Septic Statute Altered

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July 18, 2023

Changes to septic statute

In 2012, NHAR worked with legislative allies to pass House Bill 1415, which created a new streamlined process for acquiring a permit in order to replace an existing septic system through a Permit by Rule (PBR). 

The new law eliminated the sometimes-costly requirement that a new system design needed to be submitted to the NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES), even when the replacement system was in-kind, meaning “in strict accordance with what is shown on the previously approved plan.”

This past session, NHDES asked the legislature to alter that decades-old statute through Senate Bill 229, which was signed into law by the Governor this past week. 

The bill states that only single-family residences and up to one associated accessory dwelling unit that is included in the approved plan are eligible to receive a replacement-in-kind permit.

Existing statute (RSA 485-A:33, IV) also states that “construction of the system may proceed upon the submission of an application to the department by a permitted designer and receipt of the permit by rule from the department.” SB 229 adds that, “A copy of the approval for construction and approval for operation and a plan matching the operational approval shall be submitted with the application.”

The Governor signed the bill into law earlier this month.

Well and septic setback process simplified

Under existing statute, private wells need to be placed at least 75 feet from a septic system. But what happens if a landowner needs to place their septic system closer than that 75-foot setback from a neighbor’s private well?

The issue led to a NH Supreme Court decision a number of years ago in which the court ruled the protected radii cannot extend into a neighboring property, as some owners were placing wells on the property line in order to prevent neighbors from constructing near their properties.

RSA 485-A:30-b allows abutting lot owners to overlap their respective well radii, but existing statute indicated that the property owner needed to record a “standard release” form at the registry of deeds, indicating the overlapping setbacks.

House Bill 247 is intended to simplify the process and eliminate the need for a document to be recorded in the deed. The well water contractor would be required to submit a “setback reduction form” with NHDES indicating an overlap.

The bill was signed into law earlier this month and will go into effect on August 29.

Prorating tax exemptions

House Bill 197 provides that individuals who are blind, disabled, deaf, severely hearing impaired, who have been granted a tax exemption and have a fractional ownership in a property, receive the exemption prorated to the fractional ownership, rather than as a full owner, as currently happens. 

Such a fractional proration already exists for both elderly as well as veteran property tax exemption, so the new law is intended to create uniformity. Opponents argued that disability affects the whole household, so only allowing the exemption for part of the household is unfair. 

The bill was signed into law by the Governor earlier this month.

Quote of the Week

For some people, young professionals aren’t able to buy their first affordable home. For others, it’s just not getting an affordable apartment near their job, where they want to live. And for others, it’s pretty desperate. It’s like not having a roof over your head at all. The pain is represented in different ways.” 

–Elissa Margolin, director of Housing Action NH, commenting on the need for legislation to address the state’s housing shortage. Concord Monitor 7/17/23

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

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