REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill Briefing: Energy & Environment Issues | The Wednesday Word

12802814_10154557034337506_7894024781621756710_nThe 21st Annual REALTOR Day on Beacon Hill is just three weeks away! To help you prepare to attend REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill at the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday, June 21, we continue with Wednesday Word blog posts that discuss the 2015-2016 Legislative Issues.

This is the second post in the series and reviews our positions on the following issues: Mandatory Energy Scoring and Wetland Disclosure:

Oppose Mandatory Energy Scoring

S.1761 An Act relative to home energy efficiency

Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy including an extension until July 1.

Why MAR Opposes S.1761: This bill seeks to require sellers or their agents to perform a Mass Save energy audit prior to listing a home for sale and disclose to any prospective buyer the information in the energy audit at the time of the listing. Additionally, the bill commissions the design and implementation of an energy scoring and labeling system. Over and above having an enormous impact on an individual’s right to freely transfer land, such requirements would negatively affect the real estate industry in the Commonwealth. Massachusetts is home to some of the oldest housing stocks in the country and mandatory energy scoring of such older homes would significantly stigmatize and potentially devalue an individual’s largest investment.

Oppose Wetland Disclosure Legislation

H.150 An Act relative to to the disclosure of wetlands on property

Status: Reported favorably by Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure

Why MAR Opposes H.150: If passed, the proposed legislation would require real estate licensees to disclose to prospective buyers that a property to be sold is in its entirety or in part a wetland. Requiring brokers to investigate and report to buyers on the various wetland restrictions overlay maps, and provisions in each community would exceed the practice of brokerage as defined in Chapter 112.

As with any other condition affecting real property for sale, buyers are free to ask questions of the seller about wetlands on the property, create contingencies in purchase agreements that allow for an inspection for wetland areas, and research information through public records.  The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS believes that these methods of acquiring relevant information are far superior to legislatively mandating that brokers perform services beyond their areas of expertise and training.  For the foregoing reasons, MAR believes H.150 should not advance.

Please be sure to visit the MAR Government Affairs page and Day on the Hill Facebook event for additional information.

2016 MAR President Annie Blatz invites you to REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill, where REALTORS® will have a chance to network and learn about the key legislative issues that will affect the real estate industry and private property in 2016. Attend the REALTOR® Day on the Hill and make an impact on the legislative process.

REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill is scheduled for:
Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
10:00 to 11:00AM
Massachusetts State House, Great Hall

We look forward to seeing you there!

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill Briefing: Tax Issues | The Wednesday Word

12802814_10154557034337506_7894024781621756710_nThe 21st Annual REALTOR Day on Beacon Hill is just four weeks away. To help you prepare to attend REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill at the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday, June 21, the Wednesday Word blog posts will discuss the 2015-2016 Legislative Issues.

This is the first post in the series and reviews our positions on the following tax issues: local imposition of room occupancy taxes; opposition to real estate transfer taxes; and support of Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief and Debt Cancellation.

Oppose Local Imposition of Room Occupancy Tax

H.2618/H.2621/ H.2700 (Brewster)/H.3299 (Provincetown) 

Status: Reported favorably by the Joint Committee on Revenue as H2645. Now before House Ways & Means

Why MAR Opposes H.2645: REALTORS® oppose bills imposing a room occupancy tax on short term vacation rentals. These proposals promote the creation of a new tax on all homeowners who choose to rent their homes for a short term, typically under 90 days.  In addition to established businesses like hotels, motels and bed and breakfast establishments, these proposals would allow a city or town  to levy a room occupancy tax on any apartment, single or multiple family housing, cottage, condominium or timeshare unit. Private homeowners would then be responsible for the collection, handling, and remittance of these taxes to the Department of Revenue.

Oppose Real Estate Transfer Taxes

H.3300 An Act authorizing the town of Provincetown to impose a 0.5% real estate transfer fee

Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Revenue and accompanied study order.

Why MAR Opposes H.3300: REALTORS® strongly oppose real estate transfer taxes, which would authorize the creation of a new transfer tax on the sale of property in a municipality. The imposition of this type of new sales tax on homes could have serious implications for the Massachusetts economy and set the wrong precedent for the Commonwealth’s tax policies. If allowed, Massachusetts communities facing budgetary deficiencies may seek transfer tax authority to solve local revenue problems. However, creating an “entrance or exit fee” to homeownership is the wrong way to solve this problem. Transfer taxes would increase the bottom-line price of many homes by thousands of dollars. These bills single out home buyers and sellers and subjecting them to this new tax only further exemplifies the inequitable nature of this taxing scheme.

Support Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief And Debt Cancellation

H.3770 An Act relative to discharge of indebtedness of principal residence from gross income

Sponsor: Senator Mark Montigny

Status: Reported favorably by the Joint Committee on Revenue to House Ways & Means (Previously S.1521)

Why MAR Supports H.3770: The general tax rule that applies to debt forgiven is that the amount forgiven, sometimes referred to as phantom income, is treated as taxable income to the borrower. This bill would allow homeowners to complete loan modifications, short sales and foreclosures for which they have debt forgiven without making them liable to pay state taxes on the that debt. This bill would mirror the federal law, the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007, to allow taxpayers to apply for this exclusion on their state tax return as well.

Please be sure to visit the MAR Government Affairs page and Day on the Hill Facebook event for additional information.

2016 MAR President Annie Blatz invites you to REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill, where REALTORS® will have a chance to network and learn about the key legislative issues that will affect the real estate industry and private property in 2016. Attend the REALTOR® Day on the Hill and make an impact on the legislative process.

REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill is scheduled for:
Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
10:00 to 11:00AM
Massachusetts State House, Great Hall

We look forward to seeing you there!

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

The Wednesday Word | CFPB to Issue TRID Guidance

Logo0_@2On April 28, 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced in a letter to industry partners that it is drafting a notice of proposed rulemaking on the Know Before You Owe rule, also known as “TRID.”  Since TRID went into effect on October 3, 2015, the industry has been working hard to understand and implement the rule, and many questions have arisen. Until now, the CFPB has provided only informal guidance to the industry through webinars and phone calls. Both the National and Massachusetts Association of REALTORS have urged the CFPB to draft written clarification on a number of issues, and we are hopeful that many of our questions will be addressed in this Rulemaking, The Bureau announced the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) would likely be issued in late July.

The National Association of REALTORS President Salomone made the following statement:

“The real estate industry has responded well to the implementation of “Know Before You Owe,” but there’s still work ahead. Today’s announcement from the CFPB is a recognition that there are lingering challenges to address, and I appreciate Director Cordray’s commitment to hearing those concerns.

“Realtors® continue to report issues in the post-TRID environment with gaining access to the Closing Disclosure, despite years of access to the substantively similar HUD-1. NAR remains committed to ensuring Realtors® have access to the CD so they can put their expert advice to work guiding clients throughout the homebuying process uninterrupted from beginning to end.

“We look forward to addressing remaining TRID-related concerns as part of the rulemaking process in the months ahead and thank the CFPB for an opportunity make the Realtor® voice heard on this issue.”

For further information and updates on the Know Before You Owe/TRID rules, please visit:

www.realtors.org/respa.

NAR Letter to House Financial Services Committee

NAR Newsline Blog for the Media

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill Keynote Speaker Announced! | The Wednesday Word

Karyn_Polito_official_portraitLieutenant Governor Karyn Polito

MAR is honored to announce that Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito will be the Keynote Speaker for the 31st annual Margaret C. Carlson REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill.

Karyn Polito was inaugurated on January 8th, 2015 as the 72nd Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, elected alongside Governor Charlie Baker.

Lieutenant Governor Polito is a lifelong resident of Shrewsbury, where she lives with her husband and two young children. She has been a REALTOR® for over 10 years and is an active member of the Central Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®.

Lieutenant Governor Polito began her public service in local government, serving as a member of the Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen. She then expanded her work to the state level, serving as a member of the State Lottery Commission, and, beginning in 2001, was elected as State Representative for the 11th Worcester District (Shrewsbury and Westborough) for five terms.

In the Lieutenant Governor’s time as a State Representative, she was a leading advocate for the passage of “Jessica’s Law,” a bill that would establish tough mandatory minimum sentences for child sex offenders. Additionally, she worked relentlessly to secure increases in local aid, Chapter 70 School aid, Special Education aid, and Special Education transportation aid, as well as for local grant funding. The Lieutenant Governor has also worked hard to promote jobs and economic development, especially encouraging young people to explore careers in science and technology.

MAR is excited to welcome Lieutenant Governor Polito to the REALTOR® Day on the Hill. As a reminder, the 31st annual Margaret C. Carlson REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill is Tuesday June 21st, 2016 from 10:00 am-11:00am at The Great Hall, Massachusetts State House. REALTORS® will have a chance to network and enjoy a continental breakfast at 9:30AM before learning about the key legislative issues in 2016 that will affect the real estate industry and private property.

For more information on Day on the Hill, check out the MAR Facebook Page as well as the MAR Government Affairs page

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

The Wednesday Word | HUD Issues Guidance Warning Against Blanket Criminal History Screening Policies

hud-logoOn April 4, 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) issued a memorandum titled, “Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Transactions.” This guidance comes after Supreme Court’s decision last summer, which held disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA” or “Act”).
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. Violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act occurs when a policy or practice has an unjustified discriminatory effect in these categories, even if the housing provider had no intent to discriminate when establishing the policy or practice.

In the guidance, the HUD urges housing providers, including landlords, sellers, and agents to exercise caution when implanting blanket policies to make decisions on prospective tenants or purchasers based on criminal history due to the potential disparate impact is may have on minorities.
Disparate Impact is a legal doctrine that may deem a policy as discriminatory if it has a disproportionate “adverse impact” against any protected class when there is no legitimate, non-discriminatory business need for the policy. While persons with criminal records are not a protected class under the Act, HUD stresses that criminal history-based barriers to housing have a statistically disproportionate impact on minorities, which are a protected class under the Act, and as such, creating arbitrary or blanket criminal-based policies or restrictions could violate the Fair Housing Act.
Although HUD does not suggest that housing providers are prohibited from implementing screening policies based on criminal history, it does recommend that those policies be thoughtful and tailored to serve a substantial, legitimate, and nondiscriminatory interest of the housing provider, such as resident safety or the protection of property.
Whether a criminal history-based policy or practice has a disparate impact is ultimately a fact and case-specific inquiry, and all housing providers should exercise caution when implementing such policies. HUD’s Guidance provides recommendations on how to create a legally defensible policy. For specific assistance in reviewing these policies, it is recommended that you read Fair Housing Act: Criminal History-Based Practices and Policies, which was published by the National Association of REALTORS®. The New York Times also issues a piece on the Guidance, titled Federal Housing Officials Warn Against Blanket Bans of Ex-Offenders.

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

The Wednesday Word| Legislative Session Deadline Reached

leg updateOn March 16, 2016 the Massachusetts Legislature reached an important deadline known as Joint Rule 10 Day.

The Massachusetts House and Senate govern themselves according to the Joint Rules of the chambers. One particularly important rule is Joint Rule 10 (JR10), which requires all joint committees in the legislature to act on bills by a certain deadline. Specifically, the rule states: “All joint committees and the committees on Rules of the two branches, acting concurrently, shall make final report not later than the third Wednesday of March of the second annual session of the General Court.” The two most popular and important ways that joint committees act on bills is by reporting them out of the committee favorably or by sending them to study. A favorable report is an assertion by the committee that the provisions of the bill have merit and should be taken up by the legislature or additional committees. Alternatively reporting a bill to study order, which may sound beneficial,  is typically just the committee’s way of stopping a bill from proceeding any further in a legislative session.

Joint Rule 10 effectively sets up the last few months of the two year legislative session and helps identify what issues may be taken up by the House and Senate before the end of formal sessions on July 31st. This is important for REALTORS® because it means the legislature has taken action on almost all of the 453 bills that the Government Affairs Staff is tracking for the 2015-2016 session.

For a list of all of the Joint Rules click here: https://malegislature.gov/People/ClerksOffice/Joint/Rules

For a a list of MAR’s legislative priorities, including recent actions, click here:  https://www.marealtor.com/members/government-affairs.

Stay tuned for updates on our REALTOR® priorities.

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)