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Regional Spotlight: REALTORS Visit Beacon Hill to Push for Increased Licensing Requirements and the Defeat of Transfer Taxes

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RISMEDIA, June 29, 2011—Approximately 55 members of the Greater Boston Association of REALTORS® (GBAR) recently traveled to Boston to participate in the 26th annual “REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill” activities conducted by the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR) on June 8, 2011.

The local REALTORS® met with legislators to encourage them to support House Bill H.123, “An Act Clarifying Continuing Education Requirements for Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons.” This bill would increase the number of continuing education credits real estate brokers and salespersons must receive to renew their license. It would also bring the Commonwealth’s continuing education requirements to a level that is on par with the majority of the states in the United States.

“REALTORS® are career-minded real estate practitioners who are constantly looking to elevate the profession and the professionalism of those who practice it,” says Deborah Heffernan, president of GBAR. “Ensuring that licensees have a strong educational foundation that is constantly being built upon is a positive step for both real estate professionals and the consumers they serve.”

In addition to the calling for increased continuing education requirements, the opposition of property transfer taxes was again a top priority. Members of GBAR urged lawmakers to oppose House Bill H.3313 that would authorize the creation of a new transfer tax on the sale of property in the community of Provincetown.

The imposition of this type of new sales tax on homes could have serious implications for the Massachusetts economy and set the wrong precedent for the Commonwealth’s tax policies. This form of taxation singles out home buyers and sellers, contributes to rising home prices, and is not a stable source of revenue. Additionally, such a tax circumvents the voter approval process inherent in a Proposition 2-1/2 override.

REALTORS® also spoke with their legislators about supporting the following topics:

• Copper Pipe Theft Prevention/Abandoned Property Registry: S.145 “An Act Regulating Secondary Metals Dealing”

The primary challenge in ensuring that vacant properties are kept in decent condition is the difficulty in locating their owners, who are responsible for keeping the property up to code and preventing it from becoming a public nuisance. S.145 would create a two-year pilot program establishing a statewide unified registry of vacant and foreclosed properties housed within the Attorney General’s Office.

Vacant and foreclosed homes often attract crime in the form of copper pipe/wire stripping and appliance theft, making the home’s title unmarketable for mortgage loan qualification purposes and hurting home values in neighborhoods in which the theft occurs. S.145 would create a registry that would log information from all transactions and provide criminal penalties for providing false personal information, or for knowingly receiving stolen items.

• Rent Fairness: H.1261 “An Act Relative to Capital Relief in Counterclaim” Current state law (MGL 239 sections 8A) permits a residential tenant to withhold rent that is due by filing a counterclaim(s) in certain summary process actions when there are defective conditions in their apartments. This bill would require a tenant with defective conditions to demonstrate their decision not to pay is based on the defective conditions, rather than the inability to pay. To do this, the tenant would simply submit a copy of their bank statement showing that the rent is being maintained in a bank account.

• SCOPE: H.1460, S.1029 “An Act Relative to the Disposal of Municipally Owned Vacant Property or “SCOPE,” Selling City Owned Property Efficiently.” This bill would give municipalities the option of selling municipally owned vacant and underutilized properties on the open market and get them into the hands buyers through a simplified and cost effective process. In many cases these vacant and abandoned units detract from the quality of neighborhood life and, instead of generating property tax revenues, these properties create a drain on community resources and services.

• Affordable Workforce Housing: H.1266, H.2126 “An Act Relative to Zoning Density.” This bill seeks to remove an existing barrier to the production of affordable housing by authorizing municipalities to adopt zoning density bonus provisions allowing increases in the density or intensity of residential use as a matter of right pursuant to a local zoning ordinance or bylaw.

REALTORS® discussed why they oppose the following topic:
• Mandatory Energy Audits: S.1698
“An Act Relative to Energy Cost Transparency in Residential Real Estate”

REALTORS® fully support the right of homeowners to obtain low- and no-cost energy consumption evaluations, but oppose any attempt to force energy audits or interrogatories on home owners as a mandate or a mandatory condition of transfer. Voluntary programs such as MassSave work very well and REALTORS® will continue to promote them, but will oppose the concept of a government agency labeling or “scoring” people’s homes in terms of their energy efficiency and specifically the potentially disparate impacts of such a scoring mechanism on older homes, many of which are located in less affluent areas.

REALTORS® also do not support a governmental agency (or contractor) taking thermal images of people’s homes without prior consent or permission of the home owner.

About the Greater Boston Association of REALTORS®:
The Greater Boston Association of REALTORS® (GBAR) represents over 5,000 residential REALTORS® throughout the Greater Boston and Eastern Massachusetts area. GBAR provides professional development courses, standard forms, legal reports and updates, ethics and brokerage counseling, mediation and arbitration services, as well as recognition awards.

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