Florida Realtor’s Legislature 2012 Positives

Here are some highlights from the 2012 legislative session, which adjurned midnight Friday.  The Realtor’s primary focus was on initiatives that could strengthen the real estate market and improve the business environment.

Real estate sales associates and broker associates exempt from local business taxes. HB 7125, a bill by the House Economic Affairs Committee and Rep. Ken Roberson (R-Port Charlotte) exempts real estate sales associates and broker associates from paying local business taxes (formerly known as occupational license fees) if required in their city or county. Under Florida law, these individuals must affiliate with a real estate broker who already pays local business taxes. Brokers will continue to pay the tax. Repeal of the tax will save real estate licensees $3.8 million annually. Effective date if signed by governor: Oct. 1, 2012.

Mandatory septic tank inspections out, optional inspections in. HB 1263 , an omnibus health care bill by Rep. Matt Hudson (R-Naples), was amended yesterday with Realtor-supported language originally provided in HB 999 by Rep. Chris Dorworth (R-Heathrow) and SB 820 by Sen. Charlie Dean (R-Inverness) to repeal the mandatory septic tank inspection law passed in 2010. It establishes an optional inspection program for the 19 counties with the 33 largest springs. However, other cities and counties may opt into the program as well. Also, septic tank inspections cannot be required as a condition of sale. Effective date if signed by governor: March 9, 2012.

A major step toward creating a competitive property insurance market. HB 1127 by Rep. Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) reduces the amount of money private insurers must give Citizens Property Insurance Corp. if the state insurer goes broke after a catastrophic storm. The first check a private insurer writes after a catastrophic storm should be to their policyholders, not Citizens. However, current law requires insurers to pay Citizens up to 18 percent of their premiums within 30 days of being assessed. They can later recoup these monies from their policyholders. It’s hoped that HB 1127 will attract new insurers to Florida and keep existing insurers here. Effective date if signed by governor: July 1, 2012.

Tax boost for businesses. HJR 1003 by Rep. Eric Eisnaugle (R-Orlando) creates a proposed constitutional amendment to increase the exemption for tangible personal property taxes. Under current law, an exemption applies to the first $25,000 in property taxes such as business equipment. If approved by 60 percent of voters in the November election, the exemption would expand to include the value of tangible personal property between $25,000 and $50,000.

Options for challenging Citizens replacement cost estimates. In January, following discussions with Florida Realtors and policyholders concerned about unreasonably high replacement cost estimates, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. agreed to consider valuation sources other than 360Value software. HB 1101 codifies three options into law, including valuations prepared by real estate appraisers licensed under Chapter 475, F.S. Effective date if signed by governor: July 1, 2012.

Broad range of economic development incentives. HB 7087 is a large omnibus tax bill that’s part of the budget deal agreed to between the House and Senate. Of particular interest to real estate companies is an increase in the corporate income tax exemption from $25,000 to $50,000. Effective date if signed by governor: July 1, 2012.

Reducing condo inventory and protecting an appraiser’s interests.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) pushed two bills this session that contain items of interest to the real estate industry. You may recall that the 2010 Legislature wanted to encourage investors to purchase blocks of condo units to reduce inventory levels. This was accomplished in part by amending condo laws to protect bulk buyers from some of the liabilities faced by condo developers. These protections were set to expire on July 1, 2012. HB 517 by Rep. James Grant (R-Tampa) extends the “bulk buyer” provision to July 1, 2015. Effective date if signed by governor: July 1, 2012.

The other DBPR bill, HB 887 by Rep. Clay Ingram (R-Pensacola), prohibits Appraisal Management Companies from requiring appraisers to sign hold harmless agreements as a condition of business. Effective date if signed by governor: Oct. 1, 2012.

Budget appropriations. Though the Legislature swept all monies collected for the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund into general revenue, it appropriated funds for economic development initiatives and tourism that could ultimately benefit the real estate market:

  • $61 million for the State Economic Enhancement and Development (SEED) Fund and other economic development funds. These monies may be used to fund affordable housing programs and projects.
  • $27.5 million for Visit Florida, the state’s marketing agency.
  • $8.6 million for Enterprise Florida, a state economic development agency.

In addition, the Legislature set aside $285,000 to combat unlicensed activity, $30 million for Everglades restoration, $8.4 million for the Florida Forever land acquisition program and $1.5 million to study nitrogen reduction and develop possible new technology for passive septic systems.

via  Florida Realtors® News



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