Legislative Update: April 2, 2019
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:
Health insurance option for Realtors suffers setback by court ruling
Last Thursday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down parts of the Association Health Plan (AHP) rule finalized by the Department of Labor last summer that expanded access to health insurance benefits through these plans. NHAR had worked with stakeholder groups and legislators to pass Senate Bill 228, which would have opened the door to AHPs - and potentially expanded health insurance access for Realtors - in New Hampshire.
SB 228 already contemplated some of the concerns expressed by the Court ruling and had placed safeguards to ensure AHPs would not disrupt the individual healthcare marketplace.
Other Realtor associations around the country have already begun to offer health insurance through AHPs, but it is expected the court will permit those to continue to operate until an appeal is heard. That appeal process could take two years.
The New Hampshire House of Representatives is expected to hold a hearing on SB 228 later this month.
Senate agrees with REALTORS and pulls ‘opt-out’ from fire code;
but debate a long way from over
The Senate voted last week to pass Senate Bill 49, which updates the state fire code to the 2015 version – NH is currently working under the 2009 code. NHAR took no position on the adoption of the code.
However, NHAR objected to an amendment added by the Fire Code Board which would allow a homeowner to "opt-out" of certain elements related to the fire protection of floors. The property owner would be required to file a yet-to-be-written “Floors Omission Disclosure Document” with both the Registry of Deeds as well as local municipality property records, potentially impacting insurance and lending while increasing liability to homeowners and Realtors.
Why the Fire Code Board is asking the legislature for the fire protection of floors standard to be lower than would otherwise be permitted by the new code has yet to be fully explained to legislators.
Fortunately, the Senate listened to Realtor concerns and voted last week not to accept the Fire Code Board’s amendment. However, this is only a temporary reprieve to allow a broader debate about the implications on homeowners of such an "opt-out" from both the building code and fire code.
Housing Appeals Board legislation takes an unexpected turn
Senate Bill 306 establishes a statewide housing board to hear appeals of decisions of municipal boards, committees and commissions regarding questions of housing and housing development. The intent is to provide property owners with a less expensive and faster appeal process than going to Superior Court.
The legislation has passed the Senate not once but twice before it was finally “tabled,” meaning the Senate would not be sending the legislation over to the House. Instead, it appears the Senate strategy is to place the language authorizing and funding the Housing Appeals Board into the state budget.
This means the next step in the debate will likely not occur until early June, when both the House and Senate form a Committee of Conference on the state budget.
To view the most recent legislative chart, click here or open the attached document. If you have questions regarding these or any other pieces of legislation from the 2019 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."
Ben Cushing, 2023 President, New Hampshire REALTORS