CNN Week 10 – Squatter Removal Bill Passes; Property Tax Cap Call for Action

CNN Week 10 – Squatter Removal Bill Passes; Property Tax Cap Call for Action

The legislature met for its 10th week, concluding its 25th day last Thursday. That leaves only 5 days for bills to be considered and passed in each chamber. The session could be over as soon as next week or be over in two weeks. Several big ticket items remain including the property tax cap, the budgets, gambling bills, and multiple tax credit bills. The budgets are in the opposite chambers committee meetings today and could be considered on the chamber floor on Thursday. Discussions are ongoing behind-the-scenes on the gambling bills, but it is unknown when and if the conference committee will report a compromise. Bill filings are tapering off with 344 Senate bills and 491 House bills filed so far. Continue reading for more highlights from week 10!


REALTOR®-Backed Squatter Removal Bill Receives Final Passage

In a huge win for homeowners, a REALTOR®-supported bill creating a non-judicial method to remove squatters received final passage last week. HB 182, sponsored by Rep. Craig Lipscomb (R-Gadsden), was carried by Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) on the Senate floor where it received unanimous support.  The bill allows a homeowner to file an affidavit with law enforcement to remove a squatter in a home, without going through a costly and lengthy ejectment action. Nation-wide, squatting has become an increasing problem and in certain jurisdictions, law enforcement may be unwilling to act if the squatter falsely claims some right to occupancy. The affidavit created under HB 182 will ensure a homeowner has a much quicker option for removal. The bill also increases the penalties for damaging property while squatting and for lying about a lease or ownership in property. 

An amendment was added in the Senate to ensure utility companies can rely on a writ of possession in order to turn utilities to a property on or off. The House concurred with the bill as amended on the same day, and the bill was sent to the Governor for her signature. 

Thank you to Rep. Lipscomb and Sen. Elliott for sponsoring the bill and to Rep. Joe Lovvorn (R-Auburn), Rep. Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook), and Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) for placing the bill on each house’s calendar. 


REALTOR® Call for Action on Property Tax Cap Amendment

An Alabama REALTORS® call for action went out last week on HB 73, sponsored by Rep. Phillip Pettus (R-Killen). Alabama REALTORS® support the bill’s concept of a cap on annual increases to property taxes; however, several recent amendments need to be stricken from the bill. The objectionable amendments include a higher cap, to the tune of allowing increases near 50% over seven years, and expiring the cap after only 4 years. 

The time to act is now. Alabama REALTORS® supports a permanent 5% cap on annual increases to property tax assessments for homes and business properties. 

The bill passed a Senate committee last week with the bad amendments. We have one chance to strip the amendments on the Senate floor and convince lawmakers to amend the bill to provide actual relief. 


Asbestos Claims Bill Passes

AAR-supported legislation requiring plaintiffs to furnish comprehensive details in asbestos exposure lawsuits secured final approval on Thursday and is now awaiting Governor Ivey's signature to become law.

Senate Bill 104, sponsored by Sen. Josh Carnley (R - Enterprise), mandates that plaintiffs must provide information that includes all places of previous employment, individuals cognizant of the exposure, and other related details.

The aim of the bill is to sift through baseless claims and mitigate the considerable expenses associated with litigation discovery.


Wake Boat Bill for Lake Martin Final Passage

HB 209, adding Lake Martin and Weiss Lake to the list of water bodies in Alabama with additional limitations on wake boats and wake boarding, received final passage last week. Sponsored by Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadevile), the bill limits wakesurfing and wakeboarding within 200 feet of a shoreline, dock or other structure in Lake Martin and Weiss Lake. In addition, the bill limits all boats in those water bodies from operating above idle speed within 100 feet of any shoreline, dock, or other structure. 

Alabama REALTORS® supports the bill’s reasonable limitations on these activities that can cause significant damage to structures, erosion to the shoreline, and pose safety issues to swimmers. The bill awaits Governor Ivey’s signature.


Corporate Annual Report Bill Final Passage (HB 230)

A bill aimed at eliminating a redundant reporting obligation for corporations received final approval last week.

Sponsored by Rep. Margie Wilcox (R-Mobile) and Sen. David Sessions (R-Grand Bay), HB 230 seeks to remove a mandate for corporations to file an annual report with the Secretary of State’s office.

Supported by Alabama REALTORS® for streamlining business regulations, the bill awaits the Governor’s signature.


Tax Sale/Tax Lien Equity Theft Bill Passes

A bill aimed at addressing equity theft in the auction or sale of liens for taxes on tax delinquent property passed the second chamber on Thursday.

In 2023, a United States Supreme Court opinion cast constitutional concerns on state laws across the nation dealing with tax sales and tax liens. As a refresher, counties collect property taxes, and if property taxes are not paid, the county either sells the interest in the property to the highest bidder, called a tax sale, or sells a lien on the property for the amount of the taxes, called a tax lien. Excess funds are the moneys the county obtains from a purchaser above and beyond the taxes and other fees owed by the property owner. The Supreme Court’s Tyler decision found unconstitutional a state law allowing Minnesota to keep all excess funds from a tax sale. By implication, this impacts both processes under Alabama’s current laws. For tax sales, the law does not allow a property owner to claim the excess unless the property owner redeems the property, and for tax liens, the law does not provide for an auction of the property, which would allow the property to be purchased above the amount owed and restore some of the property owner’s equity in the property if equity exists. 


Storm Shelter Tax Credit – One Last Step

The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee awarded a favorable repot to legislation by State Rep. Joe Lovvorn (R-Auburn) that extends a state tax credit of up to $3,000 for the construction of storm shelters until 2028.

Lovvorn, a former firefighter who played a pivotal role in rescue operations after a devastating tornado claimed the lives of two dozen individuals in Lee County in 2019, successfully enacted the initial tax credit, which is set to expire in 2025 without legislative action to extend it.

The bill now awaits consideration by the full Senate, its last step toward final passage.


Alabama Homebuilding, Real Estate and Banking Industries Legislative Breakfast

The Alabama REALTORS® joined multiple industry partner associations including the Alabama Homebuilder Association and Alabama Bankers Association to host a legislative breakfast on Thursday, April 25. Attendees of the breakfast included legislators, statewide elected officials and their staffs. The breakfast was a great way to educate elected and public officials on REALTORS® issues and to say thank you for their efforts. The breakfast was a resounding success with over 300 attendees.