In the midst of a global pandemic and repeated pummeling by hurricanes and tropical storms, a state Senate bill proposing to seal all eviction records was a bright red flag for the Louisiana REALTORS® this fall. On the eve of the vote, they called on the REALTOR® Party to activate a text message to spur members to contact their legislators. The response had the desired effect: the bill has been tabled indefinitely.
“It really seemed to be a solution in search of a problem,” says Kim Callaway, Director of Legal and Governmental Affairs of the 15,000-member association; Louisiana REALTORS® also manages the professional groups of commercial real estate practitioners and property managers in the state. The bill had been put forth by housing advocates and quoted reports from the American Bar Association, but lacked substantial backing elsewhere, she explains. In fact, in addition to strong opposition from the REALTORS®, the state Apartment Association, the Homebuilders Association and local newspapers, clerks of court and many others had also expressed grave concerns about denying landlords the ability to look at past eviction history when deciding whether to rent to a prospective tenant. “Otherwise, security deposits would have to be raised sky-high,” notes Callaway, making clear that a bill intended to protect tenants’ rights would hurt all would-be renters in the pocketbook.
“Our position is that it’s been a tough year for everyone,” she adds, “and that landlords are people, too – people with bills. Their utility bills and their tax bills certainly aren’t going to be forgiven. They should have the right to assess what kind of risk they are willing to take on when they enter into a rental agreement.”
The REALTORS® had sent legislators persuasive talking points opposing the proposed bill, and they knew they had the votes to block it, but it was close enough that the key members of the Senate committee considering the bill asked Callaway to drum up demonstrable public opposition. The fact that the vote was scheduled for the following day? Not a problem. “We’ve worked with the REALTOR® Party enough to know that they’re capable of miracles! The time it took from our request to when the REALTOR® Party Mobile Text Alert went out was no more than about two-and-a-half hours.” Even at that late stage, the response was enough to make a difference, and the author of the bill agreed for it to be voluntarily deferred.
“Don’t ever hesitate to try,” is Callaway’s advice to other associations who haven’t yet learned the power of the REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert. “It’s a highly refined, super agile program, and so user-friendly. It definitely gets legislators’ attention. In fact, Callaway reveals, legislators have complained in the past that too many messages were “clogging up their email.” “Although getting their attention is the whole point, we had to scale back our use of this tactic a bit,” she notes. “We know it’s effective, but our policy now is only to issue a Call for Action for major initiatives. We save the big guns for when we really need them – and this was one of those times!”
To learn more about how the Louisiana REALTORS® are using the resources of the REALTOR® Party to ensure that property owners and property managers have all the information they need to make reasonable renting choices, contact Kim Callaway, Director of Legal and Governmental Affairs, at 225-772-0934.