Legislative Update: February 4, 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:
House wants landlords to pay for relocation of tenants during lead abatements
House Bill 1539 would require that property owners receiving an order for lead hazard reduction from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) must offer to relocate the tenant, return their full security deposit, and offer to pay a portion of any difference the tenant must pay for the temporary dwelling. The owner would also be prohibited from evicting the tenant.
Currently, in circumstances where the presence of a lead exposure hazard is unsuspected and becomes known when a unit is already rented to a family with a child, the owner has the ability to temporarily relocate the family during the lead hazard reduction activity. The existing law also allows for an eviction if certain terms are met by the landlord.
DHHS reported that 52 units went under abatement orders in 2019. NHAR is concerned that added costs will further reduce the housing inventory and believes that the state should step in to provide financial assistance to both the tenant and property owner.
Housing Appeals Board: to repeal or not to repeal
In 2019, the legislature created and funded a new Housing Appeals Board, modeled on the Board of Land and Tax Appeals, designed to make it cheaper and faster for municipalities and property owners to make appeals of decisions from local land use boards. Currently, all appeals go to the Superior Court, where land use cases can take up to two years to resolve. The Housing Appeals Board would have no more than six months to reach a decision.
NHAR conducted a successful Call for Action last June, which resulted in over 4,000 messages sent from REALTORS supporting the Housing Appeals Board. But since the bill's passage, some town officials have sought to have the Housing Appeals Board repealed – even though it hasn’t yet been created. SB 735, SB 721, and SB 487 all seek an outright repeal. NHAR strongly opposes those efforts, having testified that a property owner appealing a decision on a setback requirement for a new deck or a septic system should not be forced to pay thousands of dollars and months in court when a much less expensive and quicker option is available.
Advocates for the repeal had argued that the Housing Appeals Board would unjustly have more authority than Superior Court, but they were unable to provide any evidence of that at the hearing. Their intent, then, seems to be to intentionally make such appeals more expensive, and thereby cost-prohibitive. The Senate is expected to take action on these bills later this month.
Required education for local land use board members?
Looks like a failing grade on that one.
The most controversial component appears to be a mandate that local land use board members would be required to undertake training and pass a test before participating in any decisions. After all, land use boards are making complicated legal decisions, yet they are currently not required to understand or have reviewed state stature or legal precedent. The NH Municipal Association objected to such a mandate, and a House subcommittee appears to moving toward a compromise which would make such training optional and allow the NH Office of Strategic Initiatives to develop self-training materials.
The subcommittee is also looking at altering a requirement in the legislation which would provide for incentives for all housing to be changed to only applying to workforce housing projects.
There is still a long way to go on these two bills, but it does appear progress is being made.
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.
Marc Drapeau, 2020 President, New Hampshire REALTORS