Washington Report: Flood Insurance, Lead Paint, Drones & Tria
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has been busy advocating for policy important to the real estate industry and property owners. Most recently, topics have included everything from the National Flood Insurance Program to drones, lead paint, and much more. Here are the latest updates on those issues.
NAR Testifies on Flood Insurance
On July 23, 2014, NAR testified on flood insurance before a Senate appropriations subcommittee. The hearing was called to evaluate FEMA’s first four months in implementing recent reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). REALTOR® Donna O. Smith (S.C.), who is overseeing NAR’s efforts on the NFIP, ably delivered the testimony for NAR.
REALTOR® Smith testified that overall, FEMA’s early decisions to conduct outreach and provide for broader rate relief and refunds have helped to calm real estate markets. While there has been progress, NAR will continue to closely monitor FEMA’s efforts this fall when refunding all those property owners who were overcharged for flood insurance since 2012. NAR also urged FEMA to expedite particular reforms which set up a government office of the Advocate who can and will go-to-bat with the insurance companies or FEMA on behalf of home owners who challenge faulty rate quotes and flood maps.
NAR Comments on Drone Policy
NAR submitted comments on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) recent “Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft,” which specifically mentioned REALTORS® use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for taking property videos as being a commercial use and therefore prohibited under FAA policy.
While safety and privacy concerns presented by UAV technology are NAR’s primary concerns, NAR members are also concerned about current FAA policy that prohibits any commercial use of this technology and hinders the growth of many industries. NAR supports regulation that allows industries to use this technology safely to enhance business development but also wants to ensure that any future regulatory framework is not so burdensome and expensive as to prevent UAVs from being used by industries that can benefit from its use. NAR encourages the FAA to comply with the statutory directives issued by Congress to develop rules that integrate UAVs into the national airspace by 2015.
Senate Approves TRIA Re-authorization Bill
July 18, 2014
On Thursday, July 17, the Senate approved S. 2244, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2014, by a vote of 93-4. This strong show of bipartisan support for the program follows NAR sending a letter to the Senate and conducting a “Call for Action” among its members urging Senators to support this bill when it was voted on. S. 2244 reauthorizes the federal program created by the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) of 2002 for seven years. The government backstop created by the program for cases of catastrophic losses due to a terrorist event allows private insurers to provide affordable terrorism insurance coverage throughout the country, and the recoupment provision in it protects taxpayers while costing the government nothing. In June, the House Financial Services Committee approved its version of a TRIA reauthorization bill, H.R. 4187. NAR will continue to monitor this issue and advocate for a quick and smooth reauthorization of this program which provides such important protections to commercial real estate.
NAR Comments on Lead Paint Framework
NAR, as part of the Commercial Properties Coalition, recently filed the latest in a series of comment letters relating to efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate purported lead paint hazards that may arise from renovation and remodeling activities in public and commercial buildings. The June 30 letter focuses on EPA’s proposed “framework” for determining whether renovation and remodeling activities in public and commercial buildings — such as new tenant build-outs — actually cause lead-based paint hazards. On the basis of such a determination, EPA could then move forward with proposed regulations affecting commercial real estate.
Although EPA’s framework correctly acknowledges that public and commercial (P&C) buildings “vary greatly” (with respect to sizes, shapes, configurations, uses, occupancies and cleaning frequencies) — and that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is not appropriate for renovation, repair and painting (RRP) activities in such buildings — it appears to circumvent a process set forth by Congress in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for developing new regulations.