LEGISLATIVE UPDATE Sept. 17, 2019
Bill: Landlords could be fined for actions of their tenants
Also: New wetlands legislation, new regulations and a troubling audit
By BOB QUINN
Vice President of Government Affairs for NH REALTORS
A House subcommittee has voted to recommend adoption of legislation which allows municipalities to fine landlords up to $1,000 for each action of a tenant which disturbs “the quiet enjoyment” of neighbors.
HB 655 would allow towns to designate “disorderly houses” as property in which the activity of a building’s owner, occupants, or tenants, or the invitees of an owner, tenant or occupant, unreasonably disturbs the community. The intent is to subject the owner of the property or landlord to fines if their tenants or guests, “unreasonably disturb the community … or an individual living near the property.”
NHAR, which opposes the legislation, has consistently raised the concern that tenants in extended leases must go through an eviction process. However, that tenant could be racking up thousand of dollars in fines for which the landlord would now be subject to pay.
Equally concerning, the legislation does not require a town to have a noise, sanitation nor parking ordinance on the books, but would rather permit a town broad authority to fine based on a single complaint by a neighbor for the undefined infraction of “unreasonably disturbing” a neighbor.
Perhaps the oddest part of the legislation is that it specifically allows fines for “intoxication of the occupants of the building,” meaning one could be fined for simply being intoxicated in your home even if you are not creating a disturbance.
NHAR is not opposed to granting towns additional authority to regulate owners of property where there have been repeated violations of established ordinances. However, this bill goes way too far.
The legislation will now be debated by the full House Municipal and County Committee.
Wetlands: New legislation, new regulations and a troubling audit
HB 543 would create a 50-foot buffer for all “high value wetlands” in the state. These new wetlands would be administered by the NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) and are in addition to existing “prime wetlands,” which are established by municipalities. It is estimated that if the law went into effect, it could eliminate one-third of all developable land in NH. This past week, the Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee announced he would be asking his Committee to pass the bill.
Concerns were raised by some that the state recently passed new wetlands regulations which will go into effect in December, and those rules will “raise the bar” on development near wetlands by moving more projects from minimum impact to a higher regulatory standard. It was suggested that the legislature hold off on HB 543 until these new regulations have a chance to go into effect.
The committee discussion occurred in the wake of a recent performance audit of the NH DES Wetland Division released this past summer which was highly critical of Department. The report called the DES rules “outdated, disjointed, and inconsistent with underlying statute. Rules, policies, and procedures were, at times, unreasonable and inconsistently understood by Bureau employees and the public. This fostered confusion, led to regulatory overreach and ad hoc rulemaking, and likely compromised due process and increased costs.”
If you have questions regarding the 2019 New Hampshire legislative session, please contact New Hampshire REALTORS Vice President of Government Affairs Bob Quinn at email@example.com or 603-225-5549.