Homeowners Rights & Issues

Water Quality Issue

water-quality-issueHere’s an issue for homeowners in Florida to watch.

As you know, water is Florida’s lifeblood and efforts are being made to improve water management, water quality, and water supply which will help keep our economy stable and growing.

During the 2016 session, Sen. Charlie Dean (R-Inverness) and Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-Lehigh Acres) introduced bills enacting comprehensive statewide policies to help prevent a water crisis like the one California is struggling with.

Here’s what is included in both bills:

  • Creation of the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act. The goal would be to put programs in place that will protect and restore water flow and quality in the aquifer in order to improve conditions at “outstanding Florida Springs.”
  • Creation of a set of statewide standards that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in cooperation with water management districts and other regional water supply authorities, should operate by when it comes to collecting and analyzing water supply and quality. This will ensure reliable and valid data and testing results
  • Establishment of water flow levels for the state’s natural springs. The DEP will oversee pollution control measures for Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee Estuary and the St. Lucie River and Estuary.

Consumer Issue regarding estoppel certificates

Estoppel-Postcard_FrontConsumer Issue

When you’re selling or refinancing your home, if you’re part of a condo association or a homeowners’ association, you need to provide the buyer or lender with something called an “estoppel certificate”. That is a statement of your financial status with the association: Are you current on your association dues? Are there any liens on your home? Since buyers and lenders don’t want to be surprised, providing them with an estoppel certificate is reasonable and a good business practice.

Florida law does allow condo and homeowner associations to charge a “reasonable” fee to prepare one of these estoppel certificates. The issue is what exactly is “reasonable”.

Condo and homeowner associations are required by law to maintain current records of any assessments or liens on the properties they oversee. So the work required to put together an estoppel certificate is fairly minimal. Many associations charge a reasonable fee – $50 or $100 – to provide the certificate. Others, however, have turned this into a revenue stream, charging over $1,000 in some cases to provide a simple piece of paper.

Well, during the 2015 session, Rep. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and Rep. John Wood (R-Winter Haven) have introduced bills to cap the amount charged by condo and homeowner associations. They’re looking to reintroduce that bill in the 2016 session. The pertinent facts are:

• $200 cap on fees for any homeowner who is not delinquent on paying association dues and fees;

• Up to an additional $200 if the homeowner is delinquent; and

• Up to $100 for an expedited certificate.

Plus, the bill would require associations to provide the estoppel certificate within 10 days, and have the certificate be valid for 30 days.

On the one hand, this seems like a no-brainer to ensure that consumers aren’t being overcharged. $1,000 just to prepare a piece of paper, with information the association already has, does seem like a stretch. On the other hand, there are people who wonder if this isn’t just another example of government intervention and regulation into private businesses. And of course, there are people who think that the bill doesn’t go far enough: even $200 cap seems too high for them.

Tax-Law Revamp an Uphill Climb With Republican-Led Senate

“The divides they hoped to bridge remain, even without delving into the finer points of home-mortgage interest deductions and depreciation schedules.

Democrats want to use a new tax code to raise more revenue, and are reluctant to reduce the top individual rate they managed to increase to 39.6 percent. They’re also open to rewriting only the tax laws affecting businesses.

Republicans want a revenue-neutral bill that limits deductions and reduces marginal tax rates for individuals and companies. Some propose changing the rules for analyzing tax proposals to assume that rate cuts would generate economic growth and partly pay for themselves.”

By Richard Rubin, Bloomberg.com

To read the entire article click here.

Thousands who received debt relief would benefit if Congress renews expired tax law

“The mortgage debt relief law expired last Dec. 31, along with other special-interest tax breaks that usually would have been renewed as a package. That process broke down last year, however, leaving people who have received principal debt reductions during 2014 — through short sales, loan modifications or foreclosures — twisting in tax limbo.” 

By Kenneth R. Harney, The Washington Post

To read the entire article please click here.

Homebuyer Flood Insurance Relief

On April 15, 2014, FEMA issued a WYO Company Bulletin implementing the first provisions of the Flood Insurance Affordability Act and providing immediate rate relief to homebuyers.  In the bulletin, FEMA directs insurance companies to stop charging full-risk premium rates when older properties are sold after May 1.  Instead, buyers will be allowed to assume the seller’s current rate until FEMA issues new rate tables and refunds under the new law.  NAR will continue pressing FEMA to implement the rest of the rate relief provisions according to the statutory deadlines.

Read FEMA’s bulletin to the flood insurance companies

Complete NAR’s questionnaire if there is an implementation issue

Click here for full article.

Sadowski Housing Trust Monies to Create 27,000 jobs in Florida

The 2014 Florida legislative session is coming to a close and lawmakers are busy preparing the 2014-2015 fiscal budget. This could be the first time in many years that Florida has the opportunity to save the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund! The Florida Senate budget bill has allocated all $226.13M of the funds to be earmarked for affordable housing (the original purpose of the funds), while the Florida House has only earmarked $89.3M of these funds to rightfully return to Florida’s local communities. …Read More

Fitch Ratings: Failure to Invest in Transit Could Hurt the Whole Economy

One of the country’s leading financial ratings agencies is warning that if America doesn’t change how it invests in transit, the whole economy could suffer.

“Public transportation investment strategies will need to transform if trends toward increased multifamily housing, declines in driving, and increasing public transportation usage continue over the long run,” Fitch said.

Click here to read more.

Obama signs flood insurance bill into law

Friday, March 21, 2014 

President Barack Obama today signed into law the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014, which effectively reverses changes Congress made less than two years ago that drove up insurance rates in Florida and other states.

Click here to read more.

With a new chairman, Senate committee may revive efforts to restore popular tax benefits

Here’s some good news for homeowners worried that Congress will fail again to renew popular tax benefits — especially those allowing for mortgage debt forgiveness, write-offs for energy-saving improvements and mortgage insurance premiums.

Though there has been no formal announcement, the Senate Finance Committee under its new chairman, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), expects to take up a so-called “extenders” package sometime this spring. “This is high on [Wyden’s] priority list,” according to a source with direct knowledge of the committee’s plans.

Click here to read more.

Realtors® Applaud Speedy Senate Action on Bipartisan Flood Insurance Affordability Bill

WASHINGTON, DC–(Marketwired – Mar 13, 2014) –  The following is a statement by National Association of Realtors® President Steve Brown:

“Realtors® applaud the U.S. Senate for passing the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, H.R. 3370, to curb flood insurance rate hikes for homes and commercial properties.

“We appreciate the Senate’s swift action on the legislation, which is a responsible and balanced solution to the skyrocketing flood insurance premiums affecting residential and commercial properties that were unintentionally triggered by the Biggert-Waters reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program.

Click here to read more.