Apartment Industry Urges SBA, Treasury To Close Paycheck Protection Loophole

As companies across the country apply for Small Business Administration loans to help meet payroll and avoid even more unemployment claims, there are several industries that have been denied federal assistance because of the interim final rule. It lays out additional guidelines for the Paycheck Protection Program that small businesses affected by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic can use to cover costs, including payroll and rent. Most notably, the multifamily housing sector was left on the sidelines.

Part of the problem stems from how payroll participants are counted with the use of third-party contractors, such as management companies, even when the burden of cost for payroll falls on the owner.

The Paycheck Protection Program enables businesses with more than 500 employees to qualify on a location-by-location basis if they are classified under NAICS code 72. The National Multifamily Housing Council and National Apartment Association are seeking confirmation from the SBA that all multifamily housing businesses, including off-campus student housing providers, would be able to qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program.

“The apartment industry is on the front lines of responding to the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Doug Bibby, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council. “Yet as more residents face job loss or furloughs and are unable to fulfill rent obligations, many owners/operators fear they, too, will not be able to satisfy their own financial obligations required to operate their properties. That’s why it is imperative that the apartment industry be eligible to participate in the program so they can continue paying our employees.”

Robert Pinnegar, president and CEO of the National Apartment Association, added: “The apartment industry is a cornerstone of the national economy, housing 40 million Americans and supporting 17.5 million jobs. Like many of our residents, the entire industry is facing extreme economic hardship. Apartment owners and operators must qualify for relief under the Paycheck Protection Program. Until Treasury and the SBA correct this imbalance, the housing and employment of a combined 57.5 million Americans is in jeopardy.”

The Paycheck Protection Program has raised many questions for housing providers seeking to weather the pandemic. Greg Brown, senior vice president of Government Affairs for the National Apartment Association, offers some insight here.

Q: Why has multifamily been cut out of the SBA loan provisions?

A: Multifamily hasn’t been cut out completely so much as it has been seriously limited by provisions of the SBA Paycheck Protection Program. Many sectors of the industry, such as residential property management companies with multiple physical locations, passive owners, apartment buildings and those who contract third parties for property management are currently ineligible per SBA guidance.

Q: How did rent look for the month of April? Why does the industry need this support?

A: April was a difficult month for the industry, but May will only be more challenging as the financial effects of COVID-19 continue to grow. Because COVID-19 took hold of the country in March, many residents still had the resources to make their April rent payment. Sadly, many will not have these resources come May. The industry also faces the prospect of rent strikes and confusion about rent obligations given federal, state and local eviction moratoriums.

Q: How could this affect the industry and the people it serves? What are the broader economic implications?

A: The industry’s need for financial support and payroll assistance will only increase as more Americans face unemployment and difficulty paying rent. If a large percentage of apartment companies are unable to apply for the SBA loan program, we could see more providers having to lay off or furlough employees, which would hurt the overall economy and the residents that the industry serves. Rental housing providers and management companies need to have adequate staff in order to maintain the property, process resident requests and manage business operations.    

In short, you may see a reduction of housing quality and services as owners make tough decisions about reserves and reducing expenses. And some rental housing may lose financial feasibility and get removed from the market, creating greater affordability issues. The crisis could be especially devastating to smaller housing providers who ultimately make up a majority of rental property owners. These small businesses often function on low margins that cannot sustain substantial losses of rental income for any period of time.

Q: What is the industry asking the government to do with regards to multifamily and student housing providers?

A: We have five asks:

1.     Create an emergency rental assistance program for those who are impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and struggle to cover housing expenses.

2.     Allow more housing providers access to mortgage forbearance and ensure fairness and flexibility in its terms.

3.     Provide financial assistance for property-level financial obligations such as property taxes or insurance payments and extend credit to multifamily mortgage servicers.

4.     Expand the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program to include all multifamily businesses, including student housing.

5.     Better tailor the CARES Act eviction moratorium provision and safeguard owners’ ability to effectively manage their communities.

Q: What other relief/assistance challenges is the industry facing?

A: The eviction moratorium has proven to be especially challenging for the apartment industry. We need to see moratorium protections tailored to individuals affected by COVID-19; enacted only for the specified 120 days; applied to federally-backed mortgages and those with government assistance; and ensure the ability to evict for reasons other than non-payment of rent.

Overall, we need Congress to better tailor the CARES Act eviction moratorium provision and safeguard owners’ ability to effectively manage their communities.

Q: Are there other industries that are being affected in a similar way by the SBA loan stipulations?

A: Any industry that works with third-party management firms will face similar hurdles, especially given that sole proprietors are unable to calculate the compensation of independent contractors in their loan determinations.

Nevertheless, all industries will find unique challenges with the provisions of the Paycheck Protection Program given that no two businesses operate in the same fashion. The PPP is a financial obligation that must be weighed against the legitimate needs of a business. That being said, this doesn’t mean that some industries should be excluded from participation, and all industries should be given a fair shot at figuring out if their needs can be met under the PPP.

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From Curb Service To Porch Signings, Title Companies Get Creative With Social Distancing Options For Closings

As the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to turn the real estate market on its head, curbside and remote mortgage closings have become a logical extension of signing loan documents and distributing money at the office of a title company or escrow office.

Title companies are adjusting to new protocols to ensure safe closings, according to Diane Tomb, CEO of American Land Title Association

“During this health pandemic and social distancing, we’re seeing title companies across the country get creative to offer safe and secure closings for their customers,” she said. “In addition to drive-through closings and implementing safe closing protocols, companies are closing transactions through remote online notarization, which uses audio/visual technology to complete a notarial act when the customer is not in the same physical location as the notary public.”

Notaries and signers are justifiably concerned about being exposed to someone possibly infected with COVID-19 when meeting face to face during loan signings and notarizations, according to Notary Bulletin, noting: “In response, some closing companies have recommended a process called window-separated signing or porch signing, in which loan signings are conducted through a window or doorway at a safe physical distance.”

National Notary Association has published guidelines for performing window-separated signings. For example, a notary must follow all federal, state and local guidelines for social distancing, health protection and sanitization when meeting with signers and handling documents, IDs or other materials. When items are passed between the signer and notary, one person should place the item in a neutral area and then step back and provide safe distance to allow the other person to pick it up.

Notarize, a platform for digital notarizations, saw real estate volume increase by 400% in March and has $23 billion in real estate transactions ordered for April. To support the surge in demand, Notarize is hiring 1,000 notaries in Texas, Florida, Nevada and Virginia to join its team in a role that allows notaries to work remotely, safely in their homes. 

Knight Barry Title Group in Milwaukee is offering remote closing solutions whenever possible for the safety and convenience of its customers.

In a Facebook video, chief operating officer Craig Haskins explained that Knight Barry has implemented a work-from-home plan for employees who are able to handle their jobs remotely. “But mission-critical jobs like our closing department and our closers, they’re here, and they are closing your transactions right now in our closing rooms,” he said. “With some of our employees allowed working remotely, it’s allowed us to create a safer social-distancing environment. It allows us to keep clean, stay organized and be prepared for the next set of closings that come through our doors.”

Haskins said the company has put into effect safe plans for its office to make sure it is sanitized. The guidance is published on Knight Barry’s website. For example, the company has bought hundreds of pens so that after the signing, the signers can take their pens with them or dispose of them on the way out. After the closing, the staff wipes down all touched hard surfaces. 

Knight Barry also can handle document signing online and give customers their proceeds in a way they prefer.

 “The remote online notarization allows us to keep our offices free of unneeded visitors,” explained Haskins. “While we love to have you in the closing rooms, at this point in time, we’d like to limit the number of people coming into the room and limit those closings just to the people who need to sign the documents when possible. We’ve also had many requests for in-home closings. While it seems like a great idea, those are becoming harder and harder for us to plan around and organize.”

Rocket Mortgage states on in its website that it is taking “extraordinary measures” to complete customers’ real estate transaction in a safe and secure manner, including: 

  • Actively engaging with appraisers and signing agents to ensure that no one is conducting inspections or closings who shouldn’t be – based on their recent travel, interactions, showing signs of symptoms, etc.
  • Working to ensure that our team members and partners understand and follow all CDC guidelines and best practices.
  • Encouraging appraisers and signing agents to take proper sanitary measures the entire time they are at your home.

“Even though shelter-in-place orders are in effect in many areas of the country, the mortgage process can still continue,” Rocket Mortgage states. “Appraisers, closing agents and other people who need to enter your home can still do so under the shelter-in-place order. In some cases, we even have alternative ways to complete these parts of the process that don’t require entering the home.

“To make these precautionary measures as effective as possible, we need your support. When the appraiser or signing agent arrives, they are going to ask to maintain physical distance of at least 6 feet, and they will not shake your hand. This isn’t because they’re unfriendly, it is because they’re following CDC guidelines to maintain proper safety. They may even arrive wearing rubber gloves or a face mask as an added precaution. We respect their choice to do so, and ask that you respect it as well.”

Kathy Kwak, vice president of title and escrow operations and counsel for Proper Title in Chicago, told Chicago Agent magazine that in order to ensure the safety of her staff, the second-largest title agency in Illinois is encouraging buyers and sellers to provide a power of attorney to their lawyers so that they don’t need to attend the closing at all. 

In a typical curbside transaction, the magazine reports that buyers and their agents show up in separate cars and are met outside by a title company closer, who will collect the buyer’s driver’s license, signature and cashier’s or certified check. Before the closing, the buyer’s attorney must review the loan and closing documents. 

Kwak pointed out that although the overall process is much safer, the excitement of closing on a home is somewhat diminished. “This is a big moment for many buyers,” she said, noting that the pandemic has “taken away that whole ceremony. … All of that now has been removed. It’s so robotic and routine now.”

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A Guide For Community Associations Navigating The Coronavirus

In an age when our society is practicing social distancing to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, the ensuing crisis is raising concerns among the more than 73 million Americans who call community associations home.

Living in close quarters at the communities – commonly known as homeowners associations, condominiums and housing cooperatives – presents new challenges for homeowners, board members, community managers and business partners who need to tread carefully as they attempt to navigate through this uncharted territory. 

Community association board members should consult with their professional partners, including community managers and attorneys, on how best to handle preparing for and reacting to COVID-19 within their communities.

This guidance from the Community Associations Institute aims to help associations understand how to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 within their communities.

Implement an emergency plan. CAI recommends that community associations review or establish an emergency plan in consultation with legal counsel, insurance and risk man​agement experts, and their managers. 

This plan could address whether it’s possible to conduct association business remotely, how to handle common areas and amenities, anti-discrimination compliance, wage and hour laws if the associations employs staff, and communication with residents.

Meetings and events. Community associations should check with the state or local health officials to determine if guidance or restrictions are in place regarding group gatherings. Generally, there are several methods by which association members or association boards transact business in the absence of everyone gathering at the same time and location—some form of written consent, electronic meetings or a vote outside a physical meeting. 

Community associations should contact their attorneys and review state statutes and governing documents to determine what is feasible.

Common areas and amenities. Community associations control the common areas, and owners are responsible for their private property. If the virus becomes widespread, communities may want to consider the following actions: 

  • Extensive cleaning, disinfecting or wiping down of common areas and common-area surfaces
  • Postponing or canceling community events and meetings
  • Closing common areas and amenities such as gyms, clubhouses, and pools
  • Installing hand sanitizer dispensers or wipes on common areas for owner and guest use
  • Share CDC fact sheets. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is part of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. HUD is encouraging housing providers, including community associations, to share relevant CDC fact sheets with individuals, families and staff members. 

Community associations are reminded that their responses to residents regarding the coronavirus must be compliant under the Fair Housing Act and related regulations.

Wage and hour laws. If a community association employs staff​, it should review how and whether it will compensate employees in the event of an interruption to normal business operations.

Communication is key. Whatever a community decides to do regarding meetings, events, common areas, amenities and other measures regarding COVID-19, it should clearly and consistently communicate with residents. Consider using a newsletter, website, email, social media or bulletin board to inform and educate.

CAI has produced a resource page and video to help community associations adapt and respond to issues surrounding COVID-19 and the unique decisions and solutions they face ahead. 

The organization is encouraging members, chapters and the community associations industry in general to follow the latest guidance and updates issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CAI is offering general precautionary guidance from officials and adding some common-sense guidelines for the industry.

Here are frequently asked questions related to the coronavirus pandemic with replies by professionals focused on community association law. 

Q: Can we close our gym, business center or other shared facility because of COVID-19?

A: The answer is yes. As the number of COVID-19 cases increases nationwide, many boards are faced with a difficult business decision — should we (and can we) close common facilities?  Indeed, most governing documents provide clear authority to the board to “operate, manage, and supervise” common facilities, which could include suspending their operations.

If the board believes that closing a gym, business center or community room is in the interest of the health and safety of residents to minimize the spread of disease, this is arguably a defensible, sensible business decision under the governing documents. If a board makes this kind of decision, we recommend making the rationale clear in a written communication to the members. 

Wil Washington, a partner at Chadwick, Washington, Moriarty, Elmore & Bunn, PC in Fairfax, Va., and a fellow in CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers 

Q: Can community associations legally prohibit guests from entering the community during this time?

A: I am recommending that my clients prohibit all non-essential guests from entering their communities at this time to minimize their residents’ exposure to COVID-19. Caretakers and immediate family members of residents would be excluded from that prohibition.

Donna DiMaggio Berger, a shareholder at Becker in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and a fellow in CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers

Q: Would associations be justified in holding their board meetings via conference calls as emergency meetings due to the declared pandemic and then ratifying those actions after the health issues are over?

A: Probably not. Older board members with underlying medical conditions are justifiably concerned about possible exposure to the coronavirus. There are steps they can take to minimize their risk and still fulfill their duties as directors.

Conference phone. Concerned directors can attend meetings electronically via telephone, provided they can hear all other directors in the meeting and all other directors can hear them. This is easily accomplished with a conference phone. Attendance in this manner counts as if the director were physically present in the meeting. 

The entire board. If all directors wish to attend a board meeting by telephone, they can do so. However, notice of open meetings must identify at least one physical location with a conference phone where homeowners can attend the meeting and listen to the board conduct business. (Civ. Code §4090(b).) The statute does not require any of the directors to be physically present at the meeting location – only a representative of the board such as the manager.

What if the management company has suspended all meeting attendance for their managers due to the coronavirus? If no other representative can be found to set up the conference phone, can the meeting still be held as an emergency meeting?

Unfortunately, this does not meet the definition of an emergency. An emergency is defined as “circumstances that could not have been reasonably foreseen which require immediate attention and possible action by the board, and which of necessity make it impracticable to provide notice” to the membership.

Fortunately, technology has reached the point where a call-in number can be published along with the agenda so members who wish to attend can also call into the meeting. All attendees except the board should mute their phones and only listen to the meeting. Except for open forum, members cannot participate in the board’s meeting.

For associations where there may be a large number of attendees, boards should consult with a technology expert to determine which call-in service best serves their needs.

Adrian J. Adams, managing partner at Adams | Stirling PLC in Los Angeles

Q: Can community associations prohibit owners from undertaking renovation projects so they can prevent contractors and other workers from entering the property?

A: Contractors should be prohibited from entering the community unless emergency repairs are needed in a unit or on the common elements. Realtor open houses or showings should not be permitted. There are other people who have a legal right to enter the community such as process servers or census takers. Those people can be required to wear protective gear before entering.

Donna DiMaggio Berger, a shareholder at Becker in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and a fellow in CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers

Q: How should boards respond if they learn that a resident tested positive for the coronavirus? Do they have an obligation to inform residents? Is there liability for the board if it does not?

A: This raises conflicting interests: a person’s privacy about their medical condition and the membership’s safety.

Authorized disclosure. If the person with the coronavirus authorizes full disclosure, the board can disclose the person’s name to the membership. This allows residents who had contact with the person to immediately self-quarantine and get tested for the virus. Before doing so, I encourage two precautionary steps for boards. 

First, the authorization should be in a written communication from the person or the person’s attorney. It should never be based on hearsay and rumors. Second, the disclosure should be limited to members and residents. Particular vendors who may have had contact with the person could also be alerted. The board should not broadcast the information outside of the community.

No authorization. If the infected person tells the board in confidence that he contracted the coronavirus and does not want anyone to know, the board may still have a duty to notify the membership. However, it would do so without disclosing the person’s name. The board would simply report, “A resident has reported testing positive for the coronavirus.”

A disclosure, however limited, alerts residents to take extra precautions to protect themselves. In addition to giving notice, the board should contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has the power to make additional disclosures, trace contacts, quarantine individuals and take other actions it deems medically necessary.

Self-quarantine. What if the person does not have the coronavirus? He is simply self-quarantining as a precaution. If that is all he is doing, I don’t believe the board has an obligation to notify the membership.  There is always the potential for liability if a board becomes aware of a threat to their community and does nothing. If, as a result of the failure to disclose, members fall ill and some die from the illness, lawsuits will likely follow. Accordingly, silence may not be the best course of action.

Recommendation: As volunteers, boards are allowed to seek expert advice. When confronted with issues involving the coronavirus, directors should not make decisions based solely on recommendations in a newsletter, whether mine or someone else’s. They should contact legal counsel and the CDC for guidance.

Adrian J. Adams, managing partner at Adams | Stirling PLC in Los Angeles

Q: Now that we are in crisis mode, how do we handle owners who are losing their jobs/income? Don’t really want to see people losing their homes due to this crisis. What if the HOA can’t pay its bills?

A: The crisis will end at some point (hopefully soon) and businesses will restart. I recommend boards place a lien on delinquent properties to protect the association’s interests, but suspend all foreclosure activity. Once people return to work, you can work out payment plans with delinquent owners.

Permanent job loss. The more difficult scenario will be those persons who permanently lose their jobs. They will be looking for new jobs once the economy re-engages. How long do you wait for them to find work? What if they can’t?

When you get to that point, you will need to discuss options with legal counsel and decide how best to proceed.

Drop in HOA revenue. If delinquencies impact cash flow, associations still need to pay their bills. If boards need to, they can borrow from reserves. Without a vote of the membership, boards are allowed to borrow from reserves to meet short-term cash flow problems. (Civ. Code §5515(a).)

Monies borrowed from the reserves must be repaid to the reserve fund within one year of the date of the initial transfer, except that the board may, after giving the same notice required for considering a transfer, and, upon making a finding supported by documentation that a temporary delay would be in the best interests of the association, temporarily delay the repayment. (Civ. Code §5515(d).)

Adrian J. Adams, managing partner at Adams | Stirling PLC in Los Angeles

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National Apartment Association Issues Guidance To Stem The Spread Of Coronavirus

The National Apartment Association is implementing protocols for property owners and managers to follow in response to the spread of the coronavirus.

As cases of COVID-19 escalate in the United States and more cities declare a state of emergency, there is a growing concern for containment, not just in public spaces, but in homes — particularly in high-density apartment communities where the risk of spread could be greater.

To stem the spread of the disease, the National Apartment Association has provided the following guidance for property managers: “If a resident is confirmed to have or is believed to have 2019-nCoV, do not direct facilities management or maintenance staff to the apartment. Immediately notify the local health department and contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for guidance regarding appropriate measures to take.”

The compact nature of apartments and high-rise developments shines a spotlight on the potential risks of contracting the coronavirus and spreading it from person to person in close proximity, similar to other respiratory illnesses such as the flu.

Amy Groff, senior vice president of industry operations at the National Apartment Association, said the biggest concern for the rental housing industry is that more residents will be staying inside their apartments. 

“When more residents are home, the need for service and work orders escalate,” she said. “Owners and managers will need the staff to accommodate the service level increase, and this will be challenging as staff levels will be impacted by the virus.”

Groff said owners and managers of rental housing will need to brace for this outcome and over-communicate their plan to residents. 

“The plan may be that only emergency work orders are performed until the staffing levels are such that they can manage a normal work day,” she explained. “They may need to use staff from nearby communities to help. Communities should consider cross-training team members to perform essential functions so the workplace can operate when essential staff are out. Lastly, owners and managers should consider using vendors and contractors to help with repairs if needed.”

The trade association is encouraging property owners and staff members to do their part in mitigating the spread. “We’re stressing the importance of following the CDC’s guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Groff. “Most importantly, stay home if you are sick and practice proper hand hygiene.”

She added that if a resident tests positive for the coronavirus and notifies the property owner or manager, “then the owner or manager should follow the CDC’s guidance and work with local health officials, especially in the case of a quarantine.” 

Groff said, “As information is updated daily for COVID-19, recommendations are changing accordingly. Precautions should be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by following guidance provided by the CDC, including disinfecting surfaces such as doorknobs, tables, desks and handrails regularly. The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a list of effective disinfectant products to reference.”

Property owners and managers can use their discretion in deciding whether to cancel upcoming resident events. “They may find alternative ways to engage residents through social media to keep the community connected,” said Groff.

Residents should be provided with the CDC’s guidelines for safe hygiene practices and self-monitoring information. “Should a resident become sick, they should be asked to refrain from using the community amenities and common spaces,” warned Groff.

Although the potential business impact will be increased service requests and lower staffing levels, Groff said the bottom line is “we believe that residents who may have considered moving may put these plans on hold, resulting in fewer move-outs and less turning of apartments. The flip side of this is that fewer people will be touring and applying to move in. Hopefully, this will balance and keep vacancy rates stable.”

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Three Florida Properties Are Poised To Shatter Real Estate Records

Three residential properties in Florida are expected to break price records for the most expensive properties to be sold in their locations if they sell at asking prices, or even higher. From the Florida Keys to Fort Lauderdale, these are the contenders vying for their day in the sun.

94100 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, Florida

Listed for $24.5 million, the contemporary oceanfront estate is poised to set a price record in the Florida Keys, where the biggest residential sale remains a 2015 deal for $13.5 million. The sprawling property, located in the Tavernier community, stands at the center of nearly 13 acres of forested grounds. 

The home is ideal for indoor-outdoor living with two private white-sand beaches at the edge of Florida Bay. It showcases an elaborate waterfall, rock garden and covered terrace that leads directly out onto the beach. 

The listing is held by Audrey Ross of Compass Florida and Arline Tarte of Compass New York. Both agents brokered the sale of the current record holder in 2015.

Meridith Baer Home’s distinct and luxurious style is on display, connecting the home to its surroundings. The prestigious home staging and interior design firm’s vision for the property centered around contemporary styling, clean lines and a neutral color palette designed to highlight the open floor plan and breathtaking views.

By showcasing the stunning floor-to-ceiling glass windows and views of the ocean and Everglades National Park, the company created a relaxed yet refined space that’s perfect for large-scale entertaining and taking advantage of indoor-outdoor living. 

The compound includes three structures: the main residence, a one-bedroom, one-bath guest cottage and a freestanding three-bedroom, three-bath cottage with a private boat dock beneath it.

Upon entering the expansive main house through the porte cochere, Ross said one begins to feel the essence of the property as you cross a bridge overlooking white sandy beaches, waterfalls, koi ponds and lush greenery that give the home a peaceful, Zen feeling.

“Throughout the property, there are meandering trails and beautiful trees lining either side with orchids growing in the trees, and they are absolutely wonderful,” she said. “You feel as if you are in a bit of a paradise.”

“When you drive through the long greenery to get to the house, it’s just special,” added Tarte. “The word unique applies too. And I am from New York where I’m used to a very fast pace, and I could stand there and feel peaceful. The whole thing is gorgeous. Everywhere you look, you see the beautiful water, 2.5 acres of beachfront.”

Ross explained, “This is an ideal spot for a family retreat or a corporate retreat, or in the case of the previous owner, a couple that simply wanted privacy and wanted to retreat from the world. It is really magic. The kitchen is state of the art because in addition to having all the latest appliances, there’s a beautiful place where one can serve breakfast lunch or dinner, overlooking the beach and see the sunset. It’s very dramatic.”

She added, “In the master bedroom suite, there are his-and-her bathrooms, his-and-her walk-in closets, an en-suite sitting room and also an en-suite spa room where you have a beautiful, huge Jacuzzi, two massage tables, a lounge area, and all of that overlooking the white sandy beach.”

The distinct qualities of the property lend an abundance of praise. Ross shared the observations of a recent prospective buyer: “The last person I showed the property to, and the person is very familiar with the Florida Keys, said ‘this is truly unique. It’s one of the most spectacular properties I’ve ever seen. I had no idea that anything like this existed in the Florida Keys’.”

2480 Coco Plum Drive, Marathon, Florida

With an asking price of $19.5 million, this tropical property has record-breaking potential. It’s set at the end of the road on Fat Deer Key, an island in the Middle Keys of Florida in the town of Marathon. The expansive residence includes three floors with concrete and steel construction and sits over 12 feet above mean high tide, making it one of the highest residential homes in the entire Florida Keys. 

Listing agent Kim Thaler of Ocean Sotheby’s International Realty said the priciest property ever sold in the area was for $5.25 million in neighboring Key Colony Beach, and that was in July 2017. 

“This sale would certainly be record breaking by a landslide for Marathon and the entire Florida Keys,” said Thaler. “The second highest was for $5.075 million, also in Key Colony Beach, in May 2016. As far as current listings, as of today, it’s the second-highest listed home in all of the Florida Keys.” 

Bask in the sun-drenched surroundings as you enjoy 340-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean from the wrap-around balconies of this idyllic property. The 11,894-square-foot home includes seven bedrooms and seven full bathrooms, 7,649 square feet of covered patios, 552 square feet of a covered driveway portico, along with four-plus  garage spaces for a total of 22,069 square feet of enclosed and covered areas.

Brazilian doors set the tone for the entire home, which is designed with custom copper, aquatic works and paintings. 

“This property is distinctive in so many ways, especially to the Florida Keys,” said Thaler. “Not only is it the most expensive for the area but this magnificent estate offers the entire package. It features the largest residential pool in the Keys. It has 350 feet of private beach along with an abundance of deep water for all types of boat docking. Most homes in the Keys with that kind of private beach access do not offer deep-water dockage. The interior space of the home will leave your breathless. It’s nearly 12,000 square feet with over 25-foot ceilings, a commercial elevator that you would find in a department store and windows with views from every nook.”

The estate has more than 300 feet of private sandy beach with a direct beach access road. The exterior is just as luxurious as the interior with a xeriscape yard encompassing hundreds of natural tropical plants and trees with natural stone, mulch and sand areas to maintain privacy. 

Other amenities include more than 400 feet of concrete and steel seawall built to military standards, a concrete and steel dock with a 16,000-pound boat lift, rooftop helicopter landing pad and deep-water channel with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean. The seller will accept a partial trade with high-end classic and exotic cars plus cash.

Four Seasons, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Four Seasons Fort Lauderdale, the first five-star development in Fort Lauderdale, is making a real estate splash with its recent listing of a record-breaking $35 million penthouse, which would more than triple the priciest condo sale ever recorded in the city. 

Called SkyHome, the five-bedroom, six-bathroom residence spans nearly 22,000 square feet of interior and exterior space, including a nearly 7,000-square-foot private rooftop park with a pool and putting green. 

The residence features a swimming pool surrounded by sweeping waterfront views, private fitness center, home theater and wine-tasting space with temperature-controlled storage. There are also immense walk-in closets, a private laundry room and private elevator entry.

Douglas Elliman’s Fredrik Eklund of the Eklund Gomes team has been tapped to handle the sale of the residence.

Residents enjoy world-renowned Four Seasons service and access to the development’s curated amenities, including two pools with luxury cabanas, a state-of-the-art fitness center, beach butler service, signature Four Seasons spa, yachting services and a pet concierge with an on-call veterinarian. The development is well over 60 percent sold, and first occupancy is scheduled for 2021.

Eklund was quoted in The Real Deal as saying “I like to set records, what can I say? All jokes aside, there hasn’t really been anything like this in Miami, in Fort Lauderdale. There’s hardly anything like this in New York or L.A. either.”

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Chicago-Area Construction Association Names Starchitect-Designed Condo Tower Residential Project Of The Year

Developer Related Midwest announced Tuesday that One Bennett Park, its recently completed 70-story luxury residential tower in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood, was named the 2019 Residential Project of the Year as part of the Construction Industry Service Corporation’s Pride in Construction Awards. The award program recognizes excellence in union construction in the six-county Chicago metro area. 

“The addition of this classically-designed tower to Chicago’s architecturally renowned skyline is a reflection of Related’s long-held commitment to excellence in design and construction,” said Frank Monterisi, chief operating officer of Related Midwest.

One Bennett Park is the only residential building in Chicago designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, reflecting the New York City-based firm’s heritage of creating some of the most sought-after luxury residential buildings of the 21st century. Over its 50-year history, the firm has established an international reputation as a leading design firm with wide experience in residential, commercial and institutional work.

Situated steps from Michigan Avenue and the lakefront, the Art Deco-inspired, limestone-clad structure evokes Old World grandeur with its elegantly framed oversized windows, custom ornamental metalwork and two grand motor courts outfitted with patterned pavers and oil-rubbed bronze doors. 

The building’s flagship amenity is Bennett Park, an adjacent 2-acre publicly accessible park designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, landscape architecture firm for the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Maggie Daley Park, the 606 trail and the future Obama Presidential Center. Multifamily developers are increasingly seeing the social value in including public space that serves the community at large. The park showcases native landscaping, a central lawn bowl, a children’s playground, two dog runs, meandering pathways and a shady grove with seating.

According to CISCO, One Bennett Park’s overall excellence in design and craftmanship as well as the use of innovative engineering principals in its design and construction contributed to it receiving the prestigious award. The implementation of rigorous safety precautions and an exemplary safety record during construction were also key factors, along with the project’s positive impact on the community through job creation and the inclusion of a publicly accessible neighborhood park.

One Bennett Park features 69 condominiums priced from $1.9 million to $15 million. Located on floors 41 through 66 of the building, condominium plans include two-, three- and four-bedroom units along with three full-floor penthouses. The tower also includes 279 apartments on its lower levels, with rents starting around $3,200 per month.

Amenities include a landscaped terrace overlooking Bennett Park with a swimming pool, lounge areas, outdoor kitchens and cabanas as well as a fireplace lounge, pet spa and expansive fitness center programmed by The Wright Fit. The building also includes a yoga studio and children’s playroom. Interiors showcase panoramic views of the lake and city, plank flooring, custom cabinetry, Subzero built-in refrigerators and Bosch Benchmark Series appliances.

Residents can take advantage of a wide array of services including Life Simplified, 24-hour concierge and doorkeeper, move-in coordination and in-home package delivery. Related Midwest has partnered with the Chicago office of Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty to serve as the exclusive brokerage firm for One Bennett Park.

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HUD Issues New Guidance On Reasonable Accommodations For Assistance Animals

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released guidance today that clarifies how housing providers can comply with the Fair Housing Act when assessing a request from a person with a disability to have an assistance animal. 

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing against individuals who have disabilities that affect a major life activity. Under the law, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The act requires housing providers to permit a change or exception to a rule, policy, practice or service that might be necessary to provide people with disabilities equal opportunity to use and enjoy their homes. In most circumstances, a refusal to make such a change or exception, known as a reasonable accommodation, is unlawful. 

A common reasonable accommodation is an exception to a no-pet policy. A person with a disability that affects a major life activity may require the assistance of an animal that does work, performs tasks or provides therapeutic emotional support because of the disability. Housing providers may confirm, if it is not apparent, whether the requested accommodation is needed because of a disability that affects a major life activity and is a reasonable request. 

A 2019 survey by the American Pet Products Association found that 67 percent of U.S. households own at least one pet, an estimated 84.9 million homes. The assistance animal notice is designed to help housing providers by offering a step-by-step set of best practices for complying with the Fair Housing Act when assessing accommodation requests involving animals and information that a person may need to provide about his or her disability-related need for the requested accommodation, including supporting information from a health care professional.   

The new guidance provides information on the types of animals that typically may be appropriate and best practices for when the requested animal is one that is not traditionally kept in the home. It also provides information for housing providers and people with disabilities regarding the reliability of documentation of a disability or disability-related need for an animal that is obtained from third parties, including internet-based services offering animal certifications or registrations for purchase. A host of dubious and predatory service and emotional support animal registries have developed over the years for assistance animal certifications. Landlords and property managers are entitled to reliable verification of a tenant’s need for an assistance animal and can require documents other than an online certification.

“Countless Americans rely on assistance animals to fill a void, providing individuals with disabilities with the means to have a home that supports their quality of life,” stated HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “In my many discussions with housing providers and residents impacted by the need for assistance, I recognized the necessity for further clarity regarding support animals to provide peace of mind to individuals with disabilities while also taking into account the concerns of housing providers. Today’s announcement responds to the ambiguity surrounding proper documentation for assistance animals with clarity and compassion to provide an equal opportunity for a person living with a disability to use and enjoy their home.”

Anna Maria Farías, HUD’s assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity pointed out that HUD has recognized for decades the rights of individuals with disabilities to keep an assistance animal in the home where it is a reasonable accommodation. 

“Housing is unique, and a person with a disability that affects a major life activity might need an animal that provides support in ways that is not readily apparent to housing providers,” said Farías. “For example, veterans or senior citizens may need the assistance or therapeutic support of an animal to help them cope with the symptoms of a disability that affects a major life activity. This guidance will help housing providers to recognize the important way assistance animals can improve the lives of persons with disabilities and to meet their obligation to grant such accommodations.” 

HUD General Counsel Paul Compton added, “With the Assistance Animals Notice, both housing providers and individuals with disabilities will better understand their rights and obligations under the Fair Housing Act regarding assistance animals, particularly emotional support animals. For housing providers, this is a tool that can be used to help them lawfully navigate various sets of sometimes complex circumstances to ensure that reasonable accommodations are provided where required so that persons with a disability-related need for an assistance animal have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their housing. The guidance will help ensure that these important legal rights are asserted only in appropriate circumstances.”

Persons who believe they have experienced housing discrimination can file a complaint of discrimination by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at 800- 669-9777 or file a complaint online.

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