Freedom—March 15, 2022—Freedom voters last week gave the green light to short-term rentals (STRs) as long as property owners obtain a special use permit and limit total rental time to 90 days.
On Monday, town officials said they are developing a process for granting STRs permits, and they promised to work with property owners who have already made rental commitments that violate the new regulations. In the first of what is likely to be an ongoing series of FAQs about the new law, the town offered the following guidance on its website:
Can I still operate an STR in Freedom?
Yes, STRs are allowed in all districts with a conditional use permit.
Can I apply for a permit now?
The Board of Selectmen (BOS) is designing the process. It will take some time to set up. Check the Town website (www.townoffreedom.net) for updates. If you would like the Town to contact you when the permit process is ready, please sign up for email updates at townoffreedom.net.
Can you provide any information about the permit process in the meantime?
- There is a 90-day rental limit per calendar year.
- Be ready to comply with the following requirements:
- To provide the name, address and telephone number of a person within the state who is authorized to accept service of process for any legal proceeding brought against the owner of the property.
- To sign an affidavit and provide photographs to certify smoke/CO detectors are installed in areas defined by the NH State Fire Code and NH State Building Code and are functioning; windows and/or doors designated for emergency egress are maintained and in operational order; no basement space is used as a sleeping area unless there are two means of egress that are properly sized windows and/or doors conforming to the NH State Fire Code and NH State Building Code; and a functional fire extinguisher is visibly installed in any kitchen area.
- To provide a NH DES Septic approval. Where there is no valid subsurface system operational approval on file with NH DES, to certify that the existing system is not in failure (RSA 485-A:2 IV) and is adequate by providing a current complete written evaluation and certification signed by a NH certified or licensed septic system evaluator. The allowed occupancy will be 2 people per bedroom on the DES approval plus 2.
- To show designated parking areas on the property to accommodate the allowed occupancy.
- Check regularly for all permit requirements in the zoning ordinance at www.townoffreedom.net.
What do I do until the permits are available?
- Start preparing the materials listed above.
- If you already have reservations for more than 90 days for calendar year 2022, gather your records to show that the reservations were made before March 9, 2022.
- If you are still taking reservations, do not confirm reservations that will exceed the 90-day limit.
- Find your DES septic approval and calculate the occupancy limit for your property. The limit is 2 people per bedroom plus 2. Use this number in your ads for your STR.
- If you have beds in a basement without two means of access, stop advertising these—even if your septic approval/occupancy calculation can support the numbers.
It should be noted that this FAQ is bit misleading, as anyone operating an STR before the new warrant article passed was doing so lawfully, based on the existing definition of a “dwelling unit” in the Freedom Zoning Ordinance. Therefore, Article 2 and 9 of the Zoning Ordinance will likewise apply – which “grandfather” this preexisting and now non-conforming use. Article 9, Section 901 of the Freedom Zoning Ordinance reads as follows.
ARTICLE 9—NONCONFORMING USES AND STRUCTURES
Section 901 Definition
Any lawful structure or use of a building in existence at the time of the adoption of this Ordinance, or of any amendment hereto, may be continued although such structure or use does not comply with the provisions of this Ordinance. Such structures shall be known as “Non- Conforming Structures”, and such uses as”Non-Conforming Uses”. (Posted in the interest of democracy and transparency.)