State Roundup: California, Missouri, and New Jersey

September 1, 2004

California: Language law.

Practitioners who negotiate a property lease agreement in a language other than English must complete the contract in that same language under a state law, A.B. 309, that took effect in July. The law includes negotiations for auto loans and retail installment payment plans, but excludes mortgage loans. If non-English-speaking principals bring their own interpreter, the foreign-language contract requirement is waived. The law covers contracts negotiated in Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. A similar law is already in place for Spanish. The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is gauging the demand for contracts in the covered languages before deciding whether to make them available. CAR discontinued Spanish forms due to low demand, says June Barlow, CAR attorney.

Missouri: Inspection protection.

In a welcome preventive measure, a law, which takes effect Aug. 28, protects practitioners from liability in disputes over home inspections, says Dennis McDermott, executive vice president of the Missouri Association of REALTORS®. Liability protection extends to practitioners for anything contained in a property inspection report prepared by a third party unless the practitioner has an ownership interest in the inspection company, takes referral fees from the company, or otherwise has a relationship with the company.—Jane Adler

New Jersey: Double hit.

Lawmakers hiked real estate transfer fees a second time in two years. The state added a general purpose fee of up to $2.15 per $500 on properties above $350,000. It also added a 1 percent fee, paid by the buyer, on the full value of residentially zoned properties above $1 million. “The legislature is taking advantage of the strong real estate market,” says Charles Oppler, president of the New Jersey Association of REALTORS®. “When you factor in last year’s fee increase, the transfer fee on a home sold for $375,000 goes up 80 percent.” The increase took effect Aug. 1.

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is the former director of multimedia communications at NAR.

Jane Adler is a Chicago-based freelancer writer.

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