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MAR finds real estate in the Legislature

Building on success

Members of the state’s largest business trade organization rallied at the Mississippi Capitol February 2 to build on the success of legislative and regulatory victories in 2004 with a renewed focus.

On Capital Day 2005, representatives of the 5,500-member Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR) discussed with legislators advancing issues that will impact their businesses, protect property owners, ensure economic vitality, provide housing opportunity and build better communities.

“It was truly a great event, with standing room only,” said MAR president-elect Pam Beard, who chairs MAR’s legislative and regulatory affairs advocacy group. “We were so lucky to have the governor and lieutenant governor speak to us, and we were very pleased that so many Realtors came from long distances across the state, some that had never before experienced Capital Day. They were excited to talk to their representative or senator and gain insight into the legislative process.”

Top priority

MAR CEO Scott Brunner spoke to state lawmakers about the organization’s top legislative priority: addressing the disclosure of non-material factors.

“There is precious little clarity in existing law on a licensee’s duties to disclose nonmaterial conditions related to a property,” said Brunner. “For instance, if a property is rumored to be haunted, should that be disclosed? Should you disclose that a suicide has occurred in a property? What about a natural death?

“MAR’s top 2005 legislative priority is a bill to clarify that property owners and real estate licensees have no duty to disclose such nonmaterial ‘stigmas’ as the occurrence of a murder, suicide or natural death in a property, supposed paranormal activity (ghosts!), HIV/AIDS or the presence of known sex offenders in an area, and that there’s no cause of action against an owner or licensee for failure to disclose those facts. In addition, our legislation will state that a contract may not be terminated for failure to disclose such nonmaterial information.”

MAR would also like to see legislative action called for proof of licensure and fines for unlicensed activity, said Brunner.

“To combat the increasing problem of non-licensed persons engaging in real estate brokerage activities in Mississippi, MAR will also pursue legislation to increase the penalty for practicing real estate without a Mississippi license — or cooperative agreement with a Mississippi broker — from the current $500 to $5,000 for the first occurrence and $10,000 for each subsequent occurrence,” he said. “In addition, we’re considering including a requirement that closing attorneys obtain proof of real estate licensure prior to disbursing any commission check for any transaction.”

MAR recently recommended to the Mississippi Real Estate Commission that the Mississippi property condition disclosure form be amended to include questions about the occurrence of any illegal drug activity on the property and about any homeowners’ insurance claims made by the current owner of a property.

Legislators honored

During the morning legislative presentation, MAR 2004 president Bruce Kammer honored Rep. Leonard Morris (D-Batesville) and Sen. Stacey Pickering (R-Soso) with Outstanding Legislator Awards for 2004.

Morris “supported every one of our 2004 bills on the House side and made Realtor-related bills a priority,” said MAR 2005 president Nancy Lane, CCIM. “He partnered with judiciary-B committee chairman Jeff Smith in helping to make the committee process a positive and productive one. His experience as a real estate broker made him an eloquent and knowledgeable speaker on the House floor about our Realtor bills. And his coordination with House leadership helped enable all of our bills to pass unanimously in the House.”

Pickering “sponsored our homestead exemption bill on the Senate side in 2004,” continued Lane. “He listened to constituents like Realtor Chris Wilson of Laurel and researched the issue, helping to build a strong case for the bill. Thanks to his work with finance committee chair Tommy Robertson and vice chair Walter Michel — and his willingness to ward off numerous attempts by other interests groups to add language to the bill — he was instrumental in getting our bill passed.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.


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