Transfer Taxes / Fiscal Cliff Update

Here’s how the NYT is reporting tonight’s late Senate deal on the estate tax:

The estate tax would also rise, but considerably less than Democrats had wanted. The value of estates over $5 million would be taxed at 40 percent, up from 35 percent. Democrats had wanted a 45 percent rate on inheritances [sic] over $3.5 million.

The WSJ is on the same page. More details when they emerge.

Happy New Year!

New Jersey Land Use Update

Scales and Lamp USSCThere were no published opinions on land use or zoning this month, from the Appellate Division or the Supreme Court. There was one unpublished opinion from the A.D. last week, Montague v. Borough of Deal, which addressed board discretion about variances. The temporary New Jersey Courts link is alive for the moment, but the opinion will be archived at the Rutgers Law Library next week.

Transfer Taxes and the Fiscal Cliff, Cont’d.

It’s really going down to the wire, isn’t it? I attended an estate planning conference in New Brunswick last week, and the speakers —  practicing T&E lawyers from around New Jersey — were preoccupied with the uncertainty about this. Nobody seemed to think that the end result would be anything other than a modest lowering of the exemption amount from its present level. But one speaker articulated a growing sense among his colleagues that any deal on transfer taxes would ultimately be an afterthought, and might not be as deliberate as specialists in the practice — or their clients — would like.

EHS Settles Fraud Accusations

This caught my eye, and brought back some memories. I stayed in an EHS building for a semester when I was at the New School, back in 2001. The company was a total slumlord. The school had a contract with EHS, so when I signed up for university housing I was given a room in one of their buildings, as if it were a dorm.

The place was in Brooklyn Heights. EHS had recently acquired the building, and the room hadn’t been touched since the acquisition. The previous owners had used the building as an SRO, so, really, it hadn’t been well maintained in a very long time. There was a small private bathroom within the room, and its doorknob was broken. The door itself had a big, black shoe mark squarely in its center, as if a previous tenant had tried to kick it in. This was a plausible theory, at least, given its tendency to trap a party inside, when fully closed. The water was never quite hot. The faucets would come off of the sink, exposing the tops of the valves. The carpeting in the main room had a plate-sized burn mark in the center of the floor. It didn’t seem like they had even thoroughly cleaned the place prior to the beginning of the semester. Other rooms in that part of the building were comparable, but there was another wing where things had at least been painted. It was very random.

I put in a request for a room change, but it went nowhere. I put in work orders to get things painted and repaired, but they went nowhere, either. And as anyone who dealt with the New School in those days knows, complaining to the university would have been an exercise in sheer futility. Then 9/11 happened, and having a shabby dorm room seemed like a very small problem. We actually took on additional roommates in that building — students who had been displaced from a building in Lower Manhattan. What a terrible time.

In the Shadows of America

For those who believe that a ‘housing crisis’ means that the price of housing is not going up quickly enough: this is why smaller, less expensive units need to be permitted in our land use codes. Addressing this problem is more important than protecting the ten-fold returns on investment that people are expecting to reap on properties that they purchased when Jimmy Carter was in office. Would a supply of more, cheaper units solve all of the housing problems described in this story? Maybe not. But it would begin to alleviate the stress on the population that is employed in entry-level positions, and whose wages do not overcome the structural failures of bizarrely distorted real estate markets. I mean, seriously, what kind of a society allows this to happen to young people who are just starting out? It’s a disgrace.