Legislature is considering bills affecting land and water rights
January 30, 2009
Legislators have been debating several measures to protect the rights of property owners and other Utahns with an interest in lands or buildings.
Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, a Realtor by profession, drafted several bills dealing with real estate and property rights for this session.
Three, House Bills 67, 234 and 86, are making steady progress, Froerer said on Friday.
The first would make it easier and cheaper for governments to post "Truth in Taxation" meeting notices, said.
The second addresses the rights of home or condo owners to rent out their units. Froerer would like to see Utah law follow federal guidelines requiring a minimum percentage of units be allowed to be rented out.
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He’d also like to make it mandatory for Home Owner Associations to allow rentals in special circumstances such as owners serving in the military, experiencing job relocation or serious illness.
He’d also like to see grandfather clauses in H.O.A. policies allowing owners to continue renting if they were allowed to do so when they bought the unit.
Froerer said he’s concerned about H.O.A. committees, often consisting of only three or four people, making decisions about what is or is not allowed to be done with private property.
"Private property rights need to be respected," he said. "This is not a time in the economy to put people in a bind."
Froerer has another bill that would increase the hours of education required to obtain and maintain a Realtor license. He said he actually has widespread support for this bill because it would allow real estate professionals to take classes specific to their niche instead of general courses.
"It will be competency-based rather than just seat time," he said.
More education is needed to make sure everyone dealing with mortgages and property transactions is properly trained.
"If they’re going to deal with peoples’ primary assets, they need to have an understanding of what they’re doing," he said.
That same bill, HB86, would also provide greater penalties for violations of real estate law and for loan fraud. Currently, the fines are so low that offenders happily pay the fines to pocket the money they’ve taken, he said.
Concerned about the effect of the economy on the elderly, Froerer is also sponsoring a bill to make it easier for people over 65 with an annual income lower than $30,000 to pay lower property taxes.
Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, is sponsoring a bill to give ranchers greater control of water rights on federal lands.
Although the land belongs to the federal government, the water on that land is also supposed to belong to the people of the state unless otherwise designated. Noel said he considers ranching a beneficial use of that water, and so ranchers should have their access to it protected.
Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, is sponsoring a bill to require greater oversight of state money given for capitol improvements by art councils, museums, libraries and other entities promoting culture.
"Our request for this is to have a priority list," she said. "We’re handing out several million dollars a year for capitol facility requests," she said.
Summit County assessor Barbara Kresser and Treasurer Glen Thompson said they’re both watching the Legislature to see what happens with taxes.
Kresser said she heard a rumor about allowing water companies not to pay taxes, and that was giving her "heartburn," but said she thinks such a change is unlikely. She also predicted that major changes in taxation would not come this year because so many factors are "up in the air" because of the economic climate.
Thompson said he just hopes any changes in taxation are preceded by a serious study or year-long trial period.
"My main concern right now is how we’re going to provide the services we need to provide over the next year in this economy," he said.