Legislative Update March 26, 2024

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Amendment: septic bill compromise

NHAR worked with NH Department of Environmental Services and a group of bi-partisan legislators to craft an amendment to House Bill 1113, which NHAR had opposed. 

The original bill would have required failed septic systems to be replaced prior to transfer. The amendment is a compromise which attempts to balance the rights of property owners with the need to protect public waters.

The bill does several things:

  • Eliminates the current requirement for a seller to perform a septic site assessment performed by a septic designer if the property line is within 200 feet of the reference line (RSA 485-A:39).

  • Instead, the buyer would be required to have a licensed septic evaluator perform an evaluation of the system if any part of the septic system is within 250 feet of the reference line.

  • If the septic system was never approved or the approval was prior to September 1, 1989, the buyer would also need to hire a septic system designer to determine the elevation of the bottom of the effluent disposal area relative to the elevation of the seasonal high-water table. Based on this information, the designer would determine if the system is in failure.

  • If the system is deemed to show signs of failure by the evaluator or designer, then the system must be repaired or replaced within 1 year of transfer.

  • The buyer would need to provide the NH Department of Environmental Services as well as the town health officer with a copy of the evaluation report.

The amended version of the bill was unanimously supported by the House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee. The full House will vote next week. If HB 1113 passes the House, the Senate should take up the bill next month.

A flood of notifications

House Bill 1320 would have mandated that sellers be required to inform buyers if their property is in a flood zone and created a unique civil liability requirement for failure to do so. It would also have placed significant burdens on landlords to inform tenants about flood risk. Tenants would have been permitted to break a lease if a landlord failed to properly notice. 

NHAR opposed the bill and worked with a bipartisan group of legislators to craft an amendment to the bill which would mandate on the seller a flood insurance notification requirement which mostly mirrors existing language in NHAR’s property disclosure form.

Additionally, the amendment would add a requirement (RSA 477:4-a) for the seller to provide general notification on flood mapping and insurance. That language would be added to Section 12 of NHAR’s Purchase & Sale, alongside existing notification on radon, arsenic and lead. 

The amended version of the legislation passed unanimously out of the House Commerce Committee. The bill will have a final vote in the House later this week.

Accessory Dwelling Unit

Since 2017, New Hampshire has mandated that municipalities allow a private property owner the ability to create an attached accessory dwelling unit (ADU) either through a conditional use permit or a special exception. Towns retain the right to mandate the ADU’s size and location (RSA 674:72).

Over the past seven years, some property owners have been able to utilize the law in order to construct an ADU. Unfortunately, many communities require lengthy and expensive approval processes, resulting in a barrier for many property owners. 

House Bill 1291 would grant property owners additional rights when looking to add an ADU, including allowing for an ADU detached from the main structure. NHAR supports the legislation. The House Special Committee on Housing recommended the bill should pass by an 8-2 vote. Opponents of expanding property rights are expected to put up a fight on the House floor when the bill is debated later this week.

Quote of the Week

“The decision shall include specific written findings of fact that support the decision. Failure of the (zoning) board to make specific written findings of fact supporting a disapproval shall be grounds for automatic reversal and remand.”

–NH Housing Appeal Board, “8 Water Street LLC vs Town of Meredith.” A bill passed in 2022 mandates that any decision of a local land use board must include a written explanation as to why and how the board came to its conclusion. Failure to do so automatically results in a reversal of the decision, and it is sent back to the board.

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

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