Brooklyn Boro

BRLA President Becker calls for rewriting of troublesome regulation

Chuck Otey's Pro Bono Barrister

June 16, 2015 By Charles F. Otey, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Lisa Becker. Eagle photo by Mario Belluomo
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The latest Albany initiative of the BRLA, according to President Lisa Becker, is a campaign against a looming nonsensical  change in regulations that would throw a ludicrous hurdle into thousands of real estate closings by eliminating a practice — closers’ pickup fees — that has worked smoothly and effectively for decades.

The concept of such fees may be obscure to some, but to practicing attorneys, banks and buyers and sellers of homes, its elimination and the proposed new “reg” makes no sense at all. In essence, the proposed regulation would eliminate the longstanding, hallowed practice of providing “pickup fees” to the title closers when the parties sit down to complete the sale of property.

Most lawyers — even the most experienced — will tell you that the title of closer brings invaluable information and timely reports to the closing. It is the closers’ expertise and up-to-date data that facilitates otherwise cumbersome proceedings and, not unimportantly, helps and, thus protects,  a “newer” attorney in properly representing his or her client.

Over the decades, the closers have relied on these “pickup fees” to sustain their income.

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“The entire real estate industry will be affected,” a veteran real estate attorney told us. “If companies and closers are not allowed to charge pickups, then closings will be delayed because sellers must arrange for the payoff banks to be at the closing!”

After consulting with her board, President Becker immediately directed a thoughtful and urgent message to select local state legislators, including Sen. Marty Golden and Assemblymembers Nicole Malliotakis and Alec Brook-Krasny.

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Bay Ridge Lawyers President Becker Asks Officials:

Don’t Disrupt Thousands of Real Estate Closings By Enabling State to Abolish Closers’ ‘Pickup Fees’

The Bay Ridge Lawyers Association (BRLA), now in its 61st year, has become well known as a source of legal fellowship and occasional activism. Back in the early 1970s, for instance, teams of BRLA lawyers, led by Ray Ferrier and the late Frank Maher, boarded buses here to Albany to inveigh against the “Big Insurance” juggernaut to prevent these behemoths from depriving  injury victims their constitutional right to their day in court.

Major carriers had poured millions of dollars into the pockets of lobbyists under the benign guise of “no fault” insurance, a misleading crusade calculated to destroy the ability of poor litigants to engage appropriate counsel in their battle against well-heeled insurance companies.

“Get rid of the trial lawyers!” insurance companies wailed in their state-wide television and newspaper campaign. “Trust us to be fair and generous as we graciously settle your injury claims.”

Despite the monies that had poured into their campaign coffers — and the arm-twisting of then-Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller — the aggressive action of the BRLA and other professional groups such as the New York State Trial Lawyers Association saw that the ultimate “Reparations Act” enacted by the legislature failed to eliminate litigants’ trial options!

In fact, loopholes in the act — i.e., the “$500 threshhold” — eventually doomed certain carriers who had to lay out more monies than they had to earlier.

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Here’s What President Becker Wrote to Golden, Malliotakis And Brook-Krasny

“The Bay Ridge Lawyers Association is a bar association formed in 1954. Most of the association’s approximately 225 members live or work in the Bay Ridge area (i.e., your [political] district). Its primary goal is to educate members of the bar and elevate the standards and integrity of the legal profession.  Many of our members are familiar with real estate transactions. I am writing to call your attention to Regulation 208 of 11 NYCRR 227, recently proposed by the NYS Department of Financial Services.

“Our group is asking you to contact [the State Insurance Superintendent] … and the Governor’s Deputy Secretary George Haggerty and urge them NOT to enact this regulation as it is [currently] written. I would also appreciate if you would contact the chairman of the Insurance Committee and [use] your leadership to seek their help preventing this unworkable and disruptive regulation from being adopted.

“Regulation 208, as proposed, will increase costs to our clients and interfere with our attorney-client relationship. In addition, Regulation 208 contains several technical errors which obscure options to title insurance applicants, and create ambiguity in the relationships and duties of the transacting parties.

“Lastly, the imminent effective date of revised federal closing forms and rules promulgated under the authority of Dodd Frank Act makes it necessary to investigate whether Regulation 208 can work in harmony with the new federal framework, which will become effective on Aug. 1 of this year.

“Please contact me with any questions about this letter.

— S/S Lisa Becker, President,

Bay Ridge Lawyers Association”

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The BRLA has been led this year by President Becker with a slate composed of Vice President Grace Borrino, Secretary Steve Spinelli, Treasurer Margaret Stanton and Corresponding Secretary Joseph Vasile. Immediate past president is Joann Monaco.

President Becker will be the guest of honor when the Bay Ridge barristers hold their 61st dinner-dance June 24 at the Vanderbilt of South Beach on Father Capodanno Boulevard in Staten Island.

Those serving on the BRLA board are Hon. Elizabeth Bonina, Anna Tepedino, Helen Galette, Aileen Fox, Stephen Chiaino, Lorenzo Lugara and Mary Ann Strathopooulos.  Honorary directors are Vincent Caccese and Carl Tavolacci.



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