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Conway rental owners group balks at letting inspectors into short-term rentals

Casey McDermott

This story was originally produced by the Conway Daily Sun. NHPR is republishing it in partnership with the Granite State News Collaborative.

The Mt. Washington Valley Association for Responsible Rentals is advising its members that they not allow town rental inspectors on their properties without a warrant.

The group comprises some of the approximately 800 owners of short-term rentals in the valley.

Selectmen started the program in late August to cover both long- and short-term rentals.

Between now and Dec. 31, property owners with one or two-unit rentals can fill out a form, pay $375 and allow a fire department official to inspect their rental property. If they pass, they get a rental license good for three years. Or they can fill out a “self-affidavit” confirming their property meets the life safety codes.

The form has a $125 fee and is valid for one year.

Selectmen are considering expanding the program to cover buildings with three or more units. Selectmen will hold a hearing on that Oct. 10.

Rental owners have until Jan. 1, 2024, to complete the affidavit, have a license or be in the queue get licensed.

So far, there have been few participants in the program. As of Tuesday morning, the town had received 12 self-affidavits, and three inspections have been performed. Two more inspections have been scheduled.

A comment made on social media by the leadership of the Responsible Rentals group that said “Do not let safety officials or public officials into your property for these inspections. Doing so will subject you to unnecessary liability.”

The Sun asked Cavanaugh about it, and he replied with this statement on Monday. “Our association has always supported responsible renting with an emphasis on public safety. If the town of Conway was serious about life safety issues in single-family homes they would be doing inspections of all homes,” said Cavanaugh. “We have notified our members to be patient while we evaluate the legality of the town plan.”

Cavanaugh continued, “The town put forth a 10-point inspection list. While we agree with many of the safety items listed in their plan, we have objections to some. We are concerned by comments from town staff that they “cannot un-see anything” once they enter a home. We have suggested to our members that they not allow any town inspector into their home without an administrative warrant.”

The rental licensing program was rolled out at the same time as the building inspection program, said Deputy Town Manager Paul DegliAngeli, noting the licensing program is not a “witch hunt” on STRs. DegliAngeli encourages the public ask the town questions because not all statements on social media are accurate.

On a Valley Vision program called “Straight Outta Conway,” DegliAngeli said: “This opinion (by the Responsible Rentals) that having an official inspect your property for compliance with life safety code, or property that you’re renting, opens you up to unnecessary liability — I simply don’t know what to make that statement.”

The author of the liability post on the Responsible Rentals page, Paul Mayer of Jackson, told the Sun on Monday that “the increased liability is based on (Conway Fire) Chief (Steve) Solomon and Paul D’s comments at the first public hearing, when they both said even if they have a 10-point check list, they can’t unsee any violation they see,” said Mayer.

During the public hearing held July 18 on inspecting one- and two-unit rentals, one questioner asked if the inspector would be limited to those 10 items or would they document anything else they find.

DegliAngeli replied, “You can’t go into a property and fall through the floor and say, ‘Yup, it all looked good.’”

In July, before the rental program was passed, the rental owners’ association sent a letter to selectmen with a series of suggestions, including:

  • The license process should be a “one time event” with the license expiring on the sale of the property. Inspections to take place when there are renovations that require a building permit or tenant complaint.
  • State law excludes single-family homes and duplexes from mandatory inspections and the town should focus on properties that have generated complaints.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information 

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