Michael Cerrito, PGCAR President Recently, Governor O'Malley signed four pieces of key real estate industry legislation that were introduced by Prince George's County Legislators.

SB 683 - Property Taxes - Bicounty Commissions, authored by Prince George's County Senator Douglas J. J. Peters (D23), will provide property tax relief for County residents. Beginning with next month's property tax bills; all residents will see a cap on the taxes imposed by the three bicounty agencies: Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and the Washington Suburban Transit Commission. According to Senator Peters, almost 70% of residents will see actual savings of $100 to $1200. This savings will make a real difference for families working to make ends meet as our county and state emerges from the recession.

During the Legislative session I was pleased to offer testimony in support of SB 683 in front of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. As REALTORS®, we are reminded every day of how critical home sales can be to the overall economy. That is especially true in difficult economic times, and even more with the challenges we face in Prince George's County. We as REALTORS® know how the foreclosure crisis has hit our County harder than most in the state and we understand that many of our residents are struggling to pay their bills and to stay in their homes. Senate Bill 683 will provide meaningful assistance to them. The ability for owners to stay in their homes keeps values high and neighborhoods stable. Prince George's County Delegate Doyle Niemann (D47) sponsored the House version of the bill. Please be sure to thank both of these legislators the next time you see them.

HB 590 - Taxation of Forgiven Debt in a Short Sale, sponsored by Prince George's County Delegates Justin Ross (D22) and Jolene Ivey (D47), prohibits taxing forgiven debt in a short sale transaction. The passage of this legislation follows an Attorney General opinion which deemed this practice unlawful. As many of you will recall, Prince George's County was among three Counties, including Anne Arundel and Montgomery, which implemented a policy to impose recordation and transfer taxes on the forgiven debt in a short sale transaction. During the legislative session I was happy to offer testimony along with other REALTORS® from Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties advocating for HB 590 to make clear that recordation and transfer taxes may not be imposed on forgiven debt in short sale transactions. In most cases, sellers who are forced into a short sale situation are already in a financially stressed situation. Thanks to Delegates Ross and Ivey this bill provides, for them, much needed relief.

HB 62 - Septic Systems - Nitrogen Removal Technology. Last year the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation that required homeowners in Maryland's Critical Areas, who rely on septic systems, to replace those systems with new nitrogen removal technology when their existing systems needed repair. The cost of this new technology was anticipated to exceed $12,000. MAR advocated for, and was successful in, adding provisions to last year's bill that required the state to reimburse homeowners for this expense. Unfortunately the statutory language was not strong enough and the bill was misinterpreted to shortchange some homeowners on the reimbursement. HB 62 introduced by Prince George's Delegate Veronica Turner (D26) specifically clarifies that MDE must provide grants for 100% of the cost differential between a conventional septic system and one utilizing nitrogen reduction technology. During the legislative session I was one of many REALTORS® from across Maryland offering testimony in support of HB 62.

SB 666 - Prohibition on Private Transfer Fees (PTF). In 2008 NAR took notice, in several states, of the issue of private transfer fees. Similar to a ground rent, private transfer fees are typically created as a 99 year deed restriction that requires a buyer to pay a fee to the original seller of the property every time the property sells. Those fees could be as high as 1% of the purchase price of the property. In most cases a commercial entity would create the PTF and reap the revenue benefits, sometimes sharing it with developers and individual sellers. These fees reduce transparency in real estate transactions and cost buyers money in higher closing costs and lost equity. Obviously this practice, if allowed, would impose complexity on transactions which will only increase over time. Penned by Senator Anthony Muse (D26), SB 666 prohibits the imposition of Private Transfer Fees in Maryland. This timely and proactive move ensures that consumers are protected before these fees became prevalent across the state.

I am so proud of these legislators and others who represent Prince George's County. Our delegation to Annapolis is extremely strong and very sensitive to the needs of the real estate community. That is evident by their introduction and support of these bills. Please take the time to send a note of thanks to these legislators for helping to protect the citizens of Prince George's County and to protect private property rights.

Legislator email addresses:

Senator Anthony Muse -
Senator Douglas Peters -
Delegate Jolene Ivey -
Delegate Doyle Niemann -
Delegate Justin Ross -
Delegate Veronica Turner -

Thank you for your involvement!

Michael Cerrito,
PGCAR President