New Hampshire landlords must follow specific rules and procedures when evicting a tenant (see the article How Evictions Work: What Renters Need to Know, on this site). The state forbids landlords from taking the law into their own hands. Examples of illegal “self-help” evictions include changing the locks, removing the front door, or turning off the heat or electricity—all of which may be the basis for a tenant suing a landlord. A New Hampshire court may award a tenant actual damages or $1,000, whichever is greater; if the court finds that the landlord knowingly or willingly broke the law, the court may award the tenant two to three times this amount, plus provide for court costs and attorney fees. Each day that a violation continues is a separate violation. A court may order a tenant who brings a frivolous suit or one intended to harass to pay the landlord’s costs and fees.
If you decide to sue your landlord for an illegal eviction, check New Hampshire law (you’ll find New Hampshire rules prohibiting self-help evictions at N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 540-A:3, 540-A:4, 358-A:10). See the Laws and Legal Research section of this site for advice on finding and reading statutes.
It’s also a good idea to get advice from a local tenants’ rights group in New Hampshire. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website includes information on tenant advocates for each state. See http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/rental_assistance/tenantrights for details.
Finally, consider consulting an experienced tenants’ lawyer. See the article Tips on Hiring and Working With Lawyers on this site for advice.
For a wide range of other articles of interest to tenants, see the Renters’ and Tenants’ Rights section on this site.