Consumer Protection Overview

No Credit Needed signNew Hampshire’s primary consumer protection law, “Regulation of Business Practices for Consumer Protection,” is commonly known as the Consumer Protection Act (RSA 358-A).   The New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act prohibits the use of any unfair or deceptive act or practice or any unfair method of competition in trade or commerce in New Hampshire. The state law specifically identifies the following practices as unfair or deceptive:

  • Claiming that goods are new or original when they are used, secondhand, deteriorated, reconditioned or altered.
  • Claiming that goods or services have certain characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits or qualities, or certain sponsorship or approval when they really do not have such, or that a person has a certain sponsorship, approval, status, affiliation or connection that he or she really does not have.
  • Falsifying the place of origin of goods or services.
  • Passing off goods or services as someone else’s.
  • Disparaging another business’ goods or services by false or misleading statements.
  • Advertising goods or services with the intent not to sell them as advertised or failing to have a reasonable supply of goods or services provided on hand (unless the advertisement specifically says that quantities are limited).
  • Making false or misleading statements about the existence of, reasons for, or amount of price reductions.
  • Conducting “going out of business sales” which last more than 60 days or which are held more than once every two years by the same owners of the business.
  • Selling gift certificates for $100.00 or less that have expiration dates. (This does not apply to gift certificates or coupons that are given away.)
  • Dormancy fees, latency fees, or any other administrative fees or service charges that have the effect of reducing the total amount for which the holder may redeem a gift certificate are prohibited. (Does not apply to season passes.)

The above list provides examples of deceptive acts and is not an exhaustive list. In addition, some entities are “exempt” from the jurisdiction of the state court regarding consumer protection statutes violations so complaints must be filed with the entities regulating agency. For example, mortgage servicers are regulated by the NH Banking Department, so any complaint against a mortgage servicer regarding violation of NH Consumer Protection statute must be filed with the NH Banking Department.

How to file a Complaint in NH Courts

If you feel a business has violated the Consumer Protection Act, you may file a lawsuit seeking damages in NH state courts. If the court finds a violation, you may be entitled to an award for actual damages, statutory damages of $1,000 and payment of your attorney’s fees. If the court finds a violation was willful, you may be entitled to double or treble damages.

How to file a Complaint with Attorney General’s Office

Alternatively, or in addition to a state court complaint, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. Complaints are read and reviewed in the order in which they are received by the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau. The bureau responds to complaints as quickly as possible. Information about how to file a complaint and the complaint review process can be found here.  If the bureau initiates an action against the business, it initiates the investigation and complaint on its own behalf and not as your attorney.

Additional Information

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office provides a Consumer Sourcebook as a comprehensive guide with useful links to the following:

  • General information about the laws that apply to a variety of consumer transactions.
  • Examples of how the law might apply to a situation.
  • Points to keep in mind if you find yourself in a variety of circumstances.
  • Ideas for where to turn for more help.

NH Debt Collection Law

Debt collection practices in New Hampshire are governed by both state statute and federal law: The New Hampshire’s Unfair, Deceptive or Unreasonable Collection Practices Act (RSA 358-C); and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (15 U.S.C. § 1692-1695.)

Both are designed to instruct debt collectors as well as consumers as to the limits of collection practices, while protecting consumers from abusive debt collection practices. The laws are also in place to provide consumers an avenue for recourse in disputing a claim.

Both the state statute and federal act provide illustrative examples, and expressly allow consumers to sue debt collectors for violations of pertinent statutory provisions.

Under the FDCPA, a debt collector must always:

  • Identify themselves and notify the consumer that any information obtained will be used to effect collection of the debt.
  • Give the name and address of the original creditor
  • Notify the consumer of their right to dispute the debt
  • Provide verification of the debt within 30 days of request

If you believe your rights have been violated under any of these laws, consulting with an attorney who regularly handles Consumer Protection cases can make all the difference.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to the right one, at no cost to you.  Call 603-229-0002 or submit an online request form.

Photo credit Flickr Creative Commonsfrankieleon

What Bankruptcy Can and Cannot Do

What Can Bankruptcy Do for Me?

Bankruptcy may make it possible for you to:

  • Eliminate the legal obligation to pay most or all of your debts. This is called a “discharge” of debts. It is designed to give you a fresh financial start.
  • Stop or substantially delay foreclosure on your house or mobile home and allow you an opportunity to catch up on missed payments.
  • In some cases, “strip off” a second mortgage if the value of your home exceeds the balance on the first mortgage.
  • Prevent repossession of a car or other property, or force the creditor to return property even after it has been repossessed.
  • Stop debt collection calls, harassment, lawsuits, and similar creditor actions.
  • Restore or prevent termination of utility service.
  • Challenge the claims of creditors who have committed fraud or who are otherwise trying to collect more than you really owe.
  • Actually improve your credit score, as your old debts, defaulted debts, and bad debts are discharged.

What Bankruptcy Cannot Do

Bankruptcy cannot, however, cure every financial problem. Nor is it the right step for every individual. In bankruptcy, it is usually not possible to:

  • Eliminate child support, alimony, other debts related to divorce, most student loans, court restitution orders, criminal fines, and some taxes.
  • Protect cosigners on your debts. When a relative or friend has co-signed a loan, even though the debt is discharges as to the debtor in bankruptcy, the cosigner may still have to repay all or part of the loan.
  • Discharge debts that arise after bankruptcy has been filed.

Bankruptcy cannot solve all money problems. If your income is insufficient to pay your mortgage and other regular bills you may need to consider making significant and painful choices, which may well include a bankruptcy filing. In addition, there are restrictions upon filing another bankruptcy proceeding after receiving a discharge.

For more information regarding bankruptcy, read the entire pamphlet entitled “Bankruptcy” from the New Hampshire Bar Association.

Remember, the law often changes and each case is different.  This information was meant to give general information and should not be considered a substitute for legal advice.

A decision to file bankruptcy should be made only after determining that bankruptcy is the best way to deal with your financial situation.  A consultation with an experience bankruptcy attorney can help.  Call the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association today for a referral at 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

In Bankruptcy, What Property Can I Keep?

Bankruptcy CourtIn a bankruptcy case, you can keep all property which the law says is “exempt” from the claims of creditors. You can choose between state law exemptions or federal law exemptions.

Federal exemptions include:

  • $22,975 equity in your home;
  • $3,675 in equity in your car;
  • $575 per item in any household goods up to a total of $12,250;
  • $1,550 in jewelry;
  • $2,300 in things you need for your job (tools, books, etc,);
  • $1,225 in any property, plus part of the unused exemption in your home, up to $11,500;
  • Your right to receive certain benefits such as social security, unemployment compensation, veteran’s benefits, public assistance, and pensions—regardless of the amount;

You must have lived in New Hampshire for the last two years to use the New Hampshire exemption laws. New Hampshire exemptions include:

  • $100,000 in equity in your home
  • $4,000 equity in you car
  • Up to $3,500 in household furnishings
  • $5,000 in things you need for your job (i.e. tools, books, etc.)
  • $1,000 in any property plus up to $7,000 of unused other exemptions
  • $500 in jewelry
  • Most retirement plans, social security, unemployment and other public assistance benefits
  • New Hampshire law also protects up to 6 sheep, one hog, one pig, and either a horse a cow or a yoke of oxen.

The exemption amounts are doubled when a married couple files together.

In determining whether property is exempt, you must keep a few things in mind.  First, property value is not the amount you paid for it, but what it is worth today. Especially for furniture and cars, this may be a lot less than what you paid or what it would cost to buy a replacement.

Further, you only need to look at the equity in your property. This means that you count your exemptions against the full value minus any money that you owe on mortgages or liens. For example, if you own a $50,000 house with a $40,000 mortgage, you have $10,000 of equity in your property. Under New Hampshire exemptions, if the equity is under $100,000, the property is fully protected. In this case, the property if fully protected.

For more information regarding bankruptcy, read the entire pamphlet entitled “Bankruptcy” from the New Hampshire Bar Association.

Remember, the law often changes and each case is different.  This information was meant to give general information and should not be considered a substitute for legal advice.

A decision to file bankruptcy should be made only after determining that bankruptcy is the best way to deal with your financial situation.  A consultation with an experience bankruptcy attorney can help.  Call the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association today for a referral at 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.


Modifying a Mortgage When Your Name’s Not On It

Getting a Loan Modification for Successor-in-Interest

Mrs. Jones’ husband died of a heart attack last month. To continuing living her home, Mrs. Jones needs to reduce the monthly payment to an amount she can afford with her reduced income. However, when Mrs. Jones contacts the mortgage company to request a modification, she is told that no one can speak to her because “you’re not on the mortgage.”

Although Mr. and Mrs. Jones were both on the title to the property and both signed the mortgage, only Mr. Jones signed the promissory note. Because only Mr. Jones signed the promissory note, only Mr. Jones had the obligation to pay. When Mr. Jones passed away, Mrs. Jones became a successo-in-interest to the property but not to the obligation to pay the promissory note. Mrs. Jones however must pay the promissory note if she wants to stay in the home.

If Mrs. Jones wants to modify the payment terms of the promissory note, she needs to communicate with the mortgage servicer. However, a mortgage loan servicer will only speak with the person(s) who signed the promissory note. This presents a problem for widows and widowers, like Mrs. Jones, who want to stay in their homes but need a loan modification to make it financially feasible. If the mortgage servicer refuses to talk with Mrs. Jones, it is impossible for her to make a reasonable decision about keeping or leaving the home.

Fortunately, in 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), issued regulations that all servicers must maintain procedures to work with successors-in-interest when a borrower dies. Under the regulations, the servicer must develop policies and procedures to suspend foreclosure, speak with the successor-in-interest and process loan assumption and loan modification documents simultaneously.

This regulation assists widowers, like Mrs. Jones, as well as other people, such as children or siblings, who inherit property. This article addresses the legal status of widows and widowers as successors-in-interest.

In this case, for Mrs. Jones to obtain a modification, she will first need to assume the loan. Generally, contract rights are freely assumable, unless the contract states otherwise. In other words, it is up to Mrs. Jones to decide whether to assume the note. Upon assumption, Mrs. Jones will have all the rights and responsibilities of the original borrower (her deceased husband), including the right to apply for a loan modification.

The Due-on-Sale Clause

Although most mortgage notes do not restrict assumption of the mortgage note, the typical mortgage note restricts the transfer of the property. This is commonly referred to as a “due-on-sale” clause. A due on sale clause allows the lender to demand immediate payment in full when any interest in the property is sold or transferred, without the lender’s prior written consent.

As a practical matter, a due-on-sale clause may limit a person’s ability to assume a mortgage note, because an assumption will likely require a transfer of ownership of the property. Thus, although a party can freely assume the mortgage note, the transfer may trigger the due-on-sale clause and an immediate foreclosure.

Fortunately for Mrs. Jones, under federal law, a due-on-sale clause cannot be enforced when an interest in real property is transferred to a surviving spouse by will or statute. Garn-St. Germain Depository Institution Act and Brush v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA (2013).
In other words, in most cases, a widow can freely assume a mortgage note without permission from the lender.

Once the mortgage note is assumed, Mrs. Jones has the right to apply for a loan modification like any other borrower. However, Mrs. Jones does not want to assume the mortgage loan unless she knows the loan will be modified. Unfortunately, she cannot get an answer about modification until the loan is assumed. To address this catch-22, most lenders have adopted servicing guidelines requiring evaluation of the loan modification first, and then simultaneous approval of both the loan modification and the assumption.

The Process

The process for modification and assumption will be vary depending on the lender. Although different rules apply if the loan is held by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or a private investor using a Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) participating servicer, most loans at a minimum have a procedure to assume and modify the mortgage loan. The best place to start research about the lender is the loan look-up tool on Making Home Affordable.

If the loan is serviced by a HAMP servicer, the Making Home Affordable Handbook outlines the requirements and process loan assumption and modification. Under HAMP, a non-borrower widow or widower may apply for a modification as if he or she was the borrower. If the mortgage is already in a Trial Payment Plan (TPP), the servicer is required to send written notice to the widower outlining the requirements to assume the TPP or to apply for a new HAMP modification based on current income. Importantly, the servicer must stay the foreclosure process while the assumption process goes forward.

If the loan is held by Fannie Mae, the servicer must evaluate a modification request from a widow or widower as if it came from the borrower. Likewise, Freddie Mac guidelines allow for simultaneous assumption and modification after the borrower’s death. Finally, HUD has a general policy allowing loan assumption with a credit review.

In summary, it is possible for a widow or widower to assume and modify a mortgage loan in many circumstances. You should contact a Home Ownership Counselor to assist you with the process. To find a free Home Ownership Counselor visit or call 2-1-1 (in NH).

Mary Stewart and Krista Atwater are independent contract attorneys for the NH Bar Association Foreclosure Relief Project. For information about assistance with a loan modification, see

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Mortgage Settlement Fund Applications to be Mailed


Released by: Michael A. Delaney, Attorney General
Subject: Mortgage Settlement Fund applications to be mailed soon to New Hampshire residents
Date: September 19, 2012
Release Time: Immediate
Contact: James T. Boffetti, Senior Assistant Attorney General
Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau
(603) 271-0302

Attorney General Michael A. Delaney announces that approximately 7,600 New Hampshire residents who lost their primary residence due an improper foreclosure process between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011 should expect to receive notice by mail with important information about how to file a claim for funds under the National Mortgage Settlement. Attorney General Delaney encourages every eligible New Hampshire citizen to apply.

These funds are part of national mortgage settlement between 49 states and the five largest national banks. The amount of individual payments will depend on the number of people who file a claim and payments are likely to be in the range of $1,200 and $1,500 per borrower.

The foreclosure must involve one of the following five banks:

– Bank of America
– Citi
– Wells Fargo
– JP Morgan Chase
– Ally/GMAC

The deadline for filing a claim is January 18, 2013.

Notices are scheduled to be mailed beginning September 24, 2012.

If you think you might qualify and did not receive a form in the mail, please call 1-866-430-8358. For more information, go to

You can also call the Attorney General’s Mortgage Hotline at 1-866-522-4450.

This settlement is in addition to a separate Independent Mortgage Foreclosure Review Program being conducted by federal authorities. That program involves many more banks and a shorter time period [2009-2010]. If that review finds financial injury occurred as a result of bank misconduct, the borrower may receive remediation such as lump-sum payments, suspension or rescission of a foreclosure, a loan modification or other loss mitigation assistance, correction of credit reports, or correction of deficiency amounts and records. Lump-sum payments under that program can range from $500 to, in the most egregious cases, $125,000 plus equity.

The Request for Review Form for the federal program can be completed online at

Those forms must be submitted by December 31, 2012.

New Hampshire homeowners are encouraged to explore both of these options. For more information, please call the Attorney General’s Mortgage Hotline at 1-866-522-4450.

Foreclosure Sign

Few Borrowers in Foreclosure Apply for Free Review

Only a tiny percentage of the 4.3 million homeowners facing foreclosure have applied for a free foreclosure  review to check for errors, despite the fact that they could be eligible for up to $100,000 if errors are found.

The review process was put into effect as a result of the “robo-signing” scandal, where several banks admitted to mishandling some foreclosure documents, resulting in some homeowners wrongfully losing their homes.

In the wake of the scandal, federal bank regulators required 14 mortgage companies to establish the Independent Foreclosure Review process.

The review costs homeowners nothing, but at last count, only 165,000 people — fewer than 4 percent of those eligible — have applied.

The original April 30 deadline has since been extended to July 31.

Read the entire story by Yuki Noguchi at NPR.

Find out if you are eligible for an independent foreclosure review.

If you are facing foreclosure and would like assistance with reviewing your options, contact a home ownership and loss mitigation counseling agency for free counseling on the options available to you to prevent or mitigate the foreclosure.

If it is determined that you will need the assistance of an attorney, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can help with a referral to a competent attorney who specifically handles foreclosure matters.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.


Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight Created

For immediate release:  April 5, 2012
Contact:  Laura Brewer – 919-508-7821

Mortgage Settlement Monitor Begins Work
Joseph Smith appointed to oversee 49-state, five-bank pact; opens office in Raleigh
RALEIGH, N.C. – Joseph A. Smith, Jr. today officially assumed his position as the monitor of the mortgage servicing settlement among 49 states, the federal government and five major banks. In this role, Smith will work to ensure that the banks follow the requirements outlined in the settlement agreement. Today also marks the formal creation of the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight (OMSO), the body Smith has set up to facilitate his work.

Participants in the settlement unofficially named Smith as their choice in early February when news of the agreement became public, but both the settlement and Smith’s appointment became official when the United States District Court for the District of Columbia made final consent judgments affecting each of the banks.

In response to the agreement, Smith said, “Today, in keeping with the charge I’ve received from the Court and the parties to the settlement, I have opened the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight and begun to carry out my duties as Monitor.

“The mortgage settlement is a bipartisan achievement that holds promise for millions of people. Our nation depends on its home financing system not only to function properly, but also to inspire confidence in the people who use it. By itself, this settlement will not remedy every problem that system faces. But trust in our mortgage system can move forward if we use this opportunity to show fairness, transparency and accountability. This is a responsibility I take seriously.”

Smith will receive periodic reports from the settlement participants and oversee bank compliance with the agreement. The Monitor will then report his findings, determinations and actions to the Court and a Monitoring Committee of state and federal government representatives. The Monitor is empowered to work with noncompliant institutions to establish corrective plans, or, if necessary, to recommend penalties or to seek injunctive relief to enforce the settlement.

“Since the settlement was announced last month, people have understandably paid a great deal of attention to the specifics of the consent judgment – who will pay, who will receive, and how much,” Smith said. “Those are important matters to determine. But this settlement also serves those who do not participate in the transfer of money: the neighbors of distressed borrowers whose property values stand at risk because of foreclosed properties in their midst, the communities in which they live, the people saving now toward the goal of home ownership, and everyone whose living depends on a robust housing and home finance industry.”

More information about the mortgage settlement.

More information about the Office of Mortgage Settlement.

If you believe your home was illegally foreclosed on and you have not been contacted by a settlement administrator, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association may be able to help with a referral to an attorney who can review your situation.  A consultation with a competent attorney can make all the difference!  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

How Will the Mortgage Settlement Affect Distressed Homeowners?

49 state attorney’s general have reached a landmark agreement with 5 of the nation’s top loan servicers (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, and Ally/GMAC).  The settlement will provide up to 25 billion dollars in relief to distressed borrowers and direct payments to states and the federal government.

The agreement settles state and federal investigations finding that the loan servicers routinely signed foreclosure related documents outside the presence of a notary public and without really knowing whether the facts they contained were correct.  Both of these practices violate the law.

The settlement provides benefits to borrowers in the signing states whose loans are owned by the settling banks as well as to many of the borrowers whose loans they service.

Homeowners whose primary residence was part of a foreclosure action between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010, and whose home loan was serviced by a participating servicer, may be eligible for an Independent Foreclosure Review.  

To find out more information regarding how this settlement may affect borrowers or how to find out if you qualify for assistance, check out the new National Mortgage Settlement website, and/or read the press release from the NH Attorney General’s office.

If your home is in foreclosure, an attorney may be able to assist you.  Call the Lawyer Referral Service today at 603-229-0002 for a referral to a competent lawyer who specifically handles foreclosure matters in New Hampshire, or request an online referral.   A consultation with an attorney could make all the difference!


NH to Join Settlement Over Foreclosure Abuses

New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney and Commissioner Ronald A. Wilbur of the New Hampshire Banking Department will be holding a press briefing this afternoon at 1:00 p.m.,  regarding the recently announced $25 billion state/federal mortgage servicing settlement.  The briefing will include a detailed explanation of the proposed terms of the settlement and New Hampshire’s decision to join.

The nationwide settlement stems from abuses that occurred after the housing bubble burst. Many companies that process foreclosures failed to verify documents. Some employees signed papers they hadn’t read or used fake signatures to speed foreclosures — an action known as robo-signing.

The deal would be the biggest involving a single industry since a 1998 multistate tobacco deal. It would force the five largest mortgage lenders to reduce loans for about 1 million households.

Read the entire story by Julie Smidt, in USA Today

If you believe your home was illegally foreclosed on, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can help by referring you to a competent attorney who specifically handles this type of legal matter.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.