TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Jan. 10, 2018 – As the 2018 Florida legislative session begins, it offers a prime opportunity to resolve ongoing issues impacting property insurance, vacation rentals, affordable housing and business growth, according to Florida Realtors®, the state’s largest professional trade association.
“Every session, Florida Realtors stands ready to support homeownership initiatives and defend the private property rights of Floridians throughout the state,” says 2018 Florida Realtors President Christine Hansen, broker-owner with Century 21 Hansen Realty in Fort Lauderdale. “This Session is no different as we work to educate lawmakers on growing AOB abuses, private property rights associated with vacation rentals, affordable housing needs and the benefits of further reductions to Florida’s business rent tax.”
Florida Realtors’ top priorities for 2018 are:
Assignment of Benefits reform
AOB was designed to help property owners streamline repairs to their home. But a growing number of contractors, such as water remediation companies and roofers, have been inflating the cost of repairs. When insurers contest the claim, the contractors file a lawsuit. Insurers often settle the lawsuit but the litigation costs are passed on to all policyholders.
“Realtors are going to make it clear that drastic reform of the Assignment of Benefits process is needed to cut down on the abuse that drives up insurance premiums for property owners,” says 2018 Florida Realtors Public Policy Committee Vice Chair Tim Weisheyer. “In just 10 years we have seen 405 AOB cases balloon to 28,000, and the average AOB insurance claim is 50 percent more than non-AOB claims. These are sobering facts that really demonstrate the need for legislative action.”
Business rent tax reduction
The 2017 Legislature took a big first step in growing Florida’s economy by lowering the sales tax on rent to 5.8 percent. Small businesses, which make up almost 99 percent of all Florida employers, are disproportionately impacted by the tax. Further reductions to this tax will provide businesses with the capital needed to expand, hire, improve benefits and raise salaries.
“There is no doubt that last year’s reduction to the business rent tax will help small businesses throughout the state, but we still have a lot of work to do if we want to lift this burden off our economy,” says 2018 Florida Realtors President-Elect Eric Sain. “Millions of workers and their families benefit from a lower business rent tax and that’s why we are going to be back at it again this year, urging lawmakers to reduce it even further.”
Vacation rental fairness
Online platforms have significantly expanded the ability of homeowners to rent their property. In response, local governments around the state are establishing new ordinances, inspections and fees designed to discourage vacation rentals, often at the expense of private property rights.
“Innovative vacation rental tools have opened up new revenue sources for Floridians throughout the state, bringing increased flexibility and prosperity to their lives,” Sain explains. “Unfortunately, local governments see vacation rentals as a disruption to the community and are trying to discourage the practice by infringing on people’s property rights. We are urging the Legislature to step in and prevent property rights from being undermined.”
Increase affordable housing funds
A 2017 report from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) ranks Florida as the sixth least affordable housing market in the nation – discouraging news for a state looking to grow its economy. To encourage people to move to Florida, build lives here and contribute to the economy, the state housing trust funds need to be directed to as many programs as possible to help people buy homes.
“In support of our original position from 1992, Realtors will continue to advocate for as much funding as possible for affordable housing,” says 2018 Florida Realtors Treasurer Cheryl Lambert. “These trust fund dollars positively impact our communities by giving thousands of Floridians the ability to achieve the American dream of homeownership.”