Affordable Housing, Insurance, Water Among Top 2017 Legislative Issues
As the 2017 Florida Legislature begins, Realtors® from across the state are ready to advocate for legislative priorities that will protect homeowners, promote business and community growth, safeguard Florida’s natural resources, ensure fair and transparent real estate transactions and provide Floridians with more affordable housing options.
Reducing the business rent tax is a top legislative priority for Florida Realtors®, says Florida Realtors 2017 President Maria Wells, broker-owner with Lifestyle Realty Group in Stuart.
“Florida is the only state that charges this sales tax on commercial leases,” says Wells. “To stay competitive with other states and online retailers, we must reduce the business rent tax. This tax puts the Sunshine State at a disadvantage for new business and industry; eliminating it will help create new jobs and grow Florida’s economy.”
The past few weeks have been busy ones for lawmakers and the Florida Realtors’ public policy office as they prepared for the Legislature to convene.
“Leading up to session, we have been working hard to explain our issues to lawmakers and help them understand why legislation is needed,” says Carrie O’Rourke, vice president of public policy for Florida Realtors. “I think those efforts paid off based on the movement of some of these bills during the last month of pre-session committee meetings.”
Florida Realtors’ priorities are:
Reduce the business rent sales tax
Florida charges a six percent sales tax on business rent, creating a financial burden for any business that leases space. What’s more, municipalities and local governments may levy additional taxes on top of the state sales tax rate. Consequently, businesses in many counties are paying up to an eight percent sales tax on their business rent. 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 leading a coalition of business trade associations and other interested parties to advocate for the successful passage of a bill that will reduce the amount of sales tax that businesses must pay to rent commercial space.
Support a permanent property tax cap on second homes and businesses
A constitutional amendment, passed by voters in 2008, created a 10 percent cap on the annual increase of property taxes for all non-homestead properties. This cap helps make sure businesses don’t get hit with property tax bills they can’t cover, the cost of owning a second home doesn’t skyrocket and that renters don’t see huge increases in their monthly rent. However, this cap is set to expire on Jan. 1, 2019.
Florida Realtors is leading a coalition of business trade associations to encourage the Legislature to take action this session to ensure a constitutional amendment is put back in front of voters for renewal during the 2018 General Election.
Cap the fees charged by community associations for estoppel certificates
Florida law allows condo and homeowners associations to charge a “reasonable” fee to prepare an estoppel certificate, which is essentially a payoff letter. Some association management companies have turned this administrative task into a lucrative revenue stream.
Florida Realtors is advocating for a bill that restores fairness to real estate transactions by capping estoppel fees.
Increase funding of the housing trust funds
The state and local government housing trust funds were created to help families achieve the dream of homeownership with down payment assistance. They also provide housing rehabilitation and rental assistance to Florida’s homeless, veterans, seniors and persons with disabilities.
Last year, the Legislature allocated $200.1 million toward the housing trust funds, the highest funding level in nine years. This is a significant allocation and we applaud lawmakers for supporting housing programs. However, as the economy continues to strengthen and home values rise, the need for housing assistance will increase as well.
Florida Realtors is urging the Legislature to appropriate the housing trust fund monies for housing programs.
Help preserve Florida’s natural resources
No matter where you live in Florida, clean and abundant water is vital. Florida Realtors supports legislation that reduces the number of septic tanks near shorelines and other important surface waters through a voluntary cost-share program between state and local governments that converts onsite sewage systems to central sewage.
Reform Assignment of Benefits to stop the abuses that raise everyone’s insurance rates
Assignment of Benefits (AOB) allows a contractor or companies handling repairs for a homeowner to work directly with the insurance company and collect the homeowner’s insurance benefits. Abuse of Assignment of Benefits with water and roofing claims have led to a significant increase in both the frequency and severity of insurance claims, particularly in South Florida. As a result, several insurance companies are requesting significant rate increases, and this shows no sign of slowing.
Florida Realtors supports legislation that would implement Assignment of Benefits reforms aimed at reducing this fraud and abuse.
To find out more about Florida Realtors’ legislative priorities this year, go to: http://www.floridarealtors.org/LegislativeCenter/TopInitiatives/index.cfm.
Florida Realtors® serves as the voice for real estate in Florida. It provides programs, services, continuing education, research and legislative representation to its 165,000 members in 55 boards/associations. Florida Realtors® Media Center website is available at http://media.floridarealtors.org.