Legislative Update February 18, 2020
Condo disputes; dock registration; tiny homes
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:
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Condo dispute board heads to Senate
House Bill 308 would create a new board to hear disputes between condo owners and its association board. The bill has passed the House and will likely be taken up in the Senate next month.
The Condominium Dispute Resolution Board would hear and determine matters involving condominium unit owner complaints related to: failure by the condominium association to follow its declaration and bylaws; failure to follow proper voting procedures; and other actions not in compliance with condominium instruments or the Condominium Act, RSA 356-B. Any matters relating to time share interests would not be under the jurisdiction of the board.
The nine-member board would be made up of members of the House of Representatives, condo owners as well condo association board members, management companies and an attorney. The fee for filing a complaint would be $250, and any decision would have the force of law if neither party makes an appeal to the Superior Court. The board would not be bound by common law or statutory rules of evidence but would be permitted to admit all testimony.
It appears that the intent is to make this new board self-funding through the $250 fee.
Turning back the clock on a dock:
Voluntary registration legislation returns
Senate Bill 627 would allow an owner to voluntarily register an existing docking structure with the NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) for a fee of $200. By doing so, the owner would not need a permit to repair or replace the dock, providing they adhered to existing requirements in 482-A:3, IV-a.
In order to register, the owner must show the dock has been maintained in its current size, location, and configuration since January 1, 2000, and is not the subject of an administrative order, consent decree, or court order.
The intent of the bill is to remove NHDES from having to reconcile disputes between neighbors when a dock is repaired or replaced. The permits would be required to be renewed every five years.
A similar bill passed the legislature last year but was vetoed by the Governor over the amount of the fee. Keep in mind, the bill does not mandate a registration but provides the dock owner with the option to register. The sponsors are working to meet the concerns of the Governor.
Are tiny houses a big threat?
Under SB 482, all municipalities would need to allow tiny houses as a matter of right in all zoning districts that permit single family dwellings. The argument is that most communities make it easier to build a 4,000-square-foot residence then a 400-square-foot tiny home, and as people look for less expensive and more sustainable housing, these tiny houses should be an option.
A “tiny house” is defined as having smaller square footage than may be normally permitted by local zoning requirements, and may include single-room structures, built on either a permanent foundation or on a chassis that is suitable for registration for transport on public highways of the state.
Not surprisingly, the NH Municipal Association is opposed, as are the state building code officials. And the NH Department of Environmental Services demanded the 400-square-foot home to be hooked up to a 1,250-gallon septic tank.
Whether or not “tiny homes” are part of the housing affordability solution, the hearing on the bill demonstrated how difficult challenging the status quo and state bureaucracy is when it comes to expanding housing options.
The bill is currently be debated in the Senate Election and Municipal Affairs committees.
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.