The 2,900-member District of Columbia Association of REALTORS® (DCAR) didn’t have to look far for help when it faced two legislative issues requiring prompt grassroots action recently: thanks to the REALTOR® Party’s Advocacy Everywhere program, they were able to send REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert texts and emails that spurred members to contact their City Council members. Both times, the REALTOR® message got through loud and clear and helped to protect the city’s property owners.
Bryan Frantz, DCAR’s head of Communications, learned about the Advocacy Everywhere program when a representative from NAR visited one of DCAR’s recent Public Policy meetings, and presented ‘the new tool.’ “We just happened to have two issues that were coming into play, and the timing couldn’t have been better. We are lucky in having a core group of members who are very active in city governance, and even know various Council members personally, which is invaluable. But there comes a point when what really gets a legislator’s attention is an unknown constituent, a new name in the inbox, voicing an opinion. Advocacy Everywhere is not only a technically smooth and sophisticated platform, but it got us those fresh voices.”
Katalin Peter, DCAR’s Vice President of Government Affairs, agrees, and notes that in the midst of a particularly chaotic legislative session the input from REALTORS® definitely made a difference in the outcome of both issues.
The first was a budgetary matter: DC’s proposed Fiscal Year 2019 Budget emptied DC’s Real Estate Guaranty and Education Fund, an important consumer protection tool. About 140 DCAR members contacted their Council members, urging them to safeguard the fund; At-Large Council members received every single communiqué. When the final budget bill passed, not only was a substantial portion of the Real Estate Guaranty Fund saved, but it was restored with new protections that would mitigate the threat of special assessments down the road. “How important was our advocacy? The Guaranty Fund was the only one out of the 30 or so on the block that was restored in the final budget,” states Peter, adding, “It was a real case of persistency.”
The second Call for Action was issued to amend a 40-year old law protecting landlords in eviction cases. The Council ran into an emergency situation, explains Peter, when the U.S. Marshals Service stepped back from their involvement in eviction cases in the District. The City Council cobbled together new legislation to bridge the gap; though it was a well-intended effort to make the process as humane as possible, it placed an unfair logistical and financial burden on the property owner, who may already have been losing rent on the property in question. DCAR presented a more moderate alternative solution, and turned again to Advocacy Everywhere to drum up member support. “Though this Call for Action brought in only 36 responders,” reports Frantz, “every single one made a significant impact. This legislation was moving fast, and we only had three days to mobilize our members to flip the bill on its back and call for a complete change. The team at the National Association of REALTORS® was incredibly responsive and put the CFA together over a summer weekend.” In the end, the City Council voted to change the requirement from a landlord having to store an evicted tenant’s belongings off-site for 30 days, to storing them on-site for only seven. “We achieved a fairer result for housing providers here in the District,” says Peter, “and even with hours of midnight negotiations, we couldn’t have pulled it off without the grassroots support of the REALTOR® Party.”
To learn more about how REALTORS® in the nation’s capital are protecting the rights of property owners with tools from the REALTOR® Party, contact Katalin Peter, DCAR’s Vice President of Government Affairs, or Bryan Frantz, Communications Associate.