Agents’ Section Chair
As I chair the Agent Section for 2017, I look forward to contributing to the FLTA in shaping our industry to be the best it can be. To me, that comes in the form of providing our collective expertise as agents to the Florida legislature, and it manifests itself as proposing laws and weighing in on them with our state senators and representatives.
Every day, as I transact the buying or selling of someone’s real property, more often than not I learn that it is my customer’s biggest investment and the majority of their wealth. I can appreciate how critical it is that we, as agents, transfer property free and clear of liens and encumbrances, and that title gets divested and vested properly. And with a stack of paper in front of me, containing a plethora of private information, I can also appreciate the best practices we are all to adhere to in keeping that data private.
The laws of our state that govern these transactions are the bedrock of our industry and therefore the bedrock of protecting our customers’ wealth.
In 2017, the FLTA will be providing our collective expertise on bills that will, hopefully, be adopted into law. Two of the bills focus on the Data Call and on the Documentary Stamp Tax.
The Data Call bill is the first one, and a good example of the FLTA working with the state legislature to create an exemption from the Sunshine Law while the Office of Insurance Regulation is able to obtain the data it deems necessary. In Florida, per the Sunshine Law, any records received by any public agency are open to inspection by anyone, unless a specific exemption exists by statute. This would mean that all the information we provide as agents for the data call is public record and open to inspection. However, the FLTA is supporting a bill that would provide an exemption of this information from the Sunshine Law, and preserve the privacy our customers’ information. This exemption was successfully adopted into law in 2016 to exempt the data provided in 2016. We expect the exemption to be adopted into law in 2017 for the data provided in 2017.
The Documentary Stamp Tax bill is a good example of public policy that FLTA supports. Currently, as you all know, a payment of documentary stamp tax is required for any conveyance of land that is either encumbered by a debt or consideration was paid, unless a specific exemption in statute exists.
Interestingly, an exemption exists for the conveyance of property pursuant to a divorce; ironically, one does not exist for adding a spouse.
The bill, which is proposed by the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar, and supported by FLTA, allows for a real property owner to add a spouse to the deed and avoid such taxes.
When I think of these two bills, grinding their way through the legislature, being considered at various committees, both for and against, with our senators and representatives asking questions, I think of who would propose these bills? Who would lobby in favor them? Who would show up in Tallahassee with some expertise to answer questions, and explain the good public policy they offer, or how they benefit citizens of Florida?
A recently married couple who would add the new spouse to deed but for the taxes? Surely not.
New home owners, who have good reason to keep their information private? They are busy moving in, enrolling their children in school and getting to know their neighbors.
We, as title agents that collectively make up the FLTA, are the best answer. We have the foresight to propose and support new bills, and the expertise to answer questions in Tallahassee that will get these bills adopted in to law.
January 24 and 25 are lobby days in Tallahassee. These are fast and furious (and fun!) days where FLTA members visit with members of the legislature in both chambers to discuss their support of the bills we are interested in.
March thru April is the legislative session in Tallahassee and when committees meet to consider any proposed bills.
More FLTA faces in Tallahassee means more support. Contact myself or Scott Merritt if you are interested for more details.
Timothy S. Steele, Esq.
Main Number: 813-243-8943
North American Title Company
2918 W. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 201
Tampa, FL 33609