Real estate legislation to watch closely
The most important responsibility we have as citizens of the United States is to understand and vote on legislation presented to us, as well as understanding legislation that is moving through state and national legislative bodies on their way to becoming laws. It’s not always easy to do this in view of the busy lives most of us have and the complicated nature of some of these issues, but try we must. There are currently two issues worth keeping an eye on, one which you will be asked to vote on and another making its way through the Florida Legislature.
The first important subject is one that you as voters will determine. The Manatee County Commissioners voted in favor of a referendum on raising the sales tax by a half-cent from 6.5 percent to 7 percent. These funds are to be used to finance community health care for the indigent designed to replace current funding which will be exhausted in 2015. Part of this referendum also includes a provision to lower property tax rates by 13 percent for the unincorporated areas of Manatee County and 26 percent for the municipalities.
If approved the increase in sales tax is expected to generate an estimated $23 million annually. The intention of the proposal is to get everyone living or visiting Manatee County to pay a little more to cover health care costs while keeping property taxes at a level that would encourage growth.
The referendum is currently set to be held on June 18, but within the last week there has been a discussion among the commissioners to postpone the vote 'til later in the year. Some of the commissioners feel that postponing the vote would be a better representation of the electorate since presumably more residents will be available.
The second legislative issue that has been floating around the Florida House for a while is a proposal that would speed up the foreclosure process. Currently lenders have up to five years to pursue a claim after a foreclosure action. House Bill 87 “Fair Foreclosure Act” would shorten the allowable time to one year. In addition, it would allow third-party lienholders such as homeowner associations to route foreclosures through an expedited process rather than through a typical court proceeding, which could last up to five years.
At this time homeowner associations are not paid their maintenance fees by either the defaulting homeowner or the lender. These associations are forced to assess all other homeowners to make up the difference which in condominium complexes can be substantial. It’s not until a lender actually forecloses on the property can associations start receiving their annual maintenance fees.
Homeowner advocates are not supporting this bill indicating any legislation that expedites the foreclosure process ultimately hurts the homeowner. In addition, it is contended that delaying the foreclosure process provides homeowners with more time to be considered for mortgage modification programs and to negotiate alternatives to foreclosure like short sales.
In the case of the referendum you will positively have a chance to voice your opinion and vote accordingly. As far as House Bill 87 is concerned the only thing you can do is contact your representative to voice your opinion assuming it remains on their docket and keeps moving forward.
As far as the impact of these two pieces of legislation on the real estate market is concerned, my personal opinion is that both measures would have a positive effect. Lowering property tax is always good for the market as long as those funds are being recouped in another form, and expediting foreclosures and keeping condominium associations solvent can only help an emerging marketplace.
So do your duty by voting and weighing in on laws that will have an effect on your life. It’s both a responsibility and a privilege in the land of the free.