The Virginia General Assembly, like the rest of us, had to adjust to a virtual legislative session. The Senate relocated to a large space in the Science Museum of Virginia where the 40 members could be distanced while the 100-member House of Delegates met virtually. As during the regular, in-person sessions, meetings started at 7:00 a.m. and went into the evenings. Individuals testifying were given a very short time to state their position and numerous odd and disconcerting things happened – like the committee meeting time Zooming-out or gaps in Internet connection.
Despite the difficulties for legislators, lobbyists, and the public, the legislature was able to accomplish a fair amount. Wisely, the number of bills each legislator could introduce this year was capped and the number of bills introduced was cut nearly in half.
Note: Legislation passed has gone to the Governor who may sign them, veto or amend them. We will be carefully monitoring the Governor’s actions and will weigh-in with the Governor and legislators as necessary to keep legislation from being harmful to the real estate industry. The Governor has until March 31 to act on bills and the legislature will reconvene in April to take final action. Our reports with a complete list of real estate-related legislation will be updated at that time.
There were 1,555 bills and resolutions introduced. The NVAR and the Virginia Realtors® Bill Review Committees reviewed bills that might have an impact on the real estate industry and took positions on those. The committees took a position of “Action” on 41 bills. Of those, 36 had a “Support” position, of which 30 were passed by the legislature; six were defeated. Five bills that were of concern were amended to a position we could accept. Another 45 bills were actively monitored to make sure they were not amended in a way that would be detrimental to our industry.
Association Health Plans: SB 1341 (Barker) and HB 2033 (Hurst) Unfortunately, given the drawbacks of a virtual session and a Governor who opposes it, our bill to allow the Virginia Realtors® to set up an association health plan did not survive. Senator George Barker’s bill, SB 1341, was passed by the Senate on a 38-1 vote but was sent by a House subcommittee to the Joint Commission on Health to be studied. Senator Barker, a long-time Realtor® supporter and patron of this and previous bills, made an impassioned Floor speech about the need for this legislation. Click here to hear Senator Barker’s remarks.
We are regrouping to determine what we might do next year to advance the association health plan legislation. In the meantime, the Realtors® also supported Delegate Mark Sickles’ bill to establish a Virginia Reinsurane Program. This state-based reinsurance program would help to lower premiums in the individual marketplace and should help some of our members.
Consumer Awareness – Flood Risk Report: SB 1389 (Lewis) and HB 2320 (Convirs-Flowler) The Residential Property Disclosure form currently notes that the owner makes no representation as to whether the property is in a flood zone. This legislation adds that the buyer is advised to visit the FEMA website or the Virginia Flood Risk Information website to get information. The Real Estate Bord shall prepare a flood risk information form providing additional information on its website. Legislators, particularly in flood prone areas, continue to try and add provisions on flooding that make licensees responsible for disclosure. This legislation instead directs buyers to the most accurate sources of information.
The legislation also requires an owner who has actual knowledge that the dwelling is a repetitive risk loss structure to disclose that. A repetitive loss is one where there have been two or more claims over a $1,000 paid by the National Flood Insurance Program within any rolling 10-year period since 1978. The Real estate Board is to provide a form on its website for such disclosures.
Property Owners and Condo Owners Associations: HB 1816 (Bulova) Authorizes POAs and COAs to conduct regular and annual meetings through electronic means.
Protecting Tenants During the Foreclosure Process: HB 2229 (Simon) This legislation would conform Virginia law to the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA). The Act requires that a purchaser of a foreclosed property allow a tenant to continue to occupy the rental dwelling unit for up to 90 days if the purchaser is buying the house as their home and up to the balance of the term of the existing lease if the purchaser is buying the house for investment.
With COVID continuing, and following the trend of a few years, numerous bills were introduced to protect tenants. The Realtor® lobby team was at the table working with industry groups, affordable housing groups, and legislators to make sure that bills, while helping tenants, were as fair as possible to landlords.
Bills were also passed to look at more affordable housing options, protect veterans in rental housing contracts, and protect consumer data.
Look for a complete legislative update in a future Town Hall Notes and on NVAR.com