COVID-19 UPDATE: NH Limits Scope of Emergency Order Suspending Evictions and ForeclosuresApr 04, 2020
On Friday, April 3rd, Governor Sununu issued Emergency Order 24 making certain clarifications to Emergency Order 4 which was previously issued on March 17th and temporarily suspended evictions and foreclosures in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Department of Justice then issued additional guidance.
The latest orders and guidance come after landlords raised concerns with the breadth of the initial order. Emergency Order #24 clarifies that the suspension of evictions shall not apply in certain circumstances, such as where there is substantial damage to the premises or a substantial adverse impact on the health or safety of the other persons residing on the premises. Emergency Order #24 also specifies that tenants are not relieved of an obligation to pay rent or comply with any other provision of their lease agreements. Tenants are strongly encouraged to work with landlords to pay all rent that they can afford, and to utilize the expanded unemployment benefits provided by the State and Federal Government, where applicable, for this purpose. According to the Department of Justice guidance, all rent that is unable to be paid during the State of Emergency must be paid in full once the State of Emergency is lifted. Moreover, tenants who have not experienced a loss of income and can afford to pay rent are required to do so during the State of Emergency.
Similarly, property owners must continue to make mortgage payments during the State of Emergency or may face foreclosure after the Emergency is lifted. Emergency Order #24 also clarified that Order #4 does not prevent the recording of a foreclosure deed and affidavit with respect to a foreclosure sale that occurred before March 16, 2020.
In a press release, Governor Sununu summarized the new Order by stating:
“Let me be clear: Emergency Order #4 does not relieve a tenant of an obligation to pay rent. We all have an obligation to be good neighbors and treat each other fairly, and this extends to both landlords and tenants. I strongly encourage all tenants who have difficulty paying their rent to work with their landlord to develop a payment plan and pay what they can. Many tenants should be able to utilize the expanded unemployment benefits provided by the State and Federal Government to pay all or part of their rent. At the same time, I strongly encourage all landlords to comply with the protections provided by the State and seek to form a workable arrangement with their tenants. Emergency Order #24 makes clear that landlords may initiate eviction proceedings against tenants who cause damage to property or who present a threat to the health and safety of their neighbors. During these challenging times, we must continue to balance the need to provide relief to those struggling financially while ensuring that individuals do not take unfair and harmful advantage of the protections that the State has provided. These orders I am issuing today are intended to do just that.”
While the new Order attempts to strike a balance and allow landlords to initiate eviction proceedings in limited circumstances, such as when a tenant violates a lease or law that results in substantial damage to the property or creates a substantial adverse impact on the health and safety of others, it remains to be seen what courts will determine is “substantial” enough to order an eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you are a landlord or tenant seeking additional information, please refer to our prior coverage of Emergency Order 4 here.