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Contract Disputes and Property Disputes in New Hampshire

In New Hampshire’s judicial system, disputes over contracts and properties are handled by the Superior Court and Circuit Court District Division. These disputes can also be resolved without the courts’ intervention by mediation, arbitration, or negotiation. When these alternative dispute resolution methods do not work, an individual or corporation may file an action in the court. Lawsuits below $25,000 are filed in the Circuit Court District Division and those exceeding that amount with the Superior Court. The Superior Court also has sole jurisdiction over civil claims $1,500 and above where a litigant requests a jury trial, title disputes, claims to request injunctive relief, zoning appeals, and actions to enforce contracts.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What are Contract Disputes in New Hampshire?

In New Hampshire, a contract dispute refers to any disagreement or issue occurring because of a failure to uphold or perform contractual obligations. Typically, these conflicts are sorted in or out of court.

What are the Most Common Contract Disputes in New Hampshire

The most common type of contract dispute in New Hampshire is a breach of contract. Disputes that can stem from contractual breaches and disagreements over the terms or conditions of contracts include:

  • Employment contract disputes, including non-compete disputes
  • Business disputes, including partnership and shareholder disagreements; debt collection
  • Loan agreement disputes
  • Service contract disputes
  • Commercial disputes, including intellectual property infringements and contractual breaches
  • Supply agreement disputes
  • Purchase and sale disputes
  • Real estate contract disputes

What is New Hampshire Contract Law?

RSA 382-A:1–101 (12) defines a contract as the total legal responsibility resulting from an agreement between two or more persons, businesses, or entities. The elements of the contract law in New Hampshire are similar to those of the basic contract law. Essentially, a contract must be legally enforceable. A legally enforceable contract is one entered into by competent parties, and in which mutual agreement and consideration (reason for the agreement) are present.

What is a Breach of Contract in New Hampshire?

Under New Hampshire statutes, a breach of contract happens when someone fails to perform a contractual obligation without a legitimate excuse. Lassonde v. Stanton, 157 N. H. 582, 588 (2008). When this breach is material and warrants terminating the entire contract, it is referred to as a total breach. A total breach releases the non-breaching party from the contract. However, when this breach is not material, the non-breaching party is not released but may still recover damages in court. A breach is only material when:

  • There is a failure to perform an essential term or condition of a contract
  • The contract’s purpose is defeated because of the breach
  • The breach is crucial to the contract’s existence

What are the Remedies for a Breach of Contract in New Hampshire?

When a person goes against the terms of a contract, an aggrieved party may file an action to recover damages in a New Hampshire Superior Court or District Division. Remedies granted by the courts could be for the defendant to pay an amount (monetary relief) or execute a specific act (equitable relief). If the court awards monetary damages, a defendant may be required to compensate the plaintiff with enough money to restore that person to the position they would be in if the contract had been executed. Similarly, the defendant may be required to pay the plaintiff back (restitution) or pay a small amount if the breach occurred, but the plaintiff suffered no financial injury.

Under RSA 507:16, punitive damages (considerable sums of money paid as punishment for a breach) are outlawed in New Hampshire. The courts may, however, grant enhanced compensatory damages for malicious and oppressive acts, but that is mostly available in personal injury actions or tortious breaches of contract. In some cases, New Hampshire statutes indicate remedies that are to be granted for a breach.

What Defenses Can Be Used Against a Breach of Contract Claim in New Hampshire?

Defendants in a civil claim for a breach of contract may provide certain legal defenses in order to be released from their contractual duties. In most cases, these defenses do not deny or admit the claim but give legitimate reasons why, even if the breach occurred, the defendant should not be held responsible, and as such, prevents the plaintiff from being granted relief. Under Super. Ct. Civ. R. 9 and Dist. Div. R. 3.9, the defenses include:

  • Statute of frauds: the law that certain contract should be in writing
  • Statute of limitations: the time in which the claim could be filed has expired
  • Waiver: the plaintiff gave up the right to file a suit for breach of contract
  • Contributory negligence: the plaintiff’s negligent actions contributed to the breach
  • Accord and satisfaction
  • Release
  • Arbitration and award
  • Res judicata, that a claim may not be litigated again once decided unless on appeal
  • Fraudulent inducement: the defendant was deceived over contractual terms and the contract would not have been entered if the defendant had knowledge of those terms
  • Assumption of risk
  • Estoppel
  • Illegality
  • Duress
  • Failure of consideration
  • Material breach

What are Property Disputes in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire’s RSA 564-B:1–102 defines property as anything, whether real or personal, legal or equitable, or likewise, that can be owned. A property dispute happens because of disagreements over such belongings. These disputes can occur between married persons, families, neighbors, businesses, developers, government entities/officials, and other individuals.

What Are Some Common Types of Property Disputes in New Hampshire?

Property disputes that frequently occur in New Hampshire include:

  • Adverse possession of property
  • Property ownership disputes
  • Foreclosures
  • Landlord/tenant residential and commercial disputes
  • Boundary line disagreements
  • Easement/ right of way conflicts
  • Contractor liens
  • Purchase and sale disagreements
  • Land-use and zoning conflicts
  • Property damage
  • Contractual breaches involving property

How to Find Property Lines

In simple terms, a property line separates one person’s real property from another’s. This line is necessary for avoiding disputes related to boundary encroachment or trespass, whether neighborly or involving another member of the public, and the civil litigation that may follow if the dispute cannot be resolved between the parties involved. It is also essential in determining what land a person owns, is responsible for, and can safely build on. A homeowner or buyer can find property lines on the plat, deed, or survey plan of the property. However, county assessor and registry of deeds offices also provide this information. In addition, most county websites provide Geographic Information System (GIS) tools that can be used to view plat maps online.

How do I Find a Property Dispute Lawyer Near me?

Qualified New Hampshire property/real estate dispute lawyers can be located in three ways:

  • NH Lawyer Referral Service
  • Modest Means Program
  • Pro Bono or Free Legal Services

These services are offered by the New Hampshire Bar Association. Generally, the latter two services (2 & 3) are provided to eligible individuals who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer (Pro Bono Program) or who can only afford to pay at a reduced fee (Modest Means Program). These two programs cannot be requested in civil litigations by plaintiffs seeking monetary damages; however, defendants in these suits may be eligible for the Modest Means Program.

For persons who can afford to pay the standard attorney fees, the NH Lawyer Referral Service provides three ways of finding attorneys in the State:

  • By phone, (603) 229–0002
  • By making a Referral Request online: Individuals using this option will obtain referrals instantly, based on what is entered into the search boxes
  • By submitting an online form for assistance: Individuals using this option will receive a referral by email within 24 to 48 hours after completing and sending the request form

Other methods of obtaining legal assistance for property disputes are available on the New Hampshire Civil Legal Service Programs catalog.

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