Rental Housing in Vermont
Posted on Jun 30, 2011
Many people owning Vermont real estate today are not aware that the Vermont Department of Public Safety, Division of Fire Prevention (hereinafter, “DFP” and formerly known as “Labor and Industry”) has jurisdiction over their homes. Sure, you probably knew that if you owned a multi-unit apartment house you had to seek approval from the Department of Labor and Industry before you made any electrical or plumbing changes to your property (and, by the way, approval from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Wastewater/Water Supply for changes to number of units or bedrooms). Many Vermont property owners, however, are not aware of the fact that if you own a single family house and lived in it as your primary residence and then moved to another property keeping the first house as a single family rental, as soon as you rent that property to a third-party, the house came under the jurisdiction of the DFP. Issues of compliance with requirements governing such diverse items as handrails, height of stair risers, egress windows, basement bedrooms, doors, and many others arise in housing that has been converted from single family owner-occupied to rental housing. Before you purchase a single family house for rental or before you decide to move out of a single family house and rent it for extra income, be sure you know what the hidden costs of converting that property to rental property might be. You can contact your local DFP office or contact an experienced builder or architect to see what the potential ramifications and costs of complying with applicable codes may be.
For owners of single family houses who occupy them as vacation homes, there is no jurisdiction by Fire Prevention unless and until you decide that you are going to rent your property on either a short term or long term basis even though still occupying the property yourself from time to time. Again, as soon as you rent your property to a third
party in the State of Vermont, you have conferred jurisdiction upon the DFP to enforce the applicable codes. DFP has the power to do inspections and to enforce compliance with these regulations. These regulations can be expensive to comply with so it is a good idea to plan in advance of any such purchase so that you know what hidden expenses may be involved if you are going to rent your property on a part-time basis.
A new set of regulations was enacted into law during 2006 and became effective January 1, 2007 for all commercial and residential buildings not covered by the Residential Building Energy Standards (a topic for another article) except farm structures. The Commercial Building Energy Standards (hereinafter, “CBES”) require that a builder, licensed professional engineer or architect certify that any new commercial building meets the Vermont Guidelines for Building Energy Standards. The CBES certificate and accompanying affidavit must be completed and sent to the Department of Public Service and the Town Clerk where the property is located. This new law applies to all commercial building construction including additions to existing buildings.
Hopefully by now, all builders are aware of the requirement that any new residential construction has had to apply for a Residential Building Energy Certificate since July 1, 1998. The RBES regulations also required that a certificate issued for any new addition of more than 500 square feet. Forms and applications are available on the Vermont Department of Public Service website at http://publicservice.vermont.gov. The statute is located at 21 V.S.A.