Rental Registration in Bellingham

wcarAn e-mail recently went out about Rental Registration in Bellingham which was, surprisingly, news to many REALTORS® in Whatcom County.  This program has changed so much, many people have waited until the program was officially launched to begin working to incorporate those changes into their real estate business.  

Well, NOW IS THE TIME!  Registration begins JULY 1st and closes AUGUST 1st!

Below you will find a link to detailed information and additional resources regarding Bellingham’s Rental Registration program so that you can better educate yourself and others on what to expect. 

Special thanks to the WCAR Government Affairs Committee for compiling all of this information for us!

Click here: Rental Registration

 

Call To Action: 20% Increase in B&O Taxes

20% Increase in B&O Taxes – REALTORS® Call To Action (click here)

The Washington House of Representatives released their budget on Friday, March 27, 2015.  Although we had anticipated bad news, nothing prepared us for what we found:

20% increase in the Business and Occupation tax paid by REALTORS® and other service providers

AND

5% Capital Gains tax on second homes and investment property.

There is some small consolation for other business owners; an increase in the small business tax credit – but most REALTORS® are ineligible for that credit.  Additionally, the House of Reps points to other states that have capital gains taxes but, conveniently, forget that those states DO NOT impose a real estate excise tax!

The Washington REALTORS® have issued a call to action on this matter – it is just that important.

Please Click HERE to participate.  It’s quick, it’s easy, and it save you and your clients!

Whatcom County Code Enforcement

Whatcom County is proposing to place notices on title for individuals who are deemed to have not complied with county code in some manner, from building codes to tree removal!  This enactment also came as a surprise to us!

The proposal is to allow the Planning Department Director to place notice on Title that a property is subject to code enforcement by the County.  This notice is not issued after a hearing, an opportunity to confront witnesses, etc.; it is within the Director’s sole discretion.  Moreover, there is no process in place to remove that notice once it is filed!

I do not need to tell any of you how dangerous – and expensive – such a title “cloud” can be.  This is so important that even the Whatcom County Bar Association has issued a “Call to Action” for its members!

The Council meets Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 3:00p.m. in Council Chambers (Whatcom County Courthouse, 311 Grand Street, Bellingham) to hear about this matter and decide what action to take.  I would encourage anyone involved in real estate in Whatcom County to attend this meeting and find out exactly what is intended by this move.

Call To Action: Continuation of Mortgage Debt Forgiveness

wcar

We have a very important Call To Action issued by the National Association of REALTORS®

Topic: Continuation of Mortgage Debt Forgiveness – Clicking the link allows you to send a letter to our Congressional delegation immediately urging them to support the forgiveness extension.  Participate in this call to action by clicking HERE!

The income tax exemption on mortgage debt forgiven in a short sale or a workout for principal residences expired at the end of 2013. Without immediate action by Congress, distressed homeowners will have to pay tax on “phantom income” from forgiven debt. Many families have decided not to go through with short sales or seek workouts because of the uncertainty over the status of the waiver. This is not only unfair but harms families, neighborhoods and communities. Please urge your representative and senators in Congress to extend this tax relief now.

  • Despite significant market recovery, more than 5 million are still “under water.”
  • Nearly 1 million households are seriously delinquent on their mortgages or in foreclosure.
  • Mortgage debt forgiveness tax relief is vital for these families.

**PLEASE NOTE. You’ll have an option to send a letter to the Senate after you take action on this alert!**
NOTE: If you respond to the Call to Action before November 30, 2014, you are eligible to receive a free downloaded copy of the National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers.

Instructions will be provided after you participate in the Call.

 

Sincerely,

Government Affairs Committee
Whatcom County Association of Realtors

3317 Northwest Ave
Bellingham, Washington 98225
360-671-5477
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Rental Registration: UPDATE!

for rentI promised you an update on Rental Registration. We had an excellent public hearing on Council member Roxanne Murphy’s proposal and, indeed, many members of our Association, together with landlords and tenants, appeared and testified before the Bellingham City Council. While we had much support for the proposal, the result was less than we had hoped.
Council member Terry Bornemann decided to not support the proposal and urged the council to adopt an inspection regiment. With that change, the proponents have scheduled a work session for Monday, November 17, 2014, where staff are directed to present a rental inspection program for implementation. We have no details about what that program will look like.
The current question is whether there are sufficient votes right now to move forward with simple registration. The key to the issue is Cathy Lehman who, as many of you know, will be leaving the City Council at the end of this year. If the Council does not vote to proceed with some program before the years’ end, it is believed that there will not be support for a registration program and that an inspection program will be implemented. Otherwise, if the vote occurs at the next regularly scheduled meeting, then there may be sufficient votes for registration and not inspection.
What is interesting to note is that the written materials for the work session acknowledges that the City anticipates that less than 10% of rentals in Bellingham will have problems and, more importantly, violations that are not resolved will be handled by the Code Enforcement division of the Bellingham Police Department. Fines will be between $250 and $500/day.
I know this sounds very complicated, but it is not. The key point is that if you support a simplified version of rental registration, it is not too late to contact the City Council and express your support. You may contact them at ccmail@cob.org

As always, please contact me with any questions you may have about these issues. We also urge you to attend our next Government Affairs Meeting on Wednesday, December 3, 2014, at 9:00a.m. in the WCAR Boardroom (3317 Northwest Ave.).

Sincerely,

Government Affairs Committee
Whatcom County Association of Realtors

3317 Northwest Ave
Bellingham, Washington 98225
360-671-5477
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Rental Inspections – Can they stand the scrutiny?

Whatcom County Association of REALTORS®
Government Affairs Committee

There is a debate about whether Rental Registration should include some level of inspection for rental properties. This entry into the Rental Registration series will look at why the Association opposes mandatory inspections for rental properties in Bellingham. If the number of inspections and cost were not enough, consider the licensing required for rental inspections and decide for yourself whether this is a good idea.

Number of Inspections: As I discussed before, most people estimate between 13,000 and 18,000 rental properties in the City of Bellingham. For purposes of our discussion here, however, lets just use the lower number: 13,000.

With 13,000 rental units, and 261 business days in a year, inspections would be conducted at the rate of 17 units per day to ensure that all 13,000 are inspected during a three year cycle. Remember, this is ORIGINAL inspections and would not include follow-ups, writing reports, meeting with tenants to answer questions, driving to the units, etc. To suggest, as many proponents have, that a single inspector could do this work verges on the silly!

Level of Inspection: Many proponents use a figure supposedly provided by an inspector in Pasco, WA who stated that she was able to inspect a unit in less than 20 minutes. That begs the question, just what are you inspecting if you’re inside a unit for about 20 minutes?

The Council wants inspections of structure, plumbing, electrical, ventilation, etc. That level of inspection, coupled with the need for the landlord to certify that the property “does not pose any hazard,” does not result from a 20-minute look-through.

The last property inspection I had took almost two hours, and then I had to wait a while longer for the report. 20 minutes? Not happening if you want me to certify that a property is absolutely safe!

Inspection Costs: Home inspections are so cheap, according to most proponents, that the landlord should just absorb the cost. When I asked some of our affiliate members home inspectorto provide an estimate for conducting an inspection at the level requested by the City, the estimates were in the $400 range.

I’m not a great business person, but I assure you that I am not going to absorb $400 in costs. Indeed, I’m going to anticipate not only the expense of the inspection, but I’m also going to look at what might be necessary to fix and include those estimated costs in the rent increase as well.

The City has suggested that they would provide an inspector – at $100/hour. Why that cost? The budgeting for a City employee is around $150,000/year (presuming licensure in a profession – electrical, plumbing, etc.) inclusive of salary and benefits; costs of office, supplies, vehicles only add to the equation. If that person’s sole responsibility is to inspect units, then the City is looking to recoup that cost over the 2,080 hours a year the person works. If you do the math, $100/hour just about covers it.

The only question remaining is how long would it take a City inspector to drive to your unit, conduct the inspection, write the report, and do any follow-up inspections that are necessary?

Then there is the question of compliance. The advocates for inspections want home brought up to “current code.” Do any of you have an estimate of what it would cost to re-wire a circa-1940’s house in the Columbia neighborhood to current code standards? It’s not cheap! Add to that a plumbing issue requiring the plumbing be brought to current code, let’s add new windows for energy efficiency, and pretty soon we’re talking some real money!

Inspection Effectiveness: Many proponents point to the recent home fires as an example of tragedies that would have been prevented had inspections taken place. This is simply untrue.

Most recent fires in Bellingham homes occurred due to faulty/ancient wiring including an arc in a junction box in an attic, failed wiring in a kitchen wall, and an overloaded bathroom circuit (space heaters (yes, plural) plugged into the same outlet). (The other fires resulted from combustible material against a heat source and an unattended candle on a bed.)

None of these conditions would have been discovered in a 20-minute “look through.” Indeed, none of these conditions would have been discovered, most likely, in a full home inspection. Most people do not realize, and I’m certain that most elected officials are unaware, that home inspectors are not required to look behind light switch plates, let alone open a wall, to verify the correct installation of electrical wiring. Similar restrictions for plumbing and ventilation call into question whether the City’s call for cursory inspections would reveal any significant issues. All that money to “maybe” find a problem? It’s just not worth it.

Finally, I want to remind people that renters, like homeowner, are able to have a property inspected at any time. There is no law that prohibits a tenant from inviting a home inspector from being hired by a tenant to conduct a thorough review of the premises and alert the tenant to potential issues. It just costs money.

But in the final analysis, the tenant will end up paying for inspections regardless of who requires them (the City), who conducts them (City or private inspector) or who order the inspection (landlord or tenant). In the rental market we have in Bellingham, costs are easily passed through to tenants and inspections costs are no different.

Many people will attend the Rental Registration hearing next Monday, October 27, 2014, at 7:00p.m. Many of them will be advocating for inspection requirements. I would encourage all of you to attend and, at a minimum, be the voice of reason as to why inspection requirements will not work.

As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Perry
Government Affairs Director
Whatcom County Association of REALTORS®

3317 Northwest Ave
Bellingham, Washington 98225
360-671-5477

67 Ways NAR is Indispensable to Your Business

From the REALTOR® BLOG -THE BENEFITS OF BEING A REALTOR®
January 3, 2014

National Association of REALTORS

NAR works behind the scenes and in the spotlight to protect private property rights, promote home ownership, and maintain sensible credit and other standards at the federal level so you can help your clients buy, sell, and rent real estate in a fair and profitable market environment. This advocacy on your behalf is among the most valuable benefits your NAR membership adds to your business, but it’s just one among the hundreds of the association’s value-adding services.

Here are 67 services that put money in your pocket by shaping the environment in which you work or making free and discounted products and services available to you.

Advocacy

Representing you and your customers before Congress and federal agencies:
1. Protecting the mortgage interest deduction and other tax incentives for homeownership and real estate investment
2. Protecting private property rights
3. Advancing sound and reasonable lending standards and access to credit
4. Advancing sound environmental policies
5. Providing financial and technical assistance to your state and local associations on advocacy matters:
6. Supporting candidates who protect real estate interests
7. Helping you and your colleagues improve your communities and enhance home values

Business Advantage

Offering you an identifiable, marketable brand identity:
8. Protecting the REALTOR® trademark and the high standards the word represents through the work of NAR’s Member Policy and Legal Affairs departments.
9. Promoting the trademark and REALTORS®’ adherence to a Code of Ethics as points of difference among practitioners through national advertising campaign
10. Creating and managing the .REALTOR top-level domain
Creating and partnering with companies offering valuable services and products to you:
11. Providing extensive property data and listing information through Realtors Property Resource® (RPR)
12. Bringing to market tools that can help your business, including SentriLock lockboxes, through Second Century Ventures, and a long list of technology applications through the Center for REALTOR® Technology
13. Helping companies tailor their products to your needs through REach technology accelerator program and the Center for REALTOR® Technology
Linking you to consumers through far-reaching media properties:
14. realtor.com®, NAR’s official web site containing the most accurate and up-to-date national listing data on the Internet
15. HouseLogic, NAR’s popular website for home owners looking for trusted information on managing their home
16. Real Estate Today, NAR’s weekly syndicated two-hour radio show, now in 200 markets
17. Handouts for customers, covering topics such as why use a REALTOR®, how to prepare for a home sale, and what you need to know about home inspections, which are available through REALTOR® Magazine Online and HouseLogic
18. REALTOR® Content Resource, from HouseLogic, which makes free information available for agents, as part of their marketing efforts, to share with customers on home improvements and maintenance, among other consumer-oriented topics
Creating policies and information tools that support your business:
19. Setting rules and standards for MLSes through NAR’s MLS Policy division that help maintain an orderly real estate market
20. Providing print and digital publications and resources — like REALTOR® Magazine, REALTOR® Association Executive Magazine, and the NAR Weekly Report — that spotlight trends and provide insights to help  members and association executives be more successful in their business.

Research Intelligence

Producing market research unavailable elsewhere:
21. Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers
22. Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends
23. Profile of Home Buyer Feature Preferences
24. Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey
25. Profile of International Home Buying Activity
26. Member Profile and Commercial Member profile (which enable members to benchmark their performance against their peers)
Advancing your industry through authoritative, closely tracked economic indicators:
27. Monthly existing-home sales data
28. Monthly pending home sales index
29. Quarterly  housing affordability index
30. Quarterly metropolitan median home prices

Member Benefits

Discounting products and services from major providers to save you money:
31. Technology: Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Sprint, Xerox
32. Autos: Chrysler, Avis, Budget, Hertz
33. Office services: FedEx, OfficeMax
34. Financial services and risk management: American Home Shield, Victor O. Schinnerer,
35. Personal finance and insurance: REALTORS® Insurance Marketplace, REALTORS® Federal Credit Union, a division of Northwest Federal Credit Union, Liberty Mutual, Drug Card America, REALTORS® Dental Insurance, REALTORS® Core Health Ins., SMART Short Term Medical, Members Major Medical Plans
36. Transaction management: DocuSign, ZipForm, relay
37. Marketing resources: Lowe’s, FedEx Office, Multi Merchant Prepaid Card, Ifbyphone, Xceligent

Education

Helping you increase your professionalism through degree-, designation-, and certification-granting programs and through continuing education credit:
38. Master of Real Estate (MRE) degree through REALTOR® University
39. CE credit, designations, and certifications through REALTOR® University
40. Designations and certifications include, among the newer ones, Military Relocation Professional (MRP), Short Sale and Foreclosure Resource (SFR), and Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES)
41. NAR’s business specialty divisions, including Global, Commercial, and Land, among others, each offers classes and other education opportunities targeted to their specialties
42. E-books from NAR’s Virtual Library that are available for borrowing via computer or tablet
43. REALTOR® Magazine’s Architecture Guide, which offers members basic illustrations and definitions of popular residential architecture styles and features
44. Classes, booklets, and other resource material aimed at keeping you aware of, and operating in accordance with, federal Fair Housing laws prohibiting discrimination in the marketplace

Networking

Helping you extend your referral partners nationally and internationally:
45. REALTORS® Conference & Expo every November
46. REALTOR® Party Convention & Trade Expo (f​ormerly REALTORS® Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo) every May in Washington
47. Young Professionals Network, which in addition to offering networking opportunities, provides to an entry point into association involvement
48. REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC), which in addition to its critical role in association advocacy, offers opportunities to network with some of the real estate industry’s most involved practitioners
49. NAR’s business specialty divisions — including ones targeted to the needs of state and local association executives, as well as commercial, global, and land practitioners, among others – that offer opportunities to network with one’s peers.

Legal Help

Supporting you, your brokerage, and your association on legal matters:
50. Financial and technical help on industry-important legal cases through Legal Action Program
51. Legal help through friend-of-the-court briefs and other actions to help inform court analyses of cases
52. Compliance best practices on regulatory matters of national scope
53. Summaries of latest real-estate-related state and national court decisions

Safety

Offering resources to help you operate your business safely:
54. Regularly occurring safety webinars and articles for managers and agents in NAR’s publications and on its websites
55. Pre-packaged presentations for managers available through REALTOR® Magazine Online
56. Banners and widgets
57. Safety checklists and other handouts for agents and their customers, also available through REALTOR® Magazine Online and REALTOR.org

Professionalism and Cooperation

Advancing your industry through standards of professionalism:
58. Establishing and maintaining the REALTORS® Code of Ethics, the cornerstone of the REALTOR® organization and the distinguishing characteristic of your membership
59. Setting forth policies and procedures to ensure vigorous, fair, and impartial enforcement of the Code by local and state associations
60. Using dispute resolution, mediation, and arbitration tools and procedures to provide efficient and economical resolution of contractual disputes between members
61. Providing resources and tools to communicate your commitment to the Code and professionalism to clients and customers
62. Offering new and continuing member ethics training available online 24/7 at no cost
63. Providing world class mediation and advanced professional standards training
64. Minimizing the potential for fair housing violations through assistance in understanding and complying with Article 10
65. Efficiently and effectively facilitating cooperation between REALTORS®, contemplated as the norm in the Code, through the MLS
66. Ensuring through MLS and membership policies that REALTOR® membership and MLS participatory rights are available on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms
67. Using the IDX and VOW policies to ensure the ability of MLS participants to conduct brokerage activities, including advertising other participants’ listings online