Unlicensed Real Estate Coming?
By BOB QUINN
Government Affairs Director
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:
Green Light to Unlicensed Practice of Real Estate?
It’s whack-a-mole time at the legislature when it comes to eliminating occupation licensing requirements. As soon as one bill is defeated, another one pops up.
The latest attempt to lower the bar on occupational licensing is House Bill 1685, which would create a legislative oversight commission over the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification. Buried in the bill is a provision which states that this new commission is charged with “developing a mechanism for mandatory disclosure to consumers when a practitioner has chosen not to be licensed.” Basically, the bill would require the Real Estate Commission to create a form or procedure for an unlicensed person to practice real estate as long as that fact is disclosed to a consumer.
The Committee reviewing the bill recommended that it be killed, but the full House overturned that vote last week and has sent it to the Senate.
The bill also puts into place a statutory requirement that all licensing must be “the least restrictive regulation necessary to protect consumers from … empirically substantiated harms,” meaning the real estate industry would need to show data to the commission to substantiate all laws in RSA 331-A as well as all Real Estate Commission rules.
If HB 1685 passes as written, New Hampshire would eventually have the most lax real estate licensing laws in the country, while giving Massachusetts and Maine brokerages a significant competitive advantage over New Hampshire brokerages. The Governor has said he will sign it if the bill gets to his desk.
NHAR will work to either kill or amend HB 1685 in the Senate.
Senate Takes First Steps to Approve New Housing Appeal Board
Last week, the full Senate voted to support Senate Bill 557, which creates a new state Housing Appeal Board with concurrent jurisdiction with the superior court regarding municipal housing decisions. The intent is to provide property owners a quicker, and potentially less expensive, route to appeal denials by any municipal board, committee, or commission on land use issues. NHAR supports the bill.
The Senate amended the bill to allow an abutter, or any other aggrieved party who can demonstrate legal standing, an opportunity to intervene in the new Board’s proceedings. The Housing Appeals Board members will be appointed by the supreme court and commissioned by the Governor for a term of three years.
The bill still has another significant hurdle in the Senate before it heads to the House of Representatives. The new Commission will need state funding and the Senate has not signed off on the appropriation. The Governor has expressed his support for the bill.
Raising the Professional Bar
While much of the legislature is trying to lower professional licensing standards, the Senate Executive Departments Committee has gone in the other direction and is trying to raise the bar in protecting consumers. Last week, the committee unanimously voted to support Senate Bill 461, which increases overall real estate licensee continuing education hours. The bill also requires new licensees, prior to their first renewal, to take specified CE classes in topics related to the salesperson’s practice. NHAR supports the bill.