Legislative Update: July 24, 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:
New water standards will impact condo/homeowner associations and small businesses
Last week, the legislative committee assigned to review regulations from state agencies, approved new enforceable standards on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, collectively called PFAS, in public water systems. Many homeowner and condominium associations own and operate "public-water systems," which are defined as either: providing water to 25 or more people six months a year; or having at least 15 service connections.
In an rare move, the joint-legislative committee declined to take public testimony before quickly adopting the new standards, which are the strictest in the country. NHAR was prepared to testify that the new standards might place a high financial burden on many small homeowner and condominium associations across the state and that the legislature should ensure financial assistance is available before adopting any new mandates.
The NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) has indicated that there are 1,800 public water systems in New Hampshire and the cost to test and remediate the water systems, which are in violation of the new standard, could be in excess of $190 million. At this point, only $6 million in state funds have been appropriated to deal the issue.
Additionally, NHDES estimates that as many as 25,000 private wells might test higher than these new standards. While NHDES has no enforcement authority over private wells in New Hampshire, it does recognize that homeowners and buyers will rely upon these new standards in determining whether to voluntarily remediate. The cost to remediate all private wells is likely over $100 million.
Governor Sununu announced last month that the state will be suing the companies which manufactured these chemicals. However, any financial assistance from that lawsuit is probably years away, and the new standards will go into effect this October.
Other states have used settlement dollars to assist in testing and remediation efforts. Unfortunately, the state chose to adopt the new standards before any settlement dollars are available.
NHAR is in contact with NHDES to ensure that impacted homeowner/condo associations, as well as businesses, are given appropriate time to comply. We expect that all public water systems will be given until the end of 2019 to test their.
Governor vetoes voluntary dock registration bill
House Bill 645 would have created a voluntary system for a property owner to register an existing dock with the Department of Environmental Services (NHDES), as long as it was maintained in its current size, location, and configuration since January 1, 2000. The intent of the legislation was to reduce conflicts between landowners and reduce costs of maintenance. NHDES is often brought into conflicts between property owners over repairs and replacement of docks where permitting records may not exist.
Last week, the Governor vetoed the bill, citing concerns raised by a state Commission charged with reviewing structures on non-tidal waterways. That Commission's stated objection was that HB 645 could interfere with existing lawsuits.
NHAR supports the creation of a voluntary dock registration program in the state. The legislation had passed out of the House of Representative on a voice vote and was approved in the Senate, 18-5. It will take a two-thirds majority to override the veto.
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