Here's What Florida Realtors Is Watching During the 2021 Session
Florida Realtors serves as the voice of real estate in Florida. It provides programs, services, continuing education, research and legislative representation to about 200,000 members in 51 boards/associations.
Its mission is to advance Florida’s real estate industry by shaping public policy on real property issues; encouraging, promoting and teaching consistent standards for ethical practice and professionalism; and building on the efforts of local boards/associations to provide the information and tools members need to succeed.
Here is a look at the issues we're closely watching during the 2021 Florida legislative session:
Business liability protections
The current pandemic has created new challenges for businesses as they seek to operate safely, limiting potential spread of the virus. These challenges have also created opportunities for attorneys that are looking to secure new revenue streams. If Florida businesses are to continue to operate during the pandemic and eventually recover from the crisis, they will need protections from these legal actions.
- Florida Realtors supports the passage of business liability protections for Florida businesses.
- These protections should shield businesses from COVID-19-related lawsuits that rely on general statements, rather than specifics, as the foundation of the complaint.
- Additionally, COVID-19-related lawsuits against businesses should require the affidavit of a physician attesting that the business caused the injuries/damages in order to proceed.
- Lastly, if a court determines that a business made good faith efforts to substantially comply with government-issued health standards they should be immune from liability.
Rising property insurance costs
Property insurance costs are rising at alarming levels in many parts of Florida. These increased costs are making insurance unaffordable for many Floridians and the problem will likely get worse unless action is taken.
- The problem of rising insurance costs and lower levels of coverage brought about by changing underwriting guidelines is a serious issue that is making the cost of homeownership unaffordable in many areas of the state.
- These rising prices are being driven by a combination of frequent hurricanes and severe storms, natural catastrophes in other parts of the country or world, rising reinsurance rates and the increasing litigation costs insurance companies are being forced to pay.
- Florida Realtors supports sensible legislation that seeks to reduce occurrences of unnecessary litigation while ensuring homeowners are treated fairly by insurance companies.
Water quality and environmental funding
Water is the lifeblood of all Florida residents and visitors to our state. It forms the foundation of our communities and must be protected. Florida Realtors will continue to advocate for Florida’s natural resources and a pristine environment. We will also encourage all stakeholders, including the state of Florida, to do their part to help solve environmental problems.
- Florida Realtors® continues its support of state funding to help preserve the Everglades.
- Florida Realtors® supports legislation that addresses the escalating problem of rising sea levels in Florida’s coastal communities.
- Florida Realtors® encourages the Florida Legislature to rely on scientific and engineering expertise to highlight vulnerable areas, prioritize critical work projects and create a long-term plan that can address these important environmental issues.
The State and Local Government Housing Trust Funds were created in the early 1990s to help Floridians in good times and bad. They are funded by a portion of the documentary stamp taxes charged on every real estate transaction. For thousands of families, these funds are the only way to realize the American dream of homeownership. They also provide housing rehabilitation and rental assistance to Florida’s homeless, veterans, seniors, and persons with disabilities.
- Florida continues to experience an affordable housing crisis that is limiting the ability of people and families to move into, and around the state.
- The current pandemic has exacerbated this crisis, making solutions to the problem more important than ever.
- Although lawmakers have a difficult task of closing a significant budget gap during the 2021 Legislative Session, it is imperative that they allocate as much funding as possible for affordable housing projects.
- Florida Realtors® will continue to advocate for full funding from the trust funds to be allocated for affordable housing projects.
Private property rights
The Internet has made it easier for homeowners to rent their property, expanding housing options for individuals who live in, or travel to, Florida. Many local governments have enacted new ordinances designed to discourage property owners from exercising their right to rent their property. State and local Realtor associations will continue to take action to protect private property rights.
- Being able to rent your home is a fundamental right of property owners.
- Short-term rental ordinances, including local licensing requirements, mandatory inspections and guest restrictions, can infringe upon this fundamental property right in significant ways.
- As such, Florida Realtors will continue to champion legislation that creates a statewide, uniform system of regulations for vacation rentals.
- Florida Realtors will also continue to support legislation that gives local governments the authority to pass ordinances related to residential properties as long as they apply to all residential properties.
Business rent tax
The state sales tax rate on business rent currently stands at 5.5%. This tax creates a financial burden for any business that leases space. Lowering the business rent tax will provide Florida businesses with the capital to expand, hire more employees, improve benefits, raise salaries, or invest in their business in other ways.
- Florida Realtors is grateful for the support of the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Florida Legislatures, which have lowered the state sales tax rate on commercial space to 5.5%.
- These three consecutive years of rate cuts have given Florida businesses the financial resources they need to grow their companies and enrich their communities.
- Although Florida lawmakers have a significant budget challenge to overcome in 2021, Florida Realtors® will continue to advocate for further reductions to this tax, which would provide businesses with some measure of relief as they work to stay open and eventually recover from the current crisis.