The Chicago-based Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), strongly committed to legislative advocacy, claimed several significant legislative victories in 2005 of benefit to its members, other commercial real estate professionals and allied interest groups. Among the most notable of these victories (from the year-end back), achieved in collaboration with the National Association of REALTORS®, are these:
- Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act of 2005, S. 467 - Signed into law December 22, 2005, it extends the federal insurance backstop program for 2 years. The amount of property and casualty losses needed to trigger federal involvement will increase. The act also provides for increases in insurance deductibles. Insurers will continue to be required to offer terrorism coverage under the same terms and conditions as other lines of coverage at levels below the event triggers.
- Energy Policy Act of 2005, H.R. 6 - Signed into law Aug. 8, 2005, it includes new energy programs and tax incentives for energy-efficiency enhancements. Although the bill largely benefits energy companies, it does contain provisions benefiting real estate professionals and consumers. Commercial real estate professionals will benefit from incentives such as the Energy-Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction.
- Junk Fax Prevention Act, S. 714 - Signed into law July 9, 2005, it does not legalize unsolicited fax advertisements, but does allow for an established business relationship exception. Unsolicited commercial faxes may be sent without prior permission provided that (1) the established business relationship predates the enactment of the new law or, (2) in the case of a newly established business relationship, the fax number was provided voluntarily by the recipient or is publicly available in a published directory, advertisement, or website. In addition, senders must now include opt-out instructions on the first page of any commercial fax sent.
- Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, S. 256 - Signed into law April 20, 2005, it contains four long-sought-after commercial real estate provisions: (1) eliminates the cap on single asset bankruptcies; (2) provides new protections for shopping center owners; (3) closes the loophole that allows rental housing tenants to avoid eviction; and (4) provides that homeowner and condo association fees be non-dischargeable.
- Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, S. 5 - Signed into law Feb. 18, 2005, it establishes a uniform set of criteria for determining when a multi-state class-action lawsuit can be moved from state court to federal court. The new law authorizes federal courts to hear class-action suits involving over $5 million where the case is outside the home state of the defendants or less than one-third of the class is located in the home state of the defendants. The objective in moving suits to federal courts is to make it significantly more difficult for the lawsuits to be approved. The new guidelines also are intended to limit the ability of plaintiff attorneys to "venue-shop" when filing class-action suits. IREM's goal in supporting this legislation is to help restore the availability of liability coverage at realistic rates for the commercial real estate community through reform of the existing tort system. As such, IREM strongly supports the movement of large class-action suits from the state courts to the federal courts.
This article was reprinted with permission from the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM®). The organization has been the source for education, resources, information, and membership for real estate management professionals for more than 70 years. To find out more, visit (www.irem.org).