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December 2018 New and Revised Forms Release

On December 10, 2018, C.A.R. and zipForms® released a total of 34 new and revised forms.  Out of those 34, there were actually only 2 new forms:
• The Buyer Pre-Occupancy Storage Agreement (POSA) and
• The Summary of Offer RIPA (SUM-RIPA).

Of the remaining 32 forms, 12 were revised in an effort to make them easier to understand and use. The remaining 20 forms were revised due to statutory changes to take effect January 1, 2019. The new laws pertaining to the agency disclosure and confirmation of agency forms required revisions to 10 purchase agreements, 6 listing agreements, and 3 agency disclosure forms.  Essentially all of these forms had the same statutory changes. 

The final revised form, the Trust Advisory, had one word removed, reflecting a change in the law pertaining to the disclosure obligations of sellers who are co-trustees of revocable living trusts. Under the changed law these sellers would not be exempt from having to complete a TDS.   

Quick Summary explanation (in chart form) of the new and revised forms
 
Review copies of the new and revised forms  

Agency Disclosure - One More Time

Finally, and as indicated above, the agency disclosure and confirmation law will change January 1, 2019.  During the December webinar presentation of the new and revised forms, the changes to the agency disclosure and confirmation process generated the most questions.  In response to that we have included the December 3, 2018 Realegal® which discussed the 2019 Agency law changes.  
To recap: The new agency confirmation will require 
• The names of the brokerage firms and license numbers
• The names of each agent and their license numbers
• Each agent’s status as a dual or exclusive agent must match their broker’s

Don’t make the mistake of indicating the listing agent as an exclusive agent while the brokerage firm is a dual agent. If the brokerage firm is a dual agent, then all of the other agents are also dual agents. This will be indicated automatically on zipForm. But if the transaction is in hard copy then you must be careful to indicate the agency relationship correctly. 

Remember: IF THE BROKER IS A DUAL AGENT, THEN THE AGENTS ARE DUAL AGENTS.


NBC Wire Fraud Report Claims “realtors’” Email Practices are responsible for Spoofing Scam. Quotes the FBI as Advising Against the Use of Free Email Accounts.

An NBC news report claims that “realtors’” negligent use of free email accounts create the risk of wire fraud. The facts of the story are simple. A thief fooled a buyer into following phony wiring instructions by using an agent’s spoofed email address.  Here are the two emails side by side:

REAL  xxxxYOURREALTOR@xxxx.com

FAKE xxxxYOUREALTOR@xxxx.com

Not spotting the difference (a single “r”), and believing the email was sent from her agent, the buyer followed the fake instructions and wired $85,000 to the criminal.
The news report quotes from an FBI Alert from last year that advised businesses to avoid free web-based e-mail accounts. The Alert recommended establishing a company domain name and using it to create company e-mail accounts in lieu of free, web-based accounts.

What could have prevented the scam? 

Following the advice in the Wire Fraud Advisory form (C.A.R. form WFA) would have almost certainly thwarted this scam. The WFA advises the client to:

1. Obtain phone numbers and account numbers only from Escrow Officers at the beginning of the transaction.
2. Do not ever wire funds unless you have called to confirm the instructions with the phone numbers you were provided with at the beginning of the transaction.
3. Orally confirm that the wiring instructions are legitimate.
4. Avoid sending personal information in emails or texts. Provide that information over the telephone directly to the escrow officer.
5. Take steps to secure email systems such as passwords, secure WiFi and not using free services.

Furthermore, although you should avoid sending personal information by email or text, using zipCommunity™ to communicate sensitive data with a client provides much greater security than the use of a free web-based e-mail account. This efficient and secure member benefit can be launched from zipForm® Plus at any time by clicking on the SHARE button.   

Cyber-security requires more than a single prevention technique.

Even though this news report highlighted the role of free web-based e-mail accounts, agents and brokers should understand that there is no single prevention technique and that avoiding use of free email accounts is only one of many suggested cyber-security precautions. Indeed, the FBI Alert listed 14 bulleted self-protection strategies including:

• Be suspicious of requests for secrecy or pressure to take action quickly. 
• Consider implementing two-factor authentication for corporate e-mail accounts. Two-factor authentication mitigates the threat of a subject gaining access to an employee’s e-mail account through a compromised password by requiring two pieces of information to log in: (1) something you know (a password) and (2) something you have (such as a dynamic PIN or code).
• Register all company domains that are slightly different than the actual company domain.
• Know the habits of your customers, including the details of, reasons behind, and amount of payments. 
• Carefully scrutinize all e-mail requests for transfers of funds to determine if the requests are out of the ordinary. 

Please see our Q&A “Protect Your Brokerage from Cybercrime” for additional tips and ideas for practicing safe cybersecurity. 

State of Emergency Protections Against Price Gouging extended to May 31, 2019 for Specific Counties

On November 28th Governor Brown issued an executive order extending states of emergency in Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Santa Barbara, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sonoma and Ventura counties due to fires.  California law generally prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10 percent, the price of an item before a state or local declaration of emergency. This law applies to rental housing, among other services. Importantly, the prohibition is not limited to the counties in which the states of emergency were declared but could apply anywhere affected by the disaster.  

Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in a one-year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Violators are also subject to civil enforcement actions including civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, injunctive relief and mandatory restitution. The Attorney General and local district attorneys can enforce the statute.
C.A.R. stands ready to assist REALTORS® who have been impacted by these wildfires through its Disaster Relief Fund. The Association established the fund in the wake of the 2003 California wildfires. Grants provided by the fund are used to help members of the REALTOR® family -- REALTORS®, their staff, and Association members and their staff -- who have incurred substantial losses due to wildfires and other disasters by distributing grants of up to $5,000. See our “California Wildfire Resources” page for details and for other resources concerning the wildfires. 

FHA loan limits to increase in most of U.S. in 2019

In high-cost areas of the country, FHA’s loan limit ceiling will increase to $726,525 from $679,650. FHA will also increase its floor to $314,827 from $294,515. Additionally, the National Mortgage Limit for FHA-insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs), or reverse mortgages, will increase to $726,525 from $679,650. FHA’s current regulations implementing the National Housing Act’s HECM limits do not allow loan limits for reverse mortgages to vary by MSA or county; instead, the single limit applies to all mortgages regardless of where the property is located.

Here is the HUD announcement.

Minneapolis Votes to End Single-Family Zoning, Addressing Housing Crisis and Inequity

On December 7, the Minneapolis City Council voted to get rid of the category of single-family zoning and instead allow residential structures with up to three dwelling units — that is, duplexes and triplexes — in every neighborhood. Minneapolis is believed to be the first major city in the United States to approve such a change citywide.
Here is a New York Times article reporting on the decision. 

On December 7, the Minneapolis City Council voted to get rid of the category of single-family zoning and instead allow residential structures with up to three dwelling units — that is, duplexes and triplexes — in every neighborhood. Minneapolis is believed to be the first major city in the United States to approve such a change citywide.
Here is a New York Times article reporting on the decision. 

 

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