CNN Week 6 – Workforce Housing Tax Credit, Squatter Removal and More

CNN Week 6 – Workforce Housing Tax Credit, Squatter Removal and More

Thirteen days remain after the legislature broke for its official spring break last Thursday. Coming off of its first week-long break, the legislature slowed down a bit last week, using only two legislative days. But plenty of activity still occurred. Almost 100 new bills were filed, including a seven-bill workforce development package that also contains a tax credit for work force housing. Also, an anti-DEI bill and a ballot harvesting bill - two priority bills of  the Republican Caucus - passed and went to the governor. Continue reading for a brief summary of REALTOR®-relevant news from the week. 


Workforce Housing Tax Credit Bill

Rep. Cynthia Almond (R–Tuscaloosa) on Thursday filed HB 346, which aims to address Alabama’s workforce shortage by offering tax credits to developers who build affordable, multi-family housing  for low-to-mid income workers.

Administered by the Alabama Housing Finance Authority in partnership with the Alabama Department of Commerce, the program would target affordable housing units for workers earning up to 60% of the Adjusted Median Income. 

Supported by Alabama REALTORS®, the bill utilizes non-refundable credits against state tax liabilities, potentially supplemented by federal funds, to incentivize the construction of more affordable housing units. In return for the tax credits, the developer would agree to cap rent at a certain percentage of an area’s median income. 

Among those targeted for assistance are workers earning between roughly $11 and $30 per hour in construction, retail, hospitality, entry health care positions, and other employment sectors.


Squatter Removal Bill Passes

A revamped substitute addressing squatting in homes passed out of a House committee last week. HB 182, sponsored by Rep. Craig Lipscomb (R-Gadsden), drew concerns when it first came before the House Judiciary Committee several weeks ago. The concerns resulted in a substitute bill that is similar to laws in Florida. 

Squatting has become a nationwide issue. Squatters move into a home and falsely claim to have a lease or other right to live in the home, causing law enforcement to defer to the court system and leaving the owners without timely recourse. Supported by the Alabama REALTORS®, the bill allows a homeowner or an owner’s agent to give notice to the squatter to leave, and if the squatter refuses, the owner can file an affidavit with law enforcement requesting removal. Law enforcement can then remove the squatter. The bill protects legitimate occupants by criminalizing a false affidavit and creating a civil cause of action against an affiant that lies on the affidavit. 

In addition, the substitute bill makes clear that squatting is not covered by laws applicable to landlords and tenants, including the eviction process, and creates three crimes. First, the bill makes it a crime to enter or stay unlawfully in a dwelling and cause $1000 or more in damage. Second, the bill clarifies that knowingly presenting a false document, such as a lease or deed, to detain or remain on the property is a crime. Third, the bill creates the crime of fraudulent sale or lease of residential real property when someone lists a residence for sale or rents a residence knowing they have no legal right to do so. 

The bill, as substituted, is now up for consideration by the full House of Representatives. 


Mortgage and Deed Recording Fee Bill

A newly filed bill would double the mortgage and deed recording fee. Sponsored by Sen. Coleman-Madison (R-Birmingham) for over four years, SB 233 would increase the recording fee for mortgages and deeds from $0.15 per $100 to $0.30 per $100. Alabama REALTORS® opposes the bill as a drastic increase to homebuying costs at a time when such costs are already sky high. While the bill purportedly would use the increase to fund housing programs, the programs are redundant to those administered by the Alabama Housing Finance Authority and would heighten the already high barriers to home ownership.  

The bill narrowly passed out of a Senate committee on a vote of 5-4. Alabama REALTORS® will continue to oppose the bill. 


AAR Testifies Regarding Tax Lien Bill

The House State Government Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday on House Bill 270, which is sponsored by State Rep. Chris Sells (R-Greenville). HB 270 seeks to address constitutionality concerns on Alabama’s laws related to the sale of property or liens on property for failure to pay property taxes.

The Alabama REALTORS® public policy team testified before the committee and voiced AAR’s concerns regarding the legislation and how remaining equity in a property should be returned to the owner.  Kileen Lindgren, the legal policy manager for Pacific Legal Foundation, a non-profit legal group representing property owners nationwide, also testified before the committee. Ms. Lindgren’s testimony focused on the constitutionality of the legislation, specifically whether a U.S. Supreme Court decision requires the sale of property in a tax lien foreclosure suit. An amendment accepted by the committee allayed some of the concerns by increasing notice requirements to the property owners. 


Following the public hearing, committee members awarded HB 270 a favorable report. 


Property Tax Cap Receives Senate Hearing

The Senate version of a bill placing a 5% cap on property tax assessments received a public hearing in committee on Wednesday. At the Senate committee hearing, the Alabama REALTORS® public policy team spoke in support of the bill as a way to protect property owners from drastic increases in property taxes, which in some counties was higher than 50% year over year. These increases are tied to appraisals done by county tax officials and are unrealized gains by the property owners. The increases especially hurt property owners with low or fixed incomes and heighten the already high barriers to home ownership. The Property Tax Cap bill would provide certainty and protect property owners from unexpected and unrealized increases in property taxes. 

The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. David Sessions (R-Grand Bay) awaits a vote in the Senate committee, while the House bill, sponsored by Rep. Phillip Pettus (R-Killen) can be considered on the House floor.


Service of Process Fee for Sheriffs

Sponsored by Rep. Russell Bedsole (R-Alabaster), HB 255 aims to establish a process fee in each county when a sheriff is contracted for service of process.

AAR successfully advocated for an amendment clarifying that the fee would be applied per case rather than per document, but concerns remain regarding overlap with local laws and the prevention of multiple fee charges. Additional amendments are expected to address these concerns.

The bill received a favorable report from the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and can now proceed to a vote on the House floor.


Other Bills:

Airport Authority Bill – REALTOR® Amendment

House Bill 87 passed a Senate committee with a REALTOR® requested amendment. The bill provides airport authorities in the state the ability to enter into agreements with private businesses to further the operations of the airport authority, like the building and running of a parking garage. The amendment requested by AAR makes clear that the eminent domain powers of any airport authority do not transfer to public-private partnerships created under the bill. 

Online Auction of State Lands One Step Remaining

Reported on for several weeks, a house bill that provides the state with the power to sell in an online auction state-held tax delinquent property has one remaining step before final passage. HB 196, sponsored by Rep. Reed Ingram (R-Mathews), passed a Senate committee last week and will receive final passage if passed by the Senate. Alabama REALTORS® supports the bill as a commonsense approach to return the property back to good use and back on the tax rolls.

Asbestos Exposure Civil Action Reform

Rep. Troy Stubbs (R–Wetumpka) and Sen. Josh Carnley (R–Enterprise) have introduced bills setting discovery and basis requirements in civil actions regarding asbestos exposure.

These bills would require plaintiffs to provide detailed information about asbestos exposure, including current and past worksites and all individuals knowledgeable about the alleged exposure. Failure to fully meet the information requirements could result in defendants being dismissed from the asbestos action.

HB 92 and SB 104 received favorable reports from each judiciary committee and now await votes in their respective chambers.

Occupational Licensing Bill Filed 

An anticipated bill consolidating many occupational licensing agencies was filed by Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) last week. At over 500 pages, the bill is meant to create cost-savings and efficiencies by bringing small licensing bodies under a single entity. The bill does not include larger licensing bodies, such as the real estate commission, homebuilders, and others.