Mortgage Interest Deductability, Septic Regulations, More News

 

Federal Proposal to Reduce Mortgage Interest Deducibility 

 

The Obama Administration has recommended, as part of its budget proposal, that the amount families earning more than $250,000 year can deduct for mortgage interest be reduced. NAR and C.A.R. are steadfastly opposed to any attempt to modify the mortgage interest deduction because it may affect the value of all property and both are working to develop plans to ensure that the proposal is not included in the budget eventually passed by Congress.  Please note that while the administration has proposed these changes, they are not yet in any legislation. Please stay tuned for a future Call-for-Action.

 

State Water Board Will Revisit Regulations

 

 

Pressured by public outcry over the proposed regulations of septic systems, the State Water Board has indicated that it will try and respond to extensive comments on its new regulations. When revised regulations are released, the public will again have the opportunity to comment on them. Thanks very much to so many of you for submitting comments and attending workshops on this issue. Without your active participation in this process, it is likely that the original proposals would have been implemented as planned. Our next concern is to ensure that the subsequent set of proposals do not include point-of-sale mandates. C.A.R. will continue to keep you posted.

 

 

Carbon Monoxide Bill Reintroduced

 

SB 182 (Lowenthal) is a re-introduction of a bill vetoed last session. It is designed to require the installation of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in privately owned dwelling units that are potentially at risk to CO poisoning. C.A.R. is working with the author and sponsors to ensure that the bill does not include requirements that properties be retrofitted at point-of-sale.

 

Copyright © 2009 CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.)

Help Flush Expensive & Unnecessary Septic Regulations

Help Flush Expensive & Unnecessary Septic Regulations

Due to overwhelming public outcry at a number of regional workshops, the State Water Resources Board has extended the public comment period to February 23, 2009 and the Sacramento hearing originally scheduled for February 9 has been postponed indefinitely.

If you are not familiar with what the State Water Board is up to, they are proposing regulations for ‘Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems’. (You and I simply call them septic tanks.) Many homes from the Wine Country to Meadowview, La Cresta, De Luz and most county areas not served by a public sewer system would be impacted by these proposed regulations, in some cases very seriously impacted.

The California Association of Realtors has been working since the regulations were first announced in 2001 to remove the more onerous, unnecessary and expensive elements of the proposal. With limited success.

A full copy of the currently proposed regulations and the draft Environmental Impact Report are available at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/septic_tanks/ (Sorry. Nothings simple at the state.) If you can’t make it through the entire 41 page proposal or the 120+ pages of the EIR, there is a 17 page Executive Summary (complete with a cute little graphic of the sewage trickle-down theory) and a 5 page Q & A. 

The stated goal of the proposed regulation – to prevent contamination of adjacent wells or groundwater resources – is admirable. However, as is often the case when presented with a simple task, the state agency has spent 8 years going way overboard in justifying their existence. Many elements of the EIR are specious and some of the proposed regulations would make owning a home with a septic system nearly impossible.

Inspections and certifications every 5 years at costs estimated to be about $700 are among the least of the problems. Mandates for ‘qualified professionals’, ‘certified analytical laboratories’ and ‘qualified service providers’ are either ill-defined or call for professions that don’t even exist yet. If those (currently non-existent) professionals determine your septic system is within 600 feet of a neighbors well or an ‘impaired surface water body’, you may be liable for a $45,000 retrofit. If you build a home in an area potentially meeting these criteria, the new system will set you back at least $35,000 to comply.

In addition to the five year requirement, if you want to sell your home any and all necessary retrofits and regulations would need to be met and paid for prior to point-of-sale. If you had the inspections but misplaced the documents, you would incur additional costs to replace them and/or recertify.

If you are concerned about increased onerous government encroachment into your private property rights, please read the proposed regulations. If you agree with the California Association of Realtors that the proposal is too far reaching and that the EIR did not adequately address the true impact either to the environment or to homeowners, you still have an opportunity to make your voice heard.

Because state regulatory agencies are not as responsive to the public as elected officials, we are asking that you register your opposition to this proposal with your state legislators asking them to intervene with the State Water Board to ensure that final regulations do not overreach and are not unnecessarily burdensome. Senator Hollingsworth and Assembly members Jeffries and Nestande are already behind you on this one but lending your voice to the growing chorus of outrage they are hearing can’t hurt. You can find their contact information elsewhere in this publication.

You can also register your thoughts directly with the responsible agency before February 23 by contacting the:

State Water Resources Control Board

Division of Water Quality

Attn. Todd Thompson, P.E.

P.O.B. 2231

Sacramento, CA 95812

Gene Wunderlich is Government Affairs Director for the Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors. Address additional questions to GAD@srcar.org.

 

Point-of-Sale Retrofits – A Bad Idea Explodes

Point-of-sale ordinances – what are they and why are they wrong?

At our recent mid-winter business meetings, point-of-sale ordinances were debated in several committees. Why? Because this year we are likely to face more point-of-sale ordinances at the state level than we have in the past decade. During his 20+ years as our Chief Lobbyist, Alex Creel has met and defeated more than 20 point of sale ordinances that would have resulted in thousands of dollars of increased cost to homeowners and resulted in even less affordable housing across the state. He’s expecting an onslaught of this type of bill this session.

In spite of the fact that there is currently a dearth of legislation on the table (see CAR Update Post), we already know of several bills waiting in the wings that will have point of sale provisions. Among these:

  • ACWA (Association of California Water Agencies) is circulating a point of sale water conservation (toilet) retrofit.
  • The CEC (California Energy Commission) may re-introduce AB2678 with point of sale energy audits (a bill we successfully fought last year).
  • The PLC (Planning and Conservation League purportedly has a similar bill it is waiting to introduce.
  • The ARB (Air Resources Board) will approve an implementation plan that includes point of sale as a trigger for retrofits.
  • Water agencies & county governments are rumored to have at least two different bills requiring sewer/septic inspections and retrofits.
  • Local governments continue to push point of sale as a trigger event for fireplace, water use and energy retrofits.
  • There are additional calls for more ‘safety’ mandates for items like the carbon monoxide alarm bill narrowly defeated last session as well as for the next iteration of pool safety barriers.

Why all these and why now? Well, you may notice that most of those proposals have one thing in common – they deal with conservation issues and right now GREEN is in. Our new President is GREEN. Our lame-duck Governor can’t get a budget in place but if something is GREEN, he’s all over it. Our liberal legislators are increasingly GREEN. Want to make money off some lame product or get some lame bill passed? Make them GREEN.

And if CAR stands up in opposition to these worthless and costly mandates – well, as one member put it, we stand to become a red smear on the GREEN road.

There is an excellent series of briefing papers available at CAR.org dealing with how to address  point-of-sale retrofit bills. And it’s not an easy battle because many of the bills are actually for a good cause. Even if you’re not GREEN it’s hard to argue with water conservation, especially in Southern California, or pool safety or energy efficiency. If you can save time, energy, water and money, it’s gotta be good, right?

But the bottom line is that point-of-sale mandates are about the LEAST effective way to accomplish something. First of all it transfers the cost of compliance to only those parties involved in a transaction and not to ALL homes. It even does that inefficiently since studies show that within a 25 year time span, less than 22% of homes will be impacted by the measure. The impact us further diluted since those same studies show that newer homes, those already most in compliance with energy saving features, change hands most frequently while pre-1979 homes, those most likely to offend, change hands much less frequently.

What CAR has been very successful at doing is pointing out those dismal penetration results. We suggest that if their widget or gizmo is of such universal benefit, then it should be applied to ALL homes to achieve the promised benefit, not just burden 5 or 10 or even 25% of homeowners with the ‘tax’. We are also supportive of a time-certain feature.  We have employed this very successfully when the situation called for it by specifying that the measure apply to ALL homes, that compliance be mandated within a specified time period and, when possible, the utility or agency provide some incentive for compliance paid for out of the up-front savings that agency will enjoy from the retrofit. Water heater strapping, smoke detectors and pool barriers are examples of this and are now standard issue on every home and subject to disclosure by the Seller on the TDS or WHSD forms.

Keep your eyes open for local municipalities attempting to implement these measures as they look for ways to ‘enhance revenue’ and/or reduce consumption. We have successfully avoided the imposition of these items in several local cities in the past few years and will work with them to augment the program in such a way as to ensure it’s maximum efficiency with minimum impact to home owners and Realtors. If you hear of any city or commission thinking about any point-of-sale retrofit mandates, please contact GeneWunderlich@SRCAR.org right away.

After all, the easiest way to do something isn’t always the right way and the right way is seldom easy. Point-of-sale mandates are certainly easy but that doesn’t make them right.


Help Flush State Septic Regulations

Time is running out for input on proposed statewide septic regulations. CAR has been represented at every regional meeting that has been held throughout the state but the deadline is approaching for final arguments. As proposed, these regulations would prove onerous to many homeowners in our area, including property owners on The Wine Country, La Cresta, Meadowview and many county areas not served by sewer systems. If you have not yet taken the time to respond to the Red Alert that was issued, please take a moment to respond NOW.

You can read a copy of the proposed ordinance by following the link below as well as the accompanying draft of the EIR. In order for your comments to be considered, you need to comment ONLY on the material in the EIR as that’s what this comment period is about. Comments on the proposed regulations themselves will be disregarded. You can take your talking points from the letter (please contact me for a full pdf copy of the CAR letter) submitted by our Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Gavric, put them on your own letter head and submit them for consideration to the state hearing board by February 9.

Thank you for your help. This could have a major impact on many homeowners in our area

The state of California has released the proposed regulations for onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) and the accompanying Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) evaluating the impacts of the implementation of the regulations on the people and environment of California. C.A.R. is concerned that, if enacted, these regulations will make it too burdensome to own a property with a septic system. There is even a new point-of-sale requirement to transfer technical documents.

These proposed regulations and draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) have been released to the public for review and can be found at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/septic_tanks/