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A Clear Vision for the ‘Swamp’

IREM President Don Wilkerson, CPM, is clearly not satisfied with the nature of our national governmental leadership, as he makes clear in his latest column for NREI. “There’s one clear message emanating from inside the Beltway. That is: Few things are clear,” he writes. “The overwhelming message is one of dysfunction.”

IREM President Don Wilkerson, CPM, is clearly not satisfied with the nature of our national governmental leadership, as he makes clear in his latest column for NREI. “There’s one clear message emanating from inside the Beltway. That is: Few things are clear,” he writes. “The overwhelming message is one of dysfunction.”

Happily, in the midst of this dysfunction, he says, IREM’s message remains clear, and “the grassroots lobbying campaign that we have mounted continues to keep what matters most to this industry front and center before our elected but too-often distracted officials.”

In fact, he reports, IREM’s grassroots effort provided a valuable industry voice in the past few weeks. As congressional members returned to their home states for the recent recess, IREM urged members to visit their representatives for talks on the policy concerns of the industry. In that time, approximately 49 meetings took place.

Wilkerson then went on to enumerate for the NREI readership the breadth of public policy initiatives on which IREM remains laser-focused:

ADA Lawsuit Refor. “So-called drive-by lawsuits motivated by financial compensation have garnered a lot of press of late,” he writes, “IREM supports legislation to create a ‘notice and cure’ provision within Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This would allow business owners the opportunity to rectify violations within a reasonable amount of time before being threatened with costly lawsuits or demand letters for a monetary settlement.”

Federally Assisted Housing. “This obviously is a critical issue for IREM members, who own and manage more than 60 percent of all federally assisted housing and public housing units in the United States,” says Wilkerson. “We closely monitor all legislative and regulatory activity pertaining to federally assisted housing. In addition, we engage with policy makers at both the national and grassroots levels to encourage continued funding and clarification of new and existing notices and rules.”

Rent Control. Wilkerson made clear IREM’s opposition to “government control of rents. We support a property owner’s right to establish pricing that produces sufficient income to accommodate the basic needs of residents and encourages investment in new construction and existing properties. IREM urges elected officials at all levels of government to oppose rent control as being counterproductive to the best interests of all segments of society and the economic well-being of the nation.”

Medical and Recreational Marijuana. Turning to a hot-button topic that will form the basis of his June column, he noted that medical and recreational use of pot is garnering more statewide thumbs up, almost on a daily basis. And yet, it is still illegal at the federal level.

“This conflict between federal and state laws creates a complicated situation for real estate owners and managers,” he says. “As a result, property managers must check with local officials to ensure they are up to date on medical marijuana regulations.”

He reminds us that there are tools available to property managers that enable them to deal with marijuana as they see fit, such as lease addendums, with which smoking and illegal drug use can be prohibited. “IREM invites guidance from the government on how to implement policy and procedures for the properties real estate owners and managers operate,” he writes.

Flood Insurance. “The National Flood Insurance program is a partnership among federal, state and local governments to help mitigate flood risk and provide affordable flood insurance to those who need it most,” the IREM president explains. “In fact, the NFIP provides more than 90 percent of all flood insurance nationwide and close to 100 percent of flood insurance coverage for individually owned properties and small- to mid-size commercial properties. If the program expires, flood insurance will become more costly or even unavailable.

“IREM fully supports reform of the NFIP to ensure its ongoing sustainability; encouragement of cost-effective private flood insurance options; and long-term reauthorization of NFIP so that it remains a viable option for property owners.”

Data Security. Property managers collect and maintain huge amounts of sensitive data, including social security numbers and financial information, putting them at risk from cyber-criminals. Wilkerson explains that IREM supports government efforts aimed at sharing information about possible cyber threats, establishing reasonable data security standards and helping avert security breaches and their aftermath. “In addition,” he adds, “we oppose any legislation that would be overly onerous to property owners and managers or their clients.”

Online Sales Tax. Another issue that has been making headlines these days is the imbalance that exists between online and traditional retailers in terms of the collection of sales tax, and, as he points out, “we support legislation that creates a level playing field between the two. That said, we oppose a federal sales tax on purchases made over the internet.”

At the heart of this issue lies the states’ inability to collect existing sales tax from remote retailers that do not have a physical presence in the state, creating a price disadvantage for traditional retailers. Obviously, this has risen to the level of crisis with the ever-growing presence of online retailers.

And here, he makes a strong distinction: “Quite literally, we shouldn’t make a federal case out of this. The key issues associated with the remote sales tax debate affect state and local government revenues; therefore, state and local legislative action is appropriate.

“There they are,” Wilkerson sums up. “Those are the seven major public policy issues currently impacting our membership. Was our position made clear? So it will be in Washington, D.C., where clarity, above all, is needed.”

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.

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