Government Affairs


 Kevin Schwartz
Government Affairs &
Communications Director

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  • 12/19/2016 9:51 AM | Kevin Schwartz (Administrator)

    The Clearwater Fire Department has agreed to allow door-front waste bin collection in apartments throughout the city to continue to operate mostly unchanged.

    The service, offered by Valet, Affinity, Invisible Waste and others, had been threatened since a letter circulated by the department to all multi-family buildings in late summer demanded that the service cease immediately because it violated the fire code. A specific citation to Bayside Arbors Apartments on Oct. 6 was challenged in an appeal hearing Dec. 8, which generated a stakeholders meeting on Dec. 13 where an agreement was hammered out.

    The service may continue as long as a bin in an outdoor breezeway still allows for 36 inches of egress between it and the opposite wall (44 inches in breezeways with more than 25 doors). If the egress cannot be maintained, the service must revert to a bag on a mat with no container.

    For indoor hallways, providers must use a metal safety can with a closing lid.

    In all cases, the bins must be of a size that can be taken in each service day by the resident, preferably no more than 13 gallons. Bins must not remain in hallways or breezeways continually, and property managers must be vigilant in enforcing that in addition to sending a letter to the department that indicates understanding of the rules.

    Clearwater Fire Marshal Steve Strong said he would take the agreement to the other 18 fire marshals in Pinellas County and ask for their compliance. He leads the county Fire Marshals Group and is the most senior fire marshal in the county.

    Strong will work with BAAA on language that each property may use in its letter for the fire department files.

    Anyone who is subject to a fire inspector's action on the waste bins, has questions or would like to get a copy of the agreement should email Kevin@baaahq.org or call 727-290-8238.

  • 12/09/2016 10:15 AM | Kevin Schwartz (Administrator)

    An appeal hearing in Clearwater over whether or not door-to-door waste bin service in apartments violated the fire code resulted in the scheduling of a stakeholder meeting designed to work out a compromise.

    The meeting will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13 at the Clearwater Fire Administration building, also known as Firehouse 45, 1140 Court Street. Parking is accessed by turning right past the building on S. MLK and then a right on Brownell St. Interested property managers, owners and waste industry representatives are invited to attend.

    The outcome will likely shape how the service will look throughout Pinellas County's 19 fire districts as as Clearwater Fire Marshal Steve Strong is chairman of the county fire marshal's association.

    In October, a fire marshal cited Bayside Arbors Apartments for violating two sections of the fire code that prohibit combustible materials from being stored in breezeways and for impediment to egress based on the waste bins standing outside resident doors. He ordered the service to cease there and throughout the city. Fire officials in other Pinellas jurisdictions have also approached properties asking that the service cease.

    Bayside Arbors was granted an appeal directly to Fire Chief Ehlers, who heard in Thursday afternoon. After the hearing, Chief Ehlers asked both sides to try and work out a compromise before he had to rule in 15 days. 

    If you plan on attending the stakeholder meeting on Tuesday, please email kevin@baaahq.org.

  • 12/05/2016 1:43 PM | Kevin Schwartz (Administrator)

    The National Apartment Association wants to hear from members on what federal regulatory issues you care about and want NAA to pursue in the next Congress.

    A short survey has been set up at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/6RB5VMD.

    The survey will ask you to rank the top public policy issues that impact you in your business as well as to select the importance of each individual issue. There is room at the end for additional comments.

    All information will be kept strictly confidential, and data will be analyzed in the aggregate so that no individual responses are reported. If you have any questions, please contact Greg Brown at gbrown@naahq.org.

  • 11/28/2016 2:48 PM | Kevin Schwartz (Administrator)

    On Nov. 22, a Texas federal judge blocked the Department of Labor overtime rule that would make more than 4 million private-sector workers eligible for extra pay. 

    U.S. District Judge, Amos Mazzant, imposed a preliminary injunction against the rule at the request of 21 states, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups. While the rule was set to take effect Dec. 1, the injunction preserves the status quo. The Court will now adjudicate the rule's validity.

    Separate from litigation, Congressional Republicans are keen to overturn the rule legislatively. Although President Obama would likely veto any such effort, President-elect Trump could look more favorably on such an approach when he takes office in January. President-elect Trump last August said he favored exempting small businesses from the rule. Absent legislative action, the Trump Administration could also propose a new rule. The Trump team has made clear that rolling back regulations that increase burdens on job creators is a top priority.

    NAA/NMHC strongly favor repealing the current rule and support all avenues to achieving that objective. 

    More information on DOL’s overtime rule can be found here.

    NAA members who have questions are asked to contact NAA Government Affairs.

    Provided by NMHC as part of the NAA/NMHC Joint Legislative Program


  • 11/10/2016 7:42 AM | Kevin Schwartz (Administrator)

    The Public Transportation Commission on Wednesday voted 4-3 to adopt a temporary agreement for the two ridesharing companies to operate legally in Hillsborough through 2017. The deal ends a long legal battle with the companies, which sued the PTC after it fined their drivers for working without insurance and permits. More ...

  • 11/09/2016 1:36 PM | Kevin Schwartz (Administrator)

    The Florida Apartment PAC supported 54 candidates statewide standing for election in the Florida Legislature, and 51 of those candidates won election on Tuesday.

    Members of the Tampa Bay delegation were 100 percent successful in their campaigns.

    Those included members who received their APAC contributions directly from BAAA such as Rep. Chris Sprowls, HD-65, who is set to be speaker of the House in 2021; former HD-70 Rep. Darryl Rouson who won the SD-19 senate seat vacated by Arthenia Joyner; and house members Dan Raulerson, HD-58,, Chris Latvala, HD-67, and Kathleen Peters, HD-69, who is also the BAAA Legislator of the Year.

  • 10/12/2016 3:02 PM | Kevin Schwartz (Administrator)

    Kathleen Mick Peters, a Republican from South Pasadena representing Pinellas House District 69, has been selected as the Bay Area Apartment Association Legislator of the Year.

    Rep. Peters' district includes Pinellas beach towns from Redington Shores south plus Gulfport and the unincorporated towns of Lealman and Kenneth City. She was first elected in 2012 after serving as mayor of South Pasadena and as a city commissioner prior to that. She was VP of Public Policy for the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce from 2009 until her election to the Legislature, and she worked as development director of the YMCA prior to that. She has a BA from Eckerd College in Human Development.

    In the 2016 session, Rep. Peters sponsored and had passed a series of bills – all of which were signed into law – that will remake the landscape of substance abuse and mental health treatment across the state for years to come, and which attempt to supplant the criminal justice system as the defacto dumping ground for people who suffer from lack of treatment.

    “We were supposed to create a community system of mental health care after we closed down all the asylums in the 60s and the 70s,” Peters said. “But we didn’t. Mental illness and addiction have gripped society because there is no system to do prevention and intervention other than the law enforcement and criminal justice system, which is totally overwhelmed.”

    The measures deal with required timeframes for competency and commitment hearings; allows physicians in all counties rather than ones of certain population size to provide a second opinion for treatment facility admission; and require all Florida counties to devise a plan for affected residents to enter the mental health or substance abuse treatment system through any door in the system.

    Rep. Peters, running for her third term, faces Democrat opponent Jennifer Webb in the general election Nov. 8.

    The BAAA board unanimously selected Rep. Peters. She will receive the association’s recognition at its annual awards dinner on Dec. 9. State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a Democrat from Hillsborough County, was the award recipient in 2015.

  • 10/07/2016 9:59 AM | Kevin Schwartz (Administrator)

    The Hillsborough County Fire Marshal's office has decided an extra 3 square inches in a window opening could save lives -- except in cannot provide any data to back that up.

    If you own or manage an older property, especially those built prior to 1976 (but some more recent construction) the annual county fire inspection may now result in a notice to cure non-ground floor window openings that are measured to be smaller than the fire code says they should be.

    Two member properties have been cited so far, and more will come. If you are cited for windows that provide secondary egress that are smaller than the code says they should be, please contact me immediately at kevin@baaahq.org.

    A 1976 code change mandated that windows providing secondary egress in and out of an apartment unit allow an opening of no less than 5 ft 7 in. Properties are being cited for openings as close as 5 ft 4 in and the fire marshal is ordering retrofits.

    The office is also offering a less expensive alternative of hard wiring all in-unit smoke detectors together -- something no longer allowed in the code. Either option would run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    The fire marshal cannot cite a single instance when a too-small window opening resulted in injury or loss of life.

    I have analyzed this action and determined that based on the legislative intent of the fire code statutes in Florida, such retrofitting would "not reasonably and cost effectively protect the public safety ..." as contemplated in the statute. I am also working on obtaining a non-binding opinion on the ruling from a special state-wide committee set up to render such opinions of fire code actions.

  • 09/21/2016 9:41 AM | Kevin Schwartz (Administrator)

    NAA has set up an advocacy page where members can go and generate a letter to members of their Congressional delegations to encourage them to support legislation that will make the new federal overtime rules more practical.

    The new regulation takes effect Dec. 1, 2016, and doubles the salary threshold for the determination of overtime eligibility from $23,360 to $47,476 and requires automatic increases to the threshold every three years.

    There are bi-partisan bills in both chambers of Congress that would slow down implementation in favor of new economic analyses of its effects and would eliminate the automatic escalator.

    NAA has written a letter with a simple interface that will be delivered electronically to your senators and congressperson based on your zip code. It also allows you to easily share your action on social media. It is not restricted to apartment industry personnel or NAA members.

    You can access the page here. http://www.naahq.org/advocacy-365-action-center

  • 09/14/2016 3:37 PM | Kevin Schwartz (Administrator)

    The Largo City Commission voted 6-0 Tuesday to end on Dec. 31 a four-year moratorium on residential parkland and general facilities impact fees.

    The former fee before the moratorium for a single apartment unit was about $2,700. The action brings back that fee at just $655 per unit starting in 2017; then $1,309 per unit starting in 2018 and thereafter unless the city takes other action.

    The vote also excludes a large swath of the city-identified redevelopment area in which residential construction will remain free of the fee.

    The vote on first reading is not official until the advertised public hearing and second vote take place Sept. 20. If you want more information about that meeting or background on the topic, please get in touch.

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Hernando, Hillsborough hike fee assessments

Hernando County commissioners rejected all of the advertised options available to them for adjusting their annual fire services fee and instead opted for a 3 percent increase in 2016 and signaled their intention to see that rate of increase be adopted in each of the next five years.

Each of their advertised options would have reduced the fee for apartment units from $171 per unit per year to between $65 and $70 per unit with a small base charge while raising the fee on single family homes significantly on a sliding scale based on house size. Commissioners spent three hours July 14 hearing from county residents and debating the issue of revising the 7-year old fee.

After hearing from scores of residents who made negative comments about the fee and sometimes visibly frustrated the commissioners with personal attacks, commissioners rejected all the advertised options and an additional option for a flat 15 percent increase and instead decided to try and get the 15 percent over the next five years. The hearing began nearly four hours after its advertised time, angering many in attendance. A sitting commission cannot bind future commissions to that action, so the issue is likely to get a full hearing again next year.

Property owners have 20 days from the action to appeal. BAAA had secured the fire department’s commitment to advertising a lower rate for apartment units after the county’s consultants revealed that first-responder calls to apartment communities consumed just 1.2 percent of all fire-rescue call resources or just $259,000 out of $21 million in departmental costs among the county’s 3,955 apartment units.

In other county commission news, Hillsborough commissioners raised the county stormwater assessment – unchanged for 21 years – by 150 percent, raising the per-unit rate for apartments in the unincorporated parts of the county from $6 to $15. BAAA objected to the increase with county officials, but commissioners were desperate to fund nearly $60 million of critical stormwater infrastructure projects than had languished for years as the gap grew between other sources of funding and needs. Read coverage of the meeting here.

Hillsborough poised to nearly triple stormwater fee

Apartment owners in Hillsborough County have been paying an annual stormwater fee of $6 per unit since 1991, and the county has never raised that rate despite years of declining revenues from other sources while the backlog of capital improvement needs grew steadily.

That could change drastically as the Board of County Commissioners considers increasing that fee to $15 per unit after a public hearing scheduled for 10 a.m.  July 15 in the County Commissioners’ 2nd floor Board Room at the County Center, 601 East Kennedy Blvd. in downtown Tampa.

The increase in fee would affect all property owners in the unincorporated areas of Hillsborough under various formulas for single-family homes, commercial and agricultural properties effective January 2016. That could mean that the owner of a 200-unit community that had been paying $1,200 a year in the fee on their tax bill would now be liable for a $3,000 charge on their 2016 tax bill – a 150 percent increase all at once.

Staff reported in April that the backlog of projects – mostly to control or halt flooding throughout the county – has grown to $200 million as needs have outpaced revenues over the last 23 years even with periodic infusions of increased ad valorem and Community Investment Tax revenues and state and federal grants supplementing the annual stormwater fee.

Today’s backlog includes $60 million in roadway culvert repair and replacement, $24 million in neighborhood projects and $116 million in watershed projects identified through watershed studies. Staff says that tripling the fee would allow all of the culvert and neighborhood projects to be completed in five years.  The proposed increase of 2.5 times the current fees would raise an additional $15 million a year and leave some of those projects unfunded on the 5-year timeline.

The BAAA has not taken a position on the proposed fee increase specifically -- as it affects owners of all property in the county -- other than to note it is extremely poor public policy to have let unmet infrastructure needs languish for so long as to not have any option but imposing what amounts to a drastic tax increase on property owners. More information about the fee can be found at the stormwater page.

We encourage affected property owners to speak out about the fee at the hearing, or email commissioners in advance by checking all the boxes next to their names at this email form link.

We need to know so we can help!

Fire assessment fees have become the darling of municipal and county governments desperate to fill budget gaps without raising property taxes on residents.

The latest happened June 16 when the city of Lake Wales in Polk county passed a $150 fee per residential unit – whether apartment unit or single-family home – on all residential property owners except non-profits and government entities. The town needed to replace service that the county would no longer perform, but that cost is about $260,000. The new fee will raise more than $1 million.

City commissioners promised to lower the property tax rate, saving property owners nearly half-a-million, but citizens complained mightily about the fee for more than two hours at a public hearing before the vote, according to local newspaper coverage.

A member notified BAAA about the vote the morning after. The commission decided on May 20 to put the fee to a vote and sent out required notice. A similar fee in Hernando County was cut by two-thirds for apartments after a BAAA-requested study showed that fewer than 2 percent of all fire calls went to multi-family housing.

I wish we would have had the chance to press that point in Lake Wales.

My plea to members – please help us help you in the future by alerting BAAA of such pending actions so we can get involved as quickly as possible. There are 60 municipal and county governments making rules in the BAAA jurisdiction. We simply have to have your alertness on local issues such as this in order to help.

There is little remediation chance at this point for the members in Lake Wales on this fee, but we will be in touch with the city to share the Hernando County data with them and ask them to look similarly at their response data before they lock in their overall budget for the next fiscal year.

What did get done in Tallahassee for apartments?

            Although the legislative session was short circuited three days before scheduled in April, there are two bills that passed that will help property managers.

            The one already signed by the governor makes it simpler to remove a transient tenant – one not on a lease but approved for residency – without a court order or eviction process. Read the bill summary at http://bit.ly/1eDE6yl.

            A transient occupancy is illegal if the person does not leave after the party with rightful legal interest in the property asks the person to leave. The bill authorizes that party to provide a law enforcement officer with a sworn affidavit setting forth facts showing that the person asked to leave is a transient occupant who unlawfully remains at the residence. Upon receipt of the affidavit, the officer may direct the occupant to leave. If the person does not leave, the law enforcement officer may charge the transient occupant with criminal trespassing. It takes effect July 1st.

            Also, a bill revising the definitions regarding service animals and providing penalties for those who fake it is on the governor’s desk and is expected to be signed into law and effective July 1. The law makes it a second-degree misdemeanor to willfully misrepresent an animal as a service animal. Read all about it here http://bit.ly/1HSrFv1.

            The bill aligns Florida’s law with similar provisions in the American with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act. The bill redefines “service animal,” and for the purposes of public accommodation, limits the term to a dog or miniature horse and amends the definition of public accommodation to include a timeshare that is a transient public lodging establishment, and exempts air carriers covered by the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986.

 GACC meeting June 4

            If you are interested in BAAA communications or government affairs, there is only one place for you to be, and that is at the Camden Regional Office, 5100 W. Lemon St. in Tampa 9:30 a.m. Thursday, June 4 for the first ever Government Affairs Communications Committee meeting. If you are coming, please register here http://bit.ly/1QfEXkj http://bit.ly/1QfEXkj so we can have enough bagels and coffee.

BAAA sponsoring St. Pete Chamber Legislative Reception

The association has taken a major sponsorship role of the St. Petersburg Chamber's 2015 Legislative Reception, to be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tues. May 26 at the freeFall Theatre on Central downtown. Here is a link for more details and to register: http://bit.ly/1dNF1M5. Please help us pack the place and let them know BAAA is in the house.

The program will feature Sen. Jeff Brandes, Sen. Jack Latvala, Rep. Kathleen Peters, Rep. Dwight Dudley and Rep. Darryl Rouson.  Each legislator will have the opportunity to take the microphone and explain what happened – or didn’t happen – in the recent legislative session that was short-circuited three days before it was scheduled to close.

Take this last chance to connect with your legislators before they go back to Tallahassee for a special session to hammer out the state budget before July 1.

Appetizers, drinks and craft brews from Green Bench Brewing Company will be served at the event. Seating will be theater style with opportunities to network before and after the event.

The Clearwater Chamber will hold its Legislative breakfast event May 20. Registration can be done at http://bit.ly/1RdRLuT.
 
Government Affairs and Communications now paired

The board of directors approved the combining of the Government Affairs and Communications committees into one super committee, staffed by me! This is going to greatly enhance the mission of both committees and the association in general and go a long way to raising the BAAA profile among elected officials and the community at large

The first meeting of the combined committee will be held at 9:30 a.m. Thurs. June 4 at the Camden Regional Office, 5100 W. Lemon St., Suite 209, Tampa. Please let me know if you want to be included in that and/or future communication from the new GACC.


Tallahassee legislative results

The bill that would have allowed certified apartment maintenance personnel to perform minor HVAC and water heater repairs costing less than $1,000 was pulled before being heard on the Florida Senate floor Wednesday afternoon (4/29), effectively killing the measure for 2015.

Senate Bill 1232, a wide-ranging building codes statute whose companion bill had already passed the state House of Representatives before that body shut itself down three days shy of the end of the session, was technically postponed as senators began to plow through some of the 275 or more bills the House left them to deal with. 

Given that there was only time to hear about 40 non-local bills before the session was to end on Friday, the Senate held back bills that would have required debate or which did not include a benefit to a specific member’s district, according to FAA’s Courtney Barnard.

Sen. Jeff Clemens of Palm Beach, whose amendments to SB1232 would have removed the maintenance language and which triggered an alert by FAA to contact him about it, appeared to be prepared to withdraw at least one of his amendments prior to the postponement.

Barnard said that FAA members and local affiliates responded strongly and swiftly to the threat of the amendments, but that the clock got the better of the effort this year. The action also means that all Florida building codes remain unchanged until at least 2016.


Member Action Needed!

 
The FAA bill to expand allowable repairs by apartment maintenance personnel is under attack in the Florida Senate and will be heard THIS WEDNESDAY APR. 29. We need your action prior to that.

Late Friday afternoon, Senator Jeff Clemens (Palm Beach) filed an amendment that completely removes FAA's exemption language from the 2015 building code bill to which it was attached.  If you know Sen. Clemens please reach out and urge him to withdraw all amendments to SB 1232/HB 915.

We want the legislation passed in its current form. If you know someone who knows Sen. Clemens, it is time to cash in a favor and ask them to do the same on your behalf.

Even if you have no connection to Sen. Clemens, please use this link here to email him and tell him that the bills are beneficial to apartment residents by allowing on-site repairs to be done quickly and cost efficiently by highly trained maintenance professionals who have undergone a rigorous certification program.

Or call the Senator’s office at (850) 487-5027 and weigh in. If you would like more specific background or talking points, please call me right away at 727-290-8238. And if you take any action, please copy me or let me know at kevin@baaahq.org.



Government Affairs Update 04/07/15

NAA Lobby Day Breaks Records

The National Apartment Association reported that more than 400 industry members met with hundreds of their representatives on Capitol Hill March 18 – including several members of BAAA. NAA Update

Economic impact story gets big coverage

The positive media coverage about apartments’ economic impact has continued to grow since the release of a study March 10 showing an industry impact nationwide of more than $1.3 trillion in 2013. More than 90 media outlets have covered this (including the Tampa Bay Business Journal). 

The coverage has driven lots of traffic to the www.WeAreApartments.org website. Since the March 10 launch, there have been more than 4,000 visits to the site including 1,700 page views of the ACE calculator -- which is significant because it represents about 11 percent of all calculator page views since the campaign’s inception in 2013.

Local briefs

• Pasco County will hold a public hearing April 21 on an ordinance that would increase the buffer for sexual predators from 1,000 feet to 2,500 from a school, child care facility, park, playground or designated public school bus stop.  This would affect apartments within that distance, although it would not apply to current residents.

• Pool signs in Hillsborough County jurisdiction will soon have to comply with new language requirements that have been vetted by BAAA.  New signs would have to carry the following language:
1. Drowning is swift and silent
2. Constant eyes-on, adult supervision prevents drowning
3. Floatation devices are not a substitute for supervision
4. Designate an adult as a water-watcher
5. Teach kids basic water safety skills
6. Know where all life-saving pool equipment is located
7. Learn CPR
BAAA has asked that compliance not be required before April 1, 2016.

Next Legislative and Public Policy Committee Meeting: 8:30 a.m. June 4 in Tampa. Location TBA.



Government Affairs Update 03/24/15

NAA Capitol Conference
Several members made visits to congressional offices in Washington, D.C., March 18 as part of the NAA Cap Con. Cecily Millan and I, accompanied by BAAA President Cecilia Ford, Vice President Jordan Petras, Jimmy Chestnut and Susan Truesdale had the first-ever BAAA meeting with Congressman David Jolly and also met in person with Congressman Gus Bilirakis.
We also had good policy discussions with aides for Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Congressmen Dennis Ross and Rich Nugent. A full report on the trip and meetings will be featured in the April Bayline Magazine.


BAAA delegation to NAA Cap Con poses for a photo opp with first-term Congressman David Jolly (R-Pinellas). 
This was Congressman Jolly's first visit with BAAA, and he immediately announced he wanted to work together on veterans housing issues. 
He directed Communications Director Preston Rudie with making that happen, and he could make an appearance at the May BAAA board meeting. 
A full report will be featured in the April Bayline.


FAA Update
Courtney Barnard and her staff are keeping a keen eye on bills and maneuvers of interest in the Florida Legislature this session. And there is good news. Senate Bill 586 has been amended as FAA members and others involved in Sadowski Coalition had requested during our visits last month to protect all affordable housing dollars.
The battle to appropriate the funds from the Sadowski Trust into housing programs is the next challenge, but at least it looks like the trust fund will not have to compete with the doc stamp revenue that will go to fulfill the passing of Amendment One.
And a bullet dodged: Potentially damaging language has been removed from House Bill 439 by Rep. Eric Eisnaugle. The bill would have changed the process for filing a fair housing complaint by allowing residents to seek litigation before using any administrative remedies. This bill would have put those who operate rental units in a place of greater liability and risk of being drawn into a civil suit regarding fair housing by negating administrative remedies.

Legislative Committee
BAAA held its first-ever Legislative and Public Policy Committee meeting March 12 at Panera Feather Sound. We discussed some upcoming local issues and the committee goals for the year, which are as follows:
  • Goal 1 - It was agreed it would work on federal and state legislative visits when members of the delegation were in recess/at home. These could begin as early as the Memorial Day recess.
  • It was discussed that on Goal 2 – Hold 2 PAC events in the year, the committee was going to need the organizing help of other committees/staff, but that it could provide elected officials as keynotes or in other capacities. This needs to be discussed further in exec committee probably at least.
  • Goal 3 – Create an educational program on how to lobby and how PACs work: the committee will time this for instruction in late fall in advance of the next FAA days, January 2016.
  • Goal 4 – A legislator of the year award will be presented for a state or federal legislator to be given at the GMAs in January with a speaking invite.
The next committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for June 4 in Tampa. If you would like to host, please let me know.



Study: Rental Boom Contributed $7.2B Locally in 2013

Demographic shifts, Millennials, rediscovery of Urban Cores fuel apartment living growth

The apartment industry emerged as one of the strongest sectors coming out of the Great Recession, and a new study shows just how much the Tampa Bay economy benefited from the rental boom. In 2013 – the latest numbers available – apartment construction, operations and resident spending contributed $7.2 billion locally and supported more than 73,900 jobs in the metro areas.

The economic data are part of new research commissioned by the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and the National Apartment Association (NAA), which looks at dollars and jobs from apartment construction, operations and resident spending, nationally, by state and in 40 specific metro areas, including Tampa Bay. The data, based on research by economist Stephen S. Fuller, Ph.D., of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, are available on the website www.WeAreApartments.org.

Nationally, the apartment industry and its 36 million residents contributed an impressive $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy, supporting 12.3 million jobs across the U.S. in 2013.

The study showed that in the Tampa Bay metro area:

  • The local economic contribution from the apartment industry totaled $7.2 billion, supporting 74,000 jobs.
  • The economic contribution of local apartment construction totaled $639.8 million.
  • The economic contribution of local apartment operations totaled $1.3 billion.
  • Apartment construction and operations supported $666.4 million in personal earnings for local workers.
  • Renter spending in the Tampa metro contributed $5.2 billion to the local economy.
  • The total economic contribution of the apartment industry and its residents in Florida totaled $44.8 billion and supported 470,400 jobs.

"The increasing demand for apartment housing in Tampa Bay has been fueled by the growing Millennial population and that generation's attraction to all the area has to offer and a rediscovery of our active downtown and urban areas by more seasoned residents," said Kevin Schwartz, Government Affairs Director of the Bay Area Apartment Association.

"Throughout Tampa Bay, we're feeling the positive economic impact of the booming apartment industry," Schwartz explained. "The great news about the industry it provides jobs positive economic impacts for locals well after construction ends."

"Our study showed major increases around apartment construction, with construction spending, economic contributions and personal earnings all rising substantially,” said Fuller. “The construction for multifamily apartment buildings is a significant and growing source of economic activity, jobs and personal earnings in communities nationwide."

"According to our study findings, apartment construction has been on the rise over the past five years. In 2009, during the economic recession, there were only 97,000 construction starts, which was the lowest level since records began in 1964. In comparison, there were 294,000 construction starts in 2013 – a significant increase," said NAA Chairman Tom Beaton, Senior Vice President, Management, The Dolben Co.

"The most visible sign of the rental resurgence – apartment construction – is on the rise, contributing $93 billion to the national economy in 2013, resulting in $30 billion going directly into the paychecks of more than 700,000 workers," said NMHC Chairman Daryl Carter, CEO of Avanath Capital Management. “Besides all the dollars and jobs, the increase of available apartments will also help address affordability challenges that we see in many markets across the U.S.”

In conjunction with the study’s release, the website www.WeAreApartments.org breaks down the data by each state and 40 key metro areas. Visitors can also use the Apartment Community Estimator – or ACE – a tool that allows users to enter the number of apartment homes of an existing or proposed community to determine the potential economic impact within a particular state or metro area.

For more information, visit www.WeAreApartments.org/metro/tampa.

The Bay Area Apartment Association represents more than 125,000 rental housing units in the Tampa Bay Area, home to more than a half-million apartment residents. The BAAA is committed to promoting the advancement and integrity of the apartment industry through education, advocacy, collaboration and leadership in the best interests of its members and their residents. For more information visit BAAAHQ.org.

For more than 20 years, the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and the National Apartment Association (NAA) have partnered on behalf of America's apartment industry. Drawing on the knowledge and policy expertise of staff in Washington, D.C., as well as the advocacy power of 170 NAA state and local affiliated associations, NAA and NMHC provide a single voice for developers, owners and operators of multifamily rental housing. Today, more than one-third of Americans rent their housing and 37 million people live in an apartment home. For more information, please visit www.nmhc.org or www.naahq.org.



Government Affairs Action update for 2-20-15

Tallahassee was cold, but the Legislature provided a warm welcome for 31 members of the BAAA staff who visited during the Florida Apartment Association’s Legislative Days.

Our members were divided into four teams who made visits to 19 offices of the elected officials in the Bay Area Legislative Delegation – and a couple others – to discuss the FAA’s top two legislative priorities for the upcoming session: Maintaining the integrity of the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund and expanding the allowable repairs made by apartment community maintenance personnel who received CAMT certification from the National Apartment Association.

On the maintenance issue, the elected officials and their policy aides were uniformly in favor of an expanded role to allow those personnel to perform repairs – ones they admitted they would do themselves in their own homes – rather than go to the expense and sometimes long waits for licensed contractors to do them.

The term “no-brainer” was used the most to describe what they thought of the language being offered by FAA to expand maintenance work, and BAAA members found some of their own among the maze of halls at the Capitol office buildings including one former assistant property manager, an official whose parents used to manage and community in Palm Harbor and another who owns apartment buildings.

The reception on protecting Sadowski and using its full $266 million this year for what it was intended when it was passed in 1992 was a little more muted. The statewide passage of Amendment 1 last November and its claim on 33 percent of all doc stamp revenue going forward – the same doc stamp revenue that funds Sadowski – had created a large void of uncertainty about what would be the fate of doc stamp revenues.

There happened to be a Senate hearing on the doc stamp issue the same day, and members were able to attend and record their support for SB 586 – but only with the amendment from Sen. Christopher Smith (D-Broward) that would maintain the doc stamp formula for Sadowski at 16 percent of the total collected. BAAA members also delivered a focused and unified message as to Sadowski’s positive effects on our communities in meetings with officials.

Elected members were busy in committee hearings, but we were fortunate enough to meet in person with Rep. Larry Ahern (R-Pinellas), Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Hillsborough/Pinellas), Rep. Dwight Dudley (D-Pinellas), Rep. Danny Burgess (R-Pasco), Rep. Dan Raulerson (R-Hillsborough), Rep. Chris Latvala (R-Pinellas) and Rep. Ed Narain (D-Hillsborough) and an impromptu face-to-face with Tallahassee Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee).

The group also met with key policy aides for Sen. John Legg (R-Hillsborough/Pasco), Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Hillsborough/Pinellas), Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Pinellas), Sen. Kelly Stargel (R-Polk), Rep. Darryl Rouson (D-Hillsborough/Pinellas), Rep. Amanda Murphy (D-Pasco), Rep. Chris Sprowls (R-Pinellas), Rep. Dana Young (R-Hillsborough), Rep. Shawn Harrison (R-Hillsborough), Rep. Richard Corcoran (R-Pasco), Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Polk) and Rep. Brad Drake (R-Walton).

If you’re marking your calendar, Legislative Days come earlier next year and last a day longer, starting Tues. Jan. 26.

   
 The Bay Area Apartment Association delegation to FAA Legislative Days arrives for action February 19 at the Capitol on a sunny but chilly Tallahassee morning.  BAAA members get advice from Jared Ochs, legislative aide to Pasco Rep. Richard Corcoran (R-37), on helping maintain the integrity of the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
 

 

 BAAA President Cecilia Ford of Pinnacle property management shares a light moment with her neighbor, Pinellas Rep. Dwight Dudley (D-68), with an assist by Marysol Narvaez of WRH Realty. Dudley, whose family was in the apartment business, voiced support for the expanded role of maintenance personnel and “no skimming” of the Sadowski Trust Fund.  Debra DeSmidt’s team meets with Jim Browne, legislative aide to Sen. John Legg (R-17).
 

 

 BAAA Vice President Jordan Petras and his team gets a group photo with Pasco Rep. Danny Burgess (R-38) during a visit to his office.  The group gets a much-needed lunch break at Andrews 228 Restaurant, a popular eatery with legislators and staff.
 

 


Click here for more photos from our trip!


 Members meet with Brian Kissel, legislative aide to Pinellas Rep. Chris Sprowls (R-65). Kissel is a former apartment leasing agent and assistant property manager who was quite sympathetic to the issue of expanded repair rules for maintenance techs.  

 

Editor’s note: BAAA Government Affairs Director Jeff Rogo retires Feb. 1 after 16 years of service. Thanks Jeff for all you've done for our members and the industry!


Members who are attending FAA Legislative Days in Tallahassee next week will get a briefing on the bus ride Tuesday on the key issues FAA has targeted for our talks with our legislators and staffs.

Those are continued support for the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund and expanding the scope of work performed by maintenance workers.

FAA has produced a video about the maintenance issue. For a fun self-briefing that is less than 90 seconds, click here: http://bit.ly/16UkZf7



Hello everyone. I’m honored to be taking the reins from Jeff and encourage you all to reach out on any issues of interest to you and to send along tips about ordinances and legislation of concern. Among other things, I am a former journalist, so I am looking forward to monitoring, reporting and holding accountable our elected and planning officials when it comes to law and policies affecting our industry.
I also am practiced in this vocation, having served as the Government Affairs Director for the Outer Banks (N.C.) Association of Realtors, Homebuilders Association and Chamber of Commerce. To sharply define and advance our goals, BAAA will establish its first-ever Legislative Committee led by co-chairs Chris Koback and Christina Knight. Email Chris - chrisk@wellermgt.com – or me – Kevin@baaahq.org – to express your interest in joining up.

FAA Legislative Days in Tallahassee

We’ll be getting on the bus Tuesday morning Feb. 17 and making the two-day trip to the state Capitol to support the Florida Apartment Association’s legislative agenda for the industry, visiting more than 20 legislative offices during the trip. FAA’s main issues for the upcoming session include: Continued funding of the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund; expanding the scope of work performed by maintenance workers; opposing the creation of additional protected classes of citizens seeking housing.

NAA Capitol Conference

The National Apartment Association will host its version of legislative days March 17-18 in Washington, D.C., under the theme “One Industry. One Voice.” The full info on the conference can be found at http://capitol-naa.naahq.org. Registration deadline is March 6.
The NAA areas of legislative concern are: Supporting affordable housing; ensuring that business operations are not overburdened by regulation; making sure capital markets are healthy for multi-housing financing; watching that necessary building codes do not become too costly; supporting legislation that balances energy use and environmental protection; and supporting economic growth through sensible tax policy.

Kevin Schwartz can be reached at 727-290-8238 by phone or text, or by email at Kevin@baaahq.org. If texting, please identify yourself!

 

Hillsborough County Landlord Training


Hillsborough County Code Enforcement is offering its next landlord education forum on January 27 in Brandon. The free program is designed to help property owners and managers avoid code violations and provide safer homes for apartment residents. The event begins at 10:00 a.m. at the Brandon Regional Service Center, 311 Pauls Drive.

Last fall, Robert Griffiths of Watkins Realty Services and I attended a forum in Town ‘n Country. The informative session included presentations by Code Enforcement, Consumer Protection, Development Services, Fire Rescue, Social Services, and Pet Resources.

Hillsborough County will host at least four forums this year. The other three forums will be held around the county: April 28 in Ruskin, June 30 in the USF area, and September 29 back in Town ‘n Country. For reservations or more information, contact Jim Blinck of Code Enforcement, blinckj@hillsboroughcounty.org or 813-274-6600.


High Cost of Property Liability Insurance


The Florida Apartment Association will pursue an academic study of insurance liability issues to assess what legislative steps can be taken to create a more affordable insurance market for apartment communities. Late last year, the Tampa Tribune reported on a lawsuit which is representative of the kind of suits which cause higher premiums for apartment property owners.

In September 2013, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of South Florida was sexually assaulted at her apartment community near USF. She is suing the property owner for providing inadequate security. The perpetrator of the crime, Charlie Bates, terrorized the apartment community and the surrounding area, committing four acts of sexual battery against women and tying up four men. He also took one woman hostage, stole her car, and led police on a high-speed chase during which he was shot to death.

The suit criticizes the security measures on the apartment property, including the outdoor lighting. The victim points to the high rate of crime in the area as evidence that the owner should have known of the threat and responded to it.

I am confident that property owner liability will be discussed at the FAA Legislative Conference in Tallahassee, February 17-18. Get on the bus! Click here for registration information.


Terrorism Risk Insurance Update


Greg Brown, Senior Vice President – Government Affairs for the National Apartment Association, has provided an update on one of the top issues NAA and the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) worked on in 2013 and 2014 – reauthorizing the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). As some of you may know, Congress failed to reauthorize TRIA before adjourning for the year. So, the program will expire on 12/31/14. Below is a piece drafted by our partners at NMHC that contains additional detail.

Please share any “intelligence” you receive if you are contacted by insurers or lenders in regards to the expiration of TRIA.


Congress Goes Home Without Renewing Terrorism Insurance

On December 16, the 113th Congress adjourned leaving one critical piece of business undone – the reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). The Senate was unable to overcome the objections of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) who placed a “hold” on the bill because of a non-TRIA provision and all efforts to negotiate a deal were rejected, leaving TRIA to expire on December 31.

This is an especially unfortunate turn of events given the recent success by House and Senate leaders to craft a negotiated long-term TRIA reauthorization proposal. In fact, the proposal passed in the House of Representatives by a 417- 7 vote.

NMHC/NAA along with our industry partners in the Coalition to Insure Against Terrorism (CIAT) have educated and lobbied Congress tirelessly since early 2013 on the need to reauthorize this program before its expiration. We will pick up these efforts in early 2015.While Congressional leaders have stated TRIA reauthorization will be a priority early in the 114th Congress, the immediate consequences of the expiration to the multifamily industry are unclear.

Without the federal backstop, it is very likely that most insurance carriers will drop this line of coverage, lender requirements may force policyholders to seek alternative coverage that will likely cost more, and subsequent market reaction will create additional challenges that can decrease capacity.

To help navigate these muddy waters, NMHC/NAA will work with insurance broker members, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to collect and share related policyholder guidance for apartment owners, managers and developers as it becomes available.


Are Christmas Trees Allowed in Apartment Homes?


Apartment residents in East Texas are having to check with their property managers to learn if they are allowed to have a fresh or cut Christmas tree in their home this holiday season. The fire marshal in Longview, Texas prohibits fresh or cut trees where there is not an adequate fire sprinkler system.

I checked with Hillsborough County’s Interim Fire Marshal, Tammy Zurla, to find out if a similar prohibition applies in Florida. It does not. She reports that the Florida Fire Prevention Code does allow apartment residents to put up a fresh or cut Christmas tree, with or without a sprinkler (NFPA 1 10.14.1.1).

Fire Marshal Zurla and I do caution that you encourage apartment residents to keep the tree stand’s water container full at all times. Don’t let the tree dry-out and die. That is certainly a fire hazard. Another fire hazard to be aware of this holiday season is overloading circuits when plugging in multiple lights and decorations.



Successful Operation Reveille is Just the Beginning

On November 11, Veterans Day, fifty-one homeless Veteran households moved into their new homes in Hillsborough County. Bay Area Apartment Association members made units available helping county officials surpass the goal of fifty rental homes for the Vets. This initiative nearly cuts in half the number of 125 homeless Veterans listed in the county’s homeless tally earlier this year.

Twenty-five cities and counties nationwide are working on ending homelessness for Veterans. Hillsborough County focused its effort on November 11 in a program called Operation Reveille. In Hillsborough County, ACTS, the Agency for Community Treatment Services, provided “bridge money” to pay deposits and VASH vouchers for twelve months of rent. ACTS guarantees the rent as the organization leases the units and then sub-leases to the Veteran.

ACTS is providing “wrap-around”, supportive services to the new residents for the term of the lease – counseling, legal services, job placement, health care, and more. Program staff is on-call 24/7 to assist the Veterans as well as the property management.

I share this information now because Operation Reveille is not over. There are many more homes to be found to meet President Obama’s goal of ending homelessness among Veterans in 2015.

Join with your fellow BAAA members – Watkins Realty Services, Greystar, Avesta, and Meadow Wood Property Company – by providing permanent housing for homeless Veterans. Please contact Jana Balicki at ACTS: 813-246-4899 x223 or jbalicki@actsfl.org. Thank you.


Apartment Industry-Supported Candidates Elected on November 4


The Florida Apartment Association's Apartment Political Action Committee, APAC, supports candidates who support legislation important to the apartment industry as well as key legislators who are open to the industry's concerns. This year, APAC contributed to the campaigns of 10 legislative candidates who represent districts in the Tampa Bay area. All ten were victorious on November 4.

The Bay Area Apartment Association congratulates:
Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg)
Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater)
Sen. Tom Lee (R-Brandon)
Rep. Larry Ahern (R-Seminole)
Mr. Danny Burgess (Republican elected for House District 38 in Eastern Pasco Co.)
Mr. Chris Latvala (Republican elected for House District 67 around Clearwater)
Rep. Amanda Murphy (D-New Port Richey)
Mr. Ed Narain (Democrat elected for House District 61 in Tampa)
Rep. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg)
Rep. John Wood (R-Winter Haven)

Mark your calendar for the apartment industry’s annual visit to Capitol Hill in Tallahassee. FAA’s 2015 Legislative Days are set for February 17-18. Plan to see many of the legislators listed above.



Needed: Apartment Homes for Veterans

Operation Reveille is underway and the call-to-action is for support from the apartment industry.

Hillsborough County is seeking fifty apartment homes for homeless veterans by November 11, Veterans Day.  Thirty apartments were committed as of October 21.  I hope BAAA members like you will help the County meet its goal and provide shelter for these "wounded warriors".
 
Operation Reveille seeks one-bedroom units in Hillsborough County.  ACTS, the Agency for Community Treatment Services, has "bridge money" to pay deposits and VASH vouchers for the rent for twelve months ... and hopefully longer.  ACTS will guarantee the rent and lease the units and then sub-lease to the veteran. 
 
ACTS will provide supportive services to the resident for the term of the lease to enable the veteran to successfully maintain housing.  Program staff will also be on-call 24/7 for you to assist with any emergent needs.
 
ACTS is prepared with other protections for the apartment property to assure you of no disruption in lease payments.  The unit will need to be inspected prior to occupancy.
 
If you have questions or wish to help, please contact Jana Balicki at ACTS: 813-246-4899 x223 or jbalicki@actsfl.org.
 
Thank you for your support of this important community initiative.



BAAA Leaders Present APAC Contributions to Legislative Candidates

On October 1 and 2, BAAA leaders presented contributions to state legislative candidates from the Florida Apartment Association’s Apartment Political Action Committee, APAC.  FAA and APAC appreciate the willingness of these candidates to consider the apartment industry’s issues and concerns and encourage you to support them.

In addition to the candidates in the photos, BAAA delivered re-election campaign contributions to Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon), Representative Dan Raulerson (

R-Plant City ), and Representative John Wood (R-Winter Haven).

Please consider all these candidates as you submit your mail-in ballot or go to the polls on November 4.

And speaking of this year’s important election, I trust you have considered the positive impact of the YES on Greenlight transportation initiative in 

Pinellas County .  If approved by the electorate, the proposed Greenlight plan will increase bus service by 65 percent and add rapid bus corridors and a light rail line.  The Greenlight plan will create opportunities for high-density, transit-oriented development and serve as a magnet for members of the millennial generation.  Apartment properties on both sides of Tampa Bay will benefit from this kind of enhanced, 21st century transit system.  For more information, visit www.voteyesongreenlight.com.

                        

                                                                   Robert Griffiths, Watkins Realty Services                                         Rep. Larry Ahern (R-Seminole)
                                                   Danny Burgess, Republican candidate for House District 38             Amy Coletti, Meadow Wood Property Company
                                                                     Dave Watkins, Watkins Realty Services                                                       Jeff Rogo

                       

                                                           Kimberle Coy, Leasing Professional, St. Charles Row                           Rep. Amanda Murphy (D-New Port Richey)
                                                                       Chris Koback, Weller Management                                      Lisa Ortiz, Park at Ashley Place Community Manager
                                                                    Rep. Darryl Rouson (D- St. Petersburg)                                           Robert Griffiths, Watkins Realty Services  
                                                                           Lori Krull, Weller Management                                                      Dave Watkins, Watkins Realty Services


Fractured Communities Garner Media Attention


You may have seen the headlines: “Condo owners plead for fix to forced apartment sales” and “Investors besiege condo owners”.

Governor Scott, Tampa Bay legislators, and the local media are calling for action on an issue involving fractured communities. The residents of fractured communities can be owners or renters. Many of these properties were built as apartment communities and were converted to condominiums in the lead-up to the recession. Many of the conversions were unsuccessful because a large number of the units were never sold. Today, some apartment companies are buying these distressed properties at “bargain prices” and “reverting” them to rentals. These transactions become complicated with unit owners living next to renters and property managers co-existing with weak condo associations that are in financial trouble.

Unit owners are complaining to government officials and the media that they are being forced to sell their units at prices far below what they paid.

Governor Rick Scott has asked the Department of Business & Professional Regulation to explain how the Florida Condominium Act can be fixed to help the unit owners. During the 2014 legislative session, Representative Carl Zimmermann (D-Dunedin) introduced a bill that would have required the entity buying the property to pay any condo unit owner 110% of the price the owner paid to originally purchase the converted unit. Obviously, this approach does not recognize fair market value. Now, other local lawmakers are contemplating legislatives “fixes” to be introduced during the 2015 session.

I want to alert you to this issue. I have asked the FAA team to monitor it. If you are involved in one of these controversies, I would welcome your comments and suggestions on how the apartment association should respond. Thank you.


BAAA Meeting with Congressman Ross


On August 21, Gabe Csizmadia, Regional Property Manager for Pinnacle, and I met with Congressman Dennis Ross (FL-15) in  Lakeland. 
(Mr. Ross is in the center in the photo.)

The Congressman serves on the important House Financial Services Committee and the Subcommittee on Housing & Insurance. During our 25-minute conversation, he demonstrated his knowledge and awareness of
 key apartment issues such as disparate impact, housing finance reform, HUD and affordable housing, and energy conservation on multi-family properties. We also talked about the local economy and the health of the apartment sector.

The meeting provided Gabe and I with the opportunity to present an NAAPAC check to support the Congressman’s re-election campaign. NAAPAC seeks to support Congressional candidates who represent good government and understand the needs and concerns of the multi-family housing industry.




Attic Draft Stop Inspections

As I reported in this column last month, Hillsborough County fire inspectors have stepped-up inspections on the firewalls in the attics of multi-family buildings. As you probably know, the purpose of the firewalls is to prevent the rapid spread of fires from unit to unit through the attic.

The security of the attic firewalls has long been a non-negotiable provision of the Florida Fire Prevention Code. The code states “the integrity of all draftstops shall be maintained.” Still, some landlords punch holes in the firewalls to run electric lines or cable or for other purposes.

A recent fire in Carrollwood may be the cause of the heightened awareness of the code requirement. The apartment building fire was likely caused by lightning. But, inadequate attic firewall protection may have contributed to the fire damaging 18 units.

Hillsborough County Fire Marshal Steve Kendrick told me, “Many times gaining access to do a visual inspection is all but impossible for our inspectors.”

I encourage you to work with the fire inspectors. Ask them to return on a date when you can facilitate access to the attic, either through a resident’s unit, with proper notice, or a vacant unit. Newer properties should locate “draft barrier diagrams” which were done during the design and construction of buildings. These diagrams will show the inspector that the firewalls were constructed to meet the code requirements.

You should also review your property operations policies and procedures. Vendors who are working in attics should be required to restore all draft stops.

All these cooperative steps will demonstrate to the Fire Marshal your concern for fire and life safety and probably make the annual inspection go much smoother.


BAAA Meeting with Senator Brandes

On July 10, BAAA President Cecilia Ford of Pinnacle and I shared a cup of coffee with State Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg).  We thanked the Senator for introducing legislation that will help control flood insurance rates and discussed several other FAA priority issues, including renter’s insurance and local vs. state rental housing inspection programs.

Senator Brandes was very curious about the booming apartment housing market. He concluded the very positive meeting by expressing his willingness to work with the Florida Apartment Association and other housing interests to find creative ways to fund affordable housing projects.

The meeting was a follow-up to the delivery of an APAC check to support the Brandes re-election campaign. APAC, the Apartment Political Action Committee, is affiliated with FAA and supports candidates who are receptive to the concerns of rental property owners and managers.



State Senator Jeff Brandes, Cecilia Ford, Jeff Rogo



Attic Firewalls

Fire inspectors in Hillsborough County are checking firewalls in the attics of multi-family buildings. As you probably know, the purpose of the firewalls is to prevent the rapid spread of fires from unit to unit through the attic. A recent fire in Carrollwood may be the cause of the heightened awareness of the code requirement. The apartment building fire was likely caused by lightning. But, inadequate attic firewall protection may have contributed to the fire damaging 18 units.

The security of the attic firewalls has long been a non-negotiable provision of the Florida Fire Prevention Code. Still, some landlords punch holes in the firewalls to run cable or for other purposes. I encourage you to check the firewalls on your property.

I also appreciate how hot it can get in an attic crawl space during Florida’s summer season. So, a repair project could be challenging and expensive … whether initiated on your own or at the request of a fire inspector.

Please let me know if a fire inspector has cited your community for attic firewall protection. Thank you.



NIMBYs becoming YIMBYs

Here’s something else to think about as you measure the potential impact of Pinellas County’s Greenlight transportation initiative on the apartment market.

George Washington University researchers have been studying “Walkable Urban Places”. Many of America’s largest metro areas have neighborhoods where there is a premium on walking rather than driving. In these neighborhoods, every day destinations such as apartments, condominiums, offices, schools, stores, and restaurants are concentrated and within walking distance. These neighborhoods are often served by robust transit systems and are magnets for the Millennial generation (Americans born between 1982 and 2003).

In cities like Boston, New York, and Washington these neighborhoods account for more than a third of the office and retail space. Two cities known for their automobile dependence, Atlanta at 21% and Houston at 17%, have a surprisingly high number of “walkable urban places”. The Tampa Bay market has a long way to go as only 6% of our neighborhoods are “walkable urban places”.

The Pinellas Greenlight plan, which includes enhanced bus and transit service and a light rail line, will encourage more higher-density, transit-oriented, walkable neighborhoods. All across the country, there are more people saying “Yes” to “walkable urban places” … Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY). Why not here?



Grilling Season

The Fourth of July holiday marks the height of grilling season. Your residents may be inquiring about your community’s policy on the use of barbecue grills. You’ll want to make sure your community’s policy complies with the Florida Fire Prevention Code.
To assure accurate information, I contacted Chief Stephen Kendrick, Hillsborough County Fire Marshal. He cited NFPA 1 Section 10.11.6: For other than one and two-family dwellings, no hibachi, grill or other similar devices used for cooking, heating, or any other purpose, shall be kindled on any balcony, under any overhanging portion, or within 10 feet of any structure.

Chief Kendrick also emphasized NFPA 58 LPG Section 8.3.5 which states that a gas grill may not be stored within any multi-family unit nor within 10 feet of any multi-family building.

Again, a gas grill and gas tank may not be used or stored within 10 feet of an apartment building. The Florida Fire Prevention Code does allow a charcoal grill and the charcoal to be stored in a multi-family unit.

The apartment property management is responsible for the policing of these regulations. Chief Kendrick also asks that management assure the proper disposal of charcoal.

An apartment community grill used near the pool or on the grounds does not need to be permanently installed. It would be smart to have a water hose bib nearby.


Greenlight Pinellas & Apartments

If you own, manage, or develop apartment communities in Pinellas County, here are two more reasons to consider support for the Greenlight Pinellas initiative.

Greenlight Pinellas is a comprehensive transportation plan for the future. It includes enhanced bus and transit service as well as a light rail line connecting downtown St. Petersburg, the Gateway area, Largo, and downtown Clearwater. Pinellas County voters will decide on November 4 if they are willing to raise the sales tax by a penny to fund the plan. Details of the plan can be found at www.greenlightpinellas.com.

Earlier this month, the Pinellas County Commission approved the elimination of that portion of the property tax dedicated to the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. The .7305 mill assessment goes away on January 1, 2016 at the same time as the proposed sales tax increase. The elimination of the nearly three-quarters of a mill should benefit rental property owners who do not enjoy a homestead exemption.

Here’s something else to consider. City of Miami commissioners could vote soon on an amendment to the city’s zoning code that would eliminate parking requirements for buildings located within close proximity to public transit. Miami hopes to attract more Millennials as urban residents. Drawing the Millennials, who are not committed to owning one or more automobiles, to Miami has been hampered by a lack of affordable housing and walkability. A single parking space in a garage can cost more than $20,000.00 to construct. The city’s current zoning code requires 1.5 parking spaces per unit despite the steep price tag. An enhanced bus and transit service in Pinellas County could encourage local governments to reduce the number of required parking spaces per unit. This change should lower construction costs for apartment developers targeting the younger generation.

Hurricane Preparedness

The Atlantic hurricane season began on June 1 and runs through November 30. I join with local government emergency management officials to encourage you to have a plan of action to protect your property and residents. This preparation is especially critical for properties located within hurricane evacuation zones. However, even those properties at higher elevations and further inland should be aware of the danger of hurricane-force winds and the tornadoes they can spawn.

For more information, visit the website for your county’s emergency management office.
An additional, valuable resource is the Florida Division of Emergency Management website: www.floridadisaster.org.

Also, through June 8, you can take advantage of Florida’s sales tax holiday when you purchase hurricane preparedness supply items. The tax-exempt products include portable generators, batteries, first aid kits, ground anchor systems, flashlights, and more.

Largo Provides Incentives to Build Apartments

The City of Largo would like you to build apartments in the downtown neighborhood along West Bay Drive. The Largo City Commission hopes incentives, funded by an increase in property values, will nurture urban revitalization and a 24/7 environment. The first of Largo’s new incentives offers five percent or up to $8,000 for hard construction costs of top-quality apartment units.

Additional incentives are available for single-family homes and offices. The city commission also approved grants to small businesses to help them come in compliance with the city’s sign ordinance.

For more information, contact Teresa Brydon, Largo’s Economic Development Manager, tbrydon@largo.com or 727-586-7342.


Greenlight Pinellas

If you own or manage an apartment community in Pinellas County, it is time to start thinking about Greenlight Pinellas.

Greenlight Pinellas is a comprehensive transportation plan for the future. It includes enhanced bus and transit service as well as a light rail line connecting downtown St. Petersburg, the Gateway area, Largo, and downtown Clearwater. Pinellas County voters will decide on November 4 if they are willing to raise the sales tax by a penny to fund the plan. If the sales tax increase is approved, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) will end its property tax assessment. Details of the plan can be found at www.greenlightpinellas.com.

The apartment industry should be interested in the Greenlight Pinellas plan because it creates opportunities for transit-oriented development. At the same time, the transit upgrades and mobility options in the plan should be an attraction for the members of the millennial generation. There are 70 million Americans born between 1982 and 2003 in this generation who studies show favor urban, higher-density living. As you know, the Millenials are a key driver of the demand for apartments.

On April 23, Darnell Grisby of the American Public Transportation Association made a presentation to PSTA on the recently-completed study, “Millenials & Mobility”. The study links transportation and economic development. Communities that have established multi-modal transportation systems providing a variety of options have been successful in attracting Millenials. Because they have these high-tech savvy residents, these communities have an easier time attracting the companies that want to employ them. The apartment properties to house these Millenials are sure to follow, too.   


Lawn Watering: There’s an App for That

Wouldn't it be nice if your mobile device could tell you what your apartment community’s lawn needs?  Maybe even send you a message to turn off your sprinkler system if it rains?  That would be especially helpful as the temperature rises and we are in some of the driest months of the year.  The folks at Tampa Bay Water informed me about a new app called Smartirrigation Turf.  The app was specifically created to help urban turf irrigators in Florida and Georgia water their lawns more effectively and efficiently.

Smartirrigation Turf is one of four apps created through a partnership between the University of Florida, the University of Georgia and the US National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The app generates irrigation schedule recommendations based on real-time weather and short-term forecasted data to better meet your lawn’s water needs in a given period. If you irrigate on a regular schedule, this will help you conserve water and minimize nutrient runoff caused by over-watering.

Users can register irrigation systems in the app and receive notifications regarding irrigation schedule changes due to differences in the irrigation demand for the next few days. The app is available for the iPhone and Android operating systems.

For more information, go to www.smartirrigationapps.org.


Revisiting Flood Insurance

While in Washington last month, BAAA leaders thanked their congressional representatives for sponsoring the bill that provided flood insurance relief for single-family homes and thereby our area’s real estate market. Congresswoman Kathy Castor cautioned that the legislation passed earlier this year does not provide relief for commercial properties. She asked us to report back to her if the higher flood insurance rates have a negative impact on multi-family rental properties in the Tampa Bay area.

On March 28, Congresswoman Castor joined with her Bay Area colleagues, Congressmen Gus Bilirakis and David Jolly, in sponsoring the Flood Insurance Premium Parity Act. This is the first piece of legislation sponsored by Representative Jolly who was elected last month. He said, “Soaring flood insurance rates on commercial properties could cripple our economy, slowing business and job growth by dramatically increasing costs to small business owners and their customers.”

In Tallahassee, the Florida Apartment Association continues to monitor two bills that address flood insurance premiums. Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and Representatives Ed Hooper (R-Clearwater) and Larry Ahern (R-Seminole) are the sponsors of legislation that will make it easier for private companies in Florida to compete with the National Flood Insurance Program.

The 2014 Florida Legislative Session is scheduled to conclude on May 2.


BAAA on Capitol Hill in Washington

Members of the Bay Area Apartment Association were on Capitol Hill in 

Washington, D.C. on March 12.  They met with Members of Congress and legislative aides representing districts in the Tampa Bay area during the annual National Apartment Association Capitol Conference.


BAAA leaders met with Congresswoman Kathy Castor (FL-14), third from right.

Cecilia Ford of Pinnacle, Dana Hammond of Greystar, Marc Rosenwasser of Meadow Wood Property Company, Cecily Millan of the association staff, and I represented the apartment industry.  The BAAA leaders discussed housing finance reform and immigration reform during the visits.  We also thanked our congressional representatives for supporting legislation which will slow the increases in National Flood Insurance Program rates.

Fill the “Seat at the Table”

Government officials around the Tampa Bay area are addressing issues with “bottom-line” impact for the apartment industry. The Bay Area Apartment Association has a “seat at the table” for the discussion of these issues but representatives of owners and property managers are needed to advocate for the industry.

In 2012, Hernando County implemented an onerous, non ad valorem, fire services fee which resulted in significant tax increases for multi-family properties. Keith Morin of Richman Property Services, two independent rental owners, and I presented data comparing 2012 tax bills and 2013 tax bills to the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners on February 25. The Board agreed to schedule a workshop soon and address the unfair tax. Apartment properties in Hernando County need to be represented at the workshop and future deliberations.

For fifteen years, the City of Tampa has had a rental certification program with inspections of apartments and a $10.00 per unit annual fee. Jake Slater, Administrator of the City’s Neighborhood Empowerment Department, is proposing a new rental inspection program which focuses on properties with four or less units and eliminates the fee for communities with five or more units. City Council will consider the ordinance this spring. It would take effect in January 2015. Needless to say, the proposed ordinance will result in significant dollar savings for apartment communities that are already being inspected by the State of Florida. I need your help to convince City Council to pass this ordinance.

Government officials are responding to the proliferation of single-family rentals and many more landlords that do not have the training or experience of BAAA members. Hillsborough County is creating a landlord training program which will start in April. The County needs your guidance on an appropriate curriculum. Largo and St. Petersburg officials are also looking to address “problem landlords”. Your involvement in the process will help assure that law-abiding landlords are not penalized because of the chronic code violators.

Please get involved, represent BAAA, advocate for the apartment industry. Contact me at jeff.rogo@baaahq.org. Thanks.


BAAA on Capitol Hill

Members of the Bay Area Apartment Association were on Capitol Hill in Tallahassee on February 5. They met with legislators and aides representing districts in the Tampa Bay area during the annual FAA Legislative Days event.



The BAAA leaders delivered a message of support for legislation encouraging residents to purchase renters insurance; bills making it easier for private companies to offer flood insurance in Florida; and for the preservation of the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

BAAA leaders will be on Capitol Hill in Washington DC in early March. There, they will address immigration reform; tax reform; disparate impact; and housing finance reform.

Keep This Number Handy, 2-1-1

During a recent BAAA Board of Directors meeting, Jewel Vincent was explaining why the Going Home Project – Pinellas is focusing on keeping families in their homes … preventing families with financial challenges from becoming homeless. Jewel noted that there is a wide array of social services available to aid your residents at times of need. If you were wondering how to connect one of your residents with a social service agency in the Bay Area, suggest that the resident dial 2-1-1. There are agencies that could help your long-term residents pay their rent or power bill … provide the support needed to stay in their apartment.

2-1-1 provides a free, confidential, multilingual, 24-hour dialing code for access to community information, services, and resources.  

We're Going to Tallahassee Early This Year

FAA’s 2014 Legislative Days in Tallahassee are February 4 and 5 … just around the corner! There will be a Legislative Briefing followed by a dinner on Tuesday the 4th. We go to Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of the apartment industry on Wednesday the 5th. The 2014 legislative session does not begin until March. But, our senators and representatives will be at the Capitol on February 4-5 for committee meetings. Their schedule is less hectic and we should have a greater opportunity to meet with our local legislators and their aides.

As in past years, BAAA has arranged for a bus so that you can leave the drive up I-75 and across I-10 to us. Your association has also reserved a block of rooms at a great rate at the Candlewood Suites. Click on this link to save a seat on the bus, reserve a hotel room, and get more information.

This year, FAA has adopted a legislative platform to enable the apartment industry to take positions on the bills introduced during this session.

Support

  • We support encouraging residents to carry renter’s insurance

  • We support strengthening the State’s preemptive authority

  • We support tort reform efforts

  • We support the continued funding of the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund and its intended purpose

Oppose

  • We oppose the creation of additional protected classes

  • We oppose additional licensing requirements

Monitor/Research

  • Building and fire code revisions

  • Scope of work for apartment maintenance personnel

  • Premises liability

  • Property taxes

  • Medicinal marijuana


Christmas Present for Tens of Thousands – A Huge Flood Insurance Premium Increase – Bah Humbug!

On October 1, thousands of Bay Area property owners experienced a dramatic increase in their flood insurance premium as a result of Congressional action, the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. The legislation targets high-risk flood zone properties whose owners have been receiving subsidized flood insurance premiums through the National Flood Insurance Program. All commercial buildings will receive a 25 percent rate increase annually until rates reflect “true risk”. Rates go up to reflect “true risk” immediately if the property is sold; the policy lapses; or a new policy is purchased. Additional rate increases will go into effect at the start of the 2014 fiscal year. Needless to say, these flood insurance premium increases are another blow for Florida’s still-recovering real estate market.

Pinellas County is the #1 county in the nation impacted by these premium increases. Florida is at risk more than any other state because of its 1,200 miles of coastline. That’s why we have been reading and hearing so many “horror stories” in our local media.

Most of the “horror stories” have been about single-family homeowners. Are you aware of any multi-family rental property receiving drastic premium increases? Please let me know, jeff.rogo@baaahq.org.

On December 17, State Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) introduced Senate Bill 542. Representative Larry Ahern (R-Seminole) is filing the bill in the House. The legislation would make it easier for private insurance companies to write flood insurance policies in Florida. If property owners have options for purchasing flood insurance, other than the National Flood Insurance Program, it is expected that coverage plans will be less costly.

Bay Area Apartment Association members will be discussing this issue and legislation with their senators and representatives on Capitol Hill in Tallahassee, February 4-5. I encourage you to “get on the bus” and advocate for the apartment industry. More information on the FAA Legislative Days is found on this website.

FL Housing Finance Corp Has 2014 Energy Retrofit Dollars

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation received approximately $6 million in funding from the State Energy Office (within the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services) to capitalize a revolving loan fund for multifamily energy retrofits. The purpose of these loans is to reduce energy use and cost in multifamily buildings contained within Florida Housing Finance Corporation's portfolio by updating and replacing old, inefficient building components with energy efficient components. Properties in the corporation’s portfolio that are at least 15 years old and meet certain eligibility requirements will be able to apply for these funds in 2014. 

Hernando County Fire Services Fee

On this year’s tax bill, Hernando County has begun charging a non-ad valorem fire fee. The County is no longer funding its fire services through millage and property taxes. Now, it is assessing 16.1 cents per square foot.

For BAAA members, the difference between last year’s tax bill and this year’s is significant. One property paid $2,500 for fire services in its property tax bill last year. This year, the non-ad valorem fee is $13,000. For another property, the tax bill increased from $4,300 to $41,000.

This onerous fee was not voted on by the citizens in Hernando County. It was implemented by a vote of the County Commission. Representatives of BAAA member communities, other rental property owners, and I are scheduling meetings with the County Commissioners. If you have a property in Brooksville, Spring Hill, or unincorporated Hernando County and would like to join us in an effort to lower the fire fee, let me know. Thanks.


Annual Developer’s Forum – November 20

Will you be at the Bay Area Apartment Association’s Annual Developer’s Forum on November 20?

Each year, for almost twenty years now, Michael Slater of Triad Research & Consulting assembles a line-up of speakers representing the top apartment companies doing business in the Tampa Bay area. This is the event where you’ll receive an update on the state of the multi-family rental market. You’ll learn about the latest apartment developments, just-opened or coming out of the ground, as well as what’s in the “pipeline”. And, you’ll learn all this from the investors, owners, and managers responsible for the projects.

The Annual Developer’s Forum & Lunch takes place at the Westshore Marriott Hotel in Tampa. More information and registration can be found here.

I’m excited that Ronnie Duncan, a long-time friend, is the featured luncheon speaker. He’s the go-to guy for all things transportation in the region. Ronnie is the Chairman of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority TBARTA), a former Pinellas County Commissioner, and a businessman active in commercial real estate for many years in Florida. During his presentation, Ronnie will highlight the prospects for higher-density, transit-oriented development.

See you there!


St. Pete Crime Reduction Program Kicks-off November 12


The St. Petersburg Police Apartment Community Crime Reduction Program provides a partnership between the police department, local property owners and managers, and residents to foster safe and healthy apartment communities. The next training program will be most convenient for southside apartment managers and staff. It will be held on Tuesday, November 12, 2013, 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, at Whitehall Garden Apartments, 3301 – 58th Avenue South.

Some of the topics to be covered in this three-phase certification program include:

  • Understanding crime prevention

  • Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED, Safe by Design)

  • Good property management

  • Federal Fair Housing Laws

To register, go to the police department’s website, www.stpete.org/police, and click on the ACCRP link. Or, contact the Program Coordinator: Officer Chip Wells at 727-893-4993 or chip.wells@stpete.org.

Tampa Landlord Training - October 28

I attended the kick-off of the Mayor’s Landlord Training Program last month. There was a great turn-out on a rainy morning. Code Enforcement officials reviewed the City of Tampa's codes affecting rental housing. Police officials introduced their Crime Free Multi-Housing Program.

The next class is set for Monday, October 28 at the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors. For details and registration, visit www.tampagov.net/mayorslandlordtraining.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn explained the purpose of the program during the September kickoff. Click here to visit the City of Tampa and view the video.


Largo Sign Code Wor
kshop

A few months ago, I reported that the City of Largo adopted an easier-to-read, simpler sign code in 2007. Commercial businesses and apartment communities have been given ten years to come into compliance. As the deadline of June 5, 2017 approaches, the City and the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce are hosting periodic informational programs to assist you in successfully meeting the new signage criteria and deadline.

The next workshop, “Planning for Largo Sign Code Success: What Every Business Needs to Know” is set for Thursday, October 24 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. It will take place at the Largo Public Library, 120 Central Park Drive. Topics will include the new sign code, permitting process, sign incentives, and hiring a sign contractor. There will be an opportunity for one-on-one assistance following the formal presentations. There is no cost to attend, but registration is requested. Contact the Central Pinellas Chamber at 727-584-2321 or e-mail tom@centralchamber.biz with your name and company affiliation.

The biggest change in the code is that pole signs will not be allowed. Monument signs can be no more than eight feet high and their square footage will be determined by the land use of the property.

As you know, the City of Largo has been encouraging the development of multi-family housing. So, the City is proposing amendments to the sign ordinance to allow multi-family properties to have a master sign plan and greater monument sign size. The City will also allow relaxed standards along U.S. 19.

You’ll find more information on the new code and some sign incentives at largo.com/commercialsigns.

Reducing Crime by Working Together


The St. Petersburg Police Apartment Community Crime Reduction Program provides a partnership between the police department, local property owners and managers, and residents to foster safe and healthy apartment communities. The next training program will be most convenient for southside apartment managers and staff. It will be held on Tuesday, November 12, 2013, 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, at Whitehall Garden Apartments, 3301 – 58th Avenue South.

There are three ways criminal activity comes into a rental community:

  • The criminal lives there.

  • The criminal visits friends there.

  • The criminal comes to the property to commit crimes.

The Apartment Community Crime Reduction Program addresses all three of these possibilities.

Some of the topics to be covered in this three-phase certification program include:

  • Understanding crime prevention

  • Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED, Safe by Design)

  • Good property management

  • Federal Fair Housing Laws

To register, go to the police department’s website, stpete.org/police, and click on the ACCRP link. Or, contact the Program Coordinator: Officer Chip Wells at 727-893-4993 or chip.wells@stpete.org.

The Tampa Police Department is also stepping-up its efforts to keep illegal activities out of apartment communities. You are invited to participate in TPD’s November 19 Crime Free Multi-Housing Program.

Apartment communities certified by this nationwide program have shown a reduction in crime and improved quality of life for residents. The program has three parts: an eight-hour training session for apartment managers and staff, certification that the rental property meets the security requirements for resident safety, and a resident/management crime prevention meeting.

For more information, contact Officer Kaytronia Brown, 813-931-6565 or kaytronia.brown@tampagov.net.

I understand that the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office will be offering a crime reduction program in the “Suitcase City” area soon.

Another date to note is October 28. Mayor Buckhorn’s second Landlord Training Program will be held that day at the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors headquarters. The first program which featured presentations by Code Enforcement and TPD filled-up quickly. So, contact Shannon.Edge@tampagov.net to reserve a seat.


Tampa Mayor Kicks-off Landlord Training Program

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn made it clear during his 2011 election campaign that “strong neighborhoods” are a top priority for his administration.  Ever since the “Buckhorn Plan” was published, I have been asking the Mayor to include the Bay Area Apartment Association as a partner in the effort.

On September 24, the City’s Neighborhood Empowerment Department and the Tampa Police Department are kicking-off the Mayor’s Landlord Tenant Training program.  The free, kick-off event is set for 8:30 am to 12:30 pm at the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors conference room,

2918 West Kennedy Blvd. To register, visit www.tampagov.net/mayorslandlordtraining.

The training is geared to the independent rental owner.  But, I encourage property managers from larger communities to participate and show the Mayor the professionalism of the apartment industry. The Mayor says the training will help landlords with code requirements, property maintenance, safety, and more.  There’s an obvious link between the training and the City’s stepped-up code enforcement efforts.

BAAA has offered to play a role in developing a curriculum for future training programs.  We are telling the city staff about 

CAM, CAM-T, and NALP. At the same time, we are touting the expertise of our members in fair housing and landlord/tenant law.    


Hurricanes & Apartment Community Vacancies

It has been a very quiet hurricane season, so far. But, we are just beginning the peak of the season. This is the time-of-year, between now and September 10, with the greatest probability that a storm will hit Florida.

The Bay Area Apartment Association has been discussing with MyRentComps and emergency preparedness officials in Hillsborough and Pinellas County how local residents displaced in a storm might learn where there are vacant apartment units in the Tampa Bay area following a storm. Geoff Harlan of MyRentComps suggests the creation of a website that will allow residents made homeless in a storm to reach out to apartment communities reporting available rental units. We won’t be able to implement this idea this hurricane season. Hopefully, with your support, this service will be up-and-running for next year.

So, here’s another reason to regularly update your apartment community’s vacancy data. Not only will you receive data on comparable apartment communities, but in the future, you could provide a home for families displaced in a hurricane. Thanks.  


Code Enforcement Crackdown

Code enforcement and property maintenance don’t appear very often on city council or county commission agendas. That’s unless there are headlines calling attention to a breakdown in local code enforcement.

You’ll recall that last month a prominent political fundraiser and a member of the Tampa Port Authority Board was caught operating an illegal mobile-home park behind his office building in Seminole Heights. The squalid conditions led to the rental units being declared unfit for human habitation. Unfortunately, code enforcement officials had been aware of the ramshackle housing for quite a while before action was taken.

It will come as no surprise that elected officials are now asking code enforcement to spot problem properties more quickly and punish violators. It’s even been suggested that police officers, trash collectors, public works crews, and neighborhood association leaders be trained to identify code violations.

I don’t believe that anyone who invests in membership in an association representing the apartment industry is the type of person to be a flagrant codes violator. However, I expect that law-abiding property owners and managers are likely to suffer some for the sins of a few slumlords. It’s worth a few minutes to inspect your own property before code enforcement launches a “sweep” of your surrounding neighborhood.   

WeAreApartments.org

Twice this year, the Pinellas County Commission made headlines when addressing the development of a new apartment community. In early May, the Commission turned down a zoning change from industrial to residential for a property in Safety Harbor. Commissioners delayed a project approval that is located near an activity center in Largo. One reason for the delay was the commissioners’ concern for the residents of an RV park located on the property.

In both cases though, questions were asked by commissioners, the media, and the public about the need for more apartments and about the benefits of multi-family communities in the neighborhood. For answers to these questions, I refer you to WeAreApartments.org.

WeAreApartments.org is an interactive website developed and maintained by the National Apartment Association and the National Multi Housing Council. The website is part of a multimedia campaign to build positive awareness of the apartment industry among policymakers, community leaders, and regulators.


Largo Sign Code

The City of Largo adopted an easier-to-read, simpler sign code in 2007. Commercial businesses and apartment communities have been given ten years to come into compliance. As the deadline of June 5, 2017 approaches, the City and the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce are hosting periodic informational programs to assist you in successfully meeting the new signage criteria and deadline.

The biggest change is that pole signs will not be allowed. Monument signs can be no more than eight feet high and their square footage will be determined by the land use of the property.

As you know, the City of Largo has been encouraging the development of multi-family housing. So, the City is proposing amendments to the sign ordinance to allow multi-family properties to have a master sign plan and greater monument sign size. The City will also allow relaxed standards along U.S. 19.

You’ll find more information on the new code and some sign incentives at www.largo.com/commercialsigns.

Tampa Police Begin Crime Free Multi-Housing Program

This summer, the Tampa Police Department is stepping-up its efforts to keep illegal activities out of apartment communities. You are invited to participate in one of the upcoming Crime Free Multi-Housing Programs.

Apartment communities certified by this nationwide program have shown a reduction in crime and improved the quality of life for residents. The program has three parts: an eight-hour training session for apartment managers and staff, certification that the rental property meets the security requirements for resident safety, and a resident/management crime prevention meeting. TECO Energy is partnering with the Tampa Police Department to address lighting on apartment properties and other energy-related crime reduction steps.

For more information on opportunities to participate and starting dates, contact Officer Kaytronia Brown, 813-931-6565.

Governor Scott Signs Landlord/Tenant Legislation!

On Friday, June 7, Governor Scott signed HB 77, “the Landlord/Tenant bill”, one of the Florida Apartment Association’s priority issues.  FAA thanks everyone who contacted the Governor and encouraged this action.

The bill’s provisions take effect on July 1.

The legislation modifies the “Florida Residential Landlord & Tenant Act”. Here are several of the key provisions:

  1. Attorney’s fees may not be awarded for personal injury actions resulting from maintenance issues between landlord and tenant

  2. Modifies the statutory disclosure regarding deposits to provide specific wording, rather than giving the tenant a copy of the statute

  3. Requires written warnings to tenants that tenancy is subject to termination without further warning if curable conduct (noncompliance by tenant) is repeated within 12 months

  4. Allows a landlord to accept partial rent without waiving the right to evict

  5. A sheriff’s notice of eviction is not stayed by weekends or holidays

  6. The landlord must be given the opportunity to cure a deficiency in a notice or in the pleadings before dismissal of the action

  7. The possibility of a civil action shall not preclude criminal prosecution for an offense related to the rented property

  8. A landlord must ensure screens are in working order at the beginning of a tenancy and repair damage to them at least annually thereafter


Please Contact Governor Scott about Landlord/Tenant Legislation

As you know, HB 77, “the Landlord/Tenant bill”, one of the Florida Apartment Association’s priority issues, passed during the 2013 legislative session. 

FAA appreciates all the guidance offered during the last two years as the bill went through the process. I appreciate the many Bay Area Apartment Association members who “lobbied” for the bill on Capitol Hill on April 4. 
Our work is not over yet.  Governor Scott received HB 77 on Tuesday, May 28.  He has 15 days to sign it into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

While FAA feels confident that HB 77 will be well received by the Governor, it is still important to make your voice heard.

Please contact his office and tell him why you think this important, balanced bill will be great for both landlords and residents.  

The legislation modifies the “Florida Residential Landlord & Tenant Act”. Here are several of the key provisions:

  1. Attorney’s fees may not be awarded for personal injury actions resulting from maintenance issues between landlord and tenant

  2. Modifies the statutory disclosure regarding deposits to provide specific wording, rather than giving the tenant a copy of the statute

  3. Requires written warnings to tenants that tenancy is subject to termination without further warning if curable conduct (noncompliance by tenant) is repeated within 12 months

  4. Allows a landlord to accept partial rent without waiving the right to evict

  5. A sheriff’s notice of eviction is not stayed by weekends or holidays

  6. The landlord must be given the opportunity to cure a deficiency in a notice or in the pleadings before dismissal of the action

  7. The possibility of a civil action shall not preclude criminal prosecution for an offense related to the rented property

  8. A landlord must ensure screens are in working order at the beginning of a tenancy and repair damage to them at least annually thereafter

Please contact Governor Scott’s office ASAP! Your perspective is valuable and you need to make it known! 

Here is Governor Scott’s contact information: www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/email-the-governor/

850-488-7146 (Note that your correspondence will become public record.) 


Legislative Session Summary

The 2013 Florida legislative session ended on May 3 and can be considered successful for the apartment industry.  Landlord/Tenant Law amendments supported by the industry were approved.  There was legislation that would have required leasing professionals to be licensed real estate sales associates and maintenance professionals to be licensed swimming pool/spa contractors in order to clean a pool and add chemicals.  Both bills failed to advance.  Finally, $200 million was designated for housing programs even though the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund was “swept” into general revenue again.

On April 4, BAAA members were on Capitol Hill in Tallahassee advocating for legislation sponsored by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and Representative Elizabeth Porter (R-Lake City).  The bill was approved by the Legislature on May 2 and sent to the Governor for his signature. 

The legislation, HB 77, modifies the “Florida Residential Landlord & Tenant Act”.  Here are several of the key provisions:

1.)    Attorney’s fees may not be awarded for personal injury actions resulting from maintenance issues between landlord and tenant

2.)    Modifies the statutory disclosure regarding deposits to provide specific wording, rather than giving the tenant a copy of the statute

3.)    Requires written warnings to tenants that tenancy is subject to termination without further warning if curable conduct (noncompliance by tenant) is repeated within 12 months

4.)    Allows a landlord to accept partial rent without waiving the right to evict

5.)    A sheriff’s notice of eviction is not stayed by weekends or holidays

6.)    The landlord must be given the opportunity to cure a deficiency in a notice or in the pleadings before dismissal of the action

7.)    The possibility of a civil action shall not preclude criminal prosecution for an offense related to the rented property

8.)    A landlord must ensure screens are in working order at the beginning of a tenancy and repair damage to them at least annually thereafter

Millions of dollars from banks through a national mortgage settlement plan will go to various housing programs under legislation approved on April 30 and sent to Governor Scott for his signature.  The measure earmarks $60 million for the State Apartment Incentive Loan program (SAIL) to subsidize rents or fund the construction of new units, with $25 million of that reserved for the elderly.  The State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP) receives $40 million which goes to local governments for affordable housing assistance.  Another $10 million was earmarked for an initiative to provide housing for the homeless.

The Ordinance du jour

A couple of cities along the gulf beaches have implemented a chronic nuisance ordinance which allows for citations and fines for properties with repeated nuisance activities. Thirty nuisance activities are listed in the ordinances. The list includes drugs, burglaries, excessive alcohol consumption, dangerous dogs, prostitution, and loud parties. Actions can be taken against residential properties where prohibited behaviors occur three or more times in a month or seven or more times in six months.

Under the headline “Landlords liable for tenants’ actions”, the Tampa Bay Times on February 13 described the Madeira Beach ordinance this way: “If tenants engage in crime or create chronic nuisances, property owners could face hefty fines, forced eviction of tenants and their properties could be shuttered or condemned by the city.”

I have been in contact with city officials in Treasure Island, where they are considering a similar ordinance. Please inform me if you see another Bay Area city considering a chronic nuisance ordinance. The cities along the gulf beaches do not have many multi-family rental communities. However, BAAA needs to be “at the table” when a proposed ordinance could possibly have a negative impact on law-abiding property owners.

The National Apartment Association is aware that the City of South Bend, Indiana is proposing a nuisance property ordinance. South Bend will charge property owners (rentals and owner-occupieds) $250.00 for each police visit over-and-above five police visits in a 60-day period. The South Bend ordinance is apparently modeled after similar ordinances in Yakima, WA and New Bedford, MA.


BAAA Members Go to Capitol Hill II

Thirty-five Bay Area Apartment Association members were on Capitol Hill in Tallahassee on April 4 advocating on key apartment industry issues. They had appointments with 20 different legislators or their aides, all representing districts in the Tampa Bay area.

The BAAA members explained the amendments to the Landlord/Tenant Act proposed in Senate Bill 490 and House Bill 77. They expressed opposition to bills that would require apartment community maintenance personnel to be licensed pool & spa contractors and for leasing agents to have a real estate license. The BAAA members also expressed their support for the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund.


The BAAA members pose outside the Capitol before boarding the bus to return home.


BAAA members with Representative Kathleen Peters (R-St. Petersburg) (silver-blue suit in center).


Representative Carl Zimmermann (D-Dunedin) (tall gentleman in rear-center) asked good questions about the landlord/tenant statutes.




BAAA Members Go to Capitol Hill

Bay Area Apartment Association leaders were on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on March 13 advocating on key apartment industry issues.  The BAAA members met with Members of Congress and their aides representing districts in the Tampa Bay area.  They discussed housing finance reform, the economic impact of the apartment industry, tax reform, and immigration reform.

My thanks to these BAAA leaders who took to the Hill:
Mike Ferris of Valet Waste
Geoff Harlan of MyRentComps
Chris Koback of Blackhawk Realty Management
Lori Krull of Westwind Management
  Lori Ohlensehlen of Milestone Management
Jordan Petras of Milestone Management
Marc Rosenwasser of Meadow Wood Property Company

                                                                       
    Marc Rosenwasser, Lori Krull, Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Mike Ferris                                   Jeff Rogo, Lori Ohlensehlen, Marc Rosenwasser,
                                                                                                                                                      Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Chris Koback, Jordan Petras
City of Clearwater Seeks Apartment Developer

The Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) of the City of Clearwater invites qualified applicants to submit proposals and qualifications to develop a mixed-use urban infill project with a predominant residential component on a prime 6.85+/- acre site in downtown Clearwater.  The site borders Cleveland Street and Prospect Lake Park.  

The site is conveniently located adjacent to the Downtown Core and is minutes away from the world-renowned Clearwater Beach.   With cultural attractions such as the Capitol Theatre, recreational amenities such as the Downtown Harbor Marina and Pinellas Trail, various restaurants and entertainment outlets, and increased employment in the technology sector, the area is experiencing demand for urban housing and quality retail and entertainment support venues.  The CRA redevelopment strategy for Downtown Clearwater emphasizes the creation of a significant residential concentration in and around the Downtown Core to create the support for a day-into-evening retail, office, recreational, and entertainment environment.  The CRA envisions this parcel as a major opportunity to facilitate this strategy.

You can contact me for a copy of the RFP/Q or visit www.myclearwater.com/cra for additional information and to download RFP/Q 12-13.

Responses to the RFP/Q are due Tuesday, April 2, 2013.


Here's What's Happening in Tallahassee

The 2013 Florida Legislative Session starts on March 5 and is scheduled to continue for 60 days. Already, several bills have been introduced impacting the apartment industry.

Landlord/Tenant Act Amendments (SB 490 by Stargel, R-Lakeland, and HB 77 by Porter, R-Lake City): Legislation has been introduced to make changes to the landlord/tenant provisions in the Florida Statutes. FAA’s lobbyists and attorney members are working with the sponsors to make sure the amendments are fair to landlords and tenants alike.

Swimming Pool & Spa Contracting (SB 156 by Detert, R-Venice, and HB 737 by Ahern, R-St. Petersburg): Again this year, FAA will oppose legislation which would require a contractor’s license in order to perform the most basic pool maintenance.

Felon’s Rights: A freshman legislator, Representative Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando), is considering legislation that would provide protections for ex-offenders if they have employment. The proposed legislation would limit your ability to deny a lease to a convicted felon.

Licensing Requirements for Leasing Agents (HB 481 by Antone, D-Orlando): FAA will oppose legislation which would require a leasing agent to have a real estate license.

Fair Housing (SB 310 by Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, and HB 523 by Watson, D-Miami Gardens): This legislation would allow an aggrieved party to file a civil action for a discriminatory housing practice before filing an administrative complaint.

Get on the bus! The apartment industry’s annual day at the Capitol in Tallahassee is set for next month. Again this year, the Bay Area Apartment Association has arranged for a bus to get you there and reserved a block of hotel rooms at the Candlewood Suites. Apartment industry professionals from around the state will gather on April 3 when the Florida Apartment Association will provide a briefing on the key issues. BAAA encourages local property owners and managers to participate and join in the meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill on April 4.


Heads-Up: EPA Inspections in the Bay Area

An inspector with the federal Environmental Protection Agency has visited two apartment communities in Pasco County. These are older properties and I do not know if they were singled-out because of their age or because of someone’s complaint. In the event that these inspections are part of a larger initiative by our EPA regional office, you can be sure other properties will be visited.

The EPA official enters the property and heads directly for the outside HVAC condensers, checking for Freon leaks. When he does go to the leasing office, he asks to see Freon logs, MSDS (material safety data sheets) books, and “blast cabinets” – the big, yellow cabinets used to store and secure hazardous chemicals.

If the apartment community is not in compliance with federal regulations, the EPA official is assessing fines immediately.  


Going Home Project - Pinellas

Thanks to the generous contributions of the Bay Area Apartment Association, Homeless Leadership Board, and Juvenile Welfare Board, the apartments/homeless family initiative in Pinellas County now has someone guiding the project and advancing it to the next level.  The person selected to serve as the project's Apartment Liaison is Jewel Vincent.  She will serve as the go-between with the social service agencies providing temporary shelter for homeless families and the landlords who will provide permanent housing.

Jewel is a veteran of the apartment industry who was a Senior Property Manager of a portfolio consisting of 761 apartment homes.  She was a member of the BAAA Board of Directors.

Jewel "hit the ground running" and has been strategizing how to make this initiative succeed.  Very soon, she will be calling on apartment owners and managers to open-up a vacant unit for a homeless family.


The Going Home Project – Pinellas desires to assist families experiencing disrupted income due to no fault of their own. Families whose lives have been impacted negatively by the economy, health issues, job loss or reduced hours, divorce, etc. are examples of those families targeted by the Project. The focus is on helping families access and sustain rental housing as quickly as possible and to promote housing stability. Participants will comply with a standard lease agreement and will be provided with services and support to help them do so successfully.

For more information, you can contact Jewel at jvincent@tampabay.rr.com or 727-692-4145.

Crime Reduction Program - Feb 21

The St. Petersburg Police Department will offer another free training session for apartment community managers and owners on the morning of February 21. The goal of the Apartment Community Crime Reduction Program is to foster safe and healthy multi-family properties. The program has three phases: the half-day training session for management; an evaluation of the property by a crime prevention officer, and a crime reduction meeting with the residents. For more information on the program, contact Officer Chip Wells, 727-893-4993 or chip.wells@stpete.org.

Two BAAA members, Camden Lakes and Carlton Arms, were the first two communities to be certified by the St. Pete Police Department.

On January 16, I attended a meeting of the Community Action Team (“CAT”), a group of apartment community managers on the south side of St. Petersburg. They’ve been meeting monthly for a year now. Several St. Pete police officers have attended most of the meetings to report on crime activity and impart advice. They include: Chip Wells, Karen Demick (Housing Officer), Stan Maybell, and Barry Books. City Councilman Steve Kornell has been another regular attendee.

On the 16th, Jodi Davis was a special guest. She is the President of the Greater Pinellas Point Civic Association. I was pleased to hear her emphasize that she looks forward to collaborating with “CAT” because apartment residents and staff are part of the neighborhood, too.


Reducing Bicycle Thefts

The Tampa Police Department is emphasizing bicycle registration in order to reduce the number of bicycle thefts in the city. In 2010, there were 628 bicycles reported stolen in Tampa. That number increased to 905 in 2011.

Your residents can easily register a bicycle at www.tampagov.net/police. In addition to the bike owner’s contact information, TPD will ask for the type of bike, the make or brand, the model name/number, the speed/gears, wheel size, color(s), frame size, and most importantly – the serial number. This information provides the police with the necessary information so if the bicycle were ever stolen, the police will have the necessary information in their databases to create a report thus enabling the quicker return of the stolen bike to its rightful owner when located.

Tampa Police Department wants to be a part of your proactive approach to crime reduction. Encourage your residents to register their bicycles. Suggest that they take adequate security measures by investing in quality-locking devices such as a hardened steel “U” shaped lock or a hardened steel chain and padlock.

Be sure to include your local law enforcement agency in your apartment community events. They have plenty of tips on how your residents can protect their property and reduce crime. For additional information about the Tampa Police Department’s Bicycle Program you can contact Maryanne Hunsberger at Maryanne.hunsberger@ci.tampa.fl.us or 813-354-6692. Happy New Year!


Happy Holidays!

I take this opportunity to thank you for informing me when you encounter a government action with impact on your business.  It’s important that the Bay Area Apartment Association hear from you about interpretations of the fire code, code enforcement inspection programs, affordable housing incentives, crime reduction programs, etc.

Please mark your new 2013 calendar, whether it’s an old-fashioned planning diary like mine or a brand-new smartphone, for the FAA Legislative Conference, April 3-4 in Tallahassee. I hope you’ll join me on Capitol Hill for meetings with our state legislators. 


Requiring Notice Prior to Lease End

Robert Griffiths, Immediate Past President of the Bay Area Apartment Association Board of Directors, reported that there has been confusion regarding the provision of the state’s statutes addressed in Paragraph 3 of the 

Florida version of the Blue Moon lease.  As we often do, we sought an explanation from one of the attorney members of BAAA.  Harry Heist of the Law Offices of Heist, Weisse & Wolk PA is eminently qualified to answer our questions on the Florida version of the Blue Moon lease because he helped create it and helps keep it current.

A clause in Paragraph 3 of the lease states that a resident must give the manager a certain number of days notice in writing that he is vacating the unit at the end of the lease.  Florida Statutes 83.575 states “a rental agreement may not require more than 60 days’ notice”.

The statute also states, “The manager must provide … written notice to the resident within 15 days before the start of the notification period contained in the lease.”  So, if your lease requires 30 days’ notice, you must remind the resident of his notice requirement within days 30 and 44 prior to the ending of the lease.

If the manager delivers a proper and timely reminder notice to the resident and the resident fails to give proper notice prior to vacating, the manager can charge the resident a specific amount up to one month’s rent.  Both parties are required to give proper notice so there are no surprises. 


Your Help Is Needed

I can use your help on a Florida Fire Prevention Code matter.

Fire marshals across the state are enforcing a requirement that apartment building windows be of a certain size in order to allow for a secondary means of egress.  Existing buildings, most constructed in the 1970s or earlier, not meeting the current size requirement face onerous retrofit expenses.  Two years ago, the Florida Apartment Association (FAA) engaged a consultant who convinced the Florida Fire Code Advisory Council to allow non-compliant properties to continue in use if interconnected smoke alarm systems are installed.

The Florida Fire Prevention Code does not specify if the interconnected fire alarm systems must be hard-wired or if they can be wireless.  The wireless systems can be much less expensive than the hard-wired.

I am interested in learning if you have apartment buildings that have been required to retrofit the windows or, as an alternative, install the interconnected smoke alarm system.  If so, were you allowed to install a wireless system?  Or, were you restricted to the use of the hard-wired systems and why?

Please contact me via e-mail, jeff.rogo@baaahq.org, and let me know your circumstance and the city or county you dealt with.  Thank you. 


R-22 Update

Earlier this year, the National Apartment Association and the National Multi Housing Council questioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allocation for R-22 refrigerant. NAA/NMHC asked EPA to consider how its interim allocation had affected the price and availability of R-22.

Six months have passed and the EPA has failed to establish final allocation figures for the manufacture and importation of R-22. Apartment Association members across the country have been reporting the cancellation of long-standing service contracts. Service providers have not been able to guarantee a continued supply at the price that had been contracted for, if at all.

The NAA/NMHC staff in Washington continues to address this problem with EPA. At the same time, they caution you about the appearance of “black market R-22”. If the price for R-22 is lower than expected, be wary.  


It’s Budget Time … For Local Governments

Local governments are adopting new budgets which take effect on October 1, the start of the new fiscal year. Some officials are finding it difficult to balance the budget in another year of diminishing revenues. How the government budgets will impact apartment community budgets is a mixed bag.

On September 13, the St. Petersburg City Council rejected Mayor Bill Foster’s fire readiness fee plan. The Council members also voted against the use of “rainy day funds” and decided to raise property taxes in 2013. This marks the city’s first increase in 22 years.

Pinellas County residents can also expect a property tax increase. The Pinellas County Commission took the unprecedented action of inserting a message in everyone’s TRIM notice this summer. It explained why a millage increase is likely:

“Due to an unexpected Medicaid expense that was pushed to local governments by the Governor and the Florida Legislature, the Board of County Commissioners is considering a millage increase. Any millage increase will be directly related to these unexpected Medicaid billings. Each county is allocated a portion of Medicaid bills. Those bills pay for the health program that assists children, families, and the disabled who have low incomes and few resources. These bills are not related to the Affordable Care Act nor the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.”

On the other side of Tampa Bay, taxpayers should be pleased that no millage increases are expected in Hillsborough County or the City of Tampa.

The Hillsborough County Commission is adopting a budget that doesn’t raise taxes, reduce services, or dip into reserves. Plus, no layoffs or furlough days are expected for county employees. The County Administrator, Mike Merrill, is overseeing a leaner and more efficient government operation. Working with the county commission over the last two years, he has laid off more than 160 employees and eliminated hundreds of other vacant positions.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is taking another route to balance that city’s budget. He is drawing $8.7 million from the city’s financial reserves. The budget avoids layoffs but does eliminate more open city jobs. Mayor Buckhorn remains optimistic that property values – and the taxes they generate – will begin growing in the next few years.

We all join him in that hope.


You're Invited - Candidate Forum on September 19 

As a representative of multi-family housing, I encourage you to attend the "Housing Works 2012" candidate forum on September 19.  It begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Pinellas Realtor Organization, 4590 Ulmerton Road.  The forum will feature candidates for the Pinellas County Commission and State Legislature. 
I invite your input on topics for questions to the candidates.  Here are the preliminary topics:
Funding for Safe Harbor (County)
Potential reorganization and ongoing funding for housing programs (County)
Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund (State)
Steps you would take to resolve Florida's housing crisis (State)
           

Hillsborough Deputies Will Not Serve Eviction Notices during RNC 

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies will not serve eviction notices during the Republican National Convention.  The Sheriff's spokesman said the deputies will be focused on convention security and potential impacts from Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isaac.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's spokeswoman said it would be "business as usual" for deputies serving eviction notices on the other 
side of the bay.

Criminal Background Checks in Jeopardy?

The National Apartment Association (NAA) has seen an up tick in policy makers promoting legislative proposals that give ex-offenders (individuals with criminal histories) protections under both fair housing and employment laws. The direct impact of these proposals on our industry is now of major concern. These proposals could impact property owners’ liability, insurance costs, and legal costs.

NAA has formed a task force to review ex-offender protection proposals. I and other task force members have been charged with creating a set of model industry policy positions that can be employed when dealing with criminal background protection initiatives in local jurisdictions.

Advocates who wish to create a “protected class” for individuals with criminal records argue that you should not be able to ask about criminal records on employment or lease applications. They contend that criminal background checks have a disparate impact, or disproportionate impact, on certain protected classes like minority groups. In addition, state and local governments want to reduce recidivism, individuals who have “served their time” returning to a life of crime because they cannot find a place to live or work.

The United States Supreme Court has not ruled on this issue. NAA is monitoring legal actions and will file briefs in cases affecting the apartment industry.

Please send me any documents that your company might have pertaining to what is happening with the criminal background protection issue. Thank you.  


St. Petersburg Fire Fee

On July 12, the St. Petersburg City Council approved an annual fire service assessment fee. The City hopes to raise $10 million dollars to supplement the funding of fire protection services and offset a decline in property tax revenues.  The fee will be assessed per tax parcel, not per unit.  The fee is proposed to be assessed on every property - commercial and residential, homestead and non-homestead, for-profit and not-for-profit, even on religious institutions.  

The fee has two components: the readiness-to-serve portion is a flat fee of $75.00 per parcel; to that amount, add 23 cents per $1,000 of relative value of the built improvements to the property.  You can compute the fee for any parcel in the city by visiting www.stpete.org and clicking on the "Fire Service Assessment" button on the left side of the home page.

 The fee will be assessed starting with the fiscal year 2013 budget (the tax bill you'll receive later this year).  City Council could still choose not to assess the fee as it continues its budget deliberations later this summer.  The Mayor indicated an increase in millage, from 5.9 to 6.8, would be needed to generate enough revenue to replace the fee. This alternative would be ten times more costly for the average apartment community.

 This fee, admittedly unwelcome, is not as onerous as the per-unit fees considered in central Florida a couple of years ago.  Plus, the fire service assessment is legally not a tax and it can be deducted as a business expense.


Asbestos!


You may have already established procedures for dealing with asbestos in your Operations & Maintenance Manual, but just in case …

Recently, an association member was rehabbing an apartment community in Pinellas County. He received a visit from Ms. Mickey Crane, Senior Environmental Specialist for the County, responsible for enforcing the federal Clean Air Act, especially as it relates to asbestos. She pointed out that a written asbestos survey must be performed prior to renovation activities that disturb building materials.

In the thirteen years I have been working for the association, we have been very focused on lead-based paint and very responsive to the government regulations impacting buildings constructed since 1978. In my conversation with Mickey Crane, I was surprised to learn that asbestos can be present in apartment buildings of any vintage. Unlike lead-based paint, asbestos is still present in some current building materials.

So, if you are planning to rehab a property following a fire, flood, or tropical storm, or just to upgrade the property, you should consider a written asbestos survey before handling any suspect materials – materials like drywall, floor tiles, ceiling tiles, insulation, and roofing. The survey will determine if asbestos is present and it must be performed by a Florida licensed asbestos consultant. The asbestos survey report must be available on-site during any renovation activity.


For more information, “google” Pinellas County Air Quality Division.

Fire Inspections

Throughout the state, local fire marshals and their fire inspectors are enforcing the latest edition of the Life Safety Code. The owners and managers of existing apartment buildings are confronting new provisions requiring expensive retrofits.

In a June 6 meeting with the Hillsborough County Fire Marshal, Chief Stephen Kendrick, he explained he will consider some “latitude” in the scheduling of retrofit projects. However, he pointed out that there is no longer any “grandfathering-in” of existing buildings.

I was meeting with the fire marshal with an owner who had been asked to install smoke alarms in each of the 700 bedrooms in his community. The Florida 2010 edition of the Life Safety Code reads: “In buildings other than those equipped throughout with an existing, complete smoke detection system or a complete, supervised automatic sprinkler system, smoke alarms shall be installed in every sleeping area …” (31.3.4.5.3) The smoke alarms may be battery powered.

If you are faced with the requirement of installing several or several hundred smoke alarms, make sure you are buying brand new smoke alarms. Chief Kendrick warns that smoke alarms only have a ten-year life cycle. He and his inspectors are requiring property owners to change-out smoke alarms older than ten years.

ADA Regulations and Pool Accessibility

Let me start by saying that this accessibility standard for swimming pools and spas has limited applicability in the apartment industry.   Operators that open their pools and spas to the public (i.e., sell pool passes, host swim meets) or receive some federal assistance would have to comply.

NAA/NMHC have been representing your interests on this issue with the Department of Justice.  Here is updated information on the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) pool accessibility requirements which were set to go into effect on May 21. 

First, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has extended that compliance deadline to January 31, 2013.

Second, questions have surfaced as to whether the new ADA pool rules apply to properties covered by Section 504 of the National Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (i.e. affordable housing). Section 504 mandates other non-pool-related accessibility requirements for properties that receive federal financial assistance.  Section 504 does not apply where the subsidy goes to the ultimate beneficiary of the assistance, e.g., the Section 8 Tenant-Based Voucher program.  It does apply to projects financed or assisted by Project-Based Section 8, 202/811, HOME, HOPWA, Rent Supplements, 236, TCAP, BMIR and other similar programs.

Currently, properties covered by Section 504 are required to comply with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS), which do not include scoping and technical requirements for pool accessibility. However, the Department of Justice has suggested that the new
ADA standards may be applicable to these properties in the future, specifically for new construction and renovations. HUD, which regulates Section 504, has not taken this position.  NAA/NMHC continue to investigate the status of this position and will report their findings when they are available.

As many of you have experienced, there is also a trend at the state and local level to incorporate the 2010 ADAstandard or similar pool standards into state and local building codes.  The federal requirements are only one piece of the puzzle, so be sure and watch state requirements that may extend the reach of accessibility standards in this area. 


Is Your Property Guilty of Unlicensed Activity? 

The Bay Area Apartment Association has just learned that the City of Tampa's Code Enforcement staff is visiting apartment communities looking for work being done without the appropriate permits.   Plumbing repairs ... electrical work ... water heater change-outs ... air conditioner installation ... These are maintenance projects that require a licensed contractor to perform the work.  A word of warning ... if your apartment community’s maintenance personnel do not have a local or state contractor’s license, they can’t perform this work.

I am very aware of the economic reasons why some apartment owners and managers choose to ignore the law.  However, Tampa and other local governments are stepping-up enforcement around the state and contractor associations are mounting aggressive campaigns to battle unlicensed activities.  Beware!

The Florida Apartment Association is addressing the scope of work allowed for apartment maintenance staff.  Watch this column for news on this initiative. 


State and Federal Updates

Thank you for advocating on behalf of the apartment industry during the February 21-22 FAA Legislative Conference.  As you know, the Florida Legislature's regular session ended March 9. 

 Unfortunately, SB 1830/HB 921, the FAA-supported changes to the Landlord/Tenant statutes died in the Senate Budget Committee.  FAA intends to work with Representative Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) during the 2013 session to advance the most beneficial statute changes for property owners and managers.

 Fortunately, SB 1544/HB 1259, which we opposed, also died at the end of the session.  You'll recall that these bills would have required the licensure of onsite maintenance personnel before they would be allowed to perform the most routine tasks on a swimming pool or spa.

The University of South Florida was treated fairly in the final budget approved by the Legislature on the last day of the session.  You and many other Tampa Bay area leaders successfully advocated for USF, a key driver of the region's economy.

We asked Bay Area legislators to protect the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund.  We were told that the funds will be used for their intended purpose - providing quality, affordable housing for Florida's most vulnerable residents – in the future, when the economy improves and the State erases its budget deficit.  Here is a word of thanks from the Florida Housing Coalition:

“The Florida Housing Coalition wants to express its deepest gratitude to all our members who worked so hard to secure housing trust fund appropriations during this 2012 legislative session. Unfortunately, in the end, all the funds in the state and local housing trust funds were swept into general revenue. But know this- we're not giving up; the cap on the trust funds is gone and we will remain steadfast in our efforts to restore the operation of the trust funds as intended in the 2013 session.”

I agree.  Our 2012 results were mixed.  But with your help, we will achieve our advocacy goals in 2013 and into the future.  Thanks again.

On Capitol Hill in Washington …

BAAA leaders visited the five congressional offices for the Representatives from the Tampa Bay area on March 14. The apartment industry professionals described the state of the local market and explained the importance of a federal conduit for housing finance, the need for comprehensive tax reform, and the impact of regulatory burdens on the affordability of multi-family housing.

The government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have been criticized for the default rates from their single-family sector loans. Many people are not aware that the GSEs’ multi-family programs were not part of the meltdown. In fact, they actually produce net revenue for the government. The apartment industry supports a return to a housing finance system dominated by private capital but the BAAA leaders asked that Congress not take any rash actions. The GSEs’ share of apartment debt is declining but still stands at 55-60% today.

The BAAA leaders encouraged Congress to focus on reducing the nation’s deficit and debt levels. Like most experts, apartment industry professionals believe the only solution is to enact comprehensive tax reform. That is not likely to happen until 2013. In the meantime, the BAAA leaders ask that Congress maintain the current tax treatment of carried interest. Of all the investment partnerships in America, 46% are real estate. The proposals to raise taxes on carried interest would have a chilling effect on job creation and the supply of workforce housing.

Recently, federal agencies have issued a flood of regulatory rules and notices. From HUD’s bed bug guidance to EPA’s stormwater management on developed properties, the regulations increase the cost of providing quality housing without commensurate offsetting benefits.

My thanks to Dana Hammond, Jordan Petras, Marc Rosenwasser, Lori Krull, and Geoff Harlan for delivering these messages on Capitol Hill in DC.


Thanks for Being an Advocate for the Apartment Industry 

More than twenty-five BAAA leaders were in Tallahassee, February 21-22, discussing the apartment industry's priority legislation with senators, representatives, and their aides.  

(Click here to view the FAA Talking Points for the Landlord/Tenant Law Revisions and Pool & Spa Contracting legislation.)

My thanks to these effective advocates who took time away from their families and jobs. If you have any photos from the Capitol Hill visits, please share them with me,jeff.rogo@baaahq.org, so that we can post them on this website and the BAAA Facebook page. 

To view the photos from Tallahassee, please click here.


Taking Bay Area Data to Washington

Bay Area Apartment Association leaders will be on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on March 14.

We’ll be meeting with aides to the Members of Congress who represent the Tampa Bay area.  We’d like to give the Members the latest data on the state of the apartment industry locally.  You can help by providing current information on your property.

Please take a few minutes, in the next couple of days, to log-in for the BAAA and MyRentComps On-Line Market Survey. Thank you.


 Government Action Alert: Will Your Voice be Heard in Tallahassee? Get on the Bus!

Apartment Industry professionals from throughout Florida are heading to Tallahassee, February 21-22.  They will be meeting with their legislators and advancing the interests of multi-family housing providers.  Will you be among them? Click on the links to access information on the Florida Apartment Association Legislative Conference and to register to get on the BAAA Bus to Tallahassee!

See you on Capitol Hill!

Here's some news from Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.


New IRS Regulations – Maintenance, Repair, Renovation, New Construction                

On December 23, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued temporary (T.D. 9654) and proposed rules (REG-168745-03) regarding the tax treatment of costs incurred in acquiring, maintaining and improving tangible property, including multifamily buildings.

These so-called repair regulations clarify whether such expenditures should be considered a capital improvement and depreciated over time or, alternatively, be viewed as an ordinary and necessary repair and deducted immediately from income. The regulations specify that expenses related to constructing or permanently improving a building, restoring property, or converting property to an alternate use must be depreciated.  However, the new rules allow taxpayers to deduct the cost of routine maintenance. 

Despite being issued in temporary and proposed form, the regulations are effective as of January 1, 2012, and have the same force as a final regulation. NAA/NMHC are currently working with Ernst & Young LLP to provide members with a comprehensive overview of the regulations. The guidance document is posted on NAA’s website.


Incandescent Light Bulbs Still Available

The final FY 2012 appropriations bill passed by Congress on December 17 included a provision to roll back controversial light bulb efficiency standards set to take effect January 2012. 

Despite media and other reports to the contrary, the new standards, enacted as part of a 2007 energy law, would not have banned incandescent light bulbs.  They did, however, require bulbs to be 25% to 30% more efficient than today.  This change would have effectively phased out less expensive incandescent bulbs in favor of more expensive compact fluorescents, LED and redesigned incandescent bulbs that meet the new standard.  However, the funding bill prohibits the U.S. Department of Energy from implementing or enforcing the new standards this fiscal year. 

This uncertainty has contributed to confusion in the marketplace, so apartment firms should be aware that the full range of lighting products continue to be available to them in the coming year when making design and purchasing decisions.


Controversial New NLRB Poster Not Required Until April 30  
                                      
On December 23, the National Labor Relations Board announced that it would again postpone the implementation of its "poster rule" until April 30 in response to a request from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia . During a December 19 hearing, the judge advised the NLRB to postpone the rule, or it would be prohibited from enforcing the change. The notice advises employees of their rights to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act.  


Government Action Alert: On the Radar Screen

There are three issues that are being dealt with or monitored by the National Apartment Association/National Multi Housing Council joint legislative team (NAA/NMHC) that you should be aware of and be alert for because of their impact on the apartment industry.

Pool Drain Covers

On September 28, the Consumer Product Safety Commission revoked its interpretation of an “unblockable drain” for purposes of complying with the requirements of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act.  The technical guidance will be amended to state, “placing a removable unblockable drain cover over a blockable drain shall not constitute an unblockable drain”.  The Commission does not anticipate enforcing this change before May 28, 2012. More information is available at www.naahq.org.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Right before Labor Day, a young woman was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in a Tampa apartment community.  She accidentally inhaled motor vehicle exhaust from a car left running in a garage below her apartment unit.  The apartment building did not have carbon monoxide detectors installed. 

CO detectors are not required in Florida except in post-July 2008 buildings with gas burning appliances.  In those cases, the detectors must be mounted within 10 feet of sleeping areas.

NAA/NMHC reports that the 2012 editions of the International Building Code and International Fire Code have provisions requiring CO detectors in new and existing apartment buildings.  The alarms will be required in buildings with fuel-fired equipment and/or those with attached garages.

The 2012 codes are not the law until they are adopted by local and state jurisdictions.  The Florida Apartment Association is on-the-alert for any legislative action in Tallahassee.

HUD Bedbug Guidelines

In August, HUD issued guidelines on preventing and controlling bedbugs in HUD-insured and HUD-assisted properties.  NAA/NMHC has a number of concerns with this notice as the document leaves many questions unanswered and makes assumptions that may not reflect market realities.

NAA/NMHC has sent a comment letter to HUD.  NAA/NMHC is asking for your help to educate local HUD offices and staff about the concerns of the apartment industry with this notice.

For guidance, visit the government affairs page of the NAA website at www.naahq.org.

To stay informed on these and other matters, sign up with NAA for the twice-monthly AIMS updates.  AIMS is the apartment industry’s grassroots network.


Government Action Alert: New "Credit Score" Notice Requirement

The National Apartment Association and the National Multi-Housing Council have issued a new members-only guidance document to help member firms understand new "credit score" disclosures that went into effect on July 21.  As a result of a provision in last years Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform law (P.L.  111-203), a firm using a "credit score" in the rental screening process that takes an adverse action against a rental applicant may have a new disclosure obligation...

If you or your resident screening service provider use a credit score and take an adverse action, you must comply with this new notice requirement. Importantly, if you or your resident screening company do not use a credit score as defined, but use a scoring model specific to the rental decision (i.e., one not used in the loan process), then it is likely that you will have no additional notice obligations.

You can access the NAA/NMHC guidance document at: www.NAAHQ.org/governmentaffairs/issues/propertymanagement and click on "Background Checks". NAA/NMHC encourage you to discuss this new rule with your provider and counsel to determine applicability to your specific rental screening process.

 

Government Action Alert: Pool Drain Cover Recalls

Right before the Memorial Day weekend, the United States Consumer Product Safety Council announced a voluntary recall of pool and in-ground spa drain covers from eight manufacturers.  The recalled drain covers were incorrectly rated to handle the flow of water through the cover, which could pose a possible entrapment hazard to swimmers and bathers. Pool owners/operators who have one of the recalled drain covers should immediately contact the manufacturer to receive a replacement or retrofit.  If a replacement cover is necessary, you must close your pool until the necessary work is completed.

Pools with multiple drains or gravity drainage systems do not have to replace their covers.

Here’s the link to the Consumer Product Safety Commission announcement which lists the names of the manufacturers:

http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml11/11230.html

Additional information is available from the National Apartment Association (www.naahq.org) and the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (www.apsp.org).


Swimming Pools & ADA By Jeff Rogo, BAAA Government Affairs Director

Last September, the U.S. Department of Justice published revised regulations for Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Among other things, the revisions include a new accessibility standard for swimming pools.  The good news is that most apartment communities are not required to comply because their swimming pools are not considered a public accommodation.  

Generally, public accommodations are services and facilities open to the public and whose operations affect commerce.  The ADA requires these public accommodations to enable full use and equal enjoyment of these facilities by persons with disabilities.  Since the great majority of apartment community swimming pools are for the exclusive use of residents and their guests, they are not considered public accommodations by the federal government.  

It appears that there are a number of contractors and risk assessment professionals here in Florida who may be misinterpreting the intent of these revised regulations.  They are advising apartment community managers to install costly accessibility equipment for their apartment community pools.  However, the National Apartment Association and National Multi Housing Council are of the opinion that pools do not need to be modified unless they are opened to the public (for example, if memberships are sold to non-residents).

If an apartment community swimming pool is open to the public, it must provide an accessible means of entry and exit.  An accessible means of entry and exit is a pool lift or sloped entry, and either a transfer wall, transfer system, or pool stairs.  Swimming pools, spas, and wading pools have different requirements.

The National Apartment Association has published guidance on these revised regulations.   


 New Building Marking Requirements

In December, the State of Florida Fire Marshal’s Office adopted a new requirement for most buildings. The new rule requires the placement of a sign to warn firefighters upon entering a building that the roof and/or floors of a structure incorporate light-frame truss-type construction. Most every garden-style apartment building features this type of construction – “the primary structural elements are formed by a system of repetitive wood or light gauge steel framing members”.

The rule states – “Any commercial, industrial, or multiunit residential structure of three units or more, which uses horizontal or vertical light-frame, truss-type construction in any portion shall be marked with an approved symbol.” Townhouses are not considered subject to this rule.

The “approved symbol” is a Maltese Cross” measuring 8 inches horizontally and 8 inches vertically, of a bright red reflective color.” See the three symbols below. Structures with light-frame truss roofs should be marked with the letter “R.” Structures with light-frame truss floor systems should be marked with the letter “F.” Structures with both a light-frame truss roof and floor system should be marked “RF.” I recommend that you confirm the structural components of your building(s) by reviewing the architectural or engineering drawings.

The symbols must be placed within two feet, to the left, of the main entry door. The typical apartment building might be considered to have several “main entry doors” and therefore would require multiple signs.

I recommend that you contact your local fire department and ask for the fire marshal or building inspector. Ask your local fire official to confirm that your building structure meets the definition of “light-frame truss-type construction.” Also, confirm the proper placement and number of the required signs/ symbols.

Existing buildings must comply with this new rule before March 13, 2010.   Several BAAA Associate member sell these Signs.  Please refer to Bayline Magazine in the  Associate Categorized list under 'Signs' for a list of BAAA Members who may have these signs available. 

 


 

New EPA Remodel, Repair & Painting Rule Update

BAAA/NAA Members should read the EPA White Paper at www.naahq.org

 

If your community or company is involved with renovation, repair or painting work -- there is a new EPA regulation that could affect you and/or your company or community.  If six square feet or more of interior painted surfaces or twenty square feet or more of exterior painted surfaces will be disturbed during your work on apartment buildings built prior to 1978, you will be impacted by the new EPA RRP Rule which went into effect on April 23, 2010.  Please go to www.epa.gov/lead for more information.  In June 2010 EPA granted an extension of time regarding onset of fines, click here to read the memo.  This does not change the effective date of the new Rule.  Please click here for frequently asked questions and answers to the revised memo. BAAA has scheduled the Lead Paint RRP Training program on August 18, 2010.  Please see the calendar for details. 

 



 

2009 Legislative Highlights

$12.4 Million Eviction Filing Fee Reduction

On July 1, 2009 the eviction filing fee was reduced from $265.00 to $180.00.  So, the court clerk cost for an eviction will be $85.00 less costing property owners almost a third less.  The State of Florida estimates this fee reduction will result in a statewide, annual savings of $12.4 million.

 

BAAA leaders – Lori Krull, Marc Rosenwasser, and Dave Watkins – started the ball rolling last September when they met with Senator Victor Crist (R-Tampa), Chairman of the Criminal & Civil Justice Appropriations Committee.  Senator Crist acknowledged that the 2008 fee increase was unjustified and a reduction was in order.  He remained the apartment association’s “champion” throughout the session, sponsoring the legislation that was approved on the session’s final day.

 

Remarkably, the eviction filing fee is the only court fee to be reduced.  With the State mired in an ongoing budget crisis, the Legislature was forced to raise fees and cut costs in order to present   a balanced budget to the Governor.

Are Christmas Trees Allowed in Apartment Homes?

Apartment residents in

East Texasare having to check with their property managers to learn if they are allowed to have a fresh or cut Christmas tree in their home this holiday season.  The fire marshal in Longview, Texas prohibits fresh or cut trees where there is not an adequate fire sprinkler system.

I checked with

Hillsborough County’s Interim Fire Marshal, Tammy Zurla, to find out if a similar prohibition applies in Florida.  It does not.  She reports that the Florida Fire Prevention Code does allow apartment residents to put up a fresh or cut Christmas tree, with or without a sprinkler (NFPA 1 10.14.1.1).

Fire Marshal Zurla and I do caution that you encourage apartment residents to keep the tree stand’s water container full at all times.  Don’t let the tree dry-out and die.  That is certainly a fire hazard.  Another fire hazard to be aware of this holiday season is overloading circuits when plugging in multiple lights and decorations.

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