When Orlando REALTORS® made their annual trek to Tallahassee back in March for Great American REALTOR® Days, they were backed by one of the state’s largest lobbies. Florida Realtors® Office of Public Policy provides programs, services, continuing education, research, and legislative representation to our state’s 187,000 REALTORS®. Its 2019 priorities and activities focus on the following real estate related issues:
REALTOR® ACTION: Advocate for full funding from the affordable housing trust funds to be allocated for affordable housing projects.
The State and Local Government Housing Trust Funds were created in the early 1990s to help Floridians in good times and bad. They are supported entirely by a portion of the doc stamp taxes charged on every real estate transaction. For thousands of families, these funds are the only way to realize the American dream of homeownership. They also provide housing rehabilitation and rental assistance to Florida’s homeless, veterans, seniors, and persons with disabilities.
As the economy continues to strengthen and home values rise, the need for housing assistance will increase as well.
Additionally, Florida’s affordable housing trust funds carry a large return on investment ($9 for every $1 spent), according to a report issued by Florida State University.
ONLINE REMOTE NOTARIZATION
REALTOR® ACTION: Support legislation that enables the use of online remote notarization in real estate transactions.
Throughout Florida, REALTORS® provide consumers with the advantage they need to succeed in today’s market as they buy, sell and lease their homes, businesses and investment properties. When implemented with appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy and security of consumers, online notarization will result in a more accessible, streamlined and verifiable way to have critical transactions notarized.
Florida Realtors® supports the adoption of tools and processes that improve the experience for consumers and the REALTORS® serving them. Remote online notarization is one of those tools, modernizing the sales transaction and allowing for increased flexibility when it comes to closings.
Online notarization preserves the traditional assurances of integrity provided by a notary, with the added benefit of better fraud detection in an evolving digital commerce world.
PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS
REALTOR® Action: Continue to advocate for solutions that prevent local governments from restricting homeowners’ right to rent their own properties.
The Internet has made it easier for homeowners to rent their property, expanding housing options for individuals who live in, or travel to, Florida. Many local governments have enacted new ordinances designed to discourage property owners from exercising their right to rent their property.
Being able to rent your home is a fundamental right of property owners.
Short-term rental (STR) ordinances, including local licensing requirements and guest restrictions, can infringe upon this fundamental property right in significant ways. State and local REALTOR® associations, while respecting community concerns, are well positioned to monitor state and local regulatory activity and to take action to protect private property rights.
WATER QUALITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL FUNDING
REALTOR® ACTION: Support policies that help eliminate harmful discharges that are polluting our coastal estuaries; seek funding and additional policy changes for Everglades Restoration; encourage septic-to-sewer conversions; support maintenance programs for property owners still on septic so their systems don’t discharge pollutants into surface and groundwater; and advocate for funding of beach and shoreline restoration projects around the state.
Water is the lifeblood of all Florida residents and visitors to our state. It forms the foundation of our communities and must be protected. Florida Realtors® will continue to advocate for Florida’s natural resources and a pristine environment. We will also encourage all stakeholders, including the State of Florida, to do their part to help solve environmental problems such as red tide.
OPEN AND EXPIRED PERMITS
REALTOR® ACTION: Support legislation that would provide owners with the ability to use a new contractor to perform the necessary work and receive a final inspection for an open permit and support legislation that would provide for an open permit to be automatically closed seven years after issuance.
It is not uncommon for an open permit to interfere with the closing of a real estate transaction. Florida Realtors® supports legislation to help property owners close both open and expired permits when the original contractor is unable or unavailable to do so. Such legislation should provide an alternative method for owners to close permits with the applicable local government and it should apply to residential, commercial, and mixed-use properties.
ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS
REALTOR® ACTION: Support legislation that would reform the assignment of benefits process to help stop this abuse.
An Assignment of Benefits (AOB) provides insurance policyholders with the ability to assign their post-loss insurance benefits to a contractor. These contractors can then directly charge the insurance company for the cost of remediation or repairs. However, a growing number of contractors have been inflating the cost of repairs.
When the insurance company refuses to pay the claim, the contractor initiates litigation. Insurers typically pay these inflated claims to avoid the high cost of litigation. This increase in legal costs is often passed along to policyholders in the form of higher premiums.
AOB abuse has reached staggering levels. In 2006, there were 405 AOB lawsuits. In 2016, that number rose to 28,200, according to the Office of Insurance Regulation.
A study of more than 80,000 Florida insurance claims for water damage showed the average AOB claim was approximately $17,000 – 50 percent more than non-AOB claims.
Policyholders are paying in the form of higher insurance premiums. In 2017, 90 percent of insurance companies requested rate increases compared to only 37.6 percent in 2014.
Reform is needed to stop the abuses that raise homeowners’ insurance rates.
BUSINESS RENT TAX
REALTOR® ACTION: Continue to advocate for further reductions to this to the business rent take in order to give businesses the financial resources to grow their companies and enrich their communities.
Florida currently charges a 5.7 percent sales tax on business rent, creating a financial burden for any business that leases space. Lowering the business rent tax will provide Florida businesses with the capital to expand, hire more employees, improve benefits and raise salaries.
Florida Realtors® is grateful for the support of the 2017 and 2018 Florida Legislatures, which have lowered the state sales tax rate on commercial space to 5.7 percent.
These two consecutive years of rate cuts have saved Florida businesses $93 million.
REALTOR® ACTION: Support the most accurate elevation mapping process available and the funding needed to pay for it.
Flood insurance is an essential part of homeownership in Florida and the cost of these policies directly impacts the state’s real estate industry. Elevation mapping is one of the tools that the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses to determine flood insurance zones and rates. LIDAR (light detection and ranging) mapping is currently the most technologically advanced elevation mapping process that has been developed. The 2018 Legislature appropriated funds to LIDAR map a portion of Florida.