Washington Report: Military Foreclosure, FHA, Condos, Flood Insurance, and More

U.S. Capitol

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 military foreclosure protection, to flood insurance, mortgage phishing, and much more. Here are the latest updates on those issues.

Military Foreclosure Protection Bill Passes

On March 21, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 2393, the “Foreclosure Relief and Extension for Servicemembers Act of 2015,” which extends the one-year protection from foreclosure in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) through 2017. The Senate passed S. 2393 in 2015 and the legislation is expected to be signed by the President.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is intended to help those men and women who have answered their nation’s call by providing certain financial protections, including foreclosure protection, to members of the military that have incurred debt prior to their active service.

NAR recently signed onto a coalition letter to Speaker Ryan and Minority Leader Pelosi strongly supporting House passage of S. 2393. Earlier this month, NAR was joined by eight other financial services trade associations in encouraging Congress to pass an extension of the one-year foreclosure protection as soon as possible.

Read NAR’s coalition letter urging support of S.2393

Concerns over FHA Handbook and Appraisals

BY SEHAR SIDDIQI, COLIN ALLEN

On March 18, 2016, NAR President Tom Salomone sent a letter to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) concerning the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Single Family Housing Policy Handbook. NAR is asking FHA to reconsider language in the Handbook that requires appraisers to take on home inspection type duties, which are adding delay and confusion to the homebuying process. NAR is also asking FHA to re-inforce language stressing the difference between an appraisal and a home inspection in form HUD-92564-CN, For Your Protection: Get a Home Inspection.

Letter to FHA

FTC Consumer Blog addresses Mortgage Phishing Scam

On March 18 the FTC Consumer Blog issued a post focused on hackers who have been breaking into some consumers’ and real estate professionals’ email accounts to get information about upcoming real estate transactions. After figuring out the closing dates, the hacker sends an email to the buyer, posing as the real estate professional or title company. The bogus email says there has been a last minute change to the wiring instructions, and tells the buyer to wire closing costs to a different account. But it’s the scammer’s account. If the buyer takes the bait, their bank account could be cleared out in a matter of minutes. Often, that’s money the buyer will never see again.

FTC Consumer Blog: “Scammers Phish for Mortgage Closing Costs(link is external)

NAR : Urgent Alert: Sophisticated Email Scams Targeting the Real Estate Industry

Flood Advocate Reports to Congress

On March 17, 2016, the Office of the Flood Insurance Advocate issued its first annual report identifying the first set of issues to be addressed in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Among the challenges are lack of data, barriers to claims, application of surcharges, multi-year refunds, and flood proofing paperwork.

Championed by NAR as part of the Flood Insurance Affordability Act, this independent office within FEMA advocates on behalf of property owners when the NFIP issues questionable flood maps or insurance rates. The advocacy office has been established for less than a year and is still not fully staffed; yet already, the office has assisted hundreds of property owners and successfully resolved at least a dozen disputes between policy holders and FEMA or partnering insurance companies.

NAR recently sent a letter to Congress supporting the mission of the NFIP advocacy office and urged full funding for the office to assist additional property owners. NAR will continue to work to provide adequate resources for a true advocate for homeowners.

Read the Advocate’s Report(link is external)

Read NAR’s letter to Congress

Senate Introduces Patent Venue Reform Bill

BY MELANIE WYNE, HELEN DEVLIN

On March 17, Senators Flake (R-AZ), Gardner (R-CO) and Lee (R-UT) introduced S. 2733 a bill that would address the issue of venue reform in patent litigation cases. . Last year, nearly half of all new patent infringement cases filed in the United States were filed in one judicial district. The high volume of cases filed in this district is not a coincidence. Patent Assertion Entities, otherwise known as patent trolls, take advantage of broad interpretations of current law that allow them to file their lawsuits where local rules and practices, along with physical distance, make it very expensive for companies to defend themselves. NAR supports venue reform along with a comprehensive set of patent litigation reforms aimed at curbing patent troll abuses.

Supreme Court to Hear Water Case

In the biggest Clean Water Act (CWA) case in a decade, the US Supreme Court will soon decide whether government assertions of CWA jurisdiction may be challenged in court. All commercial activities that involve the use of land or waterbodies can be impacted by CWA regulatory burdens. Thus, the outcome of this case has the potential to affect all public and private sector entities engaged in land use and development including the banking, real estate, retail, energy and agriculture industries.

Prior to development or conveyance of property, landowners generally must determine whether their site is subject to federal regulation under the CWA. An official jurisdictional determination (JD) from the US Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) describes which areas, if any, are jurisdictional and governs whether the landowner will need a permit to develop their property.

In the case before the Court, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., the Corps issued a JD asserting jurisdiction over wetlands on a peat mine in Minnesota. The landowners and company disagree with the government’s assertion that the land is subject to federal regulation. The government says the landowner can’t challenge the JD in court, but instead must either apply for a permit or defend itself in an enforcement action. A favorable decision by the Supreme Court would give Hawkes an adequate remedy to challenge the JD in court and would establish an important check nationwide on government assertions of CWA jurisdiction.

Senate Letter on HR 3700

NAR sent a letter to all Senators, urging them to bring H.R. 3700, the “Housing Opportunities through Modernization Act” to the Senate floor.  This legislation, sponsored by Reps. Luetkemeyer (R-MO) and Cleaver (D-MO), passed the House with a unanimous vote of 427-0 last month. HR 3700 contains provisions to ease FHA restrictions on condo sale and purchase; provides permanent authority for direct endorsement for approved lenders to approve Rural Housing Service loans; and makes reforms to federally assisted rental housing programs to streamline the program.  We urge the Senate to bring this important, non-controversial legislation to the Floor for an immediate vote.

The Washington Report covers legislative and regulatory policy activities, and is compiled by NAR’s Government Affairs policy staff. To receive this content via email, subscribe to NAR’s Weekly Report newsletter and check the “legislative & regulatory issues” box.

Source: National Association of REALTORS(R)

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