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The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) joins the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) in opposing a provision in the highway transportation bill that taxes homebuyers and those looking to refinance by increasing the fees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge on their loans. This bill is now being considered by the U.S. Senate.

Of particular concern to REALTORS® is this tax pays for government needs that are totally unrelated to housing. This extends a 2011 fee increase that NAR opposed. NAR, in coalition with many other groups, urged the Senate not to adopt these fees and treat homeownership as the nation’s piggybank. This tax also will have a disproportionally higher impact on those using FHA loans, first-time home buyers and low and moderate-income buyers.

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The National Association of REALTORS® is asking its over one million members to email their representatives in Congress and ask for their help in protecting the real estate industry from patent trolls.

A patent troll is a company that owns a large number of patents, but does not produce any goods or services. The patent troll business model is to sue companies for infringing on the patents it owns, or to license those patents to companies for legal use. These companies are suing REALTORS® and other small businesses for patent infringement based on their use of common business tools like drop-down menus or scan-to-email technologies.

Patent trolls target REALTORS® through letters threatening lawsuits or actually filing lawsuits. These letters demand licensing fees to use common business tools, such as drop down menus or shopping cart features on websites. For many of those targeted, paying for the license is often much less expensive than defending the lawsuit.

Patent trolls hurt the real estate industry. The Innovation Act will close loopholes in our legal system that allow patent trolls to go after businesses like yours.

If you are a REALTOR®, take action now. Just click HERE, or go to your REALTOR® Action Center App on your phone and tell Congress to Vote YES on H.R. 9- The Innovation Act.

Click the link below and tell YOUR member of Congress to STOP Patent Trolls today!

STOP PATENT TROLLS!

The United States Supreme Court recently held that a private or public entity can be sued for discrimination even if there was no intent by that entity to discriminate, upholding the validity of disparate impact claims in fair housing issues.

The ruling touches on the concept of “disparate impact” which, under the Fair Housing Act, states that any policy or practice that creates a disproportionate “adverse impact” on any group based on race, national origin, color, religion, sex, familial status, or disability may be considered discriminatory or illegal. Opponents have maintained there needs to be intent for a discrimination suit to be valid, but all federal courts of appeal have interpreted the law to mean that an entity can get sued for housing discrimination if its actions have a disparate impact on a protected class, regardless of intent.

In its ruling, however, the Court clarified that just because an action has a disparate impact, it does not mean it is discriminatory. The plaintiff must point to a specific policy that the defendant had and show that the policy had a negative impact on the plaintiff’s protected class. The defendant can avoid liability if it can prove that the policy is necessary to achieve a legitimate business interest. The plaintiff also must be able to show there is an alternative business practice with a less discriminatory effect that would equally serve the defendant’s legitimate business interest in order for the plaintiff’s disparate impact claim to be valid.

As an example, a REALTOR® having a policy of only selling homes to members of their religious institution could face a disparate impact claim if a member of a different faith claims that this policy causes members of the another faith to miss the best homes. In the same light, when considering the adoption of any policy, real estate professionals operating as property managers or housing developers should make sure the policy will not have an unintended disparate impact on a protected class.

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