Despite a very tight state budget, REALTORS® and their communities throughout Florida are walking away from the 2018 session of the Florida Legislature with several key victories: a $31 million cut to the Business Rent Tax, $110 million for affordable housing projects and more than $400 million for Florida’s natural resources.
“Great job, Realtors®, for making the 2018 legislative session a big success,” said Christine Hansen, 2018 president of Florida REALTORS®. “We knew this was going to be a tough session to work through given the status of the state budget. With the help of our members, we managed to keep the momentum going to further reduce the Business Rent Tax. We also scored victories on a number of other issues that will benefit Realtors® and property owners alike.”
Here’s a recap of some of Florida REALTORS® more significant legislative victories:
- Additional reduction in the Business Rent Tax – HB 7087 included a cut to the Business Rent Tax and businesses throughout Florida will save an additional $31 million each year due to the second reduction in the tax rate in as many years. The new state tax rate businesses will pay on their commercial leases will be 5.7 percent. Effective: Jan. 1, 2019.
- Tax credits for businesses that pay the Business Rent Tax – HB 7055 is a broad education bill that addresses several education-related matters. Included is a measure that allows businesses to receive tax credits for a portion of the Business Rent Tax they pay, which will go toward certain scholarship funds. Effective: July 1, 2018.
- More than $400 million for Florida’s natural resources – Everglades restoration, beach renourishment, and springs protection received significant amounts of funding this year. A large amount of funding was also allocated to expedite repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike around the southern boundary of Lake Okeechobee. Effective: July 1, 2018.
- Nearly $110 million for affordable housing projects – Affordable housing programs will receive close to $110 million from the state and local government housing trust funds. These funds go a long way in helping Floridians achieve the dream of home ownership with down payment assistance. They also provide rental assistance and housing rehabilitation to Florida’s homeless population, veterans and persons with disabilities.
- Strengthening flood insurance notices to protect homeowners – Many property owners forgo flood insurance because they mistakenly believe their standard homeowner policies include flood damage coverage. HB 1011 strengthens the current flood insurance notice included in their property insurance policy. Insurers must include the notice in the initial policy and when the policy is renewed. Effective: Jan. 1, 2019.
- Creating an accurate 3D map of Florida – Included in the state budget is $15 million to fund LIDAR (light detection and ranging) mapping that would produce a complete and accurate 3D map of Florida for use in emergency management, infrastructure planning, and other purposes. LIDAR is a next-generation mapping technique and has the potential to lower flood insurance rates throughout Florida.
- Preventing unlicensed real estate activity – The Legislature allocated up to $500,000 from the Professional Regulation Trust Fund to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to combat unlicensed real estate activity.
Although Assignment of Benefits (AOB) reform did not happen this year, the momentum is building for a successful outcome to this escalating problem. AOB reform remains a serious issue for Florida’s property owners. The business community and the Legislature will continue to work to find the right path forward.
Vacation rentals are another issue that will be addressed in subsequent legislative sessions. This session, an incredible amount of discussion occurred among stakeholders on the issue, and several bills made it very close to passage. The progress made this year will provide a good starting place for continued discussions during the 2019 legislative session.
For more information, contact Max Brandow, Government Affairs Director, (941) 952-3410.