Legislative Update: March 28, 2023

Legislative Update: March 28, 2023

Anti-licensing bill stalls out

Chief Executive Officer

Over 1,900 New Hampshire Realtors responded to NHAR’s Call for Action in opposition to House Bill 507, which would have permitted the unlicensed practice of over 40 professions in New Hampshire, including real estate. Last month, the House Executive Department and Administration Committee (ED&A) had deadlocked, 10-10, to recommend final passage on HB 507.

Tabling is a somewhat complicated legislative maneuver, but last week’s vote all but eliminates the chance of HB 507 becoming law this year. The vote was 308 in favor of tabling and 71 against. (“Yea” votes supported NHAR’s position.) One legislator, who had voted for the bill in the ED&A committee, commented during the debate that he had come to realize that the bill was “incredibly unpopular with constituents,” and he therefore encouraged others who had previously supported the bill to vote in favor of the tabling motion.

NHAR will continue to oppose any efforts to weaken consumer protections by eliminating licensing requirements.

Testing of wells and notification of PFAS contamination

Both House Bill 205 and House Bill 398 would have added a new notification requirement for PFAS groundwater contaminants to RSA 477:4-a. The existing notification requirement includes radon, arsenic and lead and are included in Section 12 of NHAR’s Purchase and Sale Agreement.

Per and poly fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals that can be found anywhere but are concentrated in certain geographic areas of the state. Some PFAS​ chemicals do not break down easily and can move through soil and get into groundwater and private wells. While a bi-partisan group of legislators agreed on the concept of including PFAS in the notification requirements, they could not come to an agreement on the specific language of the notification.

There were other parts of both bills on which legislators also had a difficult time coming to agreement, including mandating testing on new wells. HB 398 was “retained” by the House Natural Resources Committee, meaning legislators want additional time to review the bill. House Bill 205 was “tabled” by the full House of Representatives.

House votes to allow tenants to terminate leases for domestic violence or a disabling illness

House Bill 261 states that a tenant may terminate a lease, as long as they provide the landlord with either a valid order of protection issued following a hearing at which the court found that the tenant or household member is a domestic abuse victim, sexual assault victim, or stalking victim; or documentation showing a criminal charge of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking, based on a police report.

The bill also permits a tenant to terminate if they suffer a disabling illness or accident by giving the landlord written notice of termination. The written notice provided to a landlord must describe the reason for termination of the rental agreement and be accompanied by written documentation indicating how, as a result of disability, the rental property is no longer enjoyable or suitable for the tenant.

The legislation does not provide a definition of what constitutes a “disabling illness or accident.” The House very narrowly passed the bill, and HB 261 is likely to be heard in the Senate next month.

House puts off any expansion of accessory dwelling unit statute

House Bill 423 would give property owners the right to add up to two accessory dwelling units to their property, including one which could be detached from the primary residence. Since 2017, New Hampshire property owners have had the right to create one attached accessory dwelling unit (RSA 674:72) in a single-family dwelling. NHAR had testified in favor.

The bill was headed toward defeat, but supporters convinced the full House to table the legislation last week. Supporters felt it was better to table the bill and allow the House Special Committee on Housing the time to review certain aspects of HB 423, rather than to have it killed outright.

Quote of the Week Part I

If we’re not supporting housing, then you’re not supporting local business. If you’re not supporting local business, then your tax base is going to suffer.

Gov. Chris Sununu.

Quote of the Week Part II

“If we don’t enforce zoning laws, why bother having them.”

A Roxbury, NH selectman explaining why the town is spending $50,000 in legal fees to stop three homes on 159 acres due to traffic concerns. The NH Housing Appeals Board had called the denial “unreasonable” and reversed the decision. The town is now appealing to the NH Supreme Court.

NHAR’s legislative chart can be found here.

For more information, contact New Hampshire Realtors CEO Bob Quinn: bob@nhar.com.

"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