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Protecting Member Interests

April 11, 2017 | John Salustri

As we reported in the most recent issue of JPM, IREM is committed to defending the interests of its membership, and for that matter, the entire industry, on Capitol Hill. A major factor in that initiative is the Institute’s Government Affairs team.

It should come as no surprise that, despite the major shakeup that occurred inside the Beltway this past November, the focus of Government Affairs has been unwavering. “The basic purpose is to serve as a reliable source for two audiences,” says Ron Gjerde, vice president of Government Affairs and Content Services. “The first is to provide public policymakers with factual, accurate information on how their decisions will impact our industry and the population in general.”

The second audience is the IREM constituency and the larger industry, keeping all parties informed “about what’s going on with policymakers so they can mobilize as necessary.” The consistency of that messaging overrides any changes either inside or outside the Beltway, he says.

Key among the issues IREM is addressing is the debate, now heating up, on tax reform and the goals of the administration and Congress. “We need to know what they’ll do, how it’ll impact our members, and if members need to hire more people to account for some of these tax and accounting changes,” says Beth Wanless, Government Affairs senior manager.

Wanless doesn’t see any sort of resolution before 2018 at the earliest. How much will Trump’s real estate DNA help the industry? Even if he sticks to his roots, “the question is if he and Congress can think alike,” says Wanless, who ticks off the many areas where tax reform could go south, including carried interest, 1031 exchanges and eliminating depreciation deductions.

Running a close second is legislation that IREM has already championed: reform to the Americans with Disabilities Act. In particular, the focus is on “drive-by lawsuits,” explains Wanless, “where an attorney licensed in multiple states will simply drive by a property, and if the site is lacking, even in the placement of signage, they’ll send a demand letter of $7,000, without even giving our members the opportunity to repair the violation.”

A recent membership survey revealed that “an overwhelming majority of members have experienced this--by the same attorneys on the same properties,” says Wanless, who expresses optimism over passage in the near future. Wanless emphasized that, despite some common misconceptions, this reform measure doesn’t in any way diminish the rights and protections of people with disabilities, but would only put a stop to frivolous lawsuits.

Overall, in terms of business and the economy, there is an overriding sense of optimism coming from Chicago. But, as Ron Gjerde, Vice President of Government Affairs and Content Services points out: “There’s a lot of discussion taking place now about some new unpredictability in Washington. But Washington has never been, will never be, predictable. That’s the only thing that is predictable.”

Needless to say, there were other issues on the top of the IREM legislative agenda, items important to the daily operation of your business. To find out more about them, please read the full JPM article or visit the IREM website.

About the Author
John Salustri is editor-in-chief of Salustri Content Solutions, Inc., a consultancy focused on enhancing the web and print content of clients around the nation. He is a regular contributor to JPM Magazine and a frequent blogger for IREM’s website. Prior to launching SCS, John was founding editor of, the industry’s premier real estate news website, where he managed the daily output of 25 international reporters, and prior to that, he was editor of Real Estate Forum Magazine. John is a four-time winner of the National Association of Real Estate Editors’ Award for Excellence in Journalism.

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