15

Landlord has issued a new lease after I've been a tenant at will for the past 4 years. They've raised the rent by $100, which is fine and expected, but if I don't sign for a 12 month period and choose to remain a tenant at will they will charge an additional $250 monthly on top of the current increased rent. This is in New Hampshire, and doesn't sound like it's legal. They are basically forcing me to sign for 12 months. I've searched any and all legal sites I can find, NH Tenancy laws, Tenants Rights, etc and I can't even find any reference to a term "tenant at will fee".

6
  • 15
    It's an unpleasant situation for a renter to be in, but I don't see any reason this would be illegal, unless New Hampshire has rent-control laws (which @user6276 indicates is not the case). The landlord is free to insist on a 12-month lease, and you're free to refuse it. If you can't come to an agreement, then you both have to deal with the hassle of replacing each other.
    – bdb484
    Nov 2, 2023 at 20:23
  • 38
    "They are basically forcing me to sign for a 12-month period." The landlord is not forcing you. The scenario you describe is equivalent to giving a discount to tenants who sign for 12 months. This practice clearly falls short of duress, intimidation, or other conduct that could amount to "forcing". Nov 2, 2023 at 20:24
  • 3
    Would it be illegal to simply demand a yearly lease? If not, why would different pricing make it illegal? Nov 3, 2023 at 14:49
  • 7
    @IñakiViggers the qualifier "basically" before "forcing" is a widely-deployed construct in English which means the foregoing statement describes something that would be equivalent in effect, not what is literally happening. "Forcing" itself also works in the more figurative sense of "depriving of attractive alternative" (though not so appropriate in legal commentary). I don't think as written the question can be construed as alleging outright coercion.
    – Will
    Nov 3, 2023 at 17:08
  • 5
    @Will "the qualifier "basically" before "forcing" is a widely-deployed construct in English". I know, but that expression be unavailing from a legal standpoint. In court the issue would be whether the scenario amounts to duress or de facto coercion, and the answer will be in the negative. Nov 3, 2023 at 19:39

2 Answers 2

21

New Hampshire does not impose many obligations on the landlord apart from the usual "clean and safe" requirements. There are no statutes limiting rent or fees, though there are some provisions regarding security deposits. A landlord could therefore charge $250/mo more on an at will lease, or could not do that but instead charge a "fee". In some states (Washington), fees are illegal, but they are not illegal in New Hampshire. Here are the main prohibitions; here is a prohibition against waiving a statutorily guaranteed right, this law says that all tenancies are assumed to be at will unless expressly stated otherwise by contract.

4
  • 7
    Fees may not be illegal in New Hampshire, but they seem to fall under the definition of "security deposit," which means that the landlord cannot keep them. The definition: '"Security deposit" means all funds in excess of the monthly rent which are transferred from the tenant to the landlord for any purpose.'
    – phoog
    Nov 2, 2023 at 23:00
  • 20
    It's just the op that is calling it a fee. It's just a different price. Pretty standard stuff, buy 1 for $350 or 12 for $1200. Nov 3, 2023 at 12:18
  • 6
    @phoog: Assuming that the landlord didn't describe it as a different rent tier, but as a separate fee, that could come as a big surprise when the tenant moves out and demands their security deposit back, inclusive of all "excess of monthly rent" charges. The trick would be for OP not to give any hint that they know the law better than the landlord until moveout.
    – Ben Voigt
    Nov 3, 2023 at 15:08
  • 10
    @BenVoigt If you plan this, it's probably a good idea to chat with a lawyer, just in case: $250/mo is a lot of money.
    – wizzwizz4
    Nov 3, 2023 at 15:17
11

I am a landlord (and former renter) in Illinois so the laws may be different.

This 100% legal where I am at. The landlord is giving you 3 options: Sign the 12-month lease for X rate, Sign the at-will lease for X rate + convenience fee for the option to terminate the lease at-will, or don't sign a new lease.

So just for clarity, I am assuming your old lease will end and you have the option of signing two different agreements: One for a fixed term at a lower price, one for a dynamic term (that you get to choose and maybe landlord gets to choose as well) at a higher rate.

I have, as a renter, signed a 6 month lease (instead of 12) at a higher rate than the 12 month lease so I could defer moving (I made out like a bandit, covid lockdowns hit 1 month before my 6-month lease ended). I'm not sure where your confusion stems from, if you want more lee-way in the lease (ie, the ability to terminate at any date), you will pay more than the standard, fixed term. The landlord can call the extra premium anything they want, it's still rent as far as the law goes (assuming this extra premium was properly disclosed in the lease).

The other two protections from the other answer (waiving any rights - you aren't, all leases are at-will unless otherwise expressed -> your lease definitely expresses otherwise) don't apply here, they have nothing to do with how your landlord charges rent. You want more control, your landlord wants more rent. It may require more work on their end, it may not, but either way it's more uncertainty and the landlord wants to be compensated for it.

To put it simply, the landlord is going to charge you more if you request anything outside of "standard" and it is perfectly legal for them to do this.

4
  • I have been renting in the midwest area for years and never encountered these at-will options. Would have made my life much easier in some of the years.
    – dezdichado
    Nov 5, 2023 at 21:41
  • @dezdichado: I also would think there could be some advantages for both landlord and tenant having an open-ended lease which has charge elevated rent in the first few months, but specifies that some of the extra rent will be refunded if the tenant gives more than one month or more than two months' notice of termination, and then vacates in timely fashion without difficulty.
    – supercat
    Nov 5, 2023 at 23:28
  • @dezdichado, I just had to ask my landlord at the time and they were more than willing provided I pay an extra 10%.
    – mken4196
    Nov 6, 2023 at 16:14
  • 1
    @supercat It can be nice for both landlord and tenant but if you're managing 10s, 100s, or 1000s of tenants it can be very difficult to keep track of.
    – mken4196
    Nov 6, 2023 at 16:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .