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Federal rules restrict telemarketing and blast fax marketing: the rules require both non-profit and for-profit entities to obtain express written consent before sending unsolicited faxes that contain information about the "commercial availability or quality of any property, goods, or services.".

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have issued new rules that further restrict certain telemarketing practices, including phone calls and faxes. Together, the two roles establish a single national do not call registry for both intrastate and interstate calls. The FCC rules, however, also cover commercial faxes and, unlike the Do Not Call Registry's opt-out mechanism, which requires consumers to sign on to the registry to avoid calls, the fax rules essentially require an opt-in before "unsolicited advertisement" faxes can be sent. However, in response to arguments made by NAA/NMHC and other organizations, the FCC has stayed the implementation date of most of the fax related provisions of the new rules until Jan. 1, 2005. The do-not-call roles are unaffected by the FCC stay and will become effective Oct. 1, 2003.

Effective Jan. 1, 2005, the FCC fax-related rules will require both non-profit and for-profit entities to obtain express written consent before sending unsolicited faxes that contain information about the "commercial availability or quality of any property, goods, or services." Importantly, the rule even covers association meeting announcements and other information for members that is deemed commercial in nature. Additionally, in contrast to the do-not call rule, the fax rule will not exempt established business relationships. However, because of the FCC's recent order to delay the implementation of this provision, firms may continue to send commercial faxes to recipients with which they have an established business relationship until Jan. 1, 2005.

NAA/NMHC plan to issue a compliance White Paper on this issue in the near future. In the meantime, the new FCC rules can be found at http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422 /14mar20010800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2003/pdf /03-18766.pdf.

Indoor Air Quality: The Next Frontier

Even if the mold frenzy hopefully dies down, it has created a new awareness among all Americans, including apartment residents, about a wide range of other indoor air contaminants. These include tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide and volatile chemicals from everyday sources, such as dry-cleaned clothing, paint, carpets, pesticides and even cosmetics.

A special report on "sick air" in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (July 20, 2003, www.ajc .com/business/content/business/0703/20airmain.html) quoted a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientist who said, "Indoor air pollution is the environmental problem."

Helping to fuel resident concerns, the article asserts, "Evidence has been growing for 20 years that the air we breathe indoors is typically more polluted than outdoor air ... And most people spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors."

As with mold, property owners are left with little guidance and much potential liability. There are no federal guidelines on dangerous levels of indoor air pollutants, and no single agency has the regulatory authority to deal with indoor air quality.

To help owners protect themselves from this emerging issue, NAA/NMHC have published a members-only White Paper titled Beyond Mold: Managing Indoor Air Quality. The paper, posted at www.naahq.org/government/ issues.aspx, reviews existing federal and state legislation as well as litigation and insurance trends. It also recommends specific steps owners can take to protect themselves.

Loan Limits Increased for FHA Multifamily

The House Financial Services Committee approved a bill on July 23 that would further increase the limits on loans that are available for FHA-insured multifamily properties in high cost areas.

Legislation passed last year allows HUD to approved a bill on July 23 that would further increase the limits on loans that are available for FHA-insured multifamily properties in high cost areas.

Legislation passed last year allows HUD to increase FHA multifamily loan limits in high cost areas to 110 percent of the base limits, but even those higher limits fall far below per-unit construction costs in cities such as Boston, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.

Despite an ongoing affordable shortage. in many of these cities, FHA lending accounts for less than 2 percent of all loans in high-cost areas. For example, even with last year's loan limit increase, there was just one FHA multifamily rental property built in the entire state of California last year.

H.R. 1985 would allow the limits to be increased up to 170 percent of the statutory base limits. NAA/NMHC will press the full House to approve the measure after its August recess in hopes of achieving passage this fall and implementation of the higher loan limits later this year.

NAA/NMHC Gain Victory in Storm Water Permit Requirements

Responding to comments submitted by NAA/NMIIC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) significantly revised a draft storm water permit to make its requirements less burdensome while still protecting the nation's clean water, at issue is a new Construction General Permit (CGP) issued by EPA on July 1. All developers who disturb more than one acre of land must secure the permit before discharging storm water associated with construction and development activities.

The modifications are a significant victory for the entire construction industry and a good example of how business and government can work together to find the most efficient and cost-effective ways to meet public policy goals.

In this instance, NAA/NMHC worked closely with the EPA to help it understand how its original draft permit imposed excessive government regulation on the construction industry and how they could meet their original environmental goals with a less onerous version.

It was a classic win-win scenario. As originally proposed in December 2002, the draft CGP included overly strict restrictions Oil store water discharge and excessive and time consuming documentation requirements. The revised final version includes numerous meaningful changes. NAA/NMHC believe this regulatory victory is even more important because states currently administering their own storm water programs are likely to modify their more burdensome permits (where necessary) to match the federal version.

The new CGP replaces one dating back to 1998, which covered large construction sites of 5 acres or more. While the final version is a more market friendly permit, EPA's failure to issue it until July 1 created a Catch-22 situation for developers in seven states and jurisdictions which were technically required to secure permits as of March 10 even though they were not yet available. As many as 14 other "authorized" states still do not have new permits ready to go for small sites. EPAs CGP is posted at www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater/cgp.

RELATED ARTICLE: Texas passes mold legislation.

On June 12, Texas enacted three new mold-related laws that contain favorable provisions for the apartment industry:

The first, H.B. 329, regulates mold assessors and remediators. In a victory for rental housing providers, it exempts owners who perform their own mold assessment and remediation from licensing and certification requirements, and it exempts areas of less than 25 contiguous feet from mold remediation requirements.

It requires licensed mold remediators to provide property owners with a certificate of mold remediation within 10 days of completing remediation and may provide liability safe harbor for owners who receive a certification of mold remediation.

Finally, the law authorizes the Texas Board of Health to develop and establish mold safety standards for license holders, but only if appropriate scientific information exists regarding the effect of mold. The other laws address the handling of water damage and mold-related claims (S.B. 127) and the state's homeowners insurance (S.B. 14) crisis.

NAA/NMHC believe these laws could help reduce the cost and expand the availability of property and casualty insurance and will be monitoring how the insurance industry responds and whether other states copy some of the key" provisions.

RELATED ARTICLE: Body of literature questions health claims about mold.

A growing body of research is casting doubt on the severe adverse health effects alleged in many mold lawsuits.

On July 17, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued two new papers on the growing hazard of mold litigation and the lack of scientific evidence linking mold to health problems. At a forum on the topic, the Chamber noted that "lawsuits over fungi fail to meet the test for sound science." It went on to say that "unfortunately, plaintiffs' trial lawyers, with the help of the media, are playing on the public's fear of 'toxic' mold to generate litigation that costs all of us."

Mold Litigation: How Hysteria and Junk Science Built a Cottage Industry, concludes that the serious health claims that pervade mold litigation--brain damage, lung hemorrhage, and cancer--cannot withstand scrutiny under the "reliable science" standard set by a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Meanwhile, in A Scientific View of the Health Effects of Mold, a team of scientists found that mold-caused infections are rare, except in individuals with compromised immune systems. The study finds that "there is no sound scientific evidence that mold causes 'toxicity' in doses found in home environments."

The Chamber's studies, which are available at www.legalreformnow.com, echo the conclusions of other recent reports. In the past year, two other organizations, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the Texas Medical Association, issued studies concluding that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that mold can cause serious health problems for building occupants.

This summer, the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine (NAS-IOM) is expected to release a long-awaited study of the potential health effects of mold exposure in damp indoor spaces. In anticipation of the NAS-IOM study, NAA/NMHC convened a special meeting of the Real Estate Advocacy. Groups for States (REAGS), a coalition of real estate trade associations with an interest in state level government relations to prepare for the release of the NAS-IOM report.

Meanwhile, NAA/NMHC used a July 15 Congressional hearing on the FY2004 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) spending bill to urge Congress to provide more funding for mold-related research. In a letter to appropriators, we urged HUD to fund research on building materials, building technologies and mold remediation technologies. We also encouraged HUD to work cooperatively with the housing industry to disseminate credible information to the public on these and other topics related to mold.

Information compiled by NAA/NMHC Joint Legislative Staff: Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Jim Arburry; Vice President of Finance and Technology David Cardwell; Vice President of Communications Rim Duty Vice President of Property Management Jay Harris; Vice President of Environment Eileen Lee; Tax Advisor Howard Menell; Vice President of Building Codes Ron Nickson; and Chief Economist Mark Obrinsky.
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Title Annotation:Capitol Beat
Publication:Units
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Words:1739
Previous Article:Strategies for success.
Next Article:NAA PAC State Ambassador profile: Bonnie Felts, ARM, President, Alabama Apt. Assn.
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