The standards for rented residential dwellings in the Town of Pittsfield are covered under state statute NH RSA Chapter 48-A:14
A link to the text of NH RSA Chapter 48-A:14 is here
Renters – if you believe your home has a violation of RSA 48-A (click text for link to statute or see link above) you should first call your landlord to make them aware of your concern. If their response is unsatisfactory, please call the Pittsfield Town Hall at 435-6773, ext. 21 and a town official will return your call as soon as possible.
A common situation is for the health officer to be called because of a dispute between the landlord and the tenant. The health officer may have a role to play in such a dispute, provided that the concerns pertain to conditions that may affect the health and safety of the residents. It is important for health officers to be impartial in their dealings with all parties, and firm in the issuance of warnings and orders. RSA 48-A allows a Health Officer, upon receipt of a complaint, to conduct an investigation that a dwelling is unfit for habitation, to provide notice to the property owner, to hold a hearing, and to order the owner to repair the dwelling.
In New Hampshire, RSA 48-A states that a rental property owner cannot rent a residential dwelling that has any of the following conditions:
- The premises are infected by insects and rodents and the landlord is not conducting a periodic inspection and eradication
- There is defective internal plumbing or a back-up of sewage caused by a faulty septic or sewage system.
- There are exposed wires, improper connectors, defective switches, outlets or other conditions that create a danger of electrical shock or fire.
- The roof or walls leak
- The plaster is falling or has fallen from the walls or ceilings.
- The floors, walls, or ceiling contain substantial holes that seriously reduce their function or render them dangerous to the inhabitants.
- The porches, stairs, or railings are not structurally sound.
- There is an accumulation of garbage or rubbish in common areas resulting from the failure of the landlord to remove or provide a sufficient number of receptacles for storage prior to removal unless the tenant has agreed to be responsible for removal under the rental agreement and the landlord has removed all garbage at the beginning of the tenancy.
- There is an inadequate supply of water, or whatever equipment that is available to heat water is not properly operating.
- There are leaks in any gas lines or leaks or defective pilot lights in any appliances furnished by the landlord; or
- The premises do not have heating facilities that are properly installed, safely maintained and in good working condition, or are not capable of safely and adequately heating all habitable rooms, bathrooms and toilet rooms to a temperature of at least an average of 65 degrees F.; or when the landlord supplies heat in consideration for the rent, the premises are not actually maintained at a minimum average room temperature of 65 degrees F. in all habitable rooms.
A legal resource that the health officer can provide to the tenant is the Legal Advice and Referral Center for Tenant Rights (LARC). This agency may be able to provide assistance to tenants in relation to what their legal rights are as tenants. Their contact information is 1-800-639-5290 or 603-224-3333.
Suggested Inspection Protocol
When a health officer or local board of health learns of a complaint or violation, they would:
- Call ahead to notify the current tenant (if any), that you would like to perform an inspection.
- If you would like a second opinion, bring another town official, such as the building inspector, member of the board of health or board of selectmen, police officer, fire chief or the deputy health officer.
- Document the date, time of inspection, who was present, and what you observed. It is recommended that you document your findings with a camera and written notes.
- If a violation exists, issue a warning or an order to the responsible person to abate the problem.
Suggested steps include:
- Verbal warning
- Follow-up inspection
- Written warning
- Follow-up inspection
- Written order
- Follow-up inspection
Dilapidated Housing Conditions
There are several statutes that give health officers authority to order a property owner to clean a building; repair a dilapidated structure; vacate a building; or demolish the structure because of dilapidated conditions that are hazardous to the health of the public.
Hazardous and Dilapidated Buildings
In New Hampshire, RSA 155-B, Hazardous and Dilapidated Buildings, provides a definition of a hazardous building, which is “any building which, because of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, physical damage, unsanitary condition, or abandonment, constitutes a fire hazard or a hazard to public safety or health.” This RSA provides the legal framework for local elected officials to order the owner of any hazardous building to correct the hazardous condition of the building, to raze or remove the building, and to recoup any expenses associated with cost of repairs, razing, or removal.
The health officer may refer to RSA 147, Nuisances; Toilets; Drains; Expectoration; Rubbish and Waste when dealing with situations such as garbage, infestation of pests, outdoor wood smoke, unsanitary living conditions, mold and indoor air quality. This statute also allows the health officer to order the owner or the occupants to clean and put the premises in proper sanitary condition when a building or dwelling has become a source of danger to the health of its occupants or others from want of cleanliness.
Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
All rental dwelling units, regardless of type, shall have installed smoke detection systems connected to the building electrical system and equipped with a battery backup that will operate the smoke detector during a period of power failure. Smoke detectors powered by the buildings electrical system shall be permanently wired without a disconnecting switch other than those required for over current protection. Such smoke detectors may not be removed or disabled by anyone except an approved contractor making repairs or renovations to such systems. Removal or disabling of such systems overnight, without a fire watch in place, shall not be permitted unless the entire building is unoccupied.
Approved multi-station smoke alarms shall be installed in all existing dwelling units, bedrooms, congregate residences, and hotel and lodging house guestrooms and building common areas renovated or rehabilitated after 2006. Installation shall be in accordance with the State of NH Building and Fire Codes.
In Group R occupancies, multi-station smoke alarms shall receive their primary power from the building wiring provided that such wiring is served from a commercial source. When power is provided by the building wiring, the wiring shall be permanent and without a disconnecting switch other than those required for over current protection.
Requirements (please consult NH Building & Fire Codes):
- There shall be no less than one approved smoke detector per story plus 1 (one) in each bedroom.
- One carbon monoxide detector is required on every floor in a common (non-bedroom) area.