New Hampshire Enacts Tenant Protection for Survivors Fleeing Domestic Violence

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu signed into law on May 14 H.B. 261, which provides crucial protections for survivors fleeing domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The new law permits survivors to terminate their lease early without incurring fees or an eviction and makes the process to certify that they are a survivor easier and more confidential than in the past. A broad coalition of survivors, service providers, advocates, and landlords came together over a long period to craft the bill, which balanced each party’s interests. The new law, one of only a few statewide tenant protections in New Hampshire, will go into effect on January 1, 2025.

H.B. 261 was first introduced in 2023, but advocates were concerned the original bill would have been prohibitive for survivors to use, and landlords also had concerns about the role they would play in enforcing the law. Advocates convinced the legislature to retain the bill for consideration while they worked together to further educate lawmakers about the issue and improve upon the policy. They used as a model the tenant protections included in the federal “Violence Against Women Act” (VAWA), which protections are typically afforded only to survivors living in certain federally assisted properties. Advocates from the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and New Hampshire Legal Assistance played key roles in collaborating with landlord groups to discuss different scenarios and negotiate a detailed final bill which, they believe, has a very clear focus on ensuring the safety of survivors. The new protections are now embedded in New Hampshire’s tenants’ rights statute, which advocates hope will lead to clear and consistent enforcement across the court system.

Key provisions of the new law include:

  • A prohibition on evictions, fees, and other penalties for survivors who break their lease to flee for their safety.
  • A prohibition on landlords disclosing information obtained from survivors.
  • A guarantee of a sufficient amount of time for survivors to certify their status as survivors.
  • A wide variety of methods survivors can use to certify their status, including self-certification.

“HB 261 came about thanks to the strength of the partnerships in New Hampshire both on the ground and in the State House committed to protecting victims of domestic violence,” said Chris Schott, fair housing project director for New Hampshire Legal Assistance. “We and our partners were happy to see the bipartisan support that was available for housing protections for survivors of domestic violence.”

As summarized in NLIHC’s Advocates’ Guide, complex relationships exist between housing insecurity, domestic and gender-based violence, and power. “There are many reasons a survivor may need to break their lease to maintain their safety,” said Rachel Duffy, the housing and economic justice manager for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “Everyday crisis center advocates and legal representatives across the state work with survivors who need support in fleeing violence or creating security within their homes. Advocates and attorneys know and understand that when housing survivors, there are exceptional considerations to be made including safety and confidentiality.” Homelessness and sexual violence often affect the most vulnerable members of society, and disproportionately impact women of color and LGBTQI+ communities, and especially Native American, Alaska Native, and Black women. Tenant protections that stabilize people in their housing and prevent evictions are a key strategy to rebalance the power between landlords and tenants, particularly those from marginalized groups.

“New Hampshire Legal Assistance will work with our partners to provide trainings for advocates on how to assist their clients with the provisions of H.B. 261,” said Mr. Schott. “This session we will continue our work at the State House in protecting against attempts to roll back other tenant protections, while we will also look to the future for opportunities to expand tenant protections such as a source of income law.”

New Hampshire is among the 27 states that do not yet ban discrimination based on source of income (SOI). There are few statewide tenant protections in New Hampshire and none that have been enacted since 2021. To learn more about state and local tenant protections that have been passed since January 2021, visit please NLIHC’s Tenant Protections page. To learn about the “Fair Housing Improvement Act,” which would ban SOI discrimination at the federal level, visit NLIHC’s Legislative Action Center.