Cities and towns would be prohibited from banning short-term vacation rentals under a bill passed by the NH Senate and pending in the House.
City officials have strongly opposed Senate Bill 249, saying it would usurp local zoning authority.
Short-term rentals have become much more common in recent years with the success of online marketing companies such as Airbnb and Vrbo.
But the increased use of these vacation rentals, especially in resort areas, sometimes leads to disputes with neighbors over noise, trash, trespassing, and improperly parked cars.
This in turn spawned regulatory efforts at the municipal level, including banning short-term rentals in certain areas. This type of restriction would be prohibited by SB 249.
On the other side of the issue are members of the business community who benefit from visitors and landlords who feel they should be allowed to rent their homes as they see fit.
Keene has not passed any special restrictions or regulations for short-term rentals, Mayor George Hansel said in an interview Friday.
He also said he hadn’t heard of any complaints about these companies. The Airbnb and Vrbo websites feature dozens of properties throughout the Monadnock area.
“There is a need for short-term housing for visiting students, graduate programs, credentialing programs, people doing internships, traveling nurses and others,” Hansel said.
Generally, however, he said he opposes legislation such as SB 249 that would undermine local decision-making.
At 80 Roxbury St. in Keene, Jaclyn Cole, 27, owns a property that she rents out on a short-term basis. In November, she was named Airbnb’s Top New Host in New Hampshire.
Cole said there were no conflicts with neighbors, which include an apartment building as well as commercial businesses and homes. She was satisfied with her customers.
“I kind of market it to couples as a sort of romantic getaway,” she said.
She leaves information inside the unit about nearby restaurants and businesses, which she says is good for the local economy.
“A lot of people come because someone is having a wedding nearby or because they want to hike or ski,” Cole said. “Some people come because of Keene State College, or it might be a parent dropping off or visiting their child for the weekend.”
At a meeting of the House County Municipal and Government Committee on Thursday, municipal officials from across the state urged the committee to give a negative recommendation on SB 249 to the entire House.
The committee is due to vote on the bill on April 18. It will become law if the measure passes the House and is signed by Governor Chris Sununu.
Margaret Byrnes, executive director of the NH Municipal Association, told the committee the bill was too broad.
“Senate Bill 249 would allow short-term rentals everywhere,” she said. “This bill would not allow city officials to allow short-term rentals in some neighborhoods but not in other neighborhoods.”
The legislation would strip local officials of basic rights to preside over zoning decisions, Byrnes said.
“Apart from tillage and harvesting of crops, no other land use is permitted in each district and area of a municipality,” she said.
Speaking in support of the bill, Bob Quinn, chief executive of the NH Association of Realtors, said renting one’s property is an important private property right and normal residential use that should not be prohibited.
He said the bill authorizes inspections and registration of such properties and that a municipality retains the right to regulate matters such as parking, noise, safety, health, sanitation or other local ordinances.
Short-term rentals bring in more than $40 million in room and meal taxes to the state, he said.
“When you buy a property, you get a bundle of rights. One of those you get is the ability to rent out your property. If that is removed, your property value is diminished,” Quinn said.
Meanwhile, litigation is in play that could affect the future of short-term rentals in New Hampshire.
Carroll County Superior Court Judge Amy Ignatius ruled against the city of Conway in a lawsuit she filed against a man who operated short-term rentals there in violation of an order local zoning prohibiting them from entering residential neighborhoods unless they are owner-occupied.
The city appealed the case to the NH Supreme Court.
SB 249, a bipartisan bill, was approved by the NH Senate in a voice vote Feb. 16. Senator Harold French, R-Canterbury, is the main sponsor.
This article is shared by a partner at The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.