January 11, 2022
Legislative Update: Jan. 11, 2022
Leftovers in the spotlight as 2022 session gets underway
The 2022 New Hampshire Legislative session gets underway this week, and more than 900 new pieces of legislation will be debated and voted on over the next five to six months. However, before our elected officials could start to debate those bills, they needed to finish up a few leftovers from 2021.
The end of a lease doesn’t actually mean it is the end of the lease
Last week, the Senate rejected House Bill 227 with little discussion. The bill would have allowed a landlord to evict a tenant simply for reaching the end of his or her lease term. The NH Supreme Court has ruled that a landlord may only evict for specifically prescribed reasons in RSA 540:2, and the end of a lease is not one of those reasons.
The Senate Commerce Committee felt that tenants can already be evicted for a wide range of good-cause reasons, such as not agreeing to a rent increase, a landlord needing to do property renovations, a prospective buyer requiring a unit to be vacant, or a landlord wanting to move a family member into an occupied unit. Given a shortage of available rental units throughout the state, the Senate argued that this was not an appropriate time to enact this type of legislation. NHAR had testified in favor of the bill.
Septic Study Commission’s recommendation needs more study
HB 426 would have required that on developed waterfront, any septic system which is not approved by DES or which has an approval older than 20 years, must, at point-of-sale, conduct an evaluation of the system to ensure it is in compliance with current department requirements. The legislation was a result of a year-long Shoreland Septic Study Commission, in which NHAR participated and was the lone dissenting vote.
The bill also would have expanded the definition of “developed waterfront” from the current 200 feet from the reference line to 250 feet.
The House Natural Resources Committee agreed with NHAR that the bill was poorly written and could unnecessarily increase costs on property owners. Last week, the full House accepted the Committee recommendation, and HB 426 is dead for this session.
Rental insurance notification bill fails
House Bill 473 would have required landlords who use written rental agreements for property that is rented for a duration of longer than one month to include a sentence informing the tenant that the landlord’s insurance does not cover the tenant’s belongings from loss or damage, and that the landlord recommends the tenant purchase renter’s insurance. The bill failed on the House floor, 190 to 166.
House makes effort to save the NH SAVES Program
House Bill 549, which passed the House last week, should stabilize the state’s Ratepayer-Funded Energy Efficiency Programs. The NH SAVES program, which provides utility rebates to property owners, had its budget unexpectedly cut by the NH Public Utilities Commission late last year.
The program is funded by a surcharge on utility bills which had been around $4 a month for a residential property. Under the PUC order, that would go down to around $1.80 a month. HB 549 would set the rate to 2020 levels.
In a virtually unheard-of vote, the House passed the bill with a unanimous 343-0 vote. The bill now heads to the Senate.