C.A.R. is embarking on a new venture. REALTORS® often comment that they are always seeking fresh content for their various marketing vehicles – blogs, newsletters, websites, etc. Since so much of what C.A.R. does in the legislative arena protects not only REALTORS®, but their clients as well, C.A.R. has created Homeowner Legislative Facts, a monthly compilation of articles about laws and legislation that your clients may find valuable. At least once a month, C.A.R. will post new articles to this page so that you can copy and paste into your own marketing materials. If you have questions about this program or its contents, please contact DeAnn Kerr at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill to Stop Tax on Loan Modifications Passes Legislature – updated 7/17/14 If the principal on your mortgage was reduced with a loan modification new legislation may lower taxes. The Legislature has passed AB 1393 (Perea), a bill that will prevent homeowners from being charged state income tax when they’ve had a mortgage loan modified to reduce the principal. Under current law, the forgiven debt created by a reduction in principal as a result of a loan modification isn’t subject to federal income tax, but is currently taxable under state law. The bill has been passed by the state Legislature and awaits the Governor’s signature. If signed, it will become effective immediately and is retroactive to January 1, 2014. This is great news for homeowners. The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® supports this measure.
How Citigroup Settlement Affects Borrowers – updated 7/17/14 Citigroup settlement to provide money for consumer relief.
Citigroup has recently reached a $7 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice for its role in the mortgage market meltdown. Of that, over $2.5 billion is set aside nationwide for consumer relief. Here’s some great information in the San Jose Mercury News about how the settlement affects California homeowners who had loans underwritten or serviced by Citi and what to do if you may be eligible to file a claim.
Coastal Commission Suit May Set Precedent Affecting Property Rights – updated July 7/17/2014 Lawsuit affecting property rights to be considered by Court of Appeals.
A lawsuit involving the California Coastal Commission, which regulates property in the coastal zone, is scheduled to be heard soon by a San Diego Appeals court. Because the decision will be made by an Appeals court, it may eventually affect property owners up and down the coast. Two homeowners in Encinitas had applied to the Coastal Commission for a permit to rebuild a sea wall damaged in a storm. In order to receive the permit, the Coastal Commission required that the permit application be re-submitted in twenty years. If the permit was then rejected, the homeowners would have to then take down the sea wall. The property owners filed suit to nullify that requirement. A local judge deciding the initial case referred to the Coastal Commission’s requirement as a “power grab.” Learn more about the case in the Los Angeles Times.
Pro-Consumer, Anti-“Shill Bidding” Bill Considered in Senate – updated 6/20/14
Real estate auction companies increasingly are being used to sell real estate. Some lenders require homeowners to agree to use an auction company to see if the property fetches a higher price at auction before a short sale offer will be accepted. One aspect of the auction that is not commonly known is that the auction company may place a bid on behalf of the seller – or a “shill” bid – to artificially drive residential and commercial property prices up.
The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is sponsoring AB 2039 (Muratsuchi), which would prohibit "shill bids" and make clear that only legitimate bids may be placed on behalf of a seller; otherwise, the seller bid must be disclosed to the all bidders as a bid which cannot be accepted to complete the sale of the property. The measure has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee but faces stiff opposition from the auction companies.
Legislature Reviews Bill to Allow Seniors and Disabled to Postpone Property Tax– updated 6/20/14
Until 2009, the Senior Citizens and Disabled Citizens Property Tax Postponement Law allowed the Controller to postpone payment of property taxes for those qualified property owners who applied for the program. AB 2231 has been introduced to re-establish the Senior Citizens and Disabled Citizens Property Tax Postponement Fund within the State Treasury. AB 2231 provides individuals who are on a fixed income, such as senior citizens or disabled individuals, a program to which they can turn for assistance with paying their property taxes, allowing them to stay in their homes. Beginning on July 1, 2015, qualified individuals with at least 40% equity in their home may file a claim with the Controller to postpone the payment of their property taxes. Applications will be accepted until January 1, 2016, and the postponed tax amount will be filed as a lien against the property. AB 2231, which is supported by the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is being considered by the state Senate.
Bill Introduced to Prevent Homeowner Associations from Imposing Unnecessary Document Fees – updated 6/20/14
Often, when purchasing a home in a common interest development (CID) like a condominium, the Home Owners Association, in an attempt to generate more revenue, will “bundle” unnecessary documents with those that are actually required and then charge excessive fees for the “bundle.” AB 2430 (Maienschein) will provide more specific document delivery and disclosure standards and tighten the anti-bundling provisions in connection with condominium sales and HOA document delivery requirements so that those buying or selling homes in CIDs aren’t charged for more documents than are required. This bill is sponsored by the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.
Legislature Considers Bills to Prevent Fines for Underwatering Landscaping – updated 6/20/14
Under current law Homeowners Associations (HOAs) can create rules and regulations dictating the responsibilities of separate interest owners to maintain their yards and can impose fines if these rules are not followed. Two bills currently being considered by the state legislature, AB 2100 and SB 992, would prohibit an HOA from imposing fines for under-watered lawns and plants during a period for which the Governor has declared a drought emergency. Proponents of the measures believe residents of HOAs in CIDs should be permitted to undertake landscape modifications that foster more efficient water usage without risking a monetary fine by the HOA. The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® supports these measures.
The proponents of a bill that would have imposed a new tax on homeowners has declared defeat and has abandoned the bill for the year, vowing to try again next year. The bill would have created a tax that would be imposed on homeowners who need to record certain documents with their counties This $75 per document tax would have been imposed on a variety of documents, which would include, for example, documents related to refinancing properties, taking properties in and out of trusts, making lot line adjustments, obtaining constructions loans and upon the death of a spouse. The tax also would have applied to foreclosures (the owner would be responsible, not the lender) and filing mechanics liens. For instance, it’s not untypical in a refinance, for six documents to be subject to the new tax, resulting in a tax of $552, in addition to current recording fees. If a spouse dies, up to five documents need to be recorded, creating a tax of $440 on top of existing recording fees.
The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is opposing this bill.
IRS Further Clarifies Stance on Forgiven Debt in a Short Sale – updated 6/1/14
Last fall, the IRS and the state Franchise Tax Board issued letters stating that California families who have sold their home in a short sale are not subject to either state or federal income tax on the forgiven debt. Recently, the IRS, claiming that its original letter had been “too broad,” issued another letter to clarify that under some circumstances (e.g., cash out equity lines) the debt forgiven in a short sale is still taxable. Homeowners who have sold their home in a short sale are strongly urged to consult with a tax professional to determine what, if any, tax they owe.
In a short sale, homeowners sell their homes for less than what is owed. If a lender agrees to the sale, the lender is forgiving a certain amount of the loan principal. Before these clarifications, requested by Senator Barbara Boxer and Board of Equalization Member George Runner on behalf of the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, it was not entirely clear that homeowners wouldn’t lose their homes and then be faced with a large tax bill as well. Homeowners with questions about taxes and short sales should contact their tax professionals.
Mortgages to Remain More Affordable – updated 6/1/14
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the federal agency that sets the maximum mortgage loan limit for what are called “conforming” loans, typically the most common and often the most reasonably priced loans. “Conforming” loans are those loans that meet certain federal guidelines and therefore enjoy the benefit of lower interest rates. The vast majority of mortgage loans – over 64% of mortgage loans obtained nationally – are “conforming” loans.
Late last year, the previous Acting Director of FHFA had indicated that the agency would be substantially reducing the loan limits, forcing many home buyers to obtain loans with higher interest rates. The National Association of REALTORS® and the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® both aggressively fought the proposal.
In the last few weeks, Melvin Watts, the new Director of FHFA, has announced that the agency will not be reducing the loan limits, helping make homeownership accessible to more families.
Legislature Proposes Limits on Going out of Business – updated 6/1/14
Existing law prevents local governments from forcing rental property owners to continue in the rental business. SB 1439, a bill proposed by Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco, would require that a rental property owner have owned the property for five years before the property can be converted to another use. For instance, if a homeowner owned an apartment building and needed to move aging parents into a unit, they would be unable to do so unless they had owned the property for at least five years. SB 1439 does not take into account individual families’ financial or personal circumstances. SB 1439 was recently passed by the state Senate and now will be considered by the Assembly. The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is fighting this attack on private property rights.
Legislature Considers Tax on Homeowners – updated 3/25/14
The state legislature has been considering a tax that would be imposed on homeowners who need to record certain documents with their counties This $75 per document tax will be imposed on a variety of documents, which will include, for example, documents related to refinancing properties, taking properties in and out of trusts, making lot line adjustments, obtaining constructions loans and upon the death of a spouse. The tax also applies to foreclosures (the owner would be responsible, not the lender) and filing mechanics liens. For instance, it’s not untypical in a refinance, for six documents to be subject to the new tax, resulting in a tax total of $552. If a spouse dies, up to five documents need to be recorded, creating a total tax of $440 including existing recording fees.
SB 391 is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is opposing this bill.
Draft Tax Plan Would Limit Homeowners Tax Deductions -- updated 3/25/14
Rep. Dave Camp, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, recently unveiled a large-scale plan to overhaul the federal tax code. Included in his draft proposal was a significant limit on the mortgage interest deduction. Over four years, the amount of mortgage principal on which interest is deductible would be reduced from the current $1,000,000 to $500,000. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, this would apply only to new loans. In many areas of California, homeowners who would have struggled to purchase even the median priced home would be unable to take the full deduction for their mortgage interest and therefore might be priced out of the market. The draft plan also calls for the elimination of the deduction for property taxes.
The plan is currently in draft form, meaning that no bill has yet been introduced in the House of Representatives.
On March 21, 2014, President Obama signed the “Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act” into law. This law repeals FEMA’s authority to increase premium rates at time of sale or new flood map, and refunds the excessive premium to those who bought a property before FEMA warned them of the rate increase. The bill limits premium increases to 18 percent annually on newer properties and 25 percent for some older ones. Additionally, the bill adds a small assessment on policies until everyone is paying full cost for flood insurance.
Homeowners with questions about flood insurance should contact their insurance agent. Short Sellers Won’t Be Taxed on Forgiven Debt -- updated 3/25/14
In a short sale, homeowners sell their homes for less than what is owed. If a lender agrees to the sale, the lender is forgiving a certain amount of the loan principle. The IRS and the state Franchise Tax Board have recently issued letters clarifying that California families who have lost their home in a short sale are not subject to either state or federal income tax on the forgiven debt. Before these clarifications, requested by Senator Barbara Boxer and Board of Equalization Member George Runner on behalf of the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, it was not entirely clear that homeowners wouldn’t lose their homes and then be faced with a large tax bill as well. Homeowners with questions about taxes and short sales should contact their tax professionals. Law Requiring Water-Conserving Plumbing Fixtures Goes into Effect -- updated 3/25/14
A law calling for the replacement of older plumbing fixtures with water-conserving ones went into effect on this year. The law says that, as of January 1, 2014, when improving a property new water-conserving toilets, showerheads, faucets and urinals must be installed before the local building department will issue a certificate of final completion and occupancy. The plumbing fixtures that will need to be replaced are: any toilet manufactured to use more than 1.6 gallons per flush; any showerhead manufactured to have a flow capacity of more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute; any interior faucet that emits more than 2.2 gallons of water per minute and any urinal manufactured to use more than one gallon of water per flush. Homeowners with questions about their individual fixtures are urged to contact the manufacturers. Register to Vote -- updated 3/25/14
Recently moved? Don’t forget to re-register to vote. Those elected to federal, state and local office make decisions that affect you every day, from the taxes you pay to the quality of your schools. Many races are decided by just a handful of votes so it’s essential that all those eligible to vote do so. California’s primary election is June 3, 2014 and the deadline to register to vote is May 19. You can register to vote here: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm