State and Local Issues Impacting Real Estate

June 1, 2007
BOMA Intl. discusses state and local actions on telecommunications, indoor air quality, Intl. Codes, and green buildings

BOMA's federated structure, which combines 91 local U.S. associations with BOMA Intl., makes the organization uniquely qualified to address state and local issues facing the commercial real estate industry. Here is a look at some of the issues impacting the industry this year ...

Telecommunications. Telecommunications legislation has the potential to be big in 2007. The current debate centers on whether to allow telephone companies to provide cable service without first securing a local cable franchise. As of publication, nine states - Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee, and Washington - have introduced legislation to rewrite their cable franchise laws. While none of the bills directly address mandatory access or carrier of last resort (COLR) issues, the threat remains. These legislative efforts, combined with technological advances allowing voice and data services to be transmitted over cable wire, could result in a number of challenges to commercial real estate owners.

BOMA local associations continue to lead the charge in ensuring that the commercial real estate industry's private-property rights are protected. Following BOMA Arizona's successful 2006 effort to pass a preemptive state telecommunications access law, BOMA Colorado introduced similar legislation this year. The bill prohibited the state (as well as any local government) from mandating forced telecommunications access to commercial buildings. Unfortunately, opponents of the bill were able to offer negative amendments, which diluted its original intent. Telecommunications companies also threatened to turn it into a mandatory access bill. Rather than see this happen, the bill sponsor held the bill, effectively killing it for the year.

Indoor air quality. With state and local governments starting to take a hard-line stance on public health issues, concerns over the impact of toxic mold seem to be resurfacing.

While much of this year's legislation deals primarily with the regulation of mold abatement contractors, a few states are taking a more thorough look at the issue. Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York are considering bills which establish commissions to study the issue and provide recommendations to their respective legislatures. The New Jersey Legislature is also debating a bill that requires the disclosure of the presence of mold by a person selling or leasing a commercial or industrial building.

This activity comes in light of a 2004 National Academy of Sciences report stating that there is no evidence supporting an association between mold and the wide range of health complaints attributed to it. The report did, however, provide evidence linking damp conditions in buildings to asthma symptoms and other upper respiratory-tract symptoms in healthy people. These findings strengthened BOMA Intl.'s long-standing position on mold and the need for additional research to examine potential health effects of mold in indoor environments prior to any government efforts to enact regulations.

State lawmakers are also tackling public-place smoking issues. New York's legislature is debating a bill that would restrict smoking within 15 feet of a building entrance, while Massachusetts is considering legislation which would prohibit smoking within 25 feet of public buildings.

Intl. Codes. Forty-seven (47) states, the District of Columbia, and more than 1,740 local jurisdictions have adopted the Intl. Codes. As other states and localities wrestle with this issue, BOMA local associations have become an integral part of the codes-adoption process through their successful advocacy efforts.

Green buildings. State and local officials are taking an active role in exploring emerging energy-conservation concepts as a means of lessening the impact of global warming. One emerging trend is the promotion of green building or sustainable design in the built environment. Green or sustainable building is the practice of creating healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance, and demolition.

While many cities and states have focused primarily on public buildings, there is a new willingness among government officials to apply green standards to privately owned buildings. Effective in 2012, a Washington, D.C., ordinance requires that all new construction and major renovations to commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet meet the LEED-New Construction standard. In January, the Boston Zoning Commission adopted a similar measure; however, this regulation goes into effect immediately.

BOMA Intl. does not endorse any of the green certification or rating programs, but believes that there are several useful tools available for building owners and managers who want guidance on sustainable operations.

For more information on these and other issues, call BOMA Intl. at (202) 408-2662 or visit (

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