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March Fun Friday Employee events

Every second Friday of the month VFN host a fun event for their employees.

This month’s Fun Friday did not disappoint. Murlarkey Distilled Spirits set up a tasting and a few mixed drinks at our office. Thank you MurLarkey Distilled Spirits for creating a memorable event for our staff.

This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer


Reporting Requirements For “Non-Financed” Real Estate Transactions In The Works

Written by: Guy Jeffress

On Wednesday, December 8, 2021, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”), a bureau of the U.S. Treasury that works to safeguard the U.S. financial system from illicit use and money laundering, and to promote national security, issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (a “ANPRM”) to solicit public comments on proposed changes to the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”). The changes would require additional disclosures for persons involved in “non-financed” transactions involving both commercial and residential real estate. The ANPRM can be found at 86 Fed. Reg. 69589 (Dec. 8, 2021).

A “non-financed purchase,” “non-financed transaction,” “all-cash purchase,” and “all-cash transaction” are defined in the ANPRM as any real estate purchase or transaction that is not financed via a loan, mortgage, or other similar instruments, issued by a bank or non-bank residential mortgage lender or originator, and that is made, at least in part, using currency or value that substitutes for currency (including convertible virtual currency (CVC)), or a cashier’s check, a certified check, a traveler’s check, a personal check, a business check, a money order in any form, or a funds transfer.

According to a June 6, 2021, White House Press Release: “For too long, the U.S. real estate market has been susceptible to being manipulated and used as a haven for the laundered proceeds of illicit activity, including corruption. Our real estate market is a relatively stable store of value. It can be opaque, and there are gaps in industry regulation. As a result, criminals and corrupt officials are able to exploit real estate far too often.”

Recently reported cases and studies cited in the ANPRM and the press release indicate that many groups are using cash-only purchases of U.S. real estate to launder money. The end goal of the rulemaking process is to prepare a rule that would impose nationwide record-keeping and reporting requirements on certain persons participating in transactions involving non-financed purchases of real estate similar to those already required in financed transactions.

The ANPRM points out that there are several key factors that make these types of transactions appealing, those factors include, but are not limited to, the following:

First, the lack of transparency in the real estate market contributes to its vulnerability to money laundering activity. Real estate may be held directly or indirectly through nominees, legal entities (such as one or more shell holding companies), or through various investment vehicles. Buyers may use shell companies in many legitimate circumstances, such as when buyers use legal entities to shield themselves and their assets from liability related to the purchase of real property or as a means of protecting their privacy. Illicit actors, however, can take advantage of the opacity of shell companies or other legal entities or arrangements to mask their identity as the true beneficial owners of the property and their involvement in real estate transactions.

Second, the attractiveness of the U.S. real estate market as a stable vehicle for maintaining and increasing investment value also contributes to its vulnerability to money laundering activity. Illicit actors seek to conceal the origins of their illicit funds in a way that grows as an investment, “cleans” as much money as possible with each transaction and allows them to enjoy the fruits of their illicit activity while minimizing potential losses from market instability and fluctuating exchange rates. Consequently, real estate—especially in a relatively stable market with strong private property protections such as in the United States—is an attractive asset to facilitate money laundering. Real estate is highly appealing for this purpose because there are a large number of transactions, and each transaction is high is amount; as of mid-2021 the average residential sale price in the U.S. was about $350,000.

Third, the lack of industry regulation for non-financed transactions exacerbates the money laundering vulnerabilities of the U.S. real estate market. Non-financed purchases of real estate currently are not subject to the same regulatory requirements as those that involve financing underwritten by a financial institution which are subject to BSA requirements. This leaves a substantial portion of the real estate market without the same protections and safeguards as those applicable to banks, casinos, or other financial institutions. Moreover, data on real estate purchases is held in a patchwork of different state and county databases, making investigation and analysis difficult.

Written comments to the ANPRM must be received on or before Feb. 7, 2022.

This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer


Phase I Environmental Site Assessment – updated standard requirements

Written by: Guy Jeffress

Phase I Environmental Site Assessment – updated standard requirements

On November 1, 2021, ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials) approved revisions to the ASTM 1527 standard, more commonly known as a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Report. Once the new standard is adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), purchasers of real estate will need to comply with the updated requirements.

Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), a property owner risks strict liability for environmental contamination caused by prior owners. However, CERCLA provides defenses for a current owner if the current owner satisfies certain requirements, i.e., the All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI) requirement. To qualify for an AAI defense, a prospective owner, prior to the purchase, must make reasonable inquiries to determine if a property has existing contamination, this includes conducting a Phase I environmental site assessment undertaken in accordance with the ASTM 1527 standard.

Potential purchasers of commercial real property should ensure that environmental professionals are conducting Phase I Reports according to the required standards, i.e., ASTM 1527-13 or ASTM 1527-21. Likewise, lenders funding acquisition loans should keep an eye open for the upcoming change. Adoption of the new standard, ASTM 1527-21, by the EPA is expected to occur in December 2021. There should be a “phase-out” or transition period during which both standards may be allowed. Note that as a result of the new standard Phase I reports may become more costly and time-consuming as environmental professionals get up to speed on the new requirements.

Additional information regarding the revised standard can be found on the ASTM website: https://newsroom.astm.org/astm-international-revises-standard-practice-environmental-site-assessments

Contact the attorneys at Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C., if you have any questions regarding the purchase and/or sale of commercial real estate.

This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer


Virtual Meetings and Consultations Now Available

In efforts to continue to serve our clients in a safe and CDC compliant manner, we are now offering virtual meetings and consultations.

If you are interested in scheduling a virtual consultation or meeting with your attorney, please call 703-369-4738 and one of our legal assistants will schedule a zoom appointment.


Six Attorneys Named Legal Elite in 2019

Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. is proud to announce that six of its attorneys have been recognized by the Virginia Business Magazine as being among Virginia’s “Legal Elite” within their various practice categories. All of the attorneys named have been nominated as Legal Elite in the past and we’re extremely honored to celebrate their continued success and exceptional work!

Litigation & Construction– Randolph Frostick

Land Use & Real Estate– Michael Vanderpool

Intellectual Property– Christopher Collins

Employment Law– Kristina Keech Spitler

Young Lawyer (under 40) – Brett Callahan

Business Law– V. Rick Nishanian


Hosting on Airbnb? Here are some legal tips!

Thinking about renting your home on Airbnb? Make sure to check your local laws!

Local laws and regulations often fail to keep up with the speed of market innovation, leaving jurisdictions scrambling to balance personal liberty and community safety. This is the case with Airbnb and other short term rental sites that allow homeowners to rent out their spare rooms or entire houses to travelers for a short period of time.

From its humble beginnings of San Francisco roommates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia renting out an air mattress in their apartment to help pay the rent to a global powerhouse disrupting the hospitality industry in under ten years, Airbnb has challenged governments around the world to rethink private property use. Some hosts are finding that their local zoning ordinances prohibit them from renting out their homes, while others are facing serious legal and financial consequences of less than ideal guest behavior.

So if you’re thinking of becoming a host on Airbnb or a similar services, municipal attorney Martin Crim has a few tips for you:

Check your local zoning ordinances

Before you begin hosting guests, check your local zoning ordinance for restrictions or requirements for short term rentals. For example, in the City of Manassas, short term rentals are allowed with restrictions on the amount of time a guest may stay. However, a few miles away in Fairfax County, short term rentals are prohibited unless your home is approved as a bed and breakfast.

Read your rental agreement / Homeowners’ Association rules

Even if your locality allows short term rentals, if you are a renter or have a Homeowners’ Association, you may be subject to additional restrictions or regulations regarding property use and guest occupancy limits.

Check with your local tax authority

Check with your local tax authority to ensure that the income you earn from renting out your property isn’t subject to any taxes beyond those handled by the service provider.

Be present

By far the most disastrous cases stemming from a short term rentals gone wrong have been those that occur when the homeowner wasn’t there. Don’t let a guest stay in your home completely unsupervised unless you are certain that they are trustworthy and will be respectful of your property, your neighbors, and any other entities involved.

The attorneys at Vanderpool, Frostick, and Nishanian, P.C. are here to help with your real estate, zoning, and land use matters – feel free to contact us!