SCR Legislative Committee YTD Progress Report from Reah Smith, Chair of the South Carolina REALTORS Legislative Committee

I am proud to report that the SCR Legislative Committee had a very successful year in the SC Legislature.

I like to call the Legislative Committee “ the work horse” committee of the association because the commitment and amount of time dedicated by our committee members is truly unmatched. The members of the committee are engaged, involved, and ready to make tough decisions that greatly impact our membership and industry.

Chairing this committee has been a very rewarding experience and I am very much looking forward to continuing to work with our incoming vice chair to continue making sure that important real estate issues stay on the forefront of our lawmakers agendas at the State House.   

A few highlights from the year:

The path to success was not always easy given the sheer number of other issues being debated by the House and the Senate during the 2019 session.

Also to add to the fact that were other issues including Santee Cooper, Tax Incentives for Panthers, Education, among others–the General Assembly passed only 39 bills this session–compared to an average of 125-150 per session. So many extenuating factors were at play this year.

A few notable wins include:

  • H.3243 Predictable Recording Fees was signed by Governor McMaster on 05/16/19. Beginning August 1st there will be a new flat predictable recording fee structure statewide. The fee for a real estate deed will now be $15 and mortgages will be charged a $25 recording fee.
  • This law will streamline the closing process and allow consumers the ability to receive accurate recording cost information when purchasing or refinancing a home or other property
  • S.281, dealing with service animals was signed by Governor McMaster also on 5/16/19. This bill would create a civil penalty for misrepresenting an animal as a service animal. Additionally, this bill would allow a landlord to ask certain questions.

1) ‘Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability that is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?’

2) ‘Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability-related need for the animal?’

This has been a big issue for our membership asking how to best handle a potential tenant with a service or emotional support animal. This bill will give members guidance as to what they can and cannot ask to avoid potential housing discrimination charges. It would also give SCR language that we can add to our property management forms to best protect our members and the public.

Business License Tax Proviso

  • SCR along with other partners worked diligently to get a proviso the budget this year (beginning July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020) disallowing a private, non-governmental entity from assessing, collecting, administering collection of, or processing payments of business license taxes on behalf of counties or municipalities.
  • This is a short term fix to continue our work towards comprehensive business license tax reform in the 2020 session.

Other issues for the 2020 session:

So, I’ve talked a little bit about our bills that have been signed into law but I also want to mention the bills we have positioned and ready to go for the 2020 session:

  • Updated flood mapping legislation–Lindsay and Austin are working with DNR to include funding for updated LiDAR mapping in the agency’s budget request for next year
  • Housing attainability legislation–companion bills were filed in both the House and Senate to some framework to ensure that the impact on housing is disclosed before any rules, ordinances, etc are adopted
  • Remote/electronic notarization legislation— This legislation passed the Senate and awaits a hearing the House Judiciary Committee. This bill would be a huge benefit as more and more members use digital signatures and rely on hard copies of contracts less and less. The remote notarization aspect of this bill will be a huge benefit for members who have out of town buyers and for those serving overseas.
  • And finally comprehensive tax reform/business license fee reform. We continue to work with our friends in the General Assembly to assemble/provide input a comprehensive tax package to benefit our membership and SC as a whole.

To conclude, we made strides this session but we are well positioned for what is to come in the following session.