Legislative Update

Update provided by Crystal Waller, CPM, Legislative Chair


Update 6/20/16: Last week IREM issued a call to to action on H.R. 3700. The House of Representatives passed this bill with a unanimous 427-0 vote, but the Senate has yet to bring it to the floor. We ask you all to contact your Senators urging them to bring this non-controversial bill to the floor immediately. More information, as well as a letter to send your Senator can be found at the link below.
IREM Issues Call to Action on H.R. 3700! NAR issued their own call to action for the same bill, it can be found here.

IREM Government Affairs will be hosting a FREE 30 minute webinar on Thursday, June 30th at 1:00pm CST. This webinar will introduce members to the IREM State Legislative Database – what it is, how it works, and how to make this valuable tool work to your advantage. We’re barely half way through the year and over 19,000 bills have been passed in state legislatures around the country. Compare that to the 150 passed by the U.S. Congress, and the importance of keeping tabs on your statehouse really becomes clear. Fortunately, by using the IREM State Legislative Database, you can whittle that number down to just a handful. The database makes it simple to find and monitor state legislation that directly affects real estate managers in just a matter of minutes. More information can be found here.

Update 4/30/16: Today’s edition begins with an article out of Virginia, where the U.S. 4th Circuit has ruled in favor of a transgender student, allowing the discrimination case to move forward. North Carolina is under the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction, so this could open the door for challenges to their transgender bathroom law. Second, starting in 2017, new buildings in California will be required to have rooftop solar panels. Next, with the growing number of states legalizing marijuana, one man created a service linking prospective tenants looking to grow marijuana with landlords willing to rent to them. Finally, Chicago looks to put a dent in their huge homeless population with tiny houses.

Mark your calendars for a cannot-miss webinar being held on Tuesday, May 17th at 1:00pm Central Time. Caroline Elmendorf, Compliance Officer at the Bozzuto Group, will be hosting this hour long session discussing HUD’s new guidance, and how to best protect yourself and your company. Many of you may remember Caroline from the IREM Fall Leadership Conference in Salt Lake City, where she gave a very highly rated presentation on disparate impact. More information and registration details can be found here.

Also, we invite you to join the members of the IREM Federal Housing Advisory Board at 1:00pm CST on May 18th to hear a debrief of their recent in-person meetings with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Rural Housing Service, and the Office of Public and Indian Housing. These meetings have been a trove of valuable information and we are excited to hear what transpired. This webinar will be 60 minutes, and is free to members. Click here for registration details.

Appeals court rules for transgender teen in Va. bathroom case
By Anne Blythe
April 20, 2016

A transgender teen persuaded the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that banning him from using the boys’ bathroom at his high school in rural Virginia is a case that should be heard in court.

The 2-1 ruling, which came Tuesday afternoon, could shape the fight over House Bill 2 in North Carolina and have an impact on a lawsuit filed in March by two transgender people and a lesbian law professor.

North Carolina, like Virginia, is part of the 4th Circuit.

The teenager who brought the case, Gavin Grimm, 16, and his attorneys argued before a U.S. Court of Appeals panel in January. The ruling on Tuesday brings clarity to how the appeals court plans to interpret the question of whether bathroom assignment should be based on the gender on a student’s birth certificate or the gender with which a person identifies.

The federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights sent an opinion letter dated Jan. 7, 2015, that stated it was OK for schools to permit the provision “separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex” as long as the facilities provided for one gender were comparable to what was provided to the other. “When a school elects to separate or treat students differently on the basis of sex … a school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.

San Francisco Mandates Solar Panels
By Tim Marcin
April 21, 2016

San Francisco passed legislation this week that will require, starting January 2017, all new buildings under 10 stories tall to be outfitted with solar panels. The California metropolis will be the largest city in the U.S. to make such a mandate.

“By increasing our use of solar power, San Francisco is once again leading the nation in the fight against climate change and the reduction of our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Scott Wiener, the city supervisor who introduced the bill, in a statement. “Activating underutilized roof space is a smart and efficient way to promote the use of solar energy and improve our environment. We need to continue to pursue aggressive renewable energy policies to ensure a sustainable future for our city and our region.”

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the ordinance Tuesday. The legislation itself, as reported by NPR, also makes explicit references to combating climate change, and expresses concern for San Francisco’s future. “As a coastal city located on the tip of a peninsula, San Francisco is vulnerable to sea level rise, and human activities releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere cause increases in worldwide average temperature, which contribute to melting of glaciers and thermal expansion of ocean water — resulting in rising sea levels,” the ordinance reads.

Housing Guru links landlords with tenants who want to grow marijuana
By Tom McGhee, The Denver Post
April 25, 2016

Dan Brown had no idea that the tenant who rented his renovated farmhouse would sublet it to someone who turned it into a marijuana grow house, causing thousands of dollars in damage.

There were chunks of plaster missing from the ceiling where lights had been hung, soil clogging drains beneath the house and duct work that needed repair, Brown said.

And behind a washer-dryer unit, a 220-volt outlet had been removed, exposing live wires.

Brown discovered it when he pulled the unit away from the wall. “If I would have grabbed that, I would have been dead. It scared me to death.”

Renting to those who are growing marijuana — legally or not — can be a tricky business for landlords and holds dangers for tenants as well, said Rich Green, manager of Housing Guru.

The company connects people who want to grow weed legally with landlords willing to allow them to do so.

Could ‘Tiny Houses’ Help Chicago’s Homeless Population?
By Kelly Bauer
April 20, 2016

CHICAGO — Could “tiny houses” help end homelessness in Chicago?
The Tiny House movement pushes for people to downsize their homes — including some smaller than 400 square feet — but advocates are also looking at how those homes can be used to help vulnerable populations. In Chicago, Windy City Times publisher Tracy Baim and others are pushing for tiny houses to help homeless people.

“The bottom line is affordable housing in Chicago has become unaffordable,” said Baim, who organized this week’s Tiny Home Summit in University Village. Baim found that the costs of building affordable housing have risen to $350,000-$400,000 and it can take years to get the approval needed to build those units. “We are never gonna solve the problem of homelessness through that one solution.”
Update 4/23/16: The IREM Government Affairs Media Clips has returned from a one-week hiatus spent in Washington, DC for the Leadership and Legislative Summit! If you haven’t already, I encourage you to look at the LLS Special Newsletter Edition for a recap of last week’s meetings. It can be found on our website here.

Let’s will jump right in with an article on HUD’s newly published disparate impact guidance. This is a topic that, to put it mildly, has  been creating quite a stir recently. For more information on the new guidance from HUD, IREM Government Affairs posted a new article, “HUD Publishes Guidance on Renting to People with Criminal History,” in the Top Legislative News section of our Public Policy page. Second, Pennsylvania is expected to join 24 other jurisdictions in permitting the use of medicinal marijuana. The bill has passed both the Pennsylvania House and Senate, but awaits the Governor’s signature. For a list of those other 24 jurisdictions as well as a bounty of other useful information, be sure to check out our newly updated white paper, “Medical Marijuana in Property Management”. Also in Pennsylvania, the town of Penn Hills unanimously approved a resolution requiring landlords to register their tenants with the city; and failure to do so could carry steep penalties. Next, up north in Alaska, the city of Anchorage is looking to update their landlord tenant laws for the first time in over 40 years. Moving a little further south, residents in Gainesville, Florida are challenging their landlord’s ability to change rules mid-lease. Finally, in the ongoing to quest to navigate drone rules and regulations, a former district judge is challenging a Texas drone law, claiming it is unconstitutional.

Finally, mark your calendars for a cannot-miss webinar being held on Tuesday, May 17th at 1:00pm Central Time. Caroline Elmendorf, Compliance Officer at the Bozzuto Group, will be hosting  this hour long session discussing HUD’s new guidance, and how to best protect yourself and your company. Many of you may remember Caroline from the IREM Fall Leadership Conference in Salt Lake City, where she gave a very highly rated presentation on disparate impact. More information and registration details will be posted on the IREM website by the end of this week.

Landlords fear ‘witch hunts’ with HUD’s ex-convict policy
By Richard A. Webster
April 13, 2016

The Obama administration’s latest warning to private landlords, that blanket prohibitions on renting to people with criminal convictions are illegal, was hailed by fair housing advocates as a seminal moment in the battle against racial discrimination. Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington D.C. called the announcement “bold” and “monumental,” and Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, said it was a “historic” decision that will ensure ex-felons are given a second chance.

The reaction from local landlords was somewhat different. “It scared the hell out of them,” said Donald Vallee, president of the Landlord Association of New Orleans. “Every time the government puts out something new, you have people who go on a witch hunt like some of these advocacy groups have done — literally witch hunts.”

On April 4, the Department of Housing and Urban Development gave private landlords instructions on how best to follow existing law. It said refusing to rent to people just because they have criminal convictions — and for no other reason – is a violation of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin.

Medical marijuana legalized in Pennsylvania
By Karen Langley
April 18, 2016

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf on Sunday signed Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana bill into law, drawing cheers and applause from advocates, many of them parents with children, who filled the Capitol rotunda.

People stood throughout the center of the Capitol, some with children in strollers or in their arms, others looking down from a balcony overhead. Those in the back rows strained to see as people snapped photos of the signing.

“All we’re asking here is to have the ability to have that doctor make a decision in conjunction with his or her patient that will make that patient’s life better,” Mr. Wolf said.

Pennsylvania joins 23 other U.S. states with comprehensive public medical marijuana programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

After the signing, Northumberland County resident Maria Belkadi wiped tears from her eyes. Her 7-year-old son, Marksen, has severe autism and sometimes screams for hours, she said. Her research convinced her that marijuana could help her son, and she joined the advocates working to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.

Anchorage landlord-tenant laws may get first update in decades
By Devin Kelly
April 10, 2016

Anchorage officials are proposing the first major update to local landlord-tenant requirements in nearly four decades, including new restrictions on space heaters and trash handling and stiffer penalties for landlords who don’t meet minimum quality-of-life standards.

Potential changes are laid out in an ordinance being introduced Tuesday by Anchorage Assembly members Dick Traini, Elvi Gray-Jackson and Ernie Hall, and Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. The ordinance has been in the works for more than a year and focuses on the “housing occupancy and maintenance code,” a section of Anchorage law that regulates life in rental properties and expectations for both landlords and tenants.

The code hasn’t been revised since it was written in the 1970s. Officials say it’s overdue for an update.

“It’s bringing a 40-year-old section of code into the 21st century,” said city ombudsman Darrel Hess, whose office spearheaded the legislation.

Most of the proposed changes deal with new terminology — for example, the ordinance, in eight instances, replaces the word “rat” with “rodent.”

New Rules Upset Some Gainesville Apartment Complex Residents
By Bradley Norman
April 15, 2016

Residents of Aviara Apartments in Gainesville woke up March 8 to find many of their personal belongings that had been outside missing, thrown in dumpsters by complex employees.

According to a packet of revised community policies provided by resident Jessica Marsh, “all items outside of your rental dwelling will be trashed. These include but are not limited to: chairs, pots, toys, pets’ food trays, cleaning equipment, BBQs, etc.”

The packet of rules was posted to residents’ doors on Feb. 8, with the compliance deadline for the rules set for March 8. The last page is an agreement that asks for residents’ signatures.

Other rules include a curfew for “once it has become dark outside” and a retroactive ban on 21 dog breeds, including pit bulls, boxers, German shepherds and Rottweilers.

Some members of the complex — including six who declined to be named by WUFT — said they are upset by the change.

“When we signed our second lease, they didn’t give us any new community rules,” said Marsh, who has lived there for two years with her boyfriend, “so I’m not entirely sure where this is coming from.”

Penn Hills approves landlord tenant registration rules
By Tim Means
April 18, 2016

By a unanimous vote Monday night, Penn Hills council approved a resolution that requires landlords to register tenants living at rental properties with the municipality. The new law will require a property owner to file an application of Occupancy prior to every change of occupancy for each rental unit. Registration will include the names and current addresses of tenants.

In addition, the law requires every owner or landlord living further than fifteen miles from the municipal border to appoint a local property manager. The manager must reside either within Penn Hills or within fifteen miles of the municipal border. Designation of the property manager must be made within forty five days of the enactment of the ordinance. Fines of up to $500 per day per violation may be assessed by the district justice for property owners who do not comply.

Former District Judge Alleges Texas Drone Law Unconstitutional

By Angela Morris
April 18, 2016

A former district judge from Laredo has sued the state and Gov. Greg Abbott, alleging that part of the Texas drone law is unconstitutional because it violates his privacy and treats Mexican-Americans differently than other Texans.

The lawsuit by Manuel R. Flores, former judge of the 49th District Court in Webb and Zapata counties, explained that the 2015 drone law in Texas Government Code Section 423.002 pertains to the capturing of images taken from drones. The law created specific guidelines about who can capture images, what they can photograph, where they can do it and how high they can fly drones. There are exceptions for governmental functions, oil and gas utility issues, academia, surveyors, engineers and more, said the April 15 petition in Flores v. Texas, filed in Webb County district court.
Flores is challenging the constitutionality of Section 423.002(a)(14) of the statute because it allows unfettered drone-captured images of real property or people within 25 miles of the United States border.

Flores is not anti-drone, and he’s not excessively concerned about his privacy, said his attorney, Carlos Soltero, a partner in McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore in Austin. But Flores does know the law and he cares about fairness and equality, Soltero explained.