New Hampshire law doesn’t consider the occupants of extended-stay hotel rooms as tenants. If extended-stay hotel customers were considered tenants under New Hampshire law, they would be entitled to statutory protections preventing them from being forcibly removed. These protections are not offered to hotel guests because they are considered customers.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court addressed this controversy in the case of Natalie Anderson v. Adam Robitaille on March 8th, 2019. Ms. Anderson and Mr. Robitaille, a married couple, started living at an extended-stay hotel in the City of Nashua sometime in November 2015. It was an all-suite residential-style hotel.
The couple lived at the hotel for the next 14 months without any issues. In January 2017, however, things suddenly changed because the hotel’s general manager told Ms. Anderson that she needed to leave by January 10th. The manager said he would contact the police to have her removed if she didn’t comply with his demands.
Two New Hampshire legal statutes govern situations requiring the removal of occupants from hotels and houses. The removal of tenants falls under RSA 540 and RSA 540-A, and the removal of hotel guests falls under RSA 353. Evictions of occupants classified as tenants must follow the procedures outlined in RSA 540. It can take at least two months for the landlord to complete these procedures successfully. But if the occupant is a hotel guest, the procedures under RSA 353 allow for a much faster removal process.
Returning to the case of Natalie Anderson v. Adam Robitaille, Ms. Anderson told the court that she was a tenant and could not be removed quickly. She argued this entitled her to the slower eviction procedures of RSA 540. Unfortunately, the court did not believe Ms. Anderson was a tenant of the extended stay hotel.
Five Arguments for Tenant Status
Ms. Anderson made five impressive arguments in her defense of being a tenant.
1) The Applicable Statutes Don’t Apply
RSA 540 and RSA 540-A define a tenant as someone who leases or rents a residential property from a landlord. Residential is the keyword here. The two statutes don’t consider motels, hotels, vacation homes, or inns to be residential dwellings. Ms. Anderson argued she was not a tenant as described in the applicable statutes, even though she was living at the hotel as a long-term tenant and not a short-term guest. It was a tough sell to the court. She was arguing she was technically a tenant, just not as described under the statutes.
2) Extended Stay Hotels Are Not Traditional Hotels
Ms. Anderson argued that an extended stay hotel is not the same as a standard hotel because it doesn’t act like a typical hotel. Unfortunately, the court could not find a reasonable exception for extended stay hotels in either of the two statutes. Therefore, the extended stay hotel remained the same as a regular hotel under the statutes.
3) Not a Recreational User
Ms. Anderson focused her argument on a particular clause of the statutes about “rented for recreational or vacation use” with regard to hotels. She claimed she was a business user of the hotel and not a recreational user. Thus, she should be considered a tenant rather than a guest. But as you probably guessed, the court disagreed with that argument too. The court believes anyone who stays at a hotel is a recreational user. The statutes don’t make exceptions for business users.
4) Rented for Longer Than a Month
Ms. Anderson pointed out to the court that RSA 353 defines a term rental unit as including a residential property that is rented for no longer than one month. Since Ms. Anderson rented the room for 14 months, she argued she could not be removed under the procedures outlined in RSA 353. She claimed the long-term status of her occupancy meant that she had to be evicted under the guidelines of RSA 540 rather than RSA 353.
The statute specifically uses the words “shall include residential property rented for one month or less.” The court argued that the “shall include” language opens up the definition of rental units to more than just residential properties under RSA 353. In addition, the fact that the hotel is not a residential property means that longer rental periods can still apply under RSA 353.
Ms. Anderson even brought up the tax policies of statute RSA 78-A, which imposes a 9% tax rate on rooms and means unless the occupant has been in the hotel room for 185 consecutive days or longer. But the court was not considering that to be a valid argument either.
Ms. Anderson put up a series of powerful and creative arguments before the court. But unfortunately, those arguments were not strong enough for the court to side with her.
You can contact Alfano Law Office by calling (603) 856-8411 or at this link.