Vacation home bill and insurance reform top Florida Realtors' goals for 2018

Florida Realtors is adding the weight of its 180,000 members behind a legislative push to end local government restrictions on vacation home rentals.

"Our position at Florida Realtors is that's an infringement of private property rights," said Tim Weisheyer, vice chair of the Public Policy Committee for the state association.  

Weisheyer, broker-owner of Dream Builders Realty in Kissimmee,  spoke with GrowthSpotter about the association's primary goals during the 2018 legislative session.

He said the association is hoping to build on its success last year, including a further reduction of the state sales tax on commercial leases. The 2017 legislature reduced the tax by 0.2 percent, which resulted in more than $60 million in savings to commercial tenants.

"We know this year is a tight budget year," Weisheyer said. "There is not a bill filed -- it will come through in a budget package, ultimately." 

The Realtors' goal to eliminate the tax completely, but they see it as a multi-year process. 

"It's a significant ask, we recognize, but it's a significant savings as well," Weisheyer said. "It's going to be a continual process for us. We're not going to take our foot off the gas pedal on this."

The Realtors are also lobbying for a stronger investment in affordable housing through the state and local government housing trust funds, which are supported through the collection of doc stamp taxes. State economists are estimating $314 million in revenue will be available in the next fiscal year for the housing trust funds.

"We think they should be used toward home buyers and not rental assistance," Weisheyer said. 

Insurance reform is another priority for the association, specifically with regard to assignment of benefits. Weisheyer said the association has been working on the issue for years, but last year's hurricane season pushed it to the top of the priorities list.

"We're pretty confident we'll have some success with AOB reform this year," Weisheyer said. "The time is right, in my opinion, for the legislature to look long and hard at this."

AOB allows policyholders to assign their post-loss insurance benefits to a contractor, such as a water remediation company or roofer, so the contractor can charge the insurance company for its work directly. In many of those cases, contractors inflate the cost of the repair, often leading to litigation and ultimately, higher premiums. 

"Insurance is always a major factor in Florida," Weisheyer said. "If we don't get some controls in place to stop this kind of fraud it's a problem."

The Realtors are supporting SB 62 and companion bill, HB 7015, which requires contractors to keep written documentation of all estimates and agree to alternative dispute resolution prior to suing insurers for payment.

"The key is trying to find the language that respects the private market and protects the consumer by adding the mechanisms to cut down on fraud," Weisheyer said. 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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