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Freedom Selectmen Not Happy with NH Housing Board's Decision on STRs

An article in today's Conway Daily Sun discusses the reaction of Freedom's selectmen to the NH Housing Appeals Board at a recent meeting.
Here is a link to the full story:

Here is a quick summary of the key points:

  • Les Babb, Selectmen’s chair of Freedom, New Hampshire, expressed his "disgust" with the N.H. Housing Appeals Board's ruling in favor of James and Susan Cotter, Massachusetts residents who own a short-term rental (STR) in Freedom.
  • The case involved the Cotters versus the Town of Freedom Zoning Board of Adjustment.
  • In October, the Concord-based Housing Appeals Board held a hearing on the merits of the Cotters’ case, with the decision announced on January 12.
  • Freedom's short-term rental ordinance, enacted in March 2022, led to cease-and-desist letters to STR owners like the Cotters. Their property is listed on VRBO as "Charming Pet Friendly Ossipee Lake Vaca Home."
  • The board's ruling implies that STR owners who rented their properties before 2022, including the Cotters, are exempt from obtaining a conditional permit and from the additional health and safety requirements of the new ordinance.
  • The ruling indicates that Freedom’s ordinance applies only to STRs established after the 2022 town vote. STRs created since then must comply with a 90-day rental cap and obtain a conditional use permit.
  • Babb criticized the Housing Authority for exempting some STR owners from life safety standards, which are mandatory for long-term landlords and foster child parents.
  • Florio noted that some STR owners voluntarily comply with the permitting process for life safety reasons. Permit holders are listed publicly, allowing potential renters to verify.
  • Matt Johnson, the lawyer for the Mt. Washington Valley Association for Responsible Rentals, questioned if the STR ordinance is truly about public safety, citing its focus on issues like parking and quiet times.
  • About 40 conditional use permits have been issued in Freedom, costing $50 each. The application process involves review by the planning board, fire chief, and building inspector.
  • Babb noted there's a criteria checklist for permit applicants, but no inspection is required. Town staff assist with application processes.
  • Howlett inquired if the selectmen plan to appeal the ruling to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, but Babb indicated uncertainty about the town's potential success in an appeal.
  • Babb expressed frustration over the Housing Authority assuming liability for life safety standards and suggested moving on to other meeting items.

If you are a short term rental owner, life safety items should always be on your mind, regardless if mandated by the town. With such little oversight on construction and code in New Hampshire, it is definitely something owners need to consider before inviting any guests (renters or friends) into their homes.

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