The REALTOR® perspective is heard by Virginia’s legislators through VAR lobbying efforts that encourage laws that protect private property rights, limit government intrusion, and maintain an open marketplace, thus enhancing your ability to do business successfully.
Below are VAR’s general standing positions on a variety of issues that affect your real estate practice.
LAND USE & OWNERSHIP RIGHTS
EXISTING PROPERTIES—RENTAL INSPECTION AUTHORITY, BUILDING CODE ENFORCEMENT, RETROFITTING
The Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC), in the “Property Maintenance” provisions applicable to existing commercial and residential properties, allows a local building official to address property maintenance issues that affect public health, welfare and safety. VAR opposes any expansion of the current enabling authorities for local governments to inspect rental properties, without the permission of the property owner.
VAR opposes efforts on the part of local governments to use the USBC, or other programs such as Universal Design, LEED/Green Building, or Accessibility/ ”Visitibility” to require property owners to retrofit properties in prior compliance with law and regulation.
Increased population growth and demographic shifts from urban centers have prompted major discussions about poor development patterns and whether local governments have the necessary authority to effectively regulate land use and fund their public infrastructure needs.
VAR opposes the expansion of local government authority by the General Assembly in land use powers. VAR has consistently supported additional broad-based revenue sources for public infrastructure funding.
To that end, VAR supports:
- Efforts to encourage regional cooperation; and
- Dedicated, broad-based funding methods.
VAR strongly opposes additional “growth control” measures that only exacerbate current problems with sprawl and the lack of affordable housing in many regions of the Commonwealth. Examples include:
- Adequate Public Facilities (APF) ordinances, which would require that supporting infrastructure be in place prior to, or concurrent with, governmental approval of a particular project;
- Cash proffers and impact fees
- Mandatory Transfer of Development Rights (TDR); and
- Exclusionary zoning practices such as drastic increases in minimum lots sizes or other decisions that discourage high-density development.
VAR believes that there should be an adequate supply of “workforce” housing in localities throughout Virginia. A broad range of housing stock is important for good economic development and a good quality of life for all Virginians.
PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS
VAR strongly supports a legal framework that ensures the protection of private property rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Virginia.
PROPERTY OWNERS ASSOCIATION ACT
The Property Owner’s Association Act (POA) and to a lesser extent, the Condominium Association Act, require ongoing legislative and regulatory adjustments to address issues impacting real estate transactions. VAR will continue to take a leadership role as they develop. VAR opposes any practice of POAs or Condo Associations that unfairly impairs sellers or their agents in the free marketability of their property interests or creates unnecessary costs and delay.
VIRGINIA RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD TENANT ACT
VAR supports the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act (VRLTA).
The Dillon Rule is one of the foundations of the good business climate in the Commonwealth. VAR opposes any substantive departure from the Dillon Rule.
Job creation through economic development is critical to the financial stability of Virginia’s economy. VAR supports strong economic development programs to include components for workforce training and workforce housing.
VAR supports the Enterprise Zone Program.
HISTORIC PRESERVATION ORDINANCES
VAR supports historic preservation as an essential part of redevelopment and revitalization of older communities. VAR opposes adoption of any local historic ordinance that creates unreasonable burdens and costs for property owners.
LOCAL REGULATIONS WHICH EXCEED STATE MANDATES
VAR opposes any legislation that would grant local governments authority to impose stricter regulations or standards that those established by state law.
REDEVELOPMENT and REVITALIZATION
VAR believes that the redevelopment and revitalization of older residential and commercial development is critical to the overall vitality of the Commonwealth. State and local government officials should encourage redevelopment and revitalization by the use of targeted financial incentives and by elimination of obstacles to achieving this end.
VAR encourages local governments to work together in regional efforts to save costs and eliminate duplication of services. The General Assembly should continue to develop and implement incentives for local governments to work together in regional cooperative efforts to provide services to citizens at a lower cost, and to enhance the region’s opportunities for future economic development.
SPECIAL EXCEPTION PERMITS/ ZONING REQUIREMENTS
VAR opposes the limitation of a Special Exception permit to the current landowner and opposes any provision in such permit that would require its expiration. VAR believes that Special Exceptions serve a dual purpose: not only to permit compatible uses by owners that do not impair surrounding properties but also to provide protection to those who rely on zoning to protect their enjoyment of their properties.
PROFESSIONALISM & LICENSURE
LICENSURE OF TRADES, OCCUPATIONS AND PROFESSIONS
VAR will support the licensure or more stringent regulation of trades, occupations or professions when the same is shown to be necessary to protect the public health, safety or welfare; and provided such regulation is affordable and not unduly burdensome on trade and commerce.
SALES OF REAL ESTATE
VAR opposes exemptions from real estate licensure for persons who sell real estate on behalf of others for compensation, regardless of title, credentialing or circumstance.
REAL ESTATE SETTLEMENT PRACTICES
VAR opposes any proposal that would substantially amend CRESPA, including any proposal to require real estate licensees to advise parties to a real estate transaction that they need to engage legal counsel.
TAXATION & TRANSPORTATION
ROLL BACK TAXES/LAND USE PROGRAM
VAR generally supports current law for counties utilizing the “land use” assessment program. We oppose any efforts by local governments to impose roll back taxes upon a change in the local comprehensive plan. VAR supports a repeal of the current enabling authority of a local government to impose roll back assessments when there has been a zoning change, which discourages responsible zoning by landowners when they do not have a specific user for the property being rezoned. VAR supports local governments having the authority to impose roll back assessments upon a change to a more intensive use.
TAXATION IN VIRGINIA
Fees and General Tax Policy:
VAR supports broad-based taxation, as opposed to taxation on only a portion of the population. VAR believes that absent such a tax system, pressures to increase local Real Estate taxes and other property fees will continue to fall on local governments, to the harm of property owners.
Although REALTORS® do not desire higher taxes, VAR would consider increases in actual costs in the provision of necessary governmental services or expansion of mandated scope of services to be valid reasons to consider an increase in tax rates, or to broaden bases of tax collection.
VAR opposes efforts at the state and local level to attach variously-named “add-on fees” to existing assessments, costs and taxes, for purposes unrelated to the collection of the fee. For example, the addition of an “add-on fee” for filing a warrant in debt to benefit emergency service providers, health care providers, educational infrastructure, etc., while for purposes many support, is nevertheless unrelated to its object.
Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) Tax:
VAR remains concerned over inequities in the application of the BPOL tax, limits on the real estate tax and taxes on services. VAR will continue to work towards a more equitable method of application of the BPOL tax and, at the appropriate time, will push for its repeal. However, VAR opposes efforts to repeal the BPOL tax at the cost of imposing the Retail Sales and Use Tax on services, such as real estate commissions, or on sales of real property.
Real Estate Taxes:
VAR opposes efforts to limit or “cap” real estate taxes, unless those caps are but one aspect of a substantial reformation of the state’s tax code.
VAR believes that all classifications of real property should be taxed equally.
VAR supports legislation to provide voluntary authority to local governments to exempt a percentage of assessed value of residential housing for targeted populations from taxation, provided any such exemption is designed to enhance housing affordability.
Recordation and Grantor and Transfer Taxes:
VAR recognizes the need for Virginia’s localities to raise revenue to address critical infrastructure needs. VAR opposes additional statewide increases in recordation, grantor and other transfer taxes for the following reasons:
- Increasing recordation and grantor taxes places an additional burden on homebuyers and sellers at the time of settlement and places an unreasonable burden on real property owners;
- Recordation, grantors and other transfer taxes are an unstable and unpredictable source of revenue. Because home sales are cyclical, when a downturn in the housing market occurs, revenues from recordation and transfer taxes fall, creating added pressures for a tax increase;
- Any transfer tax also is a regressive tax. In general, people tend to spend a smaller share of their income on housing as their income increases; and
- Recordation, grantors and transfer taxes are more severe than an increase in a broad-based tax designed to generate the same amount of total revenue. The base transfer tax is very narrow relative to a more general tax, such as a local option sales tax; so fewer people pay the tax in a given year. Distributing the burden among a wider group of taxpayers reduces the tax burden per taxpayer.
- However, VAR acknowledges that local solutions to pressing concerns, such as transportation, may sometimes require that these taxes be considered and included as part of such locally implemented plan.
HISTORIC TAX CREDITS:
VAR supports the creation of and appropriate use of tax credits, including the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program, as incentives to private investment in real estate, to broaden available housing stock, to preserve historic infrastructure, and to create jobs and increase wages and salaries.
VAR recognizes the need to develop a balanced transportation system that can effectively move people and products throughout the Commonwealth while enhancing the economy and preserving a high quality of life. VAR believes that our transportation system, provided by the state and in conjunction with local governments, should be funded by broad-based and reliable revenue sources.
VAR believes that tolls will be a component of almost every funding package for transportation projects created in the foreseeable future. VAR supports such inclusion.
Accordingly, VAR supports:
- A dedicated and reliable long-term funding source for transportation;
- A constitutional amendment that would dedicate funds to transportation construction and maintenance;
- The use of bonding authority to underwrite the costs associated with major transportation projects;
- Creative approaches to transportation construction and maintenance through increased use of the Public-Private Transportation Authority (PPTA);
- Creative approaches to congestion management efforts through proven practices;
- Road design improvements, as well as accommodations for car/vanpools; and
- Alternative modalities of transportation, to include light rail, higher speed and high speed rail, and feeder bus systems
CHESAPEAKE BAY PRESERVATION ACT
VAR recognizes the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries as treasures of Nature, and appreciates all of its many contributions to life and the economy in Virginia. The Bay is “good for business”, and a clean and productive Bay is a major “draw” for Housing, both permanent and seasonal. VAR will work to maintain the balance between a healthy Chesapeake Bay and a strong, viable economy in Virginia. VAR will continue to support reasonable and fair regulations that promote a balance between economic growth, the protection of private property rights and the preservation of the environment while opposing any initiatives that exceed evidence-based criteria of cost effectiveness.
PRESERVATION OF OPEN SPACE and the ENVIRONMENT
VAR supports the preservation of lands as long as such preservation respects private property rights and is not achieved through a local government “taking.” VAR believes lands designated for open space or other preservation should always be purchased from a willing seller who must be compensated at fair market value of the property. VAR believes that those who benefit from open space – the general public—should fund its purchase. VAR opposes the use of real estate fees as a dedicated funding source for open space enjoyed by the general public.
STORM WATER MANAGEMENT
VAR views storm water control programs as essential to sound environmental stewardship, clean water, and healthy rivers and streams. VAR believes that residential and commercial property owners must not be unfairly targeted to pay costs associated with storm water management that are not directly related to the properties in question. Further, VAR opposes property-based assessments made for creation or improvement of infrastructure that does not provide a direct benefit to the property owner.
VAR believes that a property owner’s use of groundwater on real property is just one “stick” in the “bundle” of their private property rights. Virginia has always followed the common law called the “American Rule,” which means that a property owner has unlimited use of the groundwater beneath their real property so long as the use is “reasonable” and the water is not exported off that real property.
VAR will oppose any proposal to change the law. VAR also will oppose any proposal to link water supply planning and growth management without any consideration of increasing capacity.