industry news
Breaking news: Rule Advances Association Health Plans 
 
What the Association Health Plan Rule Means for REALTORS®
The U.S Department of Labor (DOL) has finalized its long-awaited Association Health Plan (AHP) rule to expand the definition of “employer” to include “working owners.” This change allows real estate professionals and other self-employed individuals to participate in association health plans. A key provision, advocated for inclusion in the rule by NAR, will allow the roughly 31 percent of REALTORS® who are offered coverage through a spouse to be eligible to choose an AHP option.

Bottom Line
The ruling is a major step forward for NAR’s long-standing advocacy efforts to expand AHP eligibility to independent contractors. This ruling allows NAR to keep up its ongoing program to evaluate potential options for expanding REALTORS® options for access to health insurance coverage. It does not mean that a REALTOR® AHP will be available in the near term, but action continues to explore such options.

What is next?
The road from the DOL ruling to the availability of an AHP is long and not without potential detours. Legal and other challenges could delay implementation of the rule. NAR has been advocating for an AHP solution for decades as a means to expand access to health insurance options for REALTORS® and this final rule makes AHPs one step closer to achieving that goal. The result of our advocacy efforts, the strategic recommendations of our Member Benefits team, and consultations with health insurance experts have positioned NAR to analyze a potential AHP option in a comprehensive process to help secure best quality health insurance at the most affordable price for all of our members and their families. NAR wants to caution our members that the development of an AHP will be a long process and may not meet the health insurance coverage needs of all members.

Where can I find more information?
NAR’s website www.NAR.realtor contains a number of resources on NAR advocacy efforts concerning health insurance availability, including policy statements, Congressional testimony and comment letters to regulatory agencies. Visit https://www.nar.realtor/health-care-reform to explore the issue in depth.

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Breaking News: Win for Internet Sales Tax Fairness 
 
In a win for commercial real estate, the U.S. Supreme Court announced a ruling today that states should be able to require online sellers to collect and remit sales tax on purchases. The National Association of REALTORS® submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of this position, because it helps create an even playing field between brick-and-mortar retailers and online businesses. In the case, South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., the Court ruled that the “physical presence” requirement which previously controlled is out of date in an e-commerce era.

NAR’s position is that online retailers today have an advantage over brick-and-mortar stores. Brick-and-mortar stores must charge sales tax on purchases while the obligation to collect taxes in online purchases does not fall on the retailer.

Access the decision

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Update on the Use of Corporate Titles 
Anthony Gatto, Esq., NYSAR Director of Legal Services 
 
Recently, the New York State Department of State, Division of Licensing Services has indicated it would be auditing licenses and the use of corporate titles. In 2013, the DOS issued two opinions prohibiting the use of corporate titles by associate brokers and salespersons. Below, please find an updated article on the matter and the two DOS opinions as well as an article addressing corporate titles and teams.

On April 26, 2013, the New York State Department of State Division of Licensing Services (DOS) issued an opinion on the use of corporate titles by associate brokers and/or salespersons who are not licensed as a real estate broker. This area of law is well settled but some are of the opinion that it does not apply to commercial practitioners or titles given to members of a team. Some brokers are assigning or permitting an associate broker or salesperson corporate titles that are prohibited pursuant to the DOS opinion. Brokers that permit such usage of corporate titles would be subjecting themselves to liability for violating the Real Property Law. There is no exception merely because the licensee practices commercial real estate or is a member of team.

Click here to find the text of the opinion from the Department of State addressing corporate titles as it applies to all licensees.  A copy of the opinion can be found here.

Many brokers and their associated licensees were not happy with the DOS opinion so a follow up request was made to consider other alternatives.  The DOS responded with an opinion directly in line with the first opinion and further clarifying the restrictions on corporate titles.  A copy of the second opinion can be found here.

As can be seen from both DOS opinions, no licensee other than an individual licensed as a Real Estate Broker may use a corporate title in any manner. The Department of State, Division of Licensing Services issues licenses to brokers, associate brokers and salespersons and there is no differentiation between residential and commercial practitioners. As such, all real estate licensees are subject to the same laws, rules and regulations.

NYSAR also published an article specifically addressing corporate titles in a team setting.  A copy of the article can be found here.

If you have any questions about the use of corporate titles, please contact the NYSAR Legal Hotline at 518-436-9727. The Legal Hotline is an exclusive benefit available to members of NYSAR and is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.