CCIM Q&A

Government Watchdog

After more than 30 years in commercial real estate, first in New York City and most recently in Orlando, Fla., Lou Nimkoff, CCIM, CPM, president of Brio Properties in Winter Park, Fla., has seen the effects of both good and bad government. This year he serves as CCIM Institute’s Legislative Affairs Subcommittee chair as well as vice chair of the National Association of Realtors Commercial Legislative/Regulatory Advisory Board. With his two-pronged perspective on government and real estate, Nimkoff shared some thoughts on the current legislative and regulatory environment.

CIRE: On daily basis, how does federal policy affect commercial real estate practitioners?

Nimkoff: A number of issues, both legislative and regulatory, affect commercial real estate businesses every day. We have to deal with factors governed by federal law, such as depreciation/cost recovery periods, capital gain taxes, treatment of foreign investors, and energy efficiency tax credits. And there are also regulatory issues, not created by people we elect but rather by the various departments of our government, such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Securities Exchange Commission. These items include 1099 reporting, lease accounting, and securities rules for public companies and private partnership offerings. It is important to monitor both these areas to know how our business and our clients might be affected. On top of that, each state also has its laws and regulations.

CIRE: As a commercial real estate professional, what are your top federal legislative and regulatory concerns this year?

Nimkoff: I am focused on what I call “the big eight” issues. On the regulatory front, we are trying to relax rules on the now-illegal use by real estate professionals of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed rules regarding lead paint in commercial buildings, and the SEC is issuing new rules on lease accounting and crowdfunding. On the legislative side, fortunately the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act was renewed for another six years in the first week of the new year. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate were made aware of the importance of this legislation to the commercial real estate industry. I am also focused on marketplace fairness,which would require all online sellers to collect sales tax, leveling out the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers. Lastly, we are monitoring proposed changes to both Section 1031 rules regarding tax deferred exchanges and the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act, which imposes taxes on foreign nationals who invest in U.S. real estate.

CIRE: How does CCIM’s Legislative Affairs Subcommittee help resolve problem issues?

Nimkoff: Working through CCIM’s Legislative Liaison Lydia Snowden in Chicago and the NAR legislative staff in Chicago and Washington, D.C., the subcommittee helps monitor proposed laws and regulations on both the state and federal levels to make sure CCIM members are not negatively impacted. We also work toward promoting federal legislation, such as the Marketplace Fairness Act, that will help our industry. The Legislative Affairs Subcommittee discusses issues that need attention on our many conference calls during the year and at our biannual meetings. We then ask staff to take the appropriate action, which varies from simply monitoring proposed rules and regulations to revising a statement of policy on a particular issue, to asking NAR to take up a matter in Washington, which could mean introducing legislation or trying to modify or defeat existing legislation.

In addition, we work to raise member awareness through grass-roots lobbying, responding to NAR calls to action, and getting other practitioners involved. We also encourage contact with NAR federal political coordinators, who are Realtors assigned to each senator or representative in every state, as well as participation in state Realtor organizations.

CIRE: CCIM’s annual Capitol Hill Visit connects members with legislators. What’s changed about this year’s annual visit?

Nimkoff: In past years CCIM has worked with the Institute of Real Estate Management, which has a very effective Capitol Hill Day each April discussing commercial issues. Starting this year, CCIM will join NAR’s Realtors Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in May, when several thousand Realtors go to Washington, D.C., to meet with legislators. CCIM members will be there to provide knowledge of the commercial issues. When meeting with legislators, nothing is more important than to share a firsthand experience about a problem that legislation can address. The Institute has increased the maximum reimbursement to $850 for chapters that send a representative to the NAR meetings.

CIRE: What’s the one thing CCIMs can do to bring about legislative change?

Nimkoff: Give to the Realtors Political Action Committee. Even CCIMs who aren’t political junkies know the potential damage of not being represented. RPAC is the 180-pound gorilla in Washington. In addition to being one of the biggest fundraisers, it is backed by more than 1 million Realtors, many who vote or are active in the community where they live.

Being part of the NAR family, our CCIM members get the benefit of RPAC and most don’t even know it. If even half of our members gave $99 per year to RPAC that would earn us a better seat at the table when NAR is deciding what issues its members should take to Capitol Hill each year and what staff should be working on every day in our Washington office.

To contribute to RPAC, go to www.realtoractioncenter.com/rpac.

Sara Drummond is executive editor of Commercial Investment Real Estate.

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