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1998 State Legislative Report - Virginia

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I CIVIL ACTIONS
Estates and Probate:
HB 490 provides that a child may still inherit from the parent but the parent may not inherit from the child when parental rights are involuntarily terminated. Torts: HB 277 forbids civil actions against the state based on the failure of a state agency computer, software program, database, network, or information system to interpret, produce, calculate, generate, or account for a date compatible with the "Year 2000" change date.

II ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
Wetlands
Hazardous Waste: SB 664 gives the Attorney General the authority to prosecute crimes related to air pollution, the Virginia Waste Management Act, and the State Water Control Law.

III. ESCROWS
Disclosures:
HB 1204 requires the disclosure forms provided buyers by sellers must contain a notice to purchasers to exercise the diligence purchasers deem necessary to obtain information on any registered sexual offenders. Settlements:
The Consumer Real Estate Settlement Protection Act (CRESPA) was modified by SB 554 to authorize realtors, their employees and independent contractors to perform escrow and settlement services even if not identified in the real estate contract. The Bill redefined "settlement agent" to mean the individual providing settlement services identified in the real estate contract as the settlement agent, required settlement agents other than attorneys to have their escrow accounts audited once every 12 months, and required all CRESPA transactions to have a settlement statement in writing that identifies a settlement agent. An additional provision permits lenders to charge borrowers the cost of a settlement agent’s services on subordinate loans.

IV. INSURANCE / BUSINESS ISSUES
Reinsurance:
SB 447 permits bank subsidiary corporations to underwrite reinsurance of mortgage guaranty insurance subject to conditions imposed by the SCC. Limited Liability Companies:
HB 906 amends the VA LLC statutes in a variety of ways.
Legal Ethics Opinions/ Unauthorized Practice of Law Opinions:
At the request of the Virginia State Bar, the Virginia Supreme Court adopted Revised UPL Opinion 183 on a 4-3 vote. The revised opinion concludes the closing of any real estate transaction not controlled by CRESPA is the practice of law. CRESPA applies to one to four family residential transactions and permits non-lawyers to close these transactions. The UPL opinion applies to commercial transactions and sales of vacant land. The opinion takes effect January 1, 1999.

V. STATUTORY LIENS
Broker’s Liens:
A purchaser acquiring fee simple title to commercial real estate and having actual knowledge of the lease terms that provide for payment of brokerage fees due shall be liable for payment regardless of whether the broker perfected a lien pursuant to the Broker’s Lien chapter according to HB 1242.

VI. TAXES
Transfer Taxes:
SB 234 defines "existing debt" as the original, secured principal amount for purposes of determining the exemption from additional taxes when a debt is refinanced or modified.

VII. PUBLIC ENTITIES
Zoning:
SB 570 creates certain vested rights in landowner zoning that remain unaffected by subsequent zoning amendments.

VIII. REAL PROPERTY INTERESTS
Streets and Highways
Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions: HB 1121 prohibits solicitation of compensation for release of covenants or reversionary interests restricting occupancy or ownership of property on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex. SB 640 provides that a property owner’s association declaration can be amended by agreement of owners of two-thirds of the lots subject to the declaration.

Power of Attorney:
HB 532 provides that an affidavit executed by the person holding the power of attorney that such powers have not been revoked or terminated is conclusive proof of non-revocation or non-termination in an action by or against a third party.

IX. DEEDS AND SECURITY INTERESTS
Mortgages/Deed of Trust:
HB 802 requires the full address of the trustees to be set forth in deeds of trust rather than just the locality.

X. RECORDING
Recording Requirements:
HB 208 adds additional jurisdictions, including the Cities of Richmond and Roanoke to the list of localities whose clerks can require tax map reference numbers on deeds submitted for recording.

HB 793 allows two jurisdictions to require cover sheets for documents submitted for recording in order to promote automated indexing.

HB 794 allows clerks to establish systems for electronic filing of documents.

Recording Fees:
HB 792 allows clerks to charge limited fees for electronic access to non-confidential records



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