The Washington State Senate approved a bill that would prevent property from being condemned and then being transferred to an agency of another state. Senate Bill 6125, introduced by state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, passed in the Senate 25-23 vote and will now be considered by the State House.
The bill reads in its entirety: “No private property shall be taken or damaged for public or private use that is to be transferred for use or possession by a governmental agency of another state. In the event of conflict between the provisions of this chapter and any other act, the provisions of this chapter shall govern.” This is apparently in reaction to a light rail project in which C-Tran would use its power of eminent domain for TriMet.
During a recent radio call-in show, NJ Governor Chris Christie was asked by a listener about legislation providing the power of eminent domain to a new Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University joint board of governors. Gov. Christie said he was unaware of such a proposal. However, Gov. Christie had already signed that bill into law last month.
Christie said in response to the listener’s question, “If a bill like that comes to my desk, I’ll have to take a close look at it. I haven’t heard anything at this point about eminent domain being given to a university – I don’t think that’s the way it works.”
The bill was among 100 that Christie’s office said he signed Jan. 21. He also pocket-vetoed 44 bills that day.
Utah recently passed an amendment to its eminent domain laws. The Utah Senate unanimously approved HB 25 and now the bill awaits the Governor’s signature. The legislation updates language in the state code dealing with eminent domain and also established news guidelines that allow property owners greater access and engagement in the process.
The legislation allows a property owner to involve the State Ombudsman in the process and allows a property owner to accompany an appraiser valuing the condemned property. It also permits condemnees to request an explanation of the condemnor’s appraised value.
National Mortgage News has reported that HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan stated at a Politico event that the legality of the use of eminent domain to force the sale of mortgages should be decided by the courts. The American Land Title Association’s chief executive Michelle Korsmo criticized the remarks, stating “Waiting for these eminent domain proposals to be resolved in the court system will likely take years and cost these interested parties significant dollars.” HUD’s current position is that the use of FHA to refinance seized mortgages can only be decided when the agency receives a loan application, as indicated in an Aug. 12 letter to three California congressmen when Richmond, Calif., was facing private lawsuits to prevent it from condemning and refinancing underwater private-label loans. National Mortgage News reported that the letters says, “Pending legal developments and possible further execution of the plans in questions, HUD does not know whether any new mortgage which might be created would qualify for insurance by the Federal Housing Administration.”
The Appraisal Institute announced that Fannie Mae launched a website focused on its new Appraiser Quality Monitoring process, which evaluates appraisals for data accuracy and consistency. The site gives lenders access to a list of appraisers whose reports will be subject to 100 percent review or no longer accepted by Fannie. Sellers and servicers approved by the government-sponsored enterprise can access the review list of appraisers through the website’s Technology Manager.
Fannie will offer a formal rebuttal process for appraisers whose work has been identified on the review list and who wish to dispute their listing. Appraisers who are sent letters for reports that exhibit a pattern of minor inconsistencies, inaccuracies or data anomalies will not have a formal rebuttal process because the letter is intended for instructional purposes to provide them with an opportunity to improve their work; appraisers can, however, respond to the letter.
Veros Real Estate Solutions has reported that, although residential real estate values and appreciation grew during the fourth quarter of 2013, it was at a slower rate than previous quarters. This may indicate that the market is topping out, Veros has concluded. That report analyzed 345 metro areas. It indicated an average of 5.1 percent appreciation on home prices is expected for the top 100 metro areas over the next 12 months — up from the fourth quarter’s 4.8 percent rate of appreciation. The five strongest markets for appreciation are projected to be:
1. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif., at 13.4 percent 2. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., at 10.7 percent 3. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., at 10.2 percent 4. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Calif., at 9.6 percent 5. Midland, Texas, at 9.5 percent The five weakest markets for appreciation are projected to be:
1. Atlantic City, N.J., at -1.7 percent 2. Kingston, N.Y., at -1.7 percent 3. Fayetteville, N.C., at -1.3 percent 4. Norwich-New London, Conn., at -1.2 percent 5. Rockford, Ill., at -1.1 percent
Mayor Nutter recently signed the Land Bank law and predicted that the City could start selling the its vacant and tax-delinquent properties by the end of the year. The bill creates a new entity to manage Philadelphia’s vacant land, acquire tax-delinquent properties and sell them. There is an estimated 9,500 city-owned vacant properties and 17,000 tax-delinquent properties.
Our Eminent Domain Group has once again authored the leading Pennsylvania Eminent Domain treatise. Bisel has just published the 2014 Edition of Pennsylvania Eminent Domain which can be found at http://www.bisel.com/descriptions/bk60.htm. The treatise was originally published in 1964 and our group drafted supplements to that edition for over 15 years. Marc Needles, my partner and Group Co-Chair, and I drafted a complete revision of the treatise in 2012. We have now drafted this update of that treatise.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has reported that bank profits are down, in part, due to litigation costs. FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg said that significant legal expenses are pushing down average industry profits. There are, of course, other variables causing the profit decrease. However, it is clear that litigation costs are having an impact.
Reuters had reported that the U.S. Justice Dept. will file several lawsuits alleging mortgage fraud against financial institutions in 2014. AG Eric Holder told Reuters that his agency would use the JPMorgan Chase case as its model for future lawsuits. These cases stem from a White House task force. One possible target is Bank of America which has stated that the U.S. Attorney’s office will recommend a civil suit against it.