Legislative Update April 11 2023

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State statutes often clear as mud

While consumers and real estate practitioners sometimes assume that New Hampshire statutes clearly require or prohibit the ability to do something, the reality is laws can often read more like a riddle than a clear set of instructions. A couple of bills debated this week in the legislature are prime examples.

Out-of-state licensing: Test required … unless it isn’t

In 2022, the legislature passed House Bill 1354, which altered RSA 331-A:11(a) so as to allow active licensees in good standing from other states to earn a New Hampshire real estate license by simply passing the NH portion of the real estate licensing exam – meaning they did not have to take a prelicensing course nor take the national exam. NHAR supported that bill and it went into effect last August.

While the ink is barely dry on that statute, the legislature is already looking to change it. House Bill 594, which passed out of the House of Representatives last month, would grant the Office of Professional Licensing (OPLC) the ability to issue licenses to any professionals, including real estate, who present evidence of an active license in good standing from another state, provided that state’s licensing requirements are “substantially similar.” 

The definition of “substantially similar” is not in the bill but would be written later through a rulemaking process at OPLC. So the determination of what is and is not “substantially similar” licensing requirements would be entirely in the hands of the Executive Director of the OPLC, as opposed to state statute. Since OPLC has had three different Executive Directors over the past five years, there is a concern that licensing requirements might change with new directors.

NHAR testified that existing statutes relative to real estate licensing are working and do not need to be altered. The Executive Director of the OPLC testified that she agreed with NHAR and committed to keeping the testing requirement when the rules are eventually drafted. Both House and Senate leaders also voiced their support for ensuring real estate licensing requirements in any rule match the same requirements in RSA 331-A:11(a).

The Senate is currently debating HB 594.

The end of a lease still means that the lease does not end

Currently in New Hampshire, the end of a lease, agreed upon by both landlord and tenant, is not considered “good cause” to evict a tenant under RSA 540:2. So even after the lease term expires, if a landlord wants to evict the tenant, they cannot unless they demonstrate to a judge that the tenant has provided some other “good cause” for termination. 

House Bill 117 was intended to make the end of the lease term “good cause” to evict. The House of Representative passed the bill earlier this session and the Senate heard testimony on the bill two weeks ago. NHAR testified in favor of the bill.

Unfortunately, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to recommend killing the bill, citing the lack of rental inventory. A final vote on the Senate floor is expected this week.

House puts some money back into housing in budget vote

Last month, the House Finance Committee reduced the Governor’s funding requests intended to spur housing construction. The Governor had asked for $30 million to “accelerate the approval and construction of affordable workforce housing,” a program he started last year with $100 million in federal dollars. The House Finance Committee cut that amount by half, leaving $15 million.

The House Finance Committee also reduced the Governor’s request for $25 million for the NH Housing Finance Authority’s Affordable Housing Fund. That fund is used by NHHFA to provide low-interest loans and grants for the construction, rehabilitation, and acquisition of affordable housing to families and individuals with low to moderate incomes. The House reduced the Governor’s request by $10 million, meaning $15 million for the Affordable Housing Fund.

Last week, the full House of Representatives voted to fully fund the Governor’s original request for $25 million to the Affordable Housing Fund. Unfortunately, it did not increase the Invest NH funding request. The budget proposal (House Bill 2) will now head to the Senate.

Quote of the week

“The town is taking away our land rights, and we have to continue to pay taxes on them, so other people can drive by and say, ‘Oh, isn’t that pretty.’ It’s unfair. It’s unjust.”

Richard “Rick” O’Loughlin, Amherst property owner, commenting on the town’s proposed zoning ordinance changes, Article 52, which would prevent “unsightly development” by increasing the minimum frontage for lots on certain roads from 200 feet to 300 feet – the size of a football field.

NHAR’s legislative chart can be found here.

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

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