Core Issue: Taxes – Taxes relative to the real estate transaction, such as the realty transfer tax, and those associated with homeownership, such as the property tax, are a major burden to buyers and homeowners alike. An increase in any industry-related tax would have a negative impact on housing costs and the industry as a whole.
- House Bill 700 (Bloom, R-Cumberland) - under Federal tax law, a “like-kind” exchange pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 allows for tax-deferral when property is exchanged for similar property. This long-standing Federal provision facilitates efficient investment in the job-creating assets businesses need to remain competitive, and every state but Pennsylvania provides for a similar deferral on the state level. Currently, Pennsylvania tax law contains no such provision. This legislation would allow for like-kind exchanges in Pennsylvania mirroring Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 provisions, thereby removing a disadvantage Pennsylvania small businesses face in competing with businesses in other states. House Bill 700 is currently in the House Finance Committee. PAR supports this legislation.
- Senate Bill 76 (Argall, R-Berks) - the Property Tax Independence Act authorizes school districts to levy, assess, and collect a tax on personal income or a tax on earned income and net profits as a means of abolishing property taxation by the school district. The bill also authorizes the imposition of a personal income tax or an earned income tax by a school district at a rate determined by the district via voter referendum. Senate Bill 76 broadens the Sales and Use Tax and increases its rate from six to seven percent and increases the Personal Income Tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent. This bill is currently in the Senate Finance Committee. In fall 2015 the language of SB 76 was attempted to be amended to another bill. Nearly 25 percent of PAR members participated in a Call to Action urging senators to support the amendment. The amendment was defeated by one vote.
- Senate Bill 877 (Argall, R-Berks) – would remove a taxing jurisdiction’s ability to appeal the assessment of a property based solely on the sale of the property. Taxing authorities may only appeal an assessment when the property has gone through a countywide reassessment, been divided into smaller parcels, or a change in the productive use of the property has occurred. In addition, it will provide a retroactive remedy so that the property owners whose property tax assessments have been increased because of an appeal by a political subdivision could have those assessments reduced to prior levels. PAR supports this legislation.
- Senate Bill 486 (Argall, R-Berks) - would allow counties to apply a fee through the Recorder of Deeds office of up to $15 for each deed and mortgage recorded to be used for a demolition program. This legislation would change the Record of Deeds Fee Law to add an additional fee on each deed and mortgage recorded to be used strictly for demolition within that county. PAR opposes this bill and was successful in defeating the bill in the House Urban Affairs Committee with over 3,800 Calls to Action sent in less than twenty-four hours.
Core Issue: Practice and Professionalism - The Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act (RELRA) governs the practice of real estate licensees in the Commonwealth and serves to protect consumers who work with real estate licensees. It is incumbent upon the association to enact laws that enhance the industry, both for its members and for consumers.
- House Bill 1421 (Helm, R-Dauphin) – would license home inspectors in Pennsylvania. Currently, home inspectors are not held to any specific professional standard. This means that although the home inspection report is relied upon heavily, if a home inspector failed to report an issue to a homeowner, there is little or no recourse available. This legislation will set statewide standards for the profession of home inspecting and standards for the home inspection report. License applicants must: Have a high school diploma or equivalent; complete a bureau-approved training program of no less than 120 hours (including 40 in-field training hours); pass a bureau-approved examination; obtain liability insurance of $500,000 per occurrence and deductible of not more than $2,500; pay a fee and not be addicted to drugs or alcohol. Existing practitioners will be grandfathered. Biennial renewal requires 16 hours of continuing education. PAR supports this legislation.
Core Issue: Housing – An estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households across the U.S. pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes on housing. It is vital that the association play a role in helping to ensure that housing of all types is available at all income levels, and that programs are available to help homeowners achieve the dream of homeownership. The association must also contribute to the creation of revitalized communities while maintaining private property rights.
- House Bill 1510 & Senate Bill 974 (Rep. Frankel, D-Allegheny & Sen. Browne, R-Lehigh) - currently, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and accommodations based on an individual's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, education status, handicap, or disability. This legislation will provide a basic level of protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. PAR has supported similar legislation in past sessions and continues to support them this session.
- House Bill 1480 (Santora, R-Delaware) – would amend the Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act. The intent of the act is to allow private negotiations to take place, between sellers and buyers, regarding which party would pay for necessary code-related repairs. Some municipalities have chosen to define "unfit for habitation" as any property maintenance violation, no matter how minor. These municipalities are withholding use and occupancy certificates, which are needed to allow settlement to move forward, until all code violations are corrected. Many times this means that the financial burden of all repairs is forced upon the seller prior to settlement. In the case of a foreclosure or short sale, this practice can also force a buyer into making repairs to a home he or she does not yet own. House Bill 1480 will correct the current issue by requiring that certificates be issued by municipalities who choose to conduct resale code inspections, regardless of the nature of code violation found. It will maintain the requirement that all code violations be corrected within a certain timeline by buyers, with financial penalties for failure to comply left in place. Finally, the amendment will define "unfit for habitation" to provide clearer guidance to local code enforcement officials. PAR and the Suburban Realtors® Alliance worked directly with Representative Santora to introduce this legislation.
Core Issue: Local Issues - While municipalities in Pennsylvania have the authority to enact local ordinances on such issues as the registration of tenants, sewage lateral inspections, and installation of residential sprinkler systems, it is important for the association to monitor these ordinances in order to forestall any pending statewide implementation.