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Real estate agent accused in killings prompts new law

Real estate agent accused in killings prompts new law

COLUMBIA, S.C./May 23, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — People who sell or manage property in South Carolina will have to undergo a background check to renew their license under a new law prompted by last November’s arrest of a real estate agent accused of killing seven people.

The law, signed Friday by Gov. Henry McMaster, requires real estate agents, brokers, property managers, and their supervisors to undergo a fingerprint-based check every third license renewal, or every six years.

“Hopefully, it will make people more secure,” Rep. Chip Huggins, R-Columbia, the bill’s main sponsor, said Monday. “This is the result of a terrible situation.”

The law takes effect in 2020.

Todd Kohlhepp was arrested after authorities said they found a woman who’d been missing since August chained by the neck in a storage container on his property in rural Spartanburg County. Authorities said they unearthed the remains of her boyfriend and another couple who disappeared in December. They also said Kohlhepp confessed to a 2003 cold case where four people were gunned down in a motorcycle shop.

Kohlhepp is charged with seven counts of murder, kidnapping, first-degree sexual assault and gun violations. According to the court roster, he is scheduled to be back in court Friday. Prosecutors declined to give details about the hearing.

Kohlhepp, a registered sex offender, received his South Carolina real estate license in 2006, before state law required background checks for real estate licenses.

As a teenager, Kohlhepp was convicted of raping a 14-year-old neighbor at gunpoint and threatening to kill her siblings if she called police. He was sentenced to 15 years and released from an Arizona prison in 2001.

On his 2006 South Carolina application, he checked the box acknowledging he had a felony conviction but lied in the explanation.

A 2014 state law requiring background checks took effect in May 2015 — for first-time applicants only.

Nick Kremydas, CEO of South Carolina REALTORS, said the law is a way to honor the victims.

“REALTORS were horrified by last year’s tragic events,” he said Monday. “We knew it was our responsibility to ask the Legislature to enact tougher laws to better protect the public.”

Once agents are in the Multiple Listing Service and given an electronic key, they “literally can walk in the front door of thousands of homes,” Kremydas said.

The law will apply to 48,000 people in real estate and property management in South Carolina — 63 percent of them real estate agents, according to the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

What will happen when a crime surfaces in a renewal background check and whether any convictions will result in automatic license suspensions are not yet known. The state Real Estate Commission must develop the process, said Lesia Kudelka, spokeswoman for the licensing agency.

Huggins said he was shocked to learn how many state licenses are doled out without background checks. He plans to push next year for checks for other industry licenses.

“Hopefully, we can do a better job with making sure folks are checked before they’re working with the public,” he said.

SEANNA ADCOX, Associated Press

 

Massive slide covers stretch of iconic California highway

Massive slide covers stretch of iconic California highway

BIG SUR, Calif./May 23, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — A massive new landslide along California’s iconic coastal Highway 1 has buried the road under a 40-foot layer of rock and dirt, the latest hit in winter of crippling slides and flooding.

A swath of the hillside gave way in an area called Mud Creek on Saturday night, covering about one-third of a mile (half a kilometer) of road and changing the Big Sur coastline immediately below, Colin Jones, a spokesman with the California Department of Transportation, said Monday night.

“A massive slide. We’ve never seen anything like that,” Jones said.

The state already had closed that part of Highway 1 to repair buckled pavement and remove debris after an earlier slide triggered by one of California’s rainiest winters in decades.

Authorities removed work crews from the area last week after realizing that saturated soil in that area was increasingly unstable, Jones said. “Now it’s covering 10 times as much,” he said of the newly deposited rock.

State road officials plan to wait for the immediate slide danger to pass before going back to start figuring out how to strengthen the hillside and rebuild and reopen that part of the road, he said.

Narrow, windy Highway 1 through Big Sur is a major tourist draw, attracting visitors to serene groves of redwoods, beaches and the highway’s dramatic oceanside scenery.

The rough winter has closed at least two other stretches of road in the area, forcing some resorts to close and others to use helicopters to ferry in supplies and guests.

Even though the rainy season mostly has stopped and the sun come out again, “it doesn’t mean the ground isn’t shifting now based on what happened over the winter,” Jones said.

Parched Cape Town imposes water restrictions due to drought

Parched Cape Town imposes water restrictions due to drought

JOHANNESBURG/May 23, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — South Africa’s city of Cape Town is instructing people to severely restrict water use because of the area’s worst drought in more than a century.

The city, a major international tourist destination, said it is experiencing the impact of climate change and predicts little rain in the next three weeks. It wants daily water usage to be reduced to 100 liters (26 gallons) per person and recommends taking two-minute showers and flushing the toilet only when necessary.

Cape Town residents worried about sediment from dam reservoirs with low water levels are starting to boil tap water, said Justin Friedman, founder of For Love of Water , a non-profit group that promotes conservation.

Some people are worried that the city might turn off the taps at some point, he said Tuesday.

The city of nearly four million people is in its low tourist season. Tour operators hope eventual rains will improve the situation before the high season toward the end of the year.

The drought-stricken Western Cape province, which includes Cape Town, was declared a disaster zone on Monday by Premier Helen Zille. The designation gives more power to the province to direct resources to the water crisis.

The levels of dam reservoirs that supply Cape Town are at 20.7 percent, down by 0.7 percent from a week ago, the city said. It noted that the last 10 percent of a dam’s reservoir is mostly unusable because of mud, weeds and debris. Municipal repair crews are also struggling to attend to hundreds of leaks and faults that cause water loss.

As reservoir levels drop, the city said in a statement , authorities will “start to implement a lifeline supply which entails reducing the water pressure to a very low level across the metro.”

CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press

European markets push higher on strong economic news

European markets push higher on strong economic news

LONDON/May 23, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — European markets were buoyed Tuesday by some further good economic news that helped offset the concerns and anguish stoked by the blast in Manchester, England which killed at least 22 people.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Germany’s DAX was up 0.6 percent at 12,698 while the CAC 40 in France rose 0.8 percent to 5,365. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was 0.2 percent higher at 7,509. U.S. stocks were poised for solid gains with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.2 percent.

MANCHESTER BLAST: A suicide bomber blew himself up as young concert-goers left a show by the American singer Ariana Grande in Manchester, killing at least 22 people and injuring dozens. The singer was not injured. Britain’s terrorist threat level has been set at “severe” in recent years, indicating an attack is highly likely. Greater Manchester Police announced Tuesday that they had arrested a 23-year-old man in the south of the city in connection with the attack.

EUROPE DATA: Europe’s economic recovery is showing surprising strength, as key surveys of business activity and optimism hit their highest levels in years. Monthly surveys from Germany’s Ifo Institute and IHS Markit’s eurozone purchasing managers’ index were both at multi-year highs. The data hold out hope that the region is set to see a sustained and marked decline in its unemployment rate from the current 9.5 percent. And the good economic news could well add pressure on the European Central Bank to signal a withdrawal of its extraordinary stimulus measures.

ANALYST TAKE: “What has been remarkable has been the speed with which indices like the FTSE, S&P 500 and Dow have rebounded to close to their all-time highs,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG. “There is, it seems, no shortage of investors across the globe willing to jump in on the slightest sign of weakness.”

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.3 percent to 19,613.28 as the yen gained against the U.S. dollar, potentially hurting exporters’ earnings. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.5 percent to 3,061.95, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.1 percent to 25,412.73. The S&P ASX 200 of Australia slipped 0.2 percent to 5,760.20. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.7 percent to 2,321.14 as impeached former President Park Geun-hye went on trial.

SOUTH KOREA TRIAL: Park, the former president, denied that she engaged in bribery and leaking government secrets at Tuesday’s start of the criminal trial that could send South Korea’s first female leader to prison for life if she is convicted. Park was removed from office after the Constitutional Court upheld her December impeachment after massive street protests over corruption allegations that emerged last October.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 10 cents to $51.03 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange as did Brent crude, used to price international oils, to $53.77 a barrel.

CURRENCIES: The euro fell 0.2 percent to $1.1215 while the dollar was down 0.2 percent at 111.12 yen.

Proposal seeks to keep 165 downtown housing units affordable

Proposal seeks to keep 165 downtown housing units affordable

DETROIT/May 22, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — The Detroit City Council is considering a proposal that would allow two buildings in downtown Detroit to retain their affordable housing status for 30 years as a developer renovates them.

The city says the Stephens and Industrial buildings have — between them — 165 units under a housing operating subsidy that’s set to expire next year.

Officials say that would put the buildings at-risk of becoming higher-rent market-rate housing which could make living there too expensive for some current residents once renovations are completed.

The Roxbury Group acquired the properties in 2015 and plans to update the buildings in a way that allows existing residents to remain. Work would start in the fall.

Small sinkhole opens outside Trump’s Florida getaway club

Small sinkhole opens outside Trump's Florida getaway club

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla./May 22, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — A small sinkhole has opened on the road just outside President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The Palm Beach Post reports (http://pbpo.st/2rL9SQu ) that the 4-foot-by-4-foot (1-meter-by-1-meter) hole was discovered Monday in Palm Beach County just west of one the resort’s entrances. It is near a new water main and isn’t a threat to the president’s property in Palm Beach.

The president has spent seven weekends at Mar-a-Lago since taking office, but it is now closed for the summer. Trump is on a nine-day trip that began in the Middle East and will end in the Vatican City.

Trump bought the club for $10 million in 1985 and has spent tens of millions on improvements. Each of the 500 members pays $14,000 annually in dues. The initiation fee was recently doubled to $200,000.

1 killed, 7 hurt after vehicle hits bull on Kansas highway

1 killed, 7 hurt after vehicle hits bull on Kansas highway

DODGE CITY, Kan./May 22, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says one person was killed and seven others were injured when a driver hit a bull standing in the highway.

The patrol says 66-year-old Alma Bencomo, of Dodge City, died after her vehicle hit the bull Saturday on U.S. 400, about 26 miles (40 kilometers) east of Dodge City. The collision forced Bencomo’s vehicle across the center line, where it hit a vehicle driven by 41-year-old Phouthavone Tony Thirakul of Wichita.

Five people in Bencomo’s vehicle were injured. Thirakul and a passenger in his car also were injured. A 7-year-old girl in Bencomo’s car was flown to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita. The others were treated at a Dodge City hospital.

Firefighters advance on blaze southeast of San Diego

Firefighters advance on blaze southeast of San Diego

JAMUL, Calif./May 22, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — Firefighters say they are making progress against a wildfire that has forced hundreds of people to evacuate a popular campground and small community southeast of San Diego.

The state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Sunday that a rise in humidity allowed firefighters to advance on the blaze near Pio Pico RV Resort and Campground.

Authorities reported it was 70 percent contained by late Sunday after burning across more than 2 square miles (5 square kilometers).

The blaze broke out Saturday south of Jamul (HAH-mool) and spread rapidly through grass and brush.

Campers and residents of nearby Dulzura were evacuated. An evacuation warning remained in effect for that community, but residents were allowed to return.

Authorities say the campground remains under evacuation because of infrastructure damage.

They did not reveal the extent of the damage.

EU urges members to address inequality as economy recovers

European markets push higher on strong economic news

THE HAGUE, Netherlands/May 22, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — The European Union urged member states Monday to take advantage of the bloc’s recovering economy to strengthen their public finances and push through reforms that tackle social inequality.

The advice came in economic policy guidance for the bloc’s 28 member states that was published by the European Commission. It recommended “boosting investment, pursuing structural reforms and ensuring responsible fiscal policies.”

The advice aims to address social pressures seen as fueling a wave of nationalist populism throughout Europe that is tearing at the fabric of the bloc.

Tackling inequality “is firmly at the heart of our assessment. We have turned the page of the crisis. The next chapter is social,” EU Social Affairs Commissioner Marianne Thyssen said.

The commission stressed that economic growth in the EU and the 19 nations that use the euro currency was close to 2 percent in 2016 as public finances recovered. It said employment reached a record of nearly 233 million people, with unemployment at its lowest level since 2009.

“With the economy moving forward, we need to restore opportunities for those left behind and keep pace with changing skills needs by investing in high quality education and training,” Thyssen said. “Productivity increases should be reflected by higher wages.”

Among the recommendations for member states was a raft of previously agreed measures to help heal Italy’s finances and get its economy growing again. Rome’s progress in achieving them has been slow and often uneven.

The EU is urging an overhaul of the Italian justice system, stepped up efforts to combat corruption, bank reforms and an overhaul of property values for tax purposes. Most Italians whose home is their primary residence are exempt from property tax on their home, but those owning a second or more homes must pay tax on those residences.

The pace of reform has slowed as Italian politicians jockey for position and propose electoral reforms ahead of elections due in spring 2018.

____

Associated Press writer Frances D’Emilio in Rome contributed.

MIKE CORDER, Associated Press

Altice vacates St. Louis commercial office space

Altice vacates St. Louis commercial office space

ST. LOUIS, MO/May 21, 2017 (STLRealEstate.News) Parent company of Suddenlink Communications, a St. Louis-based startup with communications technology, has slowly decreased its local footprint since acquiring Suddenlink in December 2015 for $9.1 billion.  Altice, the global telecommunications company behind the acquisition, this week confirmed that the company has consolidated two of its St. Louis-area offices into one by vacating nearly 46,000-square feet at 575 Maryville Center Drive in Town & Country towards the end of 2016.  Additionally, the company has relocated an unconfirmed amount of employees from St. Louis to New York.

“As we strengthen our operations in a highly competitive market and advance our position as a best-in-class connectivity company, last year we consolidated two offices in St. Louis and deployed some corporate and key business functions closer to our operations, partners, and the communities we serve,” said an Atlice spokeswoman in a statement to the St. Louis Business Journal.

After the consolidation, the company is only operating out of their office space at 520 Maryville Centre Drive.  To make the move possible, Atlice had to bail out of their year lease on their previous location at 575 Maryville Centre, where it was the occupant of the entire third flood of the building. The space left behind is now available for sublease at $15 per square foot.  The building, owned by New York-based private equity real estate asset manager Bluerock Real Estate, also has high profile tenants like CenturyLink and Cushman & Wakefield.

The building is located in a hot St. Louis submarket today, with only a 7.2 percent vacancy rate, second-lowest rate in the region trailing only to Clayton, according to research from Newmark Grubb Zimmer.  Comparatively, the St. Louis metro average is around 11.2 percent.

According to the St. Louis Business Journal, Suddenlink generated $681 million in revenue during the first quarter of this year, which was a 9 percent increase from this time last year.