‘Disorderly house’ bill debated at NH House hearing

Towns seek authority to regulate, but landlords say no


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A bill that would give towns the right to regulate “disorderly houses” drew opposition from those speaking on behalf of Realtors and landlords Tuesday before the NH House Municipal Affairs Committee.

The law already allows cities to regulate such places, a law that dates back to houses of ill repute and gaming establishments, but House Bill 1634 was introduced to deal with “short-term rentals and the impact they have on our communities” said Rep. Ed Butler, D-Harts Location, and the owner of a traditional bed and breakfast. “It gives towns a tool in the toolbox to deal with party houses.”

It’s one thing for the police to deal with the owner of a property that is causing problems, or even a renter with a lease, he said. But what if the person answering the door to respond to a neighbor’s complaints about noise changes from weekend to weekend?

That’s the problem that Darlene Levette, a Conway resident, faced, she said, because her neighbor regularly advertises online to rent her three-bedroom home with the capacity to house 17 people.

“Its not considered a business, but it should be,” she testified. “They are on vacation, they want to have a good time, but we have to go to work the next day. We can’t have a good time every night. It’s insane.”

The law governing cities and towns is different, with cities automatically getting all the powers towns have, but not vice versa, explained Cordell A. Johnston government affairs counsel for the NH Municipal Association, which backs the bill.

But the NH Association of Realtors said towns should not have the authority to impose “disorderly house” restrictions. The bill, it noted, was too broad because it does not single out short-term rentals and could be used against someone whose kid was having a party. Besides, that towns already can use noise ordinances to restrict such activity.

The Apartment Association of New Hampshire also noted that the law did not define disorderly and it could lead to “selective enforcement.

Besides, said Nick Norman, lobbyist for the Apartment Association of New Hampshire. “I personally wouldn’t want to be responsible for my tenants’ actions.”

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