Owning a home can be expensive, though the benefits of home ownership typically outweigh the cost. Occasionally, changes to the law at either the state or national level can affect how these benefits and costs affect you. This is especially true if you’re still considering whether or not to buy a house, since knowing how the law stands can have a big impact on your final decision.
Some legislation affecting homeowners is enacted at the federal level, while other bits of legislation come from the state. Because of the significant differences in the reach of these different types of legislation, it can be hard to cover all of the changes in law that affect homeowners from year to year. To help keep you informed, though, here are some fairly recent legislation trends that may be worth looking into.
Tax Break Changes
One big change that’s hitting a lot of homeowners hard is the elimination of some tax breaks that were formerly offered for home ownership. While this doesn’t directly affect the cost of owning a home, it can have a significant impact on your tax return if you were expecting to qualify for one of these expired breaks. Tax law is complex and can change from one year to the next, so it’s possible that these breaks (or others like them) will see a return in future years. However, it’s important to check each year before filing your taxes to make sure that you haven’t gotten mixed up by tax break changes or missed a break that you could have qualified for.
Roof Replacement Costs
In some areas, the law allowed homeowners to replace their roof without all of the costs normally associated with such a big job. This was due to contractors being allowed to waive a portion of their fees equal to the deductible on the customer’s homeowner’s insurance. Unfortunately, changes in the law are starting to shut this down. States like Texas are changing the law so that contractors caught waiving the deductible could face fines or even jail time. Homeowners obviously aren’t big fans of such changes, since they result in more out-of-pocket expenses when having to use their homeowner’s insurance.
Solar and Alt Energy Incentives
There were a number of solar and alternative energy incentives available to homeowners at both the state and federal level, but some of these have been altered, were negated or simply expired without renewal in the last year or two. In some cases, federal programs have been replaced by state programs that provide similar incentives. In other cases, the incentives have been revamped and renewed later. Not all tax breaks and other incentives have been renewed, though, so it’s important for homeowners to confirm that specific programs still exist before depending upon them to add alternative energy solutions to their homes.
Rent Control & Just Cause
California now falls under Rent Control and rules have changed for evicting tenants for any or no reason at all. Although many attorneys are still trying to wrap their brains over all the changes a few things stand out. Properties exempt from Rent Control include Single Family Residences (Condo, Mobile Home, House, Duples [if you live on one side and rent the other], New Construction (15 years or less) and Vacant Properties. Now it’s not as simple as it may sound. There are many obstacles to each one of these types of housing. For instance, a landlord with two single family rentals is exempt, however with a third no exemption. Or if ownership of the home is a corporation then it is not exempt. With the 15-year rule (15 rolling years) if your property is 14.5 years old then in 6 months you are no longer exempt. Rents across the state may only increase by 5% plus the cost of living for your area. As for evicting tenants, you must have just cause for the eviction. Reasons for allowing evictions: 1) You have immediate family moving in (parent, grandparent, etc.), 2) You are planning a substantial remodel, or 3) You no longer want to be a landlord. Remember, there’s more to the rules than stated above, so be sure to speak with your personal counsel before making changes.
Home Loan Changes
It seems like there are significant changes to home loans every few years – and recent years have been no exception. Fortunately for those wanting to buy a new home or refinance an existing loan, some recent bits of legislation have expanded on borrowing limits for certain types of loans without adding new restrictions. Unfortunately, many of these laws affect lending through state-level programs instead of making adjustments to loans at the federal level. Some also only affect certain types of homes or houses that are built for specific uses. If you’re waiting for changes to federal loan programs, you may have to wait a bit longer before those programs see major updates.
Consult the Experts
It’s hard to stay on top of the changes in laws from one year to the next. Having a lawyer to help you sort through all of it can be a great way to keep from being caught unprepared by these new laws. Fortunately, I can match you with just the pros that you need. Sign up today for free to get started.
Renee Ledbetter, Realtor®