Impacts of Executive Orders on Real Estate

Some lodging accommodations restricted

April 7, 2020

In response to the ongoing Coronavirus crisis, Governor Sununu yesterday issued Executive Order No. 27, which requires all short-term rentals and hotels to suspend lodging accommodations for non-essential reasons except for vulnerable populations. Those vulnerable populations include New Hampshire residents self-quarantining or individuals not from New Hampshire but who are unable to return to their home due to flight cancellation or other direct or material constraints on their travel.

Additionally, lodgings can accommodate victims of domestic violence, emergency shelter for the homeless, those in need of long-term care and their family members as well as those impacted by extenuating circumstances such as a fire. Anyone involved in an essential business, such as medical personnel, are also exempt.

All on-line reservations must cease immediately. Lodging providers can only take reservations by phone for lodgers who meet one of “vulnerable population” definitions. Operators of short-term rentals may allow existing guests to remain through the end of their scheduled stay but cannot allow for extensions, except for those “vulnerable population” purposes.

Governor amends Order on evictions; AG warns tenants must eventually pay rent

Friday, Governor Sununu altered his March 17 Executive Order (No. 4) which prohibited evictions. The new order (No. 24) will allow such eviction proceedings if the violations of a lease would result in:
  • Substantial damage to the premises by the individual or members of the individual’s household, or
  •  If there is a substantial adverse impact on the health or safety of the other persons residing on the premises.

In addition, eviction proceedings may be initiated against an individual in cases of abandonment of a rental unit.

NH Attorney General Gordon MacDonald also issued a memo clarifying that nothing in the Governor’s order relieves a tenant of an obligation to pay rent or comply with any other provision of their lease agreements. Tenants are strongly encouraged to work with their landlords to pay all rent that they can afford, and to utilize the expanded unemployment benefits provided by the State and Federal Government.

In an inverview with New Hampshire Public Radio, Elliot Berry, an attorney with NH Legal Assistance said, “The emergency order is very clear that tenants still have the obligation to pay. If we come to June or July and the emergency moratorium is lifted, they’re not going to be able to pay the rent and they’re likely to be evicted. So, again, our message to all tenants is to do whatever you can to pay as much of your rent as you can.”

Executive Order on foreclosures now exempts sales which occurred prior to March 17

Last week, the Governor also amended his March 17 Executive Order (No. 4), which prohibited any foreclosure actions. The new Executive Order (No. 24) clarifies that any foreclosure sale that occurred on or before March 16, 2020 is exempt. Such foreclosure deeds and affidavits of sale may be recorded in the applicable county Registry of Deeds without violation of the March 17 Executive Order.

Town deadlines for Planning Boards, ZBAs and code enforcement may be altered

On April 1, the Governor signed Executive Order No. 23, which allows municipal governmental bodies to be relieved from complying with statutory or local deadlines for taking actions on applications such as application to both Planning Boards and ZBAs. The Order also relieves towns from existing requirements on deadlines for conducting inspections for permits as well as building and fire code compliance.

The Order states that If a construction inspection is refused or cannot be reasonably or timely offered (i.e., within five (5) working days), the contractor may continue with construction work in accord with issued permits after documenting their completed work using photographic and/or video to preserve evidence for subsequent review. Work should be left unconcealed and visible for later inspection to the greatest extent practicable. If the contractor fails to follow the procedures in the Executive Order then nothing prohibits the Building Official to take all necessary actions to verify compliance.

Abatement on interest of late property taxes

Executive Order No. 25, signed on April 3, allows municipalities and counties to use their abatement authority to grant blanket abatements of the interest charged on all property taxes not paid after their assessment, for the duration of the State of Emergency. Individual applications for abatements of interest are not required. In addition, foreclosure proceedings related to late payment of property taxes are also suspended.

Legislative shutdown extended

Senate President Donna Soucy and Speaker of the House Steve Shurtleff announced that they have extended the shutdown of the legislature until May 4. During this shutdown, there will be no legislative activity and the State House is closed to all legislators, legislative staff and members of the public.

For continued news, updates and guidance regarding the Coronavirus as it pertains to the real estate industry, please refer to our dedicated Coronavirus page, found here.