In 2010, the village of Golf in Cook County adopted an ordinance requiring a zero dollar real estate transfer stamp upon transferring properties. A transfer stamp requirement with no tax may leave one scratching their head as to the purpose. Well, municipalities want the ability to withhold a stamp to prevent a property transfer for any number of reasons. And some municipalities are under the impression they can bypass state law requiring a referendum to institute a transfer tax — a requirement pushed by the Illinois Association of REALTORS® (IAR) in 1996 — by not attaching a dollar amount to the stamp.
This wasn’t new to the North Shore–Barrington Association of REALTORS® (NSBAR). In 2008, the city of Highwood in Lake County tried a similar tactic. When talks failed with the city, NSBAR, with the help of IAR legal counsel, reached out to the Lake County Recorder of Deeds. In short, the Lake County State’s Attorney jumped in and advised the Recorder’s office to record deeds even if they lacked the Highwood stamp. Highwood immediately halted the program.
Despite Golf not being located in Lake County and not subject to their policies, NSBAR shared the legal opinion of both IAR attorneys and the Lake County State’s Attorney, and to the credit of Golf’s legal counsel, he recommended a full repeal of their zero dollar transfer stamp program. The village board followed his advice and rescinded the ordinance.
Fast forward to 2013, a village trustee in Riverwoods, located in Lake County, suggested a zero dollar transfer stamp be instituted. Coincidentally, the village attorney for Golf also serves as the village attorney for Riverwoods. This time the attorney immediately informed the village board that such a requirement is impermissible, and the proposal was promptly dropped.
“We didn’t need to lift a finger in Riverwoods, but only because we rolled up our sleeves in 1996 to make sure transfer taxes were not levied without voter approval, and only because we started to address faux-transfer stamp requirements in 2008,” expressed REALTOR® Don Gelfund of RE/MAX Villager and a member of NSBAR’s Board of Directors and Government and Political Issues Committee.