Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday January 27, 2011

Members of our Property Law Section and our Family Law Section should be especially interested in what was happening today. Earlier this morning I heard that the House Judiciary Committee wants to schedule a hearing on H. 88, the UCCJEA- finally! It may happen as early as next Thursday if some things fall into place. Stay tuned. Downstairs in the Senate Judiciary Committee Jeff Cohen, Director of OCS, appeared and presented the Office’s Challenges for Change report. You can read it here.
He told the committee that OCS is handling about 21,000 support cases and collected $55 million last year. That reflects a compliance rate of about 70%, Jeff said. During his testimony he found himself peppered with questions from committee members especially from Dick Sears, Committee Chair. Sears offered a suggestion that sounded like “amnesty” for non compliance due to the “great recession”. But it wasn’t clear what he meant; it could mean waiving filing fees for motions to modify- motions that should have been filed months ago. It could mean a waiver of surcharges. In fact, Jeff suggested it may be time to revisit the interest rate of 12% given our economic situation. Anyway, the Chair asked Jeff to meet with legislative counsel Michelle Childs and Court Administrator Bob Greemore. He wants them to discuss the “amnesty” as well as a proposal to require that child support continue past 18 for children in college (mandatory versus permissive). He also thought, in light of a decision by Judge Pearson in Office of Child Support ex rel Kylie Brown v. Willis Allaire, that the time may have come to “overhaul…child support collection and enforcement”. I have a copy of that decision if anyone wants it; let me know. This morning’s hearing follows closely upon a conversation had by members of our Family Law Section in the last week or so. This may present some opportunities for the Section to really make a difference.

On the property law front, the House General and Military Affairs Committee, to which H. 57 was referred did an overview of the bill and heard from its lead sponsor Margaret Cheney. If you are not familiar with the bill AND do property work, I’d advise a read here.
Here are some relevant portions:

Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to require, at the time a commercial or residential building or unit is offered for sale, the seller or agent to complete a statement of energy performance; to inform potential buyers of their right to obtain the statement; and to supply the statement to a buyer prior to any such sale. The bill also proposes to group these and other provisions relating to building energy and process fuel efficiency found in different titles into one chapter within Title 30 (public service).
§ 72. SCOPE

This subchapter applies to the sale of all new and existing residential

buildings, residential units, commercial buildings, and commercial units, and

real property containing such buildings or units, but does not apply to any of

the following:

(1) A transfer or change of title to real property or the right to possess

real property by reason of inheritance, gift, marriage, or divorce.

(2) An involuntary transfer of title resulting from default on an

obligation secured by real property.

(3) The sale of a low energy use building.

(4) The sale of a building that does not contain conditioned space.

(5) The sale of real property that 1 does not contain a building.

(6) The sale of a building that is used only as temporary living quarters

for persons engaged in the pursuit of game or wild animals.


Prior to the sale of any interest in a building, real property that contains a

building, or a unit that is within the scope of this subchapter, the seller shall

provide the statement of energy performance to the buyer, who shall

7 acknowledge receipt of the statement by signing a copy of the statement.

Notwithstanding any law or contractual provision to the contrary, with

respect to a building, real property that contains a building, or unit that is

within the scope of this chapter, a prospective buyer may without penalty elect

not to close on or take title to the building, property, or unit if the seller has not

complied with this subchapter, and any deposit shall be returned immediately

to the buyer.

I advised the committee chair, South Burlington Representative Helen Head, that the VBA Property Law Section would like to be heard if this bill should come up for committee action. It’s hard to tell right now if that will happen but I’ll keep my eye on it. I’m working with the Vermont Association of Realtors on this and on the tax on services proposal. That bill, H.122, will be introduced at 1PM when the House comes back into session. That’s the bill we need to watch. The VBA Board has lined up against the idea of taxing legal services for years and we’ll get the chance to offer our views soon. Again, I notified the Chair of Ways and Means that I want to testify when they get to that portion of the bill. I sat in yesterday on the testimony of two witnesses, one favoring and one opposing extending the sales tax to services. This is a long long way from happening but it must be monitored.

This afternoon I expect the House will advance S. 1, the quick fix to the judicial restructuring bill, H. 470. I’ll let you know tomorrow where that goes.

Thanks for reading.

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