State Roundup: North Carolina, Iowa, and Rhode Island

October 1, 2003

North Carolina: Water fight.

With their waterfront properties facing hefty property tax hikes, homeowners along the South Fork River in Gastonia, N.C., are pleading for a pollution reprieve. Thanks to the textile mills that once operated in the area, the lower portion of the river contains concentrations of phosphorous and nitrogen, among other contaminants. Critics of the tax increases say those conditions should be taken into account when assessments are made. The tax office “just assumes that waterfront properties should be assessed for more,” says Tim Bolynn, president of the Gaston Association of REALTORS®. “I hope [the tax assessors] will at least consider siding with the property owners on this one.”

Iowa: Fee melee.

After increasing Iowa license fees for real estate practitioners by $50 in January, the Iowa Real Estate Commission is now refusing the money. The fee increase was slated to pay for additional auditing staff, but the state legislature this summer directed a portion of the increase to a general fund used in part to support a real estate program at the University of Northern Iowa. Saying the move leaves it with insufficient funds to meet its hiring objectives, the Real Estate Commission is refusing the fee increase, says Jennifer Kingland, government affairs director at the Iowa Association of REALTORS®. “We had asked for the increase so the commission could hire auditors, which we believe are necessary,” says Kingland. The matter may come up in the state Legislature this fall, Kingland says.

Rhode Island: Rent control?

The Rhode Island Association of REALTORS® helped defeat a bill requiring tenants in Providence to pay rent into a city escrow account when a landlord fails to correct a property violation. Bill passage would’ve restricted the landlord’s ability to use the rental income to address the violation, says Monica Staaf, RIAR legal counsel. Although the bill targeted just the one city, other cities were expected to push for coverage had it passed, says Staaf.

Jane Adler is a Chicago-based freelancer writer.

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