A tenant’s failure to allow the landlord to perform remediation of bed bug (or another pest) infestation is now a specific ground for eviction under RSA 540:2, II(g). By statute, the tenant is now liable for paying for remediation where he is responsible. The tenant is presumed responsible if, during the 6 months prior to the inception of the defendant’s tenancy, and throughout the defendant’s tenancy, there were no reports, to the landlord or a municipal health or housing authority, of the presence of bed bugs in the defendant’s unit or the dwelling units of a multiple-unit building that are adjacent to or directly above or below the defendant’s unit, or by previous tenants in a single-family home. If those qualifications are met, the tenant must convince the judge otherwise. Relevant factors include whether there are bed bugs in other units or common areas and whether the tenant had bed bugs in his prior residence.
Pursuant to RSA 540-A:3, V-a, the landlord is now obligated to investigate a reported infestation within 7 days of receiving notice. Remediation is a lawful basis for emergency entry into the unit by the landlord.
Whose Property Is It Anyways?
The landlord can now create a rebuttable presumption that the tenant has abandoned premises by following the process now outlined in RSA 540-A:4, XII(b). First, after the tenant has physically vacated and/or turned over the keys, the landlord must serve the tenant with a written property abandonment notice by leaving it at the leased premises and sending it by certified mail to the last known address. Second, at least two of the following conditions must be present: (1) written notification of an intent to vacate by all adult tenants; (2) the keys have been returned; (3) the majority of personal property has been removed and anything left is not consistent with continued use; and (4) rent has not been paid for more than 91 days. If this process is followed, and the tenant later sues the landlord under RSA 540-A, it is the tenant’s burden to prove that he did not abandon possession. The landlord retains the same property storage obligations as previously. Per RSA 540-A:4, XII(c), the 7 day storage obligation period shall be the day after landlord serves the written property abandonment notice.
I Fought the Law and the Law Won
The landlord-tenant statutes were enacted to provide a clear statutory framework governing the eviction process and landlords’ and tenants’ respective rights and obligations. These laws were intended to regulate the Wild West aspect of landlords performing self-help evictions without legal backing. This is reiterated in a new law, RSA 540-A:4, IX(e), which establishes minimum statutory damages for an illegal lockout of $3,000.