Current Issues

Realtor® Bills Make Progress in Richmond

State and local Realtor® associations worked throughout 2014 to develop a 2015 Virginia legislative agenda. This collaborative effort has produced a slate of issues aimed at protecting your businesses and the real estate industry. The following issues are measures that the NVAR and VAR Government Affairs staff will work to pass for you in the 2015 General Assembly Session:

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Realtor® Bills Make Progress in Richmond

State and local Realtor® associations worked throughout 2014 to develop a 2015 Virginia legislative agenda. This collaborative effort has produced a slate of issues aimed at protecting your businesses and the real estate industry. The following issues are measures that the NVAR and VAR Government Affairs staff will work to pass for you in the 2015 General Assembly Session:

HB 1452 (Miller) - Landlord and Tenant law; who may recover rent and possession.

Passed House unanimously and referred to Senate General Laws and Technology Committee 1/29/2015.

Different Judges Interpret the Law Differently. We have several judges in Virginia who say that because “family trusts” are not specifically spelled out in the VRLTA, our property managers cannot appear in court on behalf of their clients. This leaves the owner to have to appear in person or to have to hire an attorney. This was an oversight in the VRLTA.

To make sure our property managers can continue to represent their clients in court, we propose amending the Virginia Landlord Tenant Act to add “family trusts.”

HB 1965 (Rust) - Dept. of Professional and Occupational Regulation; Virginia Real Estate Transaction Recovery Fund

Helping our Consumers Recover Funds They Are Owed.

Passed House General Laws Committee as substituted 1/29/2015.

Currently, when a licensee is found guilty of a Real Estate Board regulation and the consumer is owed money, the consumer has to petition the general district court for a judgment. The judgment has to state the offense that occurred with the real estate licensee and other very specific language. As a result, the consumer goes to general district court, pays the fee, is awarded a judgment, but can’t collect because the judgment is not worded correctly. To fix that, we propose amending the Code of Virginia to allow judges to award a general judgment, which is already permitted under the Board of Contractors.

 

HB 2100 (Peace) - Condominium and Property Owners' Association Acts; allowable charges; rental of units; Further Clarification to the POA and COA.

Referred to House General Laws Committee; Housing Subcommittee 1/20/2015.

Each year, issues arise in the relationships of Realtors®, homeowners, and POAs and COAs. Realtors® will work with the state legislature to make sure there is clarity in the law regarding what fees can be charged and what actions ownership associations can take. It is important to find the proper balance in the agreements between homeowners and POAs and COAs to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship.

 

HB 1642 (Stolle)/SB 775 (Locke) - Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Act; related to special flood hazard zones.

HB 1642: Passed House unanimously and referred to Senate General Laws and Technology Committee 1/29/2015.

SB 775: Passed Senate unanimously and referred to House General Laws Committee 1/30/2015.

Buyers Need to Determine If a Property Will Need Flood Insurance and Be Aware of Storm Water Maintenance Agreements: Buyers, particularly in coastal regions of Virginia, should be able to identify whether properties will need additional flood insurance because they are located in FEMA-determined special flood hazard zones. Currently, a flood certification is performed on every property by the mortgage lender, regardless of where it is in Virginia. This is used as part of the underwriting of the loan and to ensure appropriate insurance coverage is applied as required by federal law. Additionally, local governments are entering into maintenance agreements with landowners that may require the landowner to maintain a “storm water facility” on the property. We have for years advised our buyers to identify the existence of these “facilities” on the property, but not to ask whether or not there is a formal maintenance agreement with the locality in place. Buyers should be educated on what issues to investigate in the transaction. To accomplish this, we propose amending the Code to add language to the Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Statement’s list of disclosures that advises the purchaser to exercise due diligence in investigating whether the property resides within a special flood hazard zone, including obtaining a flood certification, and whether there exists a storm water maintenance agreement.

 

HB 1424 (Marshall, D.W.) - Virginia Water and Waste Authorities Act; delinquent payment.

Referred to House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee; Subcommittee #2 1/16/2015.

Landlords and Property Owners Should Not Bear the Burden. The Realtors® helped pass a bill several years ago that prohibited a water authority from attaching a lien or otherwise requiring a landlord or property owner to pay delinquent water bills incurred by their tenants before the services could be turned back on. Unfortunately, the General Assembly missed one Code section. To fix this oversight, we propose amending all of the sections in the Code to prohibit water authorities from requiring landlords or property owners to pay delinquent water fees incurred by tenants.

 

HB 1493 (Miller)/SB 1100 (Obenshain) - Enticing, etc., real estate licensee with intent to commit certain felonies.

HB 1493: Referred to House Courts of Justice Committee 1/5/2015

SB 1100: Passed Senate Courts of Justice Committee as substituted and rereferred to Senate Finance Committee 1/28/2015.

Making Sure Predators Get What They Deserve. There have been several high-profile cases in the past several months where Realtors® have been lured into vacant houses and assaulted, raped, abducted….or were subject to lesser crimes. In each of these instances, the victim was lured into the property through contact from a potential “client” who wanted to see the property. We are pursuing legislation (substitute to original bill) to add a class 6 felony charge against individuals who entice anyone (not just real estate licensees) to a home for the purpose of committing a crime against them. This could include such scenarios where harm is done to a Realtor® showing a home, a pizza delivery person on a call, or someone responding to a classified ad. This legislation will ensure authorities have adequate tools in place to prosecute individuals who knowingly lure or trap individuals into these circumstances with intent to commit a crime.

 

 

Oppose the Governor's Budget amendment on the Virginia Petroleum Storage Tank Program (the Fund).

A dedicated trust fund was established in the early 1990s which is used to reimburse homeowners and businesses for the costs associated with cleaning up petroleum releases which can sometimes be costly. Owners of leaking tanks are required by law to report and cleanup the releases. Petroleum distributors pay a fee into the Fund on most petroleum products sold in the state. With the budget shortfall, the Administration has proposed transferring $2.3 million to the General Fund. One of the ways they would make up this money for the Fund would be to raise the deductible for homeowners from $500 to $2500. While the deductible has not been raised and some increase may be warranted, this is a huge increase. More homeowners will not be able to afford the high deductible so leaking tanks may go unreported and be left to pollute groundwater. This is also a bad precedent to divert a self-supporting program for other purposes.

 

We would support language to require the Department of Environmental Quality to form a committee of industry stakeholders to study this issue of protecting groundwater and assisting with the costs of cleanup and report back to the legislature later this year.

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