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Whiting v. Ladd

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

June 30, 2008

Marie Whiting
v.
Mary Ladd

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

The defendant, Mary Ladd, appeals an order of the district court granting judgment to the plaintiff, Marie Whiting, in this landlord-tenant action. Ladd argues that the trial court erred in: (1) failing to dismiss the action for lack of proper service; and (2) awarding possession and judgment to the plaintiff when she failed to provide notice to the defendant of her right to cure until expiration of the eviction notice. We reverse.

We will affirm the findings of the trial court unless they lack evidentiary support or are erroneous as a matter of law. Miller v. Slania Enters., 150 N.H. 655, 659 (2004). Our inquiry is to determine whether the evidence presented to the trial court reasonably supports its findings, and then whether the court's decision is consonant with applicable law. Id. We review questions of law de novo. Id. Because we conclude that the eviction notice did not satisfy the statutory requirements, we need not address the defendant's challenge to service.

RSA 540:3, IV (2007) provides: "If the eviction notice is based on nonpayment of rent, the notice shall inform the tenant of his or her right, if any, to avoid the eviction by payment of the arrearages and liquidated damages in accordance with RSA 540:9." RSA 540:9 (2007) provides: "No tenancy shall be terminated for nonpayment of rent, utility charges, or other lawful charge contained in a lease or oral or written rental agreement if the tenant, before the expiration of the notice, pays or tenders all arrearages plus $15.00 as liquidated damages; provided, however, that a tenant may not defeat an eviction for nonpayment by use of this section more than 3 times within a 12-month period."

We have previously held that a landlord must strictly comply with all applicable statutory requirements to prevail in a possessory action. Havington v. Glover, 143 N.H. 291, 294 (1999); Lavoie v. Szumiez, 115 N.H. 266, 267 (1975) (legislature enacted RSA chapter 540 to simplify and facilitate landlord's recovery of possession of premises; because these statutes establish rights and benefits that a landlord did not enjoy at common law, a landlord must strictly comply with their requirements).

In this case, there is no dispute that the eviction notice (notice to quit) which gave rise to the eviction action did not advise the defendant of her right to cure under RSA 540:9. Because the plaintiff did not comply with RSA 540:3, IV, the district court erred in entering judgment in her favor.

Reversed.

DUGGAN, GALWAY and HICKS, JJ., ...


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