Dream Town’s definition of family has always been inclusive … driven by a heartfelt respect for all our clients and real estate consultants. As Illinois’ historic new Marriage Equality laws take effect in June 2014 —and Chicago’s LGBT buyers & sellers begin to form their new families — we know many will have questions about the implications this change in legal status will have on home finance options, title transfer, taxes and other residential ownership issues.
We’re committed to making sure that the LGBT community has all the tools they need to fully understand their newly won real estate rights & responsibilities. That’s why we created the Dreamtown LGBT Client Services Division — the first of it’s kind in Chicagoland. This new division will offer resources and connections — powered by Dreamtown’s award-winning residential consultants who specialize in serving the diverse needs of this unique market — in order to help the LGBT communityfully celebrate their “Pride of Ownership.” Sign up here to receive information about upcoming seminars and events.
Left to Right: 1. Brad Edwards, General Assignment Reporter for CBS 2 Chicago 2. Terry Cosgrove, Commissioner, Illinois Human Rights Commission 3. Byron Wardlaw, Assistant General Counsel, Illinois Human Rights Commission 4. Nicole Bashor, Equality Illinois Board Member & “Marriage Rights” Book Author; Vice President of the Gay and Lesbian Bar Association 5. Rick Garcia, Longtime LGBT Community Activist 6. Jill Metz, Jill M. Metz & Associates, Attorneys at Law; President of the Board of Directors for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois 7. Vince Kueffner, President of Kueffner Group at Guaranteed Rate Mortgage; Professional Speaker and Trainer, Goal Setting and Personal Growth 8. Amie Klujian, Licensed Real Estate Broker; Executive Vice President, SwakeGroup at Dream Town Realty 9. Todd Szwajkowski, President of the Dream Town Realty LGBT Client Services Division; Licensed Real Estate Managing Broker
HOW LGBT LAWS AFFECT YOUR HOME OWNERSHIP RIGHTS
Dream Town Realty’s definition of family has always been inclusive. And when launching the nation’s first-ever LGBT real estate client services division, we were committed to helping everyone celebrate their ‘Pride of Ownership.’ That’s why, on April 26, 2014, we hosted a panel discussion featuring notable subject matter experts and community leaders to discuss how Illinois’ new Marriage Equality laws would impact the homeownership rights of the LGBT community. Home purchase and ownership issues like home finance options, title transfer and tax implications were discussed.
Below you’ll find answers to the many important questions that were raised.
How has the ability of LGBT couples to form legal relationships changed over time?
In 1996, same-sex marriage was banned in Illinois but in June of 2011, the state finally established civil unions. Governor Quinn signed the legislation on January 31, 2011, which allowed for both gay and lesbian couples as well as heterosexual couples to form civil unions. Same-sex marriage was then introduced to the General Assembly from 2007 to 2013. Read More
The Senate passed the same-sex marriage legislation in February 2013. After lobbying for votes, the House finally passed an amended version of the bill, which Governor Quinn signed into law on November 20, 2013. The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Law came into effect June 2014 and made same-sex marriage finally legal in Illinois.
What benefits does a broker provide for a same-sex couple looking for a home?
Many Chicago Realtors don’t understand the specific needs and wants of gay and lesbian couples. Not that same sex couples are so different, but the home buying process is a very personal thing. So guiding a client through the traditional heterosexual family experience of finding a home is not always optimal for the LGBT community. Read More
For example, a Chicago real estate agent who assumes the “norm” might show a gay and lesbian couple a home with two separate master bathrooms and bedrooms, when they really only need one. Or the agent might assume that one person will take title and the other person will rent. It can get awkward trying to explain yourself in this situation. Maybe you’re not comfortable sharing this kind of information or you may be afraid that the real estate agent will treat you differently.
Working with one of our Chicago Realtors, you can feel at ease because they’re used to thinking about your needs. They’re also aware of the current laws and regulations regarding gay and lesbian couples and how these affect home ownership.
What is different for a married same-sex couple versus a non-married couple looking for real estate?
When you buy a home, you and your partner need to decide how to legally take ownership (or title) of the property. This important step has lasting consequences, so you must choose wisely and seek the counsel of an experienced Illinois real estate attorney. Home buyers have a few different choices. Read More
Tenants in the Entirety
Starting in June 2014, gay and lesbian couples can claim ownership of a property as tenants in entirety. You and your partner will be considered as one entity, which means that if you or your partner dies, the full ownership of the property is automatically transferred to the surviving spouse. No other person will be able to take claim on your home.
If the title only contains one name, this person is the legal owner of the property in question. That means that the sole owner has the right to sell or will the home as they wish even if another person contributed to the purchase of the property. There are some benefits to this type of ownership. Gay and lesbian couples can save on taxes if one of your incomes is much higher than the others and you can avoid creditors if you or your partner has bad credit.
Gay and lesbian couples can claim title as joint tenants and have an equal share of the property. If one partner dies, the other person can claim ownership of the share, even if it says otherwise in the will. This procedure – called right of survivorship – is a great advantage of joint tenancies since you can avoid the expense and trouble of proceedings after your partner’s death. But beware – if you or your partner decide to sell your share, the joint tenancy is broken.
Tenants in Common
This is the most common way unmarried couples take the title to property. Tenants in Common, however, are not entitled to right of survivorship. If you or your partner dies, his or her share will be given to whoever is specified in a will or living trust. If there is no will, intestate heirs will receive the share –and this does not include domestic partners. Be careful about naming your partner as the one who will receive your share after death. This can be changed anytime without notification.
Your best bet is to talk to a lawyer because laws change all the time. It’s a bit ironic that you have to decide what will happen with a property when you or your partner dies or your relationship ends right when you’re starting a new chapter together. Having the right legal documents in place will help you avoid a potentially big mess later. No one understands that better than a professional real estate lawyer.
What is the process so that same-sex couples can jointly hold a title?
Once gay and lesbian couples have decided how they want to hold title, they have to get a deed recorded, or in the case of someone who already owns property, a deed re-recorded. The deed created states exactly how the same-sex couple will hold title. The document has to be filed with the Recorder of Deeds office, which will ask for a certificate showing that your water bill is paid. There is also a filing fee.
Should same-sex partners wait until marriage to buy a house?
There’s no reason to wait if the ideal home is on the market! Mortgage companies don’t care about the title and changing ownership is not a difficult process. What matters the most is finding a great home in a great location at a great price.
What is different for a married same-sex couple versus a non-married couple looking for a mortgage?
Married gay and lesbian couples have the benefit of owning a title together and taking advantage of the rights that come with a joint title. However, the bank pulls credit from every individual, regardless if it’s a husband and wife or friends or gay and lesbian partners buying a home together. Read More
Married gay and lesbian couples have the benefit of owning a title together and taking advantage of the rights that come with a joint title. However, the bank pulls credit from every individual, regardless if it’s a husband and wife or friends or gay and lesbian partners buying a home together.
Married couples, however, do have an advantage with VA mortgages. If you’re a veteran, your partner can get on the mortgage with you, but if you’re not married, both of you have to be veterans to receive a VA loan.
Your best bet is to talk to a professional lender. They will inform you on what kind of loans are out there and which loans you qualify for. It’s always recommended that you have a mortgage in hand before you even start looking for a home. This way, you know what you can afford.
What do same-sex couples have to do to change their mortgage to reflect marriage?
Gay and lesbian couples who get married will have to restructure their mortgage. Once a mortgage is recorded, the names on the note will always remain there. However, same-sex couples can try to contact their mortgage company to put the new spouse on the mortgage as well. Beware that this process comes with a lot of paperwork but the benefits are worth it. Read More
Once the new spouse is on the mortgage, he or she can claim the interest collected on the annual tax return. However, everyone’s financial situation is different so consult a tax professional or an accountant to determine what will work best for you.
How do gay and lesbian couples make certain that property will be passed along to the partner in case of death?
Married couples and joint tenants have right of survivorship in case of death—meaning that they are entitled to property that owned jointly in case their partner dies. If same-sex couples are not married, they should work with a lawyer to create a “Domestic Partnership Agreement.” This document is highly recommended when gay and lesbian couples don’t have joint ownership because it establishes your property rights. The agreement addresses what happens to your home if you and your partner chose to end your relationship. Read More
It’s recommended that you get a “Domestic Partnership Agreement” even if you’re married as a same sex couple. It protects you under federal law, where the Defense of Marriage Act is still in effect. This means that you could run into some trouble with taxes if you don’t have a clear legal agreement established between you and your partner.
What’s more, if you and your partner move to another state where gay marriage is not recognized your property rights will be at risk. A “Domestic Partnership Agreement” can protect you in this case as well.
You may also want to create or change your will so that you or your partner is protected in case one of you passes away suddenly. Talk to your lawyer about getting a transfer of death deed, which is an affidavit that your home goes to the other person immediately.
Are there economic advantages of being married for everyone?
Most couples, same-sex or heterosexual, economically benefit from marriage. Not everyone does, however. Sit down with an accountant and run last year’s taxes as if you and your partner were married so that you can see the effect on your annual tax return. There are more things to consider, however. Read More
For example, if same-sex couples decide to change a title to a home so that both partners are included, a gift tax will have to be filed. There are more consequences for probates, disability and more. Talk to a professional account to find out all of the ways marriage can affect your finances.
What is the scope of protections created by the Illinois Human Rights Act for members of the LGBT community?
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are not protected under federal law. The Fair Housing Act only prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (whether someone has children or not), and disability. This means that you may experience different treatment than others during your home buying process. Things like putting your partner’s name on an insurance policy or even filing a claim may be difficult. However, the Illinois Human Rights Act was amended to also include sexual orientation as a protected class. Read More
So any discrimination that may occur because of you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is unlawful in Illinois. If you feel like you’ve been discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The form is easily downloaded or filled out online. You can also write a letter to HUD or give them a call at (773) 353-5680. You should file a complaint as soon as possible. Once you’ve done that, HUD will inform the respondent (the person you’re filing your claim against) and start an investigation. A conciliation agreement is sought and in the worst case scenario, the Attorney General is asked to file suit.
Will most same-sex couples see a savings by filing their taxes jointly?
The short answer is probably. Since August 13, 2013, legally married gay and lesbian couples can file federal taxes as couples. Even if you live in a state that does not recognize your marriage, you’ll be treated as a married couple for federal tax purposes. This means that you and your partner can file jointly or as a married couple filing separately in order to receive tax benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy. Read More
This also means that if you have a child, you can claim him or her as a dependent. You may also claim the child tax credit if your combined income is less than $75,000. Another benefit is that you can file as head of the household (if you support the child more than 50%) and thus pay less tax than if you would when filing as single.
In terms of real estate, same sex couples are now also exempt from federal taxes when property is transferred. If you gift your estate or a large amount of money, however, you may need to pay a federal gift tax. Some exceptions include gifts to tax-exempt charities and gifts to your spouse (as long as they are a U.S. citizen).
Lastly, legally married gay and lesbian couples are now able to claim health care benefits that their spouse and children receive through an employer.
Since so many factors affect your tax liability, you should consult a qualified accountant to review your specific situation. Your Realtor will have access to a resources list with several highly qualified accountants.
What are some little-known tax benefits for same-sex couples?
Gay and lesbian couples who filed for civil union—when it was passed in Illinois in 2011—can benefit from now upgrading to a marriage certificate. These couples can go back and amend their previous tax returns in order to take advantage of the tax benefits offered to married couples. In other words, your marriage is retroactive to your civil union. Consult a tax professional to find out how you can benefit from the transition. Your real estate agent has several reputable professionals he or she can recommend.