Homeowner Legislative Facts

Legislature Considers Tax on Homeowners – updated 3/25/14

The state legislature has been considering a tax that would be imposed on homeowners who need to record certain documents with their counties This $75 per document tax will be imposed on a variety of documents, which will include, for example, documents related to refinancing properties, taking properties in and out of trusts, making lot line adjustments, obtaining constructions loans and upon the death of a spouse. The tax also applies to foreclosures (the owner would be responsible, not the lender) and filing mechanics liens. For instance, it’s not untypical in a refinance, for six documents to be subject to the new tax, resulting in a tax total of $552. If a spouse dies, up to five documents need to be recorded, creating a total tax of $440 including existing recording fees.

SB 391 is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is opposing this bill.

Draft Tax Plan Would Limit Homeowners Tax Deductions — updated 3/25/14

Rep. Dave Camp, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, recently unveiled a large-scale plan to overhaul the federal tax code. Included in his draft proposal was a significant limit on the mortgage interest deduction. Over four years, the amount of mortgage principal on which interest is deductible would be reduced from the current $1,000,000 to $500,000. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, this would apply only to new loans.  In many areas of California, homeowners who would have struggled to purchase even the median priced home would be unable to take the full deduction for their mortgage interest and therefore might be priced out of the market. The draft plan also calls for the elimination of the deduction for property taxes.

The plan is currently in draft form, meaning that no bill has yet been introduced in the House of Representatives.

For more information, see the following opinion editorial published in the US News and World Report: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/economic-intelligence/2014/03/19/tax-reform-plan-goes-the-wrong-way-on-housing

President Obama signs Flood Insurance Bill into law — updated 3/25/14

On March 21, 2014, President Obama signed the “Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act” into law. This law repeals FEMA’s authority to increase premium rates at time of sale or new flood map, and refunds the excessive premium to those who bought a property before FEMA warned them of the rate increase. The bill limits premium increases to 18 percent annually on newer properties and 25 percent for some older ones. Additionally, the bill adds a small assessment on policies until everyone is paying full cost for flood insurance.

Homeowners with questions about flood insurance should contact their insurance agent.

Short Sellers Won’t Be Taxed on Forgiven Debt — updated 3/25/14

In a short sale, homeowners sell their homes for less than what is owed. If a lender agrees to the sale, the lender is forgiving a certain amount of the loan principle. The IRS and the state Franchise Tax Board have recently issued letters clarifying that California families who have lost their home in a short sale are not subject to either state or federal income tax on the forgiven debt. Before these clarifications, requested by Senator Barbara Boxer and Board of Equalization Member George Runner on behalf of the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, it was not entirely clear that homeowners wouldn’t lose their homes and then be faced with a large tax bill as well. Homeowners with questions about taxes and short sales should contact their tax professionals.

Law Requiring Water-Conserving Plumbing Fixtures Goes into Effect — updated 3/25/14

A law calling for the replacement of older plumbing fixtures with water-conserving ones went into effect on this year. The law says that, as of January 1, 2014, when improving a property new water-conserving toilets, showerheads, faucets and urinals must be installed before the local building department will issue a certificate of final completion and occupancy. The plumbing fixtures that will need to be replaced are: any toilet manufactured to use more than 1.6 gallons per flush; any showerhead manufactured to have a flow capacity of more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute; any interior faucet that emits more than 2.2 gallons of water per minute and any urinal manufactured to use more than one gallon of water per flush. Homeowners with questions about their individual fixtures are urged to contact the manufacturers.

Register to Vote — updated 3/25/14

Recently moved? Don’t forget to re-register to vote. Those elected to federal, state and local office make decisions that affect you every day, from the taxes you pay to the quality of your schools. Many races are decided by just a handful of votes so it’s essential that all those eligible to vote do so. California’s primary election is June 3, 2014 and the deadline to register to vote is May 19.  You can register to vote here: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm