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Legislative Information

Current issues and pending real estate legislation

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November 2018

HCAR Congratulates New County Executive, Council Members

The Howard County Association of REALTORS® offers its heartiest congratulations to Howard County’s new leadership team!

County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball

Council Chair Christiana Mercer Rigby (District 3)

Council Vice Chair Opel Jones (District 2)

Councilperson Liz Walsh (District 1)

Councilperson Deb Jung (District 4)

Councilperson David Yungmann (District 5)


HCAR sent several representatives to the County’s Installation Ceremony, which was held on December 3 at Howard High School. To view the ceremony in its entirety, please click here; photos from the event can also be found here.

We look forward to working with our local elected officials over the next four years!


County Executive Calvin Ball to Host Listening Sessions

Newly-elected Howard County Executive Calvin Ball will host a series of listening sessions in the months of December and January on shaping the future of Howard County. Those sessions are scheduled for:





 Florence Bain 50+ Center

 Monday, December 10

10:00-11:30 AM

 Howard High School

 Tuesday, December 18

 7:00-8:30 PM

 Long Reach High School

 Thursday, December 20

 7:00-8:30 PM

 Centennial High School

 Monday, January 7

 7:00-8:30 PM

 Glenelg High School

 Thursday, January 10

 7:00-8:30 PM

 Hammond High School

 Monday, January 14

 7:00-8:30 PM

 Wilde Lake High School

 Wednesday, January 16

 7:00-8:30 PM

For those who are unable to attend in person, Ball will also conduct a live Twitter chat on Thursday, January 10 from 1-2 PM, @HoCoGovExec  #FutureofHoCo.

For questions about these events, call 410.313.1246 or email


First Citizen’s Budget Hearing Set for December 12

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball will hold his first Citizens’ Budget Hearing for the FY2020 budget cycle on Wednesday, December 12. The event will be held at 7 PM. in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive in Ellicott City.

Residents can sign-up ONLINE to speak at the hearing or to provide online budget testimony; however, residents are reminded that internet testimony is considered public information and, as such, is subject to the Maryland Public Information Act.   

Residents who do not wish to sign-up online will still be able to sign-up in person on the night of the public hearing beginning at 6:00 p.m. Speakers must sign-up individually, and one person may not sign-up for several testifiers.


NFIP Extended to December 21; Longer-Term Extension in Sight

One day prior to the December 7 deadline, the U.S. House and Senate passed a two-week extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP is being extended as part of the Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid a partial shutdown of the federal government. This CR will move the funding deadline for the seven remaining fiscal 2019 spending bills to Dec. 21, 2018. 

While this is yet another short-term program extension, REALTORS® have reason to be optimistic. Now that NFIP funding has been re-connected to the larger federal budget timeline, a longer extension is likely to be a part of a funding agreement potentially through September of next year. NAR continues to work on a full 5-year reauthorization and reform package to provide long-term stability to the program.


October 2018

New State Laws Effective October 1

Many of Maryland’s new state laws went into effect on October 1. These include REALTOR®-sponsored bills HB 1482, which outlines succession procedures in the event of a broker’s disability, and HB 1656, allowing transfers of budget surpluses into the Real Estate Guarantee Fund. The following bills are also now in effect:

  • HB 1160 – Property Tax Assessment Appeal Reductions
  • HB 64 – Payments by Appraisal Management Companies
  • HB 1073  – Tenant Water and Sewer Bill Notification
  • HB 305 – Homestead Tax Credit Eligibility Notices
  • HB 279 – Homebuyer Education Requirements for DHCD Programs
  • HB 1481 – New Home Energy Efficiency Options Notice
  • HB 1257 – Lease with Option to Purchase Agreements
  • SB 266 – Wrongful Detainer Jury Trial Requirements
  • HB 1329 – Service of Process for Commercial Properties
  • SB 621 – Deletion of Covenants Restricting Residency on Race or Religion
  • SB 755 – Escrow Accounts for Water and Sewer
  • HB 1511 – Mortgage Broker Finders Fees
  • HB 923 – Water and Sewer Assistance Programs
  • HB 1112/HB 1465 – Tax Sales of Vacant Properties

County Moves Forward with Ellicott City Plan

With its vote on October 1, the County Council has approved the first step in its flood mitigation plan for Ellicott City. By a 3-2 vote, the Council approved funding of just over $15 million of what will ultimately be a $50 million Plan to begin the voluntary acquisition of properties on lower Main Street and expand the Tiber River channel to reduce potential flooding.

The Master Plan Advisory Team (MPAT) will provide feedback on key issues during the drafting of the Master Plan for Ellicott City and the Tiber-Hudson Watershed. This meeting will take place on Thursday, October 11 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the George Howard Building’s Columbia-Ellicott Room, 3430 Court House Drive in Ellicott City.

This will be followed by a Public Workshop on October 25, 2018 at the Roger Carter Community Center. Residents are asked to register to attend and provide input on new and refined master plan concepts. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Presentation begins at 7 p.m. 

The full details of the Mitigation Plan can be found here.

Maryland Voter Registration, Early Voting Begin

With only one month to go until Election Day, voters should be aware of several upcoming dates to make certain their vote counts:

Voter Registration Deadline: October 16, 2018.  If using Maryland's Online Voter Registration System (OLVR), you have until 9:00 p.m. to submit your application. Registrations can also be submitted to the  Howard County Board of Elections.

Early Voting: October 25, 2018 - November 1, 2018. Early voting will take place at four locations in Howard County. They are:

  • Ridgely's Run Community Center, Jessup
  • Miller Branch Library, Ellicott City
  • The Bain Center, Columbia
  • Howard County Fairgrounds, West Friendship

Polls will be open 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. each day.

Absentee Ballots: October 30. To request an absentee ballot for mail delivery, requests must be made by October 30. For electronic delivery the deadline is extended to November 2.

Election Day: November 6. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To find your polling place, click here.

Around the County

Valley Mede and Chatham Flooding. Howard County’s Department of Public Works (DPW) will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, October 17 at 6:30 p.m. in Multipurpose Rooms 2, 3 and 4 at the Church of the Resurrection, 3175 Paulskirk Drive in Ellicott City, to provide an update on the flood mitigation effort regarding the Valley Mede and Chatham neighborhoods. The meeting will include an informal presentation and open discussion. County staff will also be on hand to answer any questions and gather public comments.

Those unable to attend the meeting who have questions should contact Ms. Christine Lowe with the DPW’s Stormwater Management Division at 410-313-6455 or email

County Code Re-Write Begins. On October 1, County Executive Allan Kittleman announced the beginning of “HoCode Rewrite,” an initiative to modernize and unify the County’s development regulations under a single, comprehensive document that will make the regulations easier for residents to understand and use.

The process will result in a new Unified Development Code that will eliminate loopholes and tighten ambiguous language in existing regulations that often lead to subjective interpretations of the law. The County will work with an outside consultant to develop a project timeline, work plan and citizen engagement plan during the fall and anticipate scheduling the first public meetings in early 2019. Click here for more information about HoCode Rewrite.

MIHU Applications. The Howard County Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is now accepting applications for its Moderate Income Housing Unit (MIHU) program. Applications for the MIHU homeownership program are being accepted through Wednesday, October 31.

During the month of October, DHCD will host three MIHU workshops to explain the program’s eligibility requirements and the application process: Wednesday, October 17; Wednesday October 24 and Thursday October 25. All meetings will be held from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in Room 211 at 9820 Patuxent Woods Drive in Columbia. For more information or to register, visit the DHCD website.


July 2018

Loans Available to EC Homeowners, Businesses     

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will open up a Disaster Loan Center in Historic Ellicott City starting July 31, to assist residents and business/property owners affected by the May 27, 2018 flood apply for disaster loans. 

From Tuesday, July 31 through Tuesday, August 7, expect Sunday, August 5, a Disaster Loan Center will be open to the public at the Baltimore & Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum located at 3711 Maryland Avenue. Hours of operation of the Loan Center will be:

  • Saturday, August 4 – 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, August 5 – CLOSED 
  • Monday, August 6 – 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 7 – 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The SBA will offer Business Physical Disaster Loans, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Home Disaster Loans. Home Disaster Loans are available to homeowners or renters to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate and personal property, including automobiles.

For more information on these loans and eligibility, visit

Last Minute Reprieve for Flood Insurance Program

In a big win for REALTORS®, the National Flood Insurance Program will continue renewing or issuing new insurance for four more months under legislation overwhelmingly passed by the U.S. Senate on July 31, the date the program was set to expire. This extension allows the NFIP to continue writing flood insurance policies through November 30.

“We applaud lawmakers for taking this needed action to prevent disruptions to closings in thousands of communities across the country,” says NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall. “Although the program is now extended through November 30, the NFIP is in desperate need of reforms that will make the program solvent and sustainable for the long term. The National Association of REALTORS® will continue fighting for these reforms.”

REALTORS® have been urging extension of the program for months. Almost 125,000 REALTORS® nationwide contacted their members of Congress in support of the extension. The REALTOR® voice was critical in the short-term extension and will continue to be as NAR seeks permanent reforms to the program and a full five-year reauthorization from Congress.

Council Approves 1-Year Building Freeze in EC Watershed

On June 27, the Howard County Council gave approval to CB 56, a measure to temporarily halt redevelopment permitting and rezoning applications in the Tiber Branch and Plumtree Branch Watersheds. This freeze is intended to give the County more time to evaluate the causes of and recommend mitigation for flooding in the Ellicott City area.

The bill does contain exceptions to the permit freeze for the following:

  • Reconstruction of buildings damaged during a natural disaster which results in no expansion of existing impervious surfaces
  • New construction which does not expand the amount of impervious surface on the property
  • Projects undertaken solely to improve stormwater drainage on properties in the watershed

CB 56 was sponsored by all five members of the County Council and signed by County Executive Kittleman the same day as the bill’s passage. To read the entire bill, click here.

County Seeks BWI Noise Relief

Howard County has filed an administrative petition with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seeking relief for residents impacted by new flight patterns around BWI-Marshall Airport, resulting from the NextGen flight control system that was installed in 2014. The petition contends the intense concentration of flights on one path, significant alterations in 
traditional departure and arrival trajectories, and the changes in the altitudes of arriving and departing flights were all implemented without notice and without the environmental, historical and other reviews required by federal statutes. As a result, the County states that the FAA should promptly restore flight paths to their pre-NextGen status and evaluate any new routes before they are re-implemented, as required by federal statutes.

Howard County’s petition to the FAA can be found here.


June 2018

Is Your Settlement at Risk? Take Action Today!

Heading to the closing table in August? Your clients may face a surprise unless Congress acts this month to extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

This program is critically important not only to individual homeowners and homebuyers, but also to Americans and the nation’s economy. Through the NFIP, the number of insured properties increases and the need for post-flood disaster governmental assistance decreases, saving taxpayers property and money.

For each month that the NFIP is lapsed, over 40,000 transactions in 20,000 communities nationwide are at risk for delay or outright cancellation. Don’t let yours be one of them! TAKE ACTION TODAY!

Council Approves Landlord-Tenant Legislation with HCAR Amendments

Following discussions with HCAR and other stakeholders, the County Council approved an amended version of CB 20-2018, addressing Landlord-Tenant relations. HCAR successfully negotiated several concessions narrowing the circumstances under which a tenant may cancel an existing lease due to certain hardships, like the loss of employment, job relocation or medical reasons. Compared to the original version of the bill, the amended CB 20 is far more balanced between landlord and tenant interests and provides more landlord protections than other prominent Maryland jurisdictions.

HCAR is preparing a summary of CB 20 for property managers and investment property owners, which outlines these new provisions. Look for it soon!

On Tap at the County Council

While many turn to the summer as a time for rest and relaxation, the Howard County Council will not be. Several pieces of new legislation were introduced in early July, for consideration as the summer progresses.

The highest profile of these bills is CB 56-2018, a 12-month development permitting freeze in the Tiber Watershed area. This bill was filed in response to the recent flooding in Ellicott City and is intended to grant the County additional time to study the factors which contributed to that disaster. This bill mirrors one which was introduced, but did not have the votes to pass, following the first Ellicott City flood two years ago.

Other new bills include:

  • CB 55-2018 – Repeals a tax currently charged on rented mobile home sites.
  • CB 58-2018 – Stipulates that new developments abutting Scenic Roads should locate their ingress and egress on adjacent non-scenic roadways, where possible.
  • CR 82-2018 – Adopting the annual Housing Unit Allocation Chart under the County’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance.
  • CR 83-2018 – Adopting annual School Capacity Chart under the County’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance

New Laws in Effect July 1

While many of the state’s new laws impacting real estate will not be effective until October, there are several which went into effect on July 1. They include:

  • HB 990 - Requires the Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) to mail a notice informing each home buyer of the availability of homestead tax credits.
  • SB 999 - Exempts from recordation taxes properties transferred between limited partnerships or trusts comprised of the same ownership.
  • HB 365 - Allows for the continued use of personal exemptions for state income tax purposes.
  • HB 570 - Raises the state standard deduction by $250 single/$500 joint, which will offset tax increases under Federal tax reform for 80% of Maryland filers. The deduction will increase in future years based on cost of living calculations.
  • HB 308 - Freezes the Maryland Estate Tax Exemption at $5 Million, rather than unify the state with the federal exemption of $11 Million.

Learn more about these and other bills from this past General Assembly session in the Maryland Realtors® Session Summary.


May 2018

Key Dates for Upcoming June Primary Elections

We’re less than one month away from the Maryland Primary Elections. Here’s a list of important dates to remember so that you can make your vote count:

Before you head to the polls, be sure to check your voting location, look at a sample ballot for your area, and read these tips for casting your ballot.

HCAR thanks you for exercising your right to vote!

#ECStrong: Help Ellicott City Recover

As Ellicott City is damaged once again from historic flooding, many in our community have asked for ways to help. The Howard County Government has established the following sites for those looking to help EC get back on its feet:

To Volunteer: please visit Howard County Recreation and Parks Disaster Recovery website at to register.
To Donate:  If you would like to make a monetary donation, please visit the Community Foundation of Howard County's website, Currently, the County asks that residents refrain from dropping off unsolicited recovery donations.

For additional information, visit the Ellicott City Flood Information Page.  #ECStrong

Coming Up at the Council

In addition to consideration of the tabled CB 20 regarding landlord-tenant relations, the Council will also introduce the following pieces of legislation:

CB 40-2018: Requirement of Presubmission Community Meeting for Developments Adjacent to County Land or Existing Open Space

CB 41-2018: Property Tax Credit for Surviving Spouses of Retired Armed Services Members

CB 44-2018: Amendments to the County’s Ethics Ordinance

CB 46-2018: Establishing Process for Single Site Historic District

You can follow the progress of these bills on the County Council website,

First Responder Tax Credit Application Period Now Underway

On May 15, the Howard County Government announced the opening of the application period for the County’s First Responder Property Tax Credit. To receive the credit, eligible residents must submit their application before the September 1 deadline.

County police, sheriff, correctional officers, emergency medical personnel, and paid and volunteer firefighters can receive a property tax credit of up to $1,250 for in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, which will increase to $2,500 in FY 2020.

The Public Safety Officer Tax Credit application form can be found at this link from the Howard County Government.

April 2018

Revised Landlord-Tenant Bill Includes HCAR Revisions

The Howard County Council voted May 7 ( to table CB 20-2018 (, a bill concerning landlord-tenant relations and obligations. HCAR had expressed concerns that the initial draft would discourage residential rentals in the County and could create undue financial hardships for landlords, particularly as it related to lease terminations by the tenant.

HCAR met with Chairperson Sigaty and County staff in April to discuss our concerns with the legislation and offer amendments to bring the bill into better balance for landlords. Among the concessions were lengthening the notice requirements for lease termination under certain circumstances, narrowing the types of events which qualified for early lease termination, increasing the maximum allowable termination penalty, clarifying walk-through and move-in inspection procedures, and allowing a landlord and tenant to waive a 24-hour notice period for the landlord to enter the dwelling for repairs.

CB 20 will likely be discussed during a Council work session later in May, with the vote taking place no earlier than June 4.  The bill would go into effect 61 days following passage, after which landlords would have 4 months to create a lease addendum outlining the new provisions.

Meet Us at NAR Mid-Year

The REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo is where NAR members take an active role to advance the real estate industry, public policy and the association. REALTORS® come to Washington, DC, for special issues forums, committee meetings, legislative activities and the industry trade show. Here are the highlights:

Tuesday, May 15

Federal Legislative Forum with FEMA Administrator William Brock Long

Regulatory Issues Forum with Acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney

Wednesday, May 16 

Federal Priority Issues Briefing (read the issues here

General Session with HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO)

Hill Visits with the Maryland Congressional Delegation (confirm attendance here

Thursday, May 17

Residential Economic Issues and Trends Forum

Brokers Power Session

Property Management Forum

Friday, May 18

Hot Topic: National Flood Insurance Program

MLS and Regional Association Meetings

This FREE event is held right in your backyard. It’s a great opportunity to learn, to network, and to show the power of REALTORS® in the public policy arena. CLICK HERE to register today! (

FY 2019 County Budget in the Home Stretch

The proposed FY 2019 Howard County Budget will receive its final consideration in the coming weeks. Here are the remaining budget cycle meetings prior to adoption:

Monday, May 14, 8:30 a.m. – Work Session - Operating Budget, including revenue, fees, and funds specific to each department: Community Services, Non-Departmental Fees, Funds, and Expenses

Monday, May 14, 1:00 p.m. – Public Hearing – Capital and Operating Budget

Friday, May 18, 8:30 a.m.  – Work Session (if needed) on Pending issues - Capital and/or Operating Budget

Wednesday, May 23, 2:00 p.m. – Budget Amendment Prefile

Friday, May 25, 8:30 a.m. – Work Session, Capital and Operating Budget, Budget Amendments, Pending issues

Wednesday, May 30, 10:00 a.m. – Legislative Session, Adoption of Budget Bills

The FY 2019 Capital and Operating Budgets can be viewed on the County web site (


Maryland REALTORS® Take the Lead on Affordable Housing

On June 6, join REALTOR® members from across the state at the Maryland Housing Summit as we shape the future of housing policy. The Housing Summit is a half-day event with an introductory speaker, two discussion panels, and lunch with keynote. The first panel will focus on development, smart growth, zoning, and land use. The second will be devoted to innovations such as community land trusts, tiny houses/ADUs, use of public lands, and home buying mortgage products and incentives.

This event will take place from 8:30 AM to 1 PM at the Hotel at the University of Maryland in College Park. Your $25 registration fee includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Additional information and a registration link is available through the Maryland REALTORS® web site (

March 2018

Council Considers Landlord-Tenant Revisions

In April, the Howard County Council will consider CB 20-2018 (Sigaty), a measure concerning Landlord-Tenant relations. Key provisions of the measure include:

  • Limits and documentation on lease application fees
  • Document provision and walk-through requirements
  • Mandatory 24-hour notice requirements to access rental dwellings
  • Lease termination allowances based upon certain tenant circumstances, like loss or change of employment and other reasonable causes

HCAR has provided comments to Chairperson Sigaty about how CB 20’s changes would adversely impact landlords and property managers, particularly those with one or few units. In addition, we will be meeting with County officials and staff on April 13 to propose amendments to the bill. You can follow the progress of CB 20 and read the full text of the bill on the County Council website.

HCAR’s JoAnn Alexander Promotes Homebuyer Savings Accounts in Annapolis

Creation of First Time Homebuyers’ Savings Accounts (SB 972) is one of the top priorities for Maryland Realtors® in the 2018 General Assembly session. Thanks to HCAR’s President JoAnn Alexander, the Maryland Senate agrees. In March, Alexander was one of a panel of REALTORS® who testified in favor of the accounts before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. Appearing alongside Maryland REALTORS® President-Elect Merry Tobin and Senior VP Bill Castelli, Alexander noted the difficulties young homebuyers face in saving for down payments and closing costs, and how those difficulties result in delaying homeownership.  See her full testimony here.

Following her testimony, the Senate approved SB 972 as amended by a unanimous vote. It is now in the House awaiting a vote as we head to the final days of the 2018 session.

It’s Budget Time! Howard Releases Meeting Schedule for FY 2019

April once again marks the beginning of budget season for the County Council. County Executive Alan Kittleman recently released the proposed $164.7 million capital budget for Fiscal Year 2019; the proposed operating budget is expected to follow shortly, and will be posted at

The County Council will hold multiple workshops and hearings on the proposed budget over the next two months, including:

April 10 – Public Hearing on Capital Budget (excluding Education)

April 18 – Work Session on Capital Budget (excluding Education)

April 25 – Public Hearing on Education Capital and Operating Budgets

April 30 – Work Session on Education Capital and Operating Budgets

May 1 – Public Hearing on Operating Budget (excluding Education)

May 4 – Work Session on Operating Budget

May 9 – Work Session on Operating Budget

May 14 – Work Session on Operating Budget

Additional budget hearing dates will be announced, including the constant yield hearing in which the property tax rate for FY 2019 will be set. HCAR will provide additional information on the budget and hearing dates as they are released.


February 2018

Howard Releases FY 2019 Spending Affordability Report

On March 1, County Executive Kittleman announced the release of the FY 2019 Spending Affordability Advisory Committee Report, which offers guidance during the upcoming Howard budget season. The 25-member Committee held seven public sessions to review the status and projections of revenues and expenditures for Fiscal Years 2019-2024. The real estate industry was represented on the Committee by HCAR Past-President Alicyn DelZoppo.

Once again, the report recommends consideration of a $0.25 increase in the real estate transfer tax to fund school construction. HCAR has consistently opposed such a measure, which would require state approval to implement. The report also recommends conducting a study on the impacts new APFO requirements imposed by CB-1 will have on County revenues. This echoes a concern voiced by HCAR during consideration of that bill.

HCAR will continue conversations on these topics with our state and local County officials, as well as those candidates running for office in the coming year.

Maryland REALTORS® Launch First-Time Buyer Advocacy Site

In February, the Maryland REALTORS® launched an advocacy campaign in support of HB 436, the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account bill.

HB 436 allows first-time homebuyers to save up to $5,000 tax-free annually, up to a total of $50,000. These funds can be used towards the purchase of a home, including down payment and closing costs. Family members may also contribute funds to the account of a first-time buyer.

The campaign will include social media ads, Calls for Action to members as well as consumers, and a consumer-facing web page ( with an advocacy portal for members and consumers to contact their legislators, encouraging support. Be on the lookout for the REALTOR® Call for Action in your email inbox.

Howard Delegation Introduces Tax Credit, Student Loan Repayment Bills

Howard County’ General Assembly Delegation has introduced a number of bills to provide tax benefits to the County’s teachers and Ellicott City:

HB 1186 – allows the County to provide property tax credits to residential or commercial property damaged during a natural disaster

HB 223 – exempts transfer taxes for teachers purchasing their first homes in Howard County, and reduces the transfer tax to $0.70 for subsequent home purchases by teachers

HB 1180 – allows Howard County to establish a student loan repayment program for teachers who commit to teaching in HCPSS for a minimum of 5 years

Details of these, and other bills introduced by the Delegation, can be found on the County’s website.

NAR Announces 2018 Federal Priorities

The National Association of REALTORS® recently released their 2018 Federal Advocacy Priorities. They include:

  • Regulations to Implement the New Tax Law, particularly on how it relates to pass-through exemptions for independent contractors
  • Reauthorization and Reform of the National Flood Insurance Program, which is set to expire March 23
  • Preserving Federal Mortgage Finance Programs like FHA, VA and Rural Housing
  • Reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure continued viability
  • Providing Association Health Insurance Plans to Realtor® members at lower cost
  • Amending Federal Fair Housing Act Provisions to match those contained in the Realtor® Code of Ethics

You can read more about these and other priority issues at NAR’s Federal Advocacy page.


January 2018

REALTOR® Bills on the Move

It’s full steam ahead in Annapolis, as nearly 3,000 pieces of legislation have been introduced to date. This includes the following pieces of REALTOR®-sponsored legislation:

HB 463 / SB 972 – First-Time Homebuyers Savings Accounts

HB 1608 – Third-Party Escrow Accounts

SB 843 – Real Estate Guarantee Fund

SB 846 – Succession Procedures Following Broker Disability

Both the Maryland REALTORS® and the HCAR Legislative Committee have reviewed nearly 200 bills impacting the industry and have recommended positions of support or opposition for those measures. Among those receiving high levels of support are tax reform measures which allow for continued itemization of property taxes on state tax returns, to offer financial assistance for the installation of residential fire sprinkler systems, and to clearly define the rent that may be collected from a tenant. In addition, REALTORS® have once again voiced opposition to bills which seek to impose BAT septic system requirements on property owners outside the State’s Critical Areas.

Updates on those bills and the REALTOR® position can be found on

Council Approves APFO Amendments

On February 5, the Howard County Council approved CB-1, which amends the County’s current Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO). This ordinance guides the pace of development in the County based upon capacity ratios for public services, including roads and schools. This vote was a result of the invalidation of CB-61 last Fall.

CB-1 reduces the capacity thresholds for school system capacity under which an area is considered “open” to new development, or whether developments are placed on a hold in areas of school overcrowding. While acknowledging the need to address school overcrowding was a top priority for the County, HCAR and other members of the business community cautioned that dramatically lowering the school capacity thresholds would institute an effective building moratorium in much of the County. Given that fees and taxes on new development are a significant source of both County and school system revenue, we urged the County to take a very close look at the fiscal impacts of this decision on the local economy.

County Executive Kittleman gave final approval to the measure on February 14. HCAR will continue to monitor the impacts of this legislation, and to work with our elected leaders to modify these provisions as needed.

Howard County Quick Takes:

  • The Second Citizens’ Budget Hearing for the FY2019 budget cycle will take place on Thursday, March 8 at 7:00 p.m. in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive in Ellicott City. Residents can sign-up ONLINE to speak at the hearing by going to
  • Video and text of Howard County Executive Alan Kittleman’s “State of the County” address is now posted online at the County website.
  • The BikeHoward Express initiative is set to offer $8 million in new funding for area bike and trail ways over the next 3 years.  HCAR is a supporter of the goals of the BikeHoward Plan and commends the County for dedicating funding for its implementation.

New Loans and Grants Available from the Maryland Mortgage Program

On January 19, the Maryland Mortgage Program (MMP) announced the creation of new products and a redesigned program website aimed at helping more Maryland residents become homeowners. These new initiatives will expand access to the program for lower income homebuyers as well as those struggling with credit issues, down payment, or closing costs.

New Maryland Mortgage Program products include:

  • MMP's existing Maryland 4% Grant Assist can now be used for down payment assistance for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans as well as conventional, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), or United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) loans.
  • A new Maryland 6% Opportunity Grant for income-selected homebuyers to assist with down payment and closing costs associated with purchasing a home for Freddie Mac Housing Finance Agencies (HFA) Advantage mortgages.
  • A new Maryland Credit 640 program to assist homebuyers with FICO scores in the 640-659 range with purchasing a home in Maryland

You can learn more about these products on the new MMP website,

County Releases Land Development Regulations Assessment

The Howard County Planning and Zoning (DPZ) recently released a Development Regulation Assessment conducted by Clarion Associates, which reviews the zoning code, as well as regulations, policies and manuals related to land development. By addressing current inconsistencies and streamlining the County’s land development regulations, these revisions would make regulations more user-friendly, improve the consistency of county land use decisions, and help achieve the goals of PlanHoward 2030.  You can read summaries and the full report at


December 2017

New Year – New County Legislation

The Howard County Council will begin 2018 with several bills relating to real estate and development in the County, including bills to impose additional tests under the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) and to provide tax credits for area first responders:

CB 1-2018 and CB 2-2018 – These bills are reintroductions of the APFO and growth tiers allocations bills which were invalidated last Fall. CB 1 is of particular importance to the real estate industry, as it would impose new capacity tests and longer wait times for new development in areas where schools are at or over their rated capacities. HCAR’s position remains that Howard County should address school overcrowding without shutting down the County to new development, which is one of the key sources of revenue to make necessary capital improvements.

CB 5-2018 and CB 7-2018 – These bills provide tax credits for the County’s first responders. CB 5 provides a property tax credit of up to $2,500 annually for County firefighters, EMTs, correctional officers, police officers or sheriff’s deputies; total credits granted cannot exceed a total of $750,000 annually. Meanwhile, CB 7 establishes the credit at $1,250 in 2019 and $2,500 thereafter, and makes volunteer firefighters with 10 years of service eligible to receive the credit.

The first Public Hearing for the above bills will be Tuesday, January 16 at 7:00 PM.


Realtors® Announce 2018 General Assembly Priorities

As the General Assembly heads back into session this month, the Maryland Realtors® will be on the ground to advance their 2018 Key Issues. They are:

First-Time Homebuyers Savings Accounts – This bill would allow a first-time homebuyer to deposit up to $50,000 into an account, with both the deposits and any interest earned up to $150,000 exempt from Maryland state taxes.

Third Party Escrow Accounts – Realtors® will seek legislation to regulate the deposit, holding and disbursement of escrow accounts by third parties.

Maryland Real Estate Guarantee Fund – Currently, when the Guarantee Fund falls below $250,000, all Maryland real estate licensees are assessed a fee to recapitalize the Fund. This bill would instead allow the Real Estate Commission to direct up to $500,000 of its unused budget allocations to the Fund, sparing real estate licensees from unnecessary assessments.

Brokerage Act – Current law provides for the continuation of a real estate brokerage firm following the death of a broker, but does not contain similar provisions for a broker’s disability which prevents them from overseeing the firm. Realtors® will seek to outline these procedures as has been done in other states.

BAT Septic Systems – Realtors® will continue to monitor any legislation relating to the use and installation of septic systems in Maryland, and will oppose any renewed efforts to mandate BAT system use outside of critical areas near impaired waterways.


Washington Roundup

Tax Reform: The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) worked throughout the tax reform process to preserve the existing tax benefits of homeownership and real estate investment, as well as to ensure as many real estate professionals as possible would benefit from proposed tax cuts. Many of the changes reflected in the final bill were the result of the engagement of NAR and its members, including preservation of $10,000 for state and local tax deductions, retention of a 2-out-of-the-last-5-years capital gains exemption for sale of primary residences, and continuation of 1031 Exchanges.

NAR has compiled detailed analyses and examples of how tax law changes are projected to impact both homeowners and Realtors®. (Note: these changes are not retroactive to the 2017 tax year, and some provisions expire in 2025. Individuals should consult a tax professional about their own personal situation.)

2018 FHA loan limits: Each year, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac adjust their limits for conventional, conforming loans based on changes in median home prices. For 2018, the companies are increasing loan limits by nearly 7 percent. The loan limit for Howard County (in the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson MSA) will be set at $517,500. Click here to learn more.

Flood Insurance: On December 21, 2017, Congress extended the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as part of the continuing resolution to keep the government open through January 19. NAR will continue working with Congress to ensure that the NFIP does not lapse while the Senate works on its version of the 5-year reauthorization and reform measure. The House passed their reform bill, H.R. 2874, in November.


High School #13 Meeting Announced

A community meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, January 18 to discuss the latest information on the location of High School #13. County Council Members Jon Weinstein, Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa, along with members of the HCPSS staff and the Board of Education, will be in attendance. Full meeting details are as follows:

High School #13 Community Meeting

Thursday, January 18

Elkridge Landing Middle School Cafeteria

7085 Montgomery Road, Elkridge


November 2017

NEW Call for Action – Work Not Done on Tax Reform!

Now that the House and Senate have approved their respective tax reform plans, a conference committee is set to decide the fate of several provisions impacting the real estate industry. NAR has launched a new Call for Action to urge those conferees to offer better protections for homeowners. They include:

  • Retaining the $1 million cap on the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) contained in the Senate version, as opposed to the $500,000 limit in the House
  • Keeping capital gains exclusions for primary residences at their current levels following 2 years of ownership; both versions currently require 5 years of residence, and the House version includes income limitations
  • Retaining the MID for second homes, which is eliminated in the House version

Thanks to Realtor® participation in previous Calls for Action, we have already added amendments which improve this bill for Realtors® and for homeowners alike. Let’s keep the momentum going!

Speak Up for Homeownership – Take Action TODAY!

Howard County Budget Process Begins with December 11 Hearing

Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman will hold his first Citizens’ Budget Hearing for the FY2019 budget cycle on Monday, December 11. The Hearing will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive in Ellicott City. County budget staff will be on hand to receive citizen feedback prior to development of next year’s budget.

Speaker sign-up and submission of written comment is now available online at Speakers will also be allowed to register in-person the night of the hearing beginning at 6 PM. For more information, visit the County’s Budget web page.

County to Reintroduce APFO, Mulching Bills

The County Council has announced it will reintroduce bills relating to the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) and Commercial Mulching in Agricultural areas. While the Council had voted to approve these amended measures last month, those votes were ruled invalid on technical grounds.

The APFO legislation is of particular interest to the real estate and development community. This bill would reduce the school capacity thresholds whereby a school attendance area is considered “closed” to new development. HCAR has weighed in on the matter, stating that the County must address the very serious concerns about school overcrowding without shutting down new housing construction.

The APFO bills, CB 1-2018 and CB 2-2018, are set to be introduced at the Council’s first legislative session in January, with the Public Hearing taking place on January 17.

Howard Schools Announce Redistricting for 2018-19 School Year

The Howard County Board of Education has revised Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) elementary and middle school attendance areas for the 2018-2019 school year. The adjustments are needed to populate new Elementary School #42, scheduled to open in Hanover in fall 2018, and to realign middle school feeder patterns in conjunction with the elementary attendance areas. The School Board declined to adjust high school boundaries until the opening of new high school #13.

To read more about the redistricting process and to view the new boundaries, visit the HCPSS web site.


October 2017

CALL FOR ACTION – Tax Reform Targets Maryland’s Middle Class

Following the release of H.R. 1 last week, NAR is strengthening its opposition to several tax reform measures which target residential real estate. They include:

  • Reducing the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) from the current $1 million to $500,000 for purchases after November 2, 2017
  • Eliminating the State and Local Income and Sales Tax Deduction – currently claimed by 50% of Maryland taxpayers
  • Reducing eligibility for Capital Gains Exclusions for the sale of a primary residence by requiring a 5-year hold time – targeting move-up buyers
  • Eliminating the MID for second homes
  • Eliminating the deduction for moving expenses
  • Eliminating the deduction for student loan interest - currently a key factor in home purchasing for young professionals

These changes will have dramatic impacts on the housing industry. This report projects that the average Maryland homeowner would no longer receive over $3,500 per year in tax deductions. Even worse, housing values could decline by 18% - a loss of $72,000 in equity on a median-priced Howard County home.

Maryland homeowners cannot afford these changes! We can reform the tax code without harming homeowners! Tell Congress to protect homeowners and housing values by taking action TODAY!

Ellicott City Flood Workgroup Meetings Announced

Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman and the Department of Planning and Zoning invite residents to one of two workshops in November. At these workshops, the Master Plan consultant team will present alternative scenarios and preliminary recommendations for public review and discussion. They will be held on:

Tues, Nov. 14 at 6:30 pm at St. John’s Parish Day School, 9130 Frederick Road

Wed, Nov. 15 at 1:00 pm at Roger Carter Community Center, 3000 Milltowne Drive

Reserve your seat by visiting If you are unable to attend, the County will accept online comments after November 15.

After November, the consultants will continue to refine scenarios and recommendations for presentation at a workshop in January 2018. The draft plan will then be prepared and presented at a workshop in March 2018. The final plan will be presented at an implementation workshop in May 2018.

Howard Launches Home Renovation Loan Program

Last month, the Howard County Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) announced a new County-funded rehabilitation program for existing homes in the County.

The Reinvest*Renovate*Restore program is designed to provide low-interest loans to homeowners to make necessary home improvements, such as a new roof, and cosmetic updates, such as adding hardwood floors, to update their homes. Homeowners must also agree to spend some of the loan proceeds on exterior improvements to improve curb appeal and overall neighborhood appearance.

Homeowners may apply for loans up to $40,000 and repay over 25 years. Maximum household income limits, based on 80% of the Howard County area median income adjusted for family size, apply (example: $88,714 for a family of four). Applicants must live in the home as their primary residence, meet minimum credit score requirements and have sufficient household income to repay the loan.  

For more information or to download the application, visit the DHCD web page.


September 2017

NAR Speaks Out: Homeowners to Face Tax Increase under Reform Proposal

On September 27, the Trump Administration and Republican Congressional Leadership released a broad tax reform outline. The plan would double the standard deduction and eliminate all personal deductions except the Mortgage Interest Deduction and the deduction for Charitable Contributions. The plan eliminates the deduction for State and Local Taxes.

This one-two punch will deliver a crippling blow to middle-class homeowners. By doubling the standard deduction, the Mortgage Interest Deduction would only be available to the top 5% of taxpayers. In essence, tax benefits will be shifted away from homeowners and towards renters. This change would hit Maryland homeowners particularly hard. Maryland is consistently among the top states in the percentage of taxpayers claiming the State and Local Tax exemption. In addition, it is expected that this change could lower housing values by 8-10% on average.

In response to the proposal, NAR launched a Public Issue Advocacy campaign to highlight NAR opposition to any proposal that results in higher taxes on middle class homeowners. You can view the first print ad here. This will be followed by online and video messaging targeted to consumers in key Congressional districts and those who will be most impacted by these changes. For more information on the proposal and NAR’s response, visit, use NAR’s Tax Calculator or view the Voice for Real Estate video.

What’s New in New Laws

A whole host of new laws impacting Maryland real estate went into effect on October 1.

This includes HB 760, a Realtor®-sponsored measure amending Maryland’s real estate brokerage laws regarding an agent’s fiduciary duties during open houses. (Updated Forms reflecting this change are available on

Also going into effect are:

SB 6 – Allowing Professional Licensing Boards to provide notices electronically

HB 34 – $50 fee for HOA Inspections

HB 851 – Military termination of rental agreements

HB 1394 – Reassessment of properties following successful assessment appeal

HB 1402 – Refunding taxes following property assessment appeals

HB 26 – Written notice to HOAs regarding foreclosures

SB 31 – Title Insurance Rate Making Agencies

SB 40 – Title Insurance licensing requirements

SB 183 – Sunsets the Maryland Mold Remediation Services Act

HB 155 – Process for terminating State Agricultural Easements

HB 291 – Electronic notices for homeowners’ insurance

SB 753 – Foreclosure right of redemption

HB 140 – Real estate appraiser licensing requirements

HB 133 – Notification of elevated lead tests

SB 1033 – Expedited foreclosure of vacant properties

HB 261 – Notification of utility termination in multifamily properties

SB 809 – Procedures for the sale of HOA common areas

SB 376 – Certifications prior to recording deeds

Howard School Redistricting: New Revisions Proposed

On September 27, the HCPSS Attendance Area Committee (AAC) proposed revisions to their initial school redistricting proposal and Capital Improvement Plan. The original plan would relocate as many as 6,400 students to new schools to better balance school utilization percentages. The revised proposal, which anticipates a 2022 opening for a new County high school, would redistrict 5,600 students.

The Executive Summary of the competing proposals is available on the HCPSS web site, as are attendance maps of elementary, middle and high school levels. The Superintendent will present his redistricting recommendations to the Board of Education on October 3, 7:30 PM at Wilde Lake High School.

The Board of Education schedule for reviewing the proposals is as follows:

  • Thursday, Oct. 26, 7 p.m., Public Hearing I, River Hill High School
  • Wednesday, Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m., Work Session I
  • Thursday, Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m., Work Session II
  • Tuesday, Nov. 7, 7 p.m., Public Hearing II, River Hill High School
  • Thursday, Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m., Work Session III
  • Tuesday, Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m., Work Session IV

Congress Extends NFIP 3 Months

As part of a bi-partisan deal to fund government operations for an additional three months, Congress voted late last week to extend the authorization for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) until December 8, 2017. Click here to learn more.

We thank all the HCAR members who responded to the NAR Call for Action! Check your email and HCAR’s Legislative Web Page for more information on efforts to secure a long-term extension of the NFIP later in the Fall.


August 2017

Time is Short – Take Action on Flood Insurance Today!

NAR is calling on you to take action now to extend the National Flood Insurance Program. Without Congressional approval, the program will expire on September 30, threatening thousands of real estate transactions across the county which depend on flood insurance coverage.  The 21st Century Flood Reform Act, a measure combining seven House proposals on the NFIP, provides both critical reforms sought by NAR and a long-term extension of the NFIP.

Now, more than ever, Washington needs to hear from you. Tell Congress to approve a long-term extension of the NFIP today! Click here to make your voice heard!

Flood Insurance Facts:

The NFIP covers 5 million homes in 22,000 communities nationwide.

Each lapse in the NFIP program delays or cancels transactions at a rate of 40,000 sales per month.

The 21st Century Flood Reform Act contains several program reforms sought by NAR, including:

  • greater access to private market flood insurance coverage,
  • caps on annual policy rate increases,
  • the ability to leverage flood mitigation funds before disasters occur, and
  • more accurate flood plain mapping.

It also retains grandfathering of insurance premium rates currently offered to homeowners who experience flood map changes.

Did You Know? Howard First Responders Eligible for Transfer Tax Relief

Legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly earlier this year provides transfer tax relief for Howard County law enforcement and fire and rescue personnel.  Members who purchase their first property may receive a full exemption from county transfer taxes, provided that they are using the property as a primary residence and remain employed as a first responder for 3 years following the purchase. In addition, county transfer taxes are capped at 0.7% for first responders making subsequent primary residence purchases.

For more information, visit the General Assembly website on HB 1604.

School Redistricting: Regional and Superintendent’s Meetings Scheduled

Following a recommendation by the HCPSS planning staff this summer, the Board of Education has commenced a formal boundary study process for area schools. The boundary studies include all school levels, elementary, middle and high school.

Regional meetings on possible attendance area adjustments under the boundary study will be held Tuesday, Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m., at Wilde Lake High School and Wednesday, Sept. 13, 7:30 p.m., at Howard High School. 

The Superintendent will receive feedback from these meetings before presenting the attendance area proposal to the Board of Education on Tuesday, Oct. 3. For more information, visit the HCPSS redistricting web site.

Speak Up on Central Maryland Transit

The Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland (RTA) will hold a series of meetings later this month in both Howard and Anne Arundel Counties. The purpose of these meetings is to view and provide feedback on service and policy proposals for RTA’s transit and paratransit service. Feedback from these meetings will be used to develop a Transit Development Plan by the end of the year.

Howard County meetings are currently set for:

Non‐Profit Center of Howard County in Columbia

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 

6:30 pm—8:30 pm 

George Howard Building in Ellicott City

Columbia/Ellicott Room

Monday, September 18, 2017

6:30 pm—8:30 pm

Information that will be presented at the public meetings will also be available on the project website.

If you would like to provide comments but are unable to attend one of the public meetings, please email either Fred Fravel  or Jason Quan.


July 2017

Add ‘Land Use Expert’ to Your Resume with the PlanHoward Academy

Want to know more about planning and land use in Howard County? The PlanHoward Academy is your chance. Offered for the first time this fall, the Academy will cover multiple aspects of the planning and zoning process, including:

  • Interacting with planning staff;
  • Accessing information through the County’s interactive map and web-based tools;
  • Learning about land development in Howard County, including how growth policy is shaped, role of the general plan, development review process, zoning codes and more; and,
  • Empowering residents to educate and inform neighbors about the process.

The PlanHoward Academy will take place on consecutive Wednesday evenings between September 27 and October 18. To learn more or to apply, visit

EC Recovery: What’s Next?

Ellicott City recently celebrated the one-year mark of its recovery from the devastating flood of 2016. In addition to the immediate tasks of reopening local businesses and repairing infrastructure, the County is also taking a long-term look at flood prevention and placemaking through the Ellicott City Master Plan. The master plan will examine flood mitigation strategies, land use, downtown parking, business/retail marketing strategies, urban design and placemaking, and transportation.

This planning process will continue throughout the fall and winter, with a draft plan expected to be finalized in Spring 2018. You can follow the planning process, see future meeting dates, and provide Plan feedback on the County’s Master Plan web site.

NAR Wins Key Concessions on Flood Insurance

Thanks to the lobbying efforts of NAR staff, Realtors® convinced House members to amend pending legislation to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). These amendments allow for continued grandfathering of NFIP rates and limits on rate increases under a new program authorization.

NAR’s lobbying efforts now turn to a Senate version of the bill, where they will seek amendments to allow for widened access to private flood insurance coverage.

In a related development, NAR has also voiced its opposition to a proposed FHA regulation which would prevent the use of private flood insurance policies for FHA insured loans. You can read NAR’s letters to both FHA and the Senate here.

Tired of Traffic? MWCOG Wants Your Feedback!

No one knows the roads like REALTORS®: what affects daily travel, what would make your commute better, or how traffic issues affect home buying decisions and quality of life.  If you, your clients or members of your professional network regularly travel to Montgomery, Prince George’s or the District, this is your chance to shape future transportation decisions. To share that information with our region’s transportation planners, take the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Visualize 2045 survey by August 21.

Howard County’s internal transportation project planning is managed through the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, which approved their long-range transportation plan in 2015. You can view that plan and a list of transportation improvements at the Maximize 2040 Plan web site.


June 2017

County Property Tax Bills Delayed

Due to issues discovered with a third-party vendor’s system, the Howard County Department of Finance has announced that property tax bills will be delayed from their usual July 1 mail date. Tax bills are now expected to be sent by July 12.

Because of the delay, the County will extend the discount date for tax payments by 30 days. For more information, view the County’s news release or visit the Department of Finance web page.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due: Howard Launches Tax Credit Central

Think you’re eligible for one (or more) of Howard’s tax credits for homeowners? There’s now an easy way to find out. The County has redesigned its tax credit information website,, to be a one-stop shop for homeowners seeking tax credit information. It includes an eligibility calculator, links to application forms and more.

Even if you have not been eligible in the past, now may be the time to check again. Howard has recently expanded or extended many tax credits it previously offered. For instance, the Aging in Place tax credit deadline has been extended to September 1, 2017. Don’t leave money on table – explore your options at Tax Credit Central or by calling the Tax Credit line at 410-313-4076 today!

What’s New: Maryland Laws Now in Effect

The following bills passed by the Maryland General Assembly are now in effect:

  • HB 566 – Howard County property tax exemption for certain historic properties
  • HB 1234 – Property tax exemption for additional military retirees
  • HB 1323 – Property tax credits for revitalization districts
  • HB 677 – Noise control measures at Merriweather Post Pavilion
  • SB 261 – Property tax credits for properties damaged in a natural disaster
  • SB 111 – Exemption from recordation taxes when converting sole proprietorship to LLC
  • HB 1604 – Howard County transfer tax exemptions for first responders
  • SB 180 – Expansion of Independent Living Tax Credit
  • SB 367 – Exempting forgiven mortgage debt from income tax calculations
  • HB 469 – Exempts recordation and transfer taxes for properties surrendered in bankruptcy
  • HB 83 – Exempts discharged student loan debt from income tax calculations

Additional bills passed in the 2017 session will go into effect in October.

Federal Advocacy Roundup

NFIP Reauthorization: NAR has offered their support to six of seven National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) bills pending in Congress. Those bills would reauthorize the program for the next 5 years, establishing a premium rate cap of $10,000 annually, and developing more viable options for coverage in the private market. However, NAR is opposing a bill which would end current policy grandfathering provisions and will press for accurate flood mapping nationwide. You can read their full comments on the seven NFIP bills here.

Housing Finance Reform: On June 29, NAR submitted a statement to the Senate Banking Committee highlighting that any new housing finance system must ensure that in all markets mortgage capital will always remain available for creditworthy Americans. Second, NAR stated that taxpayer dollars should be protected by converting the GSEs into government-chartered, non-shareholder owned authorities that are subject to tighter regulations on products, profitability, and minimal retained portfolio practices in a way that ensures the protection of taxpayer monies.

HUD Regulations: In response to a HUD request for comment, NAR recommended the repeal of several current regulations. They include: eliminating PMI payments for the life of a HUD loan, revised lending and approval standards for condo projects, and removing PACE loans from a priority lien positions. Click here to read the letter.

May 2017

Tax Reform: Bad News for Middle-Class Homeowners?

NAR recently released a PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PwC) study analyzing the impacts current tax system overhaul proposals would have on the real estate market. Among the findings:

  • Homeowners earning between $50,000 and $200,000 would experience an $800 annual tax increase on average, compared with a tax decrease of $500 for renters of similar incomes;
  • Housing prices would experience a 10% decline nationally, with high-cost areas experiencing larger losses; and,
  • Homeowners who itemize can expect to lose $1.1B in annual tax savings.

Though these are just proposals and no legislation to enact them has been proposed, NAR remains fully engaged in the debate to ensure the continued favorable tax treatment of homeownership. For a look at NAR’s Tax Reform Fact Sheet or to read the full PwC report, click here.

Flood Insurance Extension Bill Introduced

At the end of May, the House Financial Services Committee released draft legislation to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) beyond its current September 2017 expiration. NAR is reviewing the draft and will participate in the Committee markup, which is expected in June.

While NAR is hopeful that Congress will agree to a long-term extension, they are most concerned with avoiding another program lapse. During the previous two program shut-downs, over 40,000 home sales transactions were stalled or cancelled. Visit NAR’s website to read more about the discussion draft or to learn more about the importance of the NFIP to the real estate market.

Housing Allocations, School Enrollment Availability on County’s Agenda

Two bills addressing future growth allocations under the County’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APF) will be introduced and considered by the Council this month. CR-96 outlines the number of new housing units that may be constructed in each region and downtown Columbia between 2020 and 2029. A related bill, CR-97, outlines the school enrollment areas which will be closed to new development due to capacity issues. Six elementary school districts, one elementary school region, and six middle school districts are projected to be labelled as “closed” to new development in 2020, with additional schools to be added in the years to follow.

These bills will be introduced on June 5, with the public hearing expected on June 19. 

April 2017

Federal Housing Provisions on the Chopping Block?

The hottest topic – and top lobbying priority – for this month’s NAR Legislative Meetings is the tax reform blueprint released by the Trump Administration. Among the proposals is a doubling of the standard deduction, lowering of marginal income tax rates, and elimination of the state and local tax deduction. Though this debate is only in preliminary stages, NAR is taking an active role in preserving the favorable tax treatment of homeownership.

NAR has long advocated for simplification of the tax code and lower marginal tax rates to spur economic activity and investment. However, based on what is known about the current plan, these lower rates would come at the expense of the real estate industry. Raising the standard deduction reduces the value of itemizing deductions like the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID), which is compounded by the loss of the state and local tax deduction.  NAR’s economic analysts have conducted preliminary studies showing a potential 10% drop in home values nationwide, average tax increases for homeowners of $800 annually, and tax decreases for renters of $500 annually.

Maryland homeowners would be particularly hard-hit by these measures. The state ranks #5 in the country on the use of the state and local tax deduction. According to the Tax Policy Foundation, approximately 45% of Maryland filers claim this exemption, with credits averaging 7.7% of area median income (AMI). In addition, Maryland has historically been among the highest, if not the highest, in both the use (37%) and the value ($11,000 per claimant) of the MID.

NAR will continue to monitor developments on the tax reform front as the issue moves through Congress. To learn more, click here.

NAR Outlines 2017 Lobbying Priorities

In addition to their work on tax reform, NAR lobbyists are also pushing several advocacy priorities at the federal level. These include:

NFIP: NAR will continue to press Congress to approve a long-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program without any lapses in program coverage.

Fannie/Freddie: Any reform measure must preserve a 30-year mortgage guarantee. In addition, NAR will seek changes to ensure that federal mortgage fees (G-fees) are used only for homeownership and GSE solvency measures, rather than for unrelated spending.

Health Care Reform: NAR will continue their long-term advocacy for affordable health insurance coverage options for the self-employed on the individual market.

Additional information on these and other issues can be found on the NAR Federal Advocacy website.

Howard Budget Update: Tax Rates, Remaining Hearings

Earlier this month, the Howard County Council held a constant yield public hearing to set the property tax rate for FY 2018. The advertised property tax rate remains unchanged at $1.014 per $100, along with a fire and rescue tax of $0.176. In addition, the Council will keep recordation tax rates steady at $2.50 per $500 and the personal property tax rate at $2.535 per $100. These tax rates will support County budget growth of approximately 5.7% over FY 2017, including a $10 million increase in public schools funding.

The County Council will continue work on the FY 2018 Budget in the coming weeks, with final adoption currently scheduled for May 24. Remaining public hearing and work session information can be found here, and copies of the operating and capital improvement budgets are available on the County website.

County Looks to Extend, Expand Tax Relief Provisions

This month, the Howard County Council will consider extending two tax breaks currently available to certain businesses and residents. First, CB 33-2017 would extend tax credits for rehabilitated and restored properties in the Rt. 1 corridor for an additional 24 months to allow for completion of a study on that real estate market. Also under consideration is CB 34-2017, which allows owners of highly energy efficient buildings to continue claiming a tax credit until 2023. Both bills will be heard at a public hearing on May 15, with final approval to follow.

In addition, Howard County Delegation bills offering new, limited forms of tax relief have passed the General Assembly. They include:

Ellicott City Flooding: HB 566 allows personal property tax exemptions for businesses in Historic Districts for taxable years 2017-2022; HB 572 allows the County to offer property tax credits to flood damaged properties.

First Responder Home Purchases: HB 1604 grants full and partial exemptions from real estate transfer taxes for police and fire and rescue personnel who purchase homes in Howard County.


March 2017

Battling BATs: Septic Bills Halted in Howard, Annapolis

Based on feedback from REALTORS®, two bills to require installation of Best Available Technology (BAT) septic systems were defeated, saving area homeowners as much as $10,000.

In March, the Howard County Council considered restoring major subdivision rights to landowners who were downzoned when the County adopted growth tiers in 2013. The only condition was that those subdivisions must use BAT septic systems. HCAR provided comments and testimony before the Council which stated our total opposition to the imposition of BAT systems, even to re-establish property rights. As a result, the measure was withdrawn.

REALTOR® letters submitted through MAR’s Call for Action were a deciding factor in turning back a proposal to again mandate BAT system use in virtually every part of the state. Citing a lack of scientific support for the requirement and the significant costs of these systems, the Maryland Senate amended SB 266 to limit BAT usage to only critical areas, which is consistent with current practice. The House did not consider the bill before adjournment, leaving existing septic system guidelines in place for at least another year.

State Legislation Round-Up

Septic systems were not the only topic of interest in the 2017 General Assembly session. REALTORS® can claim the following policy victories as well:

Open Houses: HB 760, which allows REALTORS® to discuss surrounding properties with open house attendees if the seller consents, passed both chambers unanimously.

Mortgage Forgiveness: SB 367 provides state tax relief for forgiven mortgage debt of up to $100,000 for individual tax returns or $200,000 for joint returns. It awaits the Governor’s signature.

Homebuyer Tax Credit Study: HB 230, establishing a state income tax credit for contributions to a homebuyer savings account, did not pass this session. However, the proposal was very favorably received by the General Assembly and the Department of Taxation, and is expected to be studied before the beginning of the next General Assembly session.

In addition, MAR opposed the following proposals, which were harmful to real estate:

Jury Trials in Eviction Proceedings: As originally drafted, SB 501 would have allowed tenants being evicted to choose a trial by jury. This bill was amended to allow jury trials only for amounts over $15,000, before being killed in the House.

Transfer Tax Increase: SB 812 would have increased the real estate transfer tax by up to $250 for residential and commercial transactions. The transfer tax portion was stripped from the bill in the Senate before being left in the House.

Carried Interest: HB 915 would have imposed an additional 19% tax on revenues currently excluded under the carried interest exemption. It was estimated that businesses operating as pass-through entities in Maryland would have paid an additional $60-$70 million in taxes annually. It did not receive a hearing in the House.

Budget Bytes: Howard Outlines Spending Priorities for FY18

The Howard County Council budget process for Fiscal Year 2018 is now underway – and HCAR is working for you every step of the way! County Executive Alan Kittleman has released his Capital Budget proposal, which outlines new construction and public works projects. The largest segment is dedicated to school system expansion, while also including funding to prevent flooding in Ellicott City. Highlights of the proposal are posted on the County’s website.

Over the coming weeks, Council Members will hold numerous work sessions and public hearings on both the operating and capital budgets. The full schedule of those meetings can be found here. Of particular importance to homeowners and REALTORS® is the Constant Yield Hearing on May 1. At this hearing, the Council will consider whether to set the property tax rate at an amount that would provide more property tax revenue than the current year. If you would like to speak at this or any other budget hearing, sign up on the County website.

Finally, the Spending Affordability Advisory Committee released their report on methods Howard County may employ to meet future capital construction needs. One of the suggestions was to seek an increase in the local transfer tax to benefit school construction. HCAR sent a letter to Executive Kittleman expressing our opposition to any change in the transfer tax rate, which must be granted by the General Assembly. We will continue to work with members of the Council, the County Delegation and Executive Kittleman on this issue.

February 2017

Local Issues

Council Passes Measures for Ellicott City, Septic Systems, Accessibility

On February 6, the Howard County Council passed several measures aimed at helping area landowners. They include:

CB6-2017 – Howard County offers a Historic Tax Credit Program to protect property owners from increased assessments resulting from significant renovations, improvements or restorations to historic properties. This bill expands the tax credit to include interior as well as exterior improvements, and to provide a streamlined approval process in the case of renovations due to natural disasters. It is expected that this will further assist properties impacted by flooding in Ellicott City.

CB7-2017 – The Livable Homes Tax Credit was enacted in 2012 to offset the cost of installation of accessibility features in existing owner-occupied residences in Howard County. This bill expands the types of home improvements that qualify for the Livable Homes Tax Credit and increasing the maximum credit available. These improvements now include the installation of railings, level handles, non-slip flooring, and zero-step entry between interior and exterior rooms. It also provides reimbursement to homeowners who engage a certified aging in place specialist to conduct an assessment of accessibility needs on the property.

CR16-2017 – Under its Federal Stormwater Management Permit, Howard County is required to improve its water quality. One of the most cost effective ways for the County to do this is for its residents to regularly pump their septic tanks. To encourage this practice, the County will now provide a $100 credit once every three years to homeowners who regularly pump out their septic tanks using a permitted septic hauler.

DRP Seeks Homeowners for Tick Reduction Study

Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks (DRP) today announced it has begun a study to evaluate integrated tick control strategies on single-family home sites located adjacent to selected large public lands in Howard County. They include: Cedar Lane Park; Centennial Park; Rockburn Branch Park; David Force Natural Resource Area; Middle Patuxent Environmental Area; Blandair Park and the Wincopin Trail of Savage Park.

The study’s goal is to identify the most effective way to control ticks in residential areas and to reduce the overall tick population density in suburban landscape across Howard County and the state. Click here for more information or contact the DRP Natural and Historic Resources Division at 410-313-1679.

State Issues

2017 MAR Lobbying Agenda Announced

The Maryland Association of REALTORS® (MAR) is pursuing several initiatives to benefit the state’s home owners, home buyers and REALTORS®. Their agenda:

  • OPPOSE efforts to mandate Best Available Technology (BAT) septic system installation outside of Maryland’s critical environmental areas, as in HB 281/SB 266. Read more.
  • SUPPORT the creation of tax-deductible first-time homeowners savings accounts, as in HB 230. Read more.
  • SUPPORT grant funding to offset the costs of installing sprinkler systems in residential properties. Read more.
  • SUPPORT granting additional flexibility for agents to discuss nearby properties with open house attendees, with a seller’s consent, as in HB 760. Read more.

The Legislative Committees at both MAR and HCAR are monitoring these and other bills introduced in the 2017 General Assembly session. Check your email for future Calls-to-Action on these issues as the session progresses.

National Issues

NAR Comments on NFIP Reform

In late January, NAR provided official comments to the House Financial Services Committee on the principles guiding reform of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). NAR’s call for enhanced flood mapping, program flexibility and additional private market options are currently under consideration by the Committee. However, NAR requested further clarification on several aspects of the proposal which affect homeowners, including the structure and cost of a new reinsurance mandate and the proposed phase-out of NFIP coverage for high value properties.

The current NFIP authorization expires in September; NAR is seeking a full five-year reauthorization of the program. Click here for additional information.

FHA Mortgage Premium Deduction Caught in Federal Regulatory Freeze

As part of a government-wide freeze on new and pending regulations, the Trump Administration halted a planned decrease in the mortgage premium rates charged to FHA borrowers. The reduction, announced in the final days of the Obama Administration, would have lowered premiums 25 basis points to a level of 0.85 percent beginning on January 27.

NAR had favored the rate reduction, noting that the average FHA borrower would save over $500 per year. NAR has already initiated discussions with newly-confirmed HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson on the issue, beginning with this January 30 letter. For the latest on this and other federal housing news, visit NAR’s Washington Report.