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Legislative & Regulatory Advocacy

Real estate is a heavily regulated industry. Realtors® are at the center of many policy decisions at all levels of government. VAR's law and policy team represents Realtor® and homeowner interests in the legislative and regulatory arenas at the state, local, and national levels. Below you'll find information and links to your main resources for legislative information during the General Assembly Session and all year long.

IN THIS SECTION:

Legislative Agenda
VAR's Standing Positions
Realtors Choose
DPOR/Virginia Real Estate Board
Get Active Legislative Advocacy Conference
Richmond Sunlight
Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP)
Virginia General Assembly

VAR STANDING POSITIONS

VAR's Standing Positions are our guiding principles on which we build our legislative agenda. These positions are regularly reviewed and updated.

IN THIS SUB-SECTION:

Environment
Government
Land Use
Professionalism
Taxation
Transportation

ENVIRONMENT

CHESAPEAKE BAY PRESERVATION ACT

VAR recognizes the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries as treasures of Nature, and appreciates all of its many contributions to life and the economy in Virginia. The Bay is “good for business”, and a clean and productive Bay is a major “draw” for housing, both permanent and seasonal. VAR will work to maintain the balance between a healthy Chesapeake Bay and a strong, viable economy in Virginia. VAR will continue to support reasonable and fair regulations that promote a balance between economic growth, the protection of private property rights and the preservation of the environment while opposing any initiatives that exceed evidence-based criteria of cost effectiveness.

PRESERVATION OF OPEN SPACE and the ENVIRONMENT

VAR supports the preservation of lands as long as such preservation respects private property rights and is not achieved through a local government “taking.” VAR believes lands designated for open space or other preservation should always be purchased from a willing seller who must be compensated at fair market value of the property. VAR believes that those who benefit from open space – the general public—should fund its purchase. VAR opposes the use of real estate fees as a dedicated funding source for open space enjoyed by the general public.

STORM WATER MANAGEMENT

VAR views storm water control programs as essential to sound environmental stewardship, clean water, and healthy rivers and streams. VAR believes that residential and commercial property owners must not be unfairly targeted to pay costs associated with storm water management that are not directly related to the properties in question. Further, VAR opposes property-based assessments made for creation or improvement of infrastructure that does not provide a direct benefit to the property owner.

WATER RIGHTS

VAR believes that a property owner’s use of groundwater on real property is just one “stick” in the “bundle” of their private property rights. Virginia has always followed the common law called the “American Rule,” which means that a property owner has unlimited use of the groundwater beneath their real property so long as the use is “reasonable” and the water is not exported off that real property.

VAR will oppose any proposal to change the law. VAR also will oppose any proposal to link water supply planning and growth management without any consideration of increasing capacity.

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GOVERNMENT

DILLON RULE

The Dillon Rule is one of the foundations of the good business climate in the Commonwealth. VAR opposes any substantive departure from the Dillon Rule.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Job creation through economic development is critical to the financial stability of Virginia’s economy. VAR supports strong economic development programs to include components for workforce training and workforce housing.

ENTERPRISE ZONES

VAR supports the Enterprise Zone Program.

HISTORIC PRESERVATION ORDINANCES

VAR supports historic preservation as an essential part of redevelopment and revitalization of older communities. VAR opposes adoption of any local historic ordinance that creates unreasonable burdens and costs for property owners.

LOCAL REGULATIONS WHICH EXCEED STATE MANDATES

VAR opposes any legislation that would grant local governments authority to impose stricter regulations or standards that those established by state law.

REDEVELOPMENT and REVITALIZATION

VAR believes that the redevelopment and revitalization of older residential and commercial development is critical to the overall vitality of the Commonwealth. State and local government officials should encourage redevelopment and revitalization by the use of targeted financial incentives and by elimination of obstacles to achieving this end.  

REGIONAL COOPERATION

VAR encourages local governments to work together in regional efforts to save costs and eliminate duplication of services. The General Assembly should continue to develop and implement incentives for local governments to work together in regional cooperative efforts to provide services to citizens at a lower cost, and to enhance the region’s opportunities for future economic development.

SPECIAL EXCEPTION PERMITS/ ZONING REQUIREMENTS

VAR opposes the limitation of a Special Exception permit to the current landowner and opposes any provision in such permit that would require its expiration. VAR believes that Special Exceptions serve a dual purpose: not only to permit compatible uses by owners that do not impair surrounding properties but also to provide protection to those who rely on zoning to protect their enjoyment of their properties.

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LAND USE & OWNERSHIP RIGHTS

EXISTING PROPERTIES—RENTAL INSPECTION AUTHORITY, BUILDING CODE ENFORCEMENT, RETROFITTING

The Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC), in the “Property Maintenance” provisions applicable to existing commercial and residential properties, allows a local building official to address property maintenance issues that affect public health, welfare and safety. VAR opposes any expansion of the current enabling authorities for local governments to inspect rental properties, without the permission of the property owner.

VAR opposes efforts on the part of local governments to use the USBC, or other programs such as Universal Design, LEED/Green Building, or Accessibility/ ”Visitibility” to require property owners to retrofit properties in prior compliance with law and regulation.

GROWTH ISSUES

Increased population growth and demographic shifts from urban centers have prompted major discussions about poor development patterns and whether local governments have the necessary authority to effectively regulate land use and fund their public infrastructure needs.

VAR opposes the expansion of local government authority by the General Assembly in land use powers. VAR has consistently supported additional broad-based revenue sources for public infrastructure funding.

To that end, VAR supports:

  • Efforts to encourage regional cooperation; and
  • ·       Dedicated, broad-based funding methods.

VAR strongly opposes additional “growth control” measures that only exacerbate current problems with sprawl and the lack of affordable housing in many regions of the Commonwealth. Examples include:

  • Adequate Public Facilities (APF) ordinances, which would require that supporting infrastructure be in place prior to, or concurrent with, governmental approval of a particular project;
  • Cash proffers and impact fees
  • Mandatory Transfer of Development Rights (TDR); and
  • Exclusionary zoning practices such as drastic increases in minimum lots sizes or other decisions that discourage high-density development.

HOUSING OPPORTUNITY

VAR believes that there should be an adequate supply of “workforce” housing in localities throughout Virginia. A broad range of housing stock is important for good economic development and a good quality of life for all Virginians.

PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS

VAR strongly supports a legal framework that ensures the protection of private property rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Virginia.

PROPERTY OWNERS ASSOCIATION ACT

The Property Owner’s Association Act (POA) and to a lesser extent, the Condominium Association Act, require ongoing legislative and regulatory adjustments to address issues impacting real estate transactions. VAR will continue to take a leadership role as they develop. VAR opposes any practice of POAs or Condo Associations that unfairly impairs sellers or their agents in the free marketability of their property interests or creates unnecessary costs and delay.

VIRGINIA RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD TENANT ACT

VAR supports the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act (VRLTA).  

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PROFESSIONALISM & LICENSURE

LICENSURE OF TRADES, OCCUPATIONS AND PROFESSIONS

VAR will support the licensure or more stringent regulation of trades, occupations or professions when the same is shown to be necessary to protect the public health, safety or welfare; and provided such regulation is affordable and not unduly burdensome on trade and commerce.

SALES OF REAL ESTATE

VAR opposes exemptions from real estate licensure for persons who sell real estate on behalf of others for compensation, regardless of title, credentialing or circumstance.  

REAL ESTATE SETTLEMENT PRACTICES

VAR opposes any proposal that would substantially amend CRESPA, including any proposal to require real estate licensees to advise parties to a real estate transaction that they need to engage legal counsel.

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TAXATION & TRANSPORTATION

ROLL BACK TAXES/LAND USE PROGRAM

VAR generally supports current law for counties utilizing the “land use” assessment program. We oppose any efforts by local governments to impose roll back taxes upon a change in the local comprehensive plan. VAR supports a repeal of the current enabling authority of a local government to impose roll back assessments when there has been a zoning change, which discourages responsible zoning by landowners when they do not have a specific user for the property being rezoned. VAR supports local governments having the authority to impose roll back assessments upon a change to a more intensive use.

TAXATION IN VIRGINIA

Fees and General Tax Policy:

VAR supports broad-based taxation, as opposed to taxation on only a portion of the population. VAR believes that absent such a tax system, pressures to increase local Real Estate taxes and other property fees will continue to fall on local governments, to the harm of property owners.

Although REALTORS® do not desire higher taxes, VAR would consider increases in actual costs in the provision of necessary governmental services or expansion of mandated scope of services to be valid reasons to consider an increase in tax rates, or to broaden bases of tax collection.

VAR opposes efforts at the state and local level to attach variously-named “add-on fees” to existing assessments, costs and taxes, for purposes unrelated to the collection of the fee. For example, the addition of an “add-on fee” for filing a warrant in debt to benefit emergency service providers, health care providers, educational infrastructure, etc., while for purposes many support, is nevertheless unrelated to its object.

Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) Tax:

VAR remains concerned over inequities in the application of the BPOL tax, limits on the real estate tax and taxes on services. VAR will continue to work towards a more equitable method of application of the BPOL tax and, at the appropriate time, will push for its repeal. However, VAR opposes efforts to repeal the BPOL tax at the cost of imposing the Retail Sales and Use Tax on services, such as real estate commissions, or on sales of real property.

Real Estate Taxes:

VAR opposes efforts to limit or “cap” real estate taxes, unless those caps are but one aspect of a substantial reformation of the state’s tax code.

VAR believes that all classifications of real property should be taxed equally.

VAR supports legislation to provide voluntary authority to local governments to exempt a percentage of assessed value of residential housing for targeted populations from taxation, provided any such exemption is designed to enhance housing affordability.

Recordation and Grantor and Transfer Taxes:

VAR recognizes the need for Virginia’s localities to raise revenue to address critical infrastructure needs. VAR opposes additional statewide increases in recordation, grantor and other transfer taxes for the following reasons:

  • Increasing recordation and grantor taxes places an additional burden on homebuyers and sellers at the time of settlement and places an unreasonable burden on real property owners;
  • Recordation, grantors and other transfer taxes are an unstable and unpredictable source of revenue. Because home sales are cyclical, when a downturn in the housing market occurs, revenues from recordation and transfer taxes fall, creating added pressures for a tax increase;
  • Any transfer tax also is a regressive tax. In general, people tend to spend a smaller share of their income on housing as their income increases; and
  • Recordation, grantors and transfer taxes are more severe than an increase in a broad-based tax designed to generate the same amount of total revenue. The base transfer tax is very narrow relative to a more general tax, such as a local option sales tax; so fewer people pay the tax in a given year. Distributing the burden among a wider group of taxpayers reduces the tax burden per taxpayer.
  • However, VAR acknowledges that local solutions to pressing concerns, such as transportation, may sometimes require that these taxes be considered and included as part of such locally implemented plan.

HISTORIC TAX CREDITS:

VAR supports the creation of and appropriate use of tax credits, including the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program, as incentives to private investment in real estate, to broaden available housing stock, to preserve historic infrastructure, and to create jobs and increase wages and salaries.

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TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS

VAR recognizes the need to develop a balanced transportation system that can effectively move people and products throughout the Commonwealth while enhancing the economy and preserving a high quality of life. VAR believes that our transportation system, provided by the state and in conjunction with local governments, should be funded by broad-based and reliable revenue sources.

VAR believes that tolls will be a component of almost every funding package for transportation projects created in the foreseeable future. VAR supports such inclusion.

Accordingly, VAR supports:

  • A dedicated and reliable long-term funding source for transportation;
  • A constitutional amendment that would dedicate funds to transportation construction and maintenance;
  • The use of bonding authority to underwrite the costs associated with major transportation projects;
  • Creative approaches to transportation construction and maintenance through increased use of the Public-Private Transportation Authority (PPTA);
  • Creative approaches to congestion management efforts through proven practices;
  • Road design improvements, as well as accommodations for car/vanpools; and
  • Alternative modalities of transportation, to include light rail, higher speed and high speed rail, and feeder bus systems

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DPOR/VIRGINIA REAL ESTATE BOARD

The Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, and, as a subset, the Virginia Real Estate Board (VREB), act as the consumer protection and licensing bodies within the state of Virginia. All licensing, discipline, and regulation of licensed industries in Virginia is done through the Virginia DPOR.

You can access the following through the VREB website:

  • Education and licensing requirements
  • Regulatory matters
  • Exam schedules
  • Approved real estate schools
  • License lookup
  • Consumer information

Click here to download a .PDF copy of the Virginia Real Estate Board Regulations (updated April 2008).

Click here to access the VREB website.

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REALTORS CHOOSE

REALTORS® Choose is all about legislative advocacy, RPAC, and our candidates. This is your one-stop shop to find out all the latest on VAR’s legislative initiatives, including the popular Capitol Connections videos. This is where you can:

By supporting the campaigns of candidates who understand your business, the REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC) ensures that your interests are represented when laws, ordinances, and regulations are being enacted. Through voluntary monetary contributions of Realtors®, RPAC supports the campaigns of candidates whose outlooks, decisions, and stances are compatible with those of Realtors® and property owners.

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GET ACTIVE: VAR'S LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY CONFERENCE

Every February during the Virginia General Assembly session, VAR hosts our annual Legislative Advocacy Conference. All members are encouraged to attend this event, which includes the exciting REALTOR® Day on the Hill event, so that you have an opportunity to

  • meet with your legislators face-to-face to discuss issues that affect your real estate business
  • learn about issues around the state that impact your business and that shape VAR's legislative agenda
  • network with other REALTORS® from across the state to grow your contacts and your expertise
  • get top-notch CE courses and participate in other events that can help grow your business

The Get Active conference takes place right in the heart of Richmond and boasts several popular events, like

  • REALTOR® Day on the Hill
  • Legislative Reception at the historic Jefferson Hotel
  • Virginia Housing Policy Forum and regional caucuses
  • RPAC and Legislative Advocacy lunch
  • Virginia Real Estate Awards Reception

Click here to learn more about the VAR Get Active conference.

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RICHMOND SUNLIGHT

Richmond Sunlight is a non-partisan website that aggregates information about the General Assembly, the lawmaking body that governs the state of Virginia. It is an independent, volunteer-run website that is in no way affiliated with the Virginia General Assembly or the state government.

All data about bills—titles, numbers, patrons, text, status, etc.—comes from the General Assembly's Legislative Information System, which is the General Assembly's own service. Some of the data comes in bulk from their FTP CSV service, which is provided for services just such as Richmond Sunlight. Most legislative data is updated hourly, but bill histories (the bill's progress—votes and the like) are updated daily around 2:30pm, because that is when the General Assembly makes that data available.

The remainder of the data is gathered from a variety of resources. Fundraising data comes from the Virginia Public Access Project, election history data comes from the State Board of Elections, and the remainder comes from a variety of resources.

Click here to access the Richmond Sunlight website.

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VIRGINIA PUBLIC ACCESS PROJECT (VPAP)

The Virginia Public Access Project is a non profit group that demonstrates how technology can improve public understanding of money's role in Virginia politics.

VPAP was formed to address a long-standing problem with Virginia's system of financing state and local election campaigns. Virginia imposes no limits on campaign contributions. The sky is the limit, as long as candidates file reports that identify donors who give more than $100. For decades, however, the public had no practical way to view — much less analyze — the paper disclosure reports on file at the State Board of Elections and local voter registrars.

In 1997, VPAP keypunched paper documents filed by candidates running for state office and posted the resulting database on the Internet. Information that had been confined to file cabinets became accessible to anyone with Internet access. Anyone could get a complete list of donors — sorted by name, occupation, amount or ZIP code. Over time, VPAP has taken a more inclusive view of money in politics. Its database that began with money raised by state candidates has expanded to include money spent by candidates, lobbyist registrations and candidates' personal financial holdings.

The launch of VPAP.org led the Virginia General Assembly to enact legislation to encourage — and in some cases require — candidates and political committees to disclose their donors electronically. VPAP plays a supporting role in the State Board of Elections' ongoing efforts to digitalize campaign finance records.

In 2007, VPAP launched a long-term initiative to shine "digital sunlight" to money raised by candidates for local office. The vision is a day when any Virginian can go online and follow the money to candidates who want to represent them at all levels of government: local, state and federal.

Click here to access the VPAP website.

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THE VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY

The Virginia General Assembly dates from the establishment of the House of Burgesses at Jamestown in 1619. It is heralded by Virginians as the "oldest continuous law-making body in the New World."

The 1776 Virginia Constitution confirmed our bicameral legislature, which consists of the House of Delegates and Senate of Virginia. The present state Constitution, adopted in 1970, provides that the House of Delegates shall consist of 90 to 100 members and the Senate shall consist of 33 to 40 members. All members of the General Assembly are elected by qualified voters within their respective House and Senate districts. The terms of office are two years for members of the House and four years for members of the Senate. Members may not hold any other public office during their term of office.

The General Assembly's chief responsibilities are to represent citizens in the formulation of public policy, enact laws of the Commonwealth, approve the budget, levy taxes, elect judges and confirm appointments by the Governor.

Click here to access the Virginia General Assembly website.

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