Legislative Update: February 11, 2020
By BOB QUINN
Vice President of Government Affairs
Here are a few items being explored in the New Hampshire legislature that are of potential interest to the real estate community and being watched closely by your New Hampshire REALTORS government affairs team:
NHAR asks legislature to regulate,
not ban, short-term rentals
The REALTOR-supported Senate Bill 458 would greatly restrict a town’s authority to ban residential properties from being used as vacation rentals while expanding certain municipal authority to expand their regulatory authority over these short-term rentals.
New Hampshire property owners generate well over $100 million a year in income from short-term rentals, which directly results in nearly $25 million in Meals and Rooms taxes to the current two-year state budget. Town bans on the use of short-term rentals diminish property values and could cost the state millions of tax dollars.
Of course, the ability to rent property is a fundamental private property right, and towns denying property owners their ability to rent is unacceptable. No one has brought forth any evidence that properties used as vacation rentals cause more police or fire issues then any other types of housing.
REALTORS also recognize that, as with other forms of housing, towns need to have authority to regulate parking, noise, sanitation and life safety issues. SB 458 does not alter in any way a town's authority to craft appropriate ordinances.
SB 548 simply states that municipalities may not use zoning to ban vacation or short-term rentals. The bill also lifts a prohibition on life safety inspections in all single-family and two-family dwellings (RSA 153:14, II (a)), which would allow town inspections for life safety issues in short-term rentals as well as allow a town to charge a registration fee.
NHAR is concerned that many towns may already be exceeding their legal authority asking for fees, inspections or outright bans.
The bill is currently in the Senate Election and Municipal Affairs Committee. NHAR is working with interested parties on an amendment.
REALTORS offer compromise on Shoreland Protection legislation
The legislature is once again looking to alter the Shoreland Protection Act. Among other items, Senate Bill 491 would have changed the minimum Shoreland Protection standards in the woodland buffer – that is the area between 50 to 150 feet of the reference line. The bill would require that newly developed properties over one-half acre in the buffer have 50 percent of its acreage left in an unaltered state, as opposed to the existing requirement of 25 percent.
The bill also would have banned property owners from reconstructing existing nonconforming structures on the shoreline – something they are allowed to do currently. The NH Department of Environmental Services appears to want to eliminate the ability of a property owner to convert a shed or outbuilding into sleeping quarters, although they could not explain how having a tractor in a shed is less impactful to water quality then having a couple of sleeping children.
NHAR was the only voice which raised concerns during the hearing. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee agreed with our arguments and adopted an amendment to the legislation, which removes the nonconforming structure ban and reduces the woodland buffer provision. Keep in mind, the legislation would only impact current undeveloped lots and would not require existing lots to alter their woodland buffer.
The amended bill will be voted on in the Senate this week.
Want to know how your town is doing with housing affordability?
Do you think your town is making a serious effort to deal with the housing inventory crunch? The New Hampshire Office of Strategic Initiatives released its annual report on Trends in NH Housing Supply, which shows how each town is fairing in granting permits for single-family and multi-family housing units. Click here to see how your town is doing.
If you have questions regarding these or any other pieces of legislation from the 2020 New Hampshire legislative session, please contact New Hampshire REALTORS Vice President of Government Affairs Bob Quinn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-225-5549.
"Amidst the sea of change to which the New Hampshire Association of REALTORS has played witness in its 85 years, one thing that has remained constant is the Realtor 'R' and the value we bring to every real estate transaction in which we take part. We are part of a unique community where our familial cooperation transcends our business competition. These are not mere platitudes, but our living ideals, and they are, in fact, the foundation on which we conduct ourselves in our day-to-day affairs."
Jim Lee, 2021 President, New Hampshire REALTORS