Professional licensing moves into spotlight

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February 21, 2023

Professional licensing moves into spotlight

Various issues have continually plagued the Office of Professional Licensing (OPLC), which oversees the operations of nearly 50 licensing boards and commissions, including the Real Estate Commission. As the Executive Director told Realtors at NHAR’s Public Policy Retreat in December, the inability to attract and retain OPLC staff, as well as an antiquated IT systems, have been major hurdles to making the department run more efficiently.

Several bills introduced this session (Senate Bill 49 and House Bill 445) will grant OPLC the ability to retain funding, as opposed to turning unused dollars back to the general fund. These non-lapsing dollars will allow the OPLC to make long-term funding decisions with an eye toward more efficient administrative processes, clerical work, business processing and recordkeeping. 

Licensing fee increases withdrawn

Last year, the NH Real Estate Commission voted to increase license fees for new licenses and renewals. NHAR had numerous conversations with both OPLC and the legislature about fee increases without a robust plan for resolving some of the administrative issues at OPLC. Ultimately, at OPLC’s urging, the Real Estate Commission will not be moving forward on those fee increases.

Part of the issue is that state statute appears to grant both the OPLC as well as the Real Estate Commission authority to raise fees. Due to the confusion between OPLC and the various professional licensing commissions, House Bill 655 would grant OPLC the authority to set all board and commission fees as well as disciplinary actions. 

That bill is likely to move slowly through the legislative process, as numerous professions seek specific amendments impacting their specific profession.

Déjà vu on out of state licensing requirements

In 2022, the legislature passed House Bill 1354, which created a so-called “recognition” of real estate licenses from other states. If the applicant holds a license in good standing with another state, they would simply need to pass the New Hampshire portion of the licensing exam. That bill went into effect last August.

With the ink on that new law barely dry, the legislature is looking to change it again. House Bill 594 does not target real estate specifically but states that OPLC must issue licenses to professionals who present evidence of an active license in good standing from another jurisdiction provided that the jurisdiction’s licensing requirements are “substantially similar” to New Hampshire’s licensing requirements. The Executive Director of OPLC would have authority to determine what constitutes “ substantially similar” licensing requirements.

NHAR testified that New Hampshire laws relative to escrow, agency, septic regulations, landlord/tenant, disclosures and notifications, and many others, are not substantially similar to other states. The current Executive Director agreed with NHAR and indicated that even if HB 594 passes, she would not make changes for real estate licensees. 

NHAR is concerned that a future Executive Director at OPLC may not come to the same conclusion, and therefore we would prefer to keep the testing requirement in statute. House Bill 594 passed unanimously out of the House Executive Departments and Administration Committee.

Governor’s budget tags licensing issues

Last week, Governor Sununu indicated in his budget address to the legislature that he was committed to altering the licensing of various professional licenses in the state.

“If you have a substantially similar license and are in good standing in another state, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have a license on day one in New Hampshire,” Sununu said. “We are committed to breaking down regulatory barriers, lowering the cost of entry to do business here, increasing free-market competition.”

What this might mean for real estate licensees, if anything, is unknown at this point. The Governor’s proposal is not yet public and will be a part of his overall budget proposal. That document should be released in the next week or so. It may end up looking quite similar to House Bill 594, which is outlined in the previous section.

NHAR’s legislative chart can be found here.

For more information, contact New Hampshire Realtors CEO Bob Quinn:

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