do not have to leave until the sheriff brings this writ to your home.
In July, the New Hampshire legislature passed, and the Governor signed a new bill that changes the eviction process. This bill, SB 126, will be very helpful to tenants. Now, New Hampshire tenants can pay off any back rent they owe-- plus any late payment fees and $15 in liquidated damages and the landlord’s filing and service costs—at any time BEFORE their eviction hearing.
The law used to be that tenants had to pay off the full amount of back rent owed before the eviction notice expired or the landlord could still go forward with the eviction. Now tenants will have more time to pay what they owe.
With this new law, if the back rent-–plus any late payment fees, $15 in liquidated damages, and the landlord’s filing and service costs--is paid any time before the hearing, then the landlord cannot go forward with evicting the tenant for nonpayment of rent.
This gives tenants more time to apply for assistance through their local welfare office or through the New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program. This new law should help tenants stay in their homes and allow landlords to protect their income.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) eviction moratorium on non-payment evictions expired for some tenants on July 31, 2021. At President Biden's request, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) have extended their foreclosure-related eviction moratoria until September 30, 2021.
Homeowners and renters can visit this site for up-to-date information on their relief options, protections, and key deadlines.
If you are having trouble paying your mortgage, call 211 to find a HUD-approved Housing Counselor (just dial 2-1-1). or go to the 211 website. Housing Counselors help homeowners free-of-charge to explore the options that are available in each individual situation.
Q: I'm being sued for $2,000. My only source of income is social security retirement. If I lose the lawsuit, I won't be able to pay a $2,000 judgment. What will happen to me?
A: If you lose a lawsuit and if your only source of income is social security (including social security retirement, social security disability, supplemental security income, or SSI), you cannot be forced to pay that judgment from your social security subsidy. Federal law - 42 USC 407 - prevents anyone from taking your social security income to satisfy a court-ordered judgment. Neither will you face incarceration if you can't pay off a court-ordered judgment. We do not have debtors' prison in the United States.
Only certain government agencies have the power to take some of your social security payments for certain reasons like unpaid student loans, back taxes, alimony, and child support, but the first $750/month are still protected even from government collections.
Never ignore a summons to court.
“Ann” was a 74-year-old woman living alone in an apartment in central New Hampshire. Several rent increases had put the apartment beyond Ann’s ability to afford with just her small monthly income from social security. Desperate to preserve her dwindling savings account, Ann got permission from her landlord to move in a roommate to help defray expenses. The roommate, however, soon vacated the apartment after scamming Ann out of her entire $7K in savings. And when Ann fell behind in rent, the property manager demanded back rent plus thousands of dollars in late fees. Ann called 603 Legal Aid for help.
Ann told 603 that she was moving into her daughter’s home in a few days, so she wasn’t facing homelessness. Ann’s biggest fear was that she’d be sent to jail if she didn’t pay the exorbitant charges demanded by her soon-to-be former property manager. Ann suffered from heart disease and said the stress of possibly being locked up was giving her chest pains.
603 assured Ann that we do not have debtors’ prison in this country. 603 also pointed out that federal law protects her social security income; it cannot be taken should she ever lose a lawsuit.
603 advised Ann she would not face loss of liberty or loss of her social security income, provided she didn’t ignore any summons to small claims court after she left the apartment. Finally, 603 suggested Ann contact the Attorney General’s office for help possibly retrieving the $7K that was stolen from her.
“I’ve been so scared these last few weeks,” Ann told 603. “With this information, I can finally feel my heart starting to slow down.”
If you know someone who had a good outcome in a legal case due to 603 Legal Aid’s help, please share that Good Client Story with us! We would love to share it with our readers. 603 Legal Aid 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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