NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Senate GOP halts fixes for Pa.’s troubled rent relief program, surprising even their own

Bucks County
Falls Township issues new U&O fact sheet, but process remains too burdensome

Chester County
Chester County initiative will support families and child care providers

Delaware County
Middletown to consider update to the comprehensive plan

Montgomery County
No tax hike in Upper Pottsgrove budget draft

Philadelphia County
City council proposes 1% construction tax, but also a delay in reducing property tax abatement

 

Blog

Monday, October 12, 2020

Upper Darby Mayor, Council President Unresponsive as Residents and Realtors® Struggle with Broken U&O System

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Monday, October 12, 2020 at 9:00:00 am Comments (1)

 

Oct. 12, 2020 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Pete Kennedy, 610-981-9000, sra@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com

UPPER DARBY, Pa. — The Suburban Realtors® Alliance (SRA) is calling on Upper Darby Township to fix its broken use and occupancy process. A survey of Realtors® who have recently done business in the township showed that 80% of them found the process difficult, and 53% said municipal staff did not return emails or phone calls.

“This is not a trivial matter, as it is creating serious hardship for sellers, buyers and the real estate professionals who are attempting to provide their services to current and future residents,” said Jamie Ridge, SRA president and CEO.

Upper Darby, like roughly half the municipalities in the Philadelphia suburbs, requires a use and occupancy inspection before allowing a property to change hands. The seller or buyer must request an inspection from the township, paying a $100 application fee. After the inspection, the township issues a resale permit allowing the transaction to move forward.

“Imagine trying to buy a home and you’ve done all the research, negotiated a price, secured a mortgage, hired a private home inspector, lined up insurance — and it’s all in jeopardy because the township won’t respond to your phone calls or emails,” Ridge said. “Deals are falling apart, and families are being left in limbo, unable to sell their home, or buy a home in Upper Darby. This is a level of incompetence that we have never seen in another municipality in southeastern Pennsylvania.”

After receiving frequent complaints and requests for assistance from Realtors® struggling to complete transactions in Upper Darby, the SRA in July created a survey, which drew 45 responses and revealed widespread frustration.

Several respondents shared details of their experiences:

“Although we submitted everything required, the staff at Upper Darby stated that their computer systems were ‘down’ and they could not issue the certificate. This went on for several weeks, before and after our settlement. To this day we have not received the Certificate of Occupancy.”

“The workers at the township have been very honest by stating that there are piles of paperwork all over the place and they can’t find anything; Resubmitting the paperwork is the only way to proceed. What a mess.”

“I have made multiple calls, left messages and sent emails and have not heard back from anyone.”

On Aug. 25, Ridge sent an email to Mayor Barbarann Keffer, Township Council President Laura Wentz and Township Administrator Vince Rongione to share the survey results and discuss ways to improve the situation. None of them responded or acknowledged the message.

On Oct. 1, Ridge sent a similar email to members of township council. One council member, Donald Bonnett (1st District), responded that he had personally intervened on behalf of Realtors® and a property owner who were receiving no response from the township’s Department of Licenses and Inspections.

“We’re not seeing this level of dysfunction anywhere else in the Philadelphia suburbs, and there’s simply no explanation for it,” Ridge said. “I’m optimistic about working together with the township to make the situation better. But before that can happen, the leadership has to acknowledge there’s a problem they want to fix.”

About Suburban Realtors® Alliance

The Suburban Realtors® Alliance is a subsidiary of the three largest local Realtor® associations in Pennsylvania: the Bucks County, Montgomery County and Suburban West associations of Realtors®. Between its three shareholder associations, the Alliance serves more than 12,000 members. For more information, visit www.suburbanrealtorsalliance.com.

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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Watch: Realtor Town Hall with Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Thursday, June 11, 2020 at 7:00:00 pm Comments (0)

The Suburban Realtors® Alliance hosted a Realtor® Town Hall with U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5) — on Thursday, June 11, 2020. Watch it below:

 

 

The conversation covered COVID-19 relief efforts like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and SBA loans, and broader legislative topics relevant to real estate like remote notarization. 

Panelists for the town hall include:
    • Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5)
    • Stefanie Hahn (NAR Federal Political Coordinator)
    • Jamie Ridge (SRA President/CEO)


Monday, June 1, 2020

How to Use the New Voting Machines in 2020

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Monday, June 1, 2020 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

In 2018, Gov. Wolf ordered all 67 counties in Pennsylvania to have paper-based voting machines in time for the April 2020 presidential primary. The systems produce a paper trail of votes that can be manually audited and recounted.


Choose a county to learn more about its voting machines:

Bucks County Chester County Delaware County Montgomery County

*Information comes from the Pa. Department of State's comprehensive resource explaining the new systems for each county.   


Bucks County

Bucks County uses Clear Ballot voting machines.

To mark ballots:

✏️  Most voters will use a hand-marked paper ballot. 

  See instructions for hand-marked ballot.

♿  An ADA-compliant option is also available — the Clear Ballot Clear Access Ballot Marking Device.

Click to view a video demonstration of the ADA-compliant option:


To cast ballots:

🗳️  All voters will cast their ballot using the Clear Cast Scanner.

Click to view a video demonstration:


More information:

Bucks County website — includes demonstration dates
Pa. Dept. of State website — includes step-by-step instructions and videos.

 

Chester County

Chester County uses Election Systems & Software (ES&S) voting machines.

To mark ballots:

✏️  Most voters will use a hand-marked paper ballot

  See instructions for hand-marked ballot.

♿  An ADA-compliant option is also available — the ES&S ExpressVote 2.1.

Click to view a video demonstration of the ADA-compliant option:


To cast ballots:

🗳️  All voters will cast their ballot using DS 200 Precinct Scanner.

Click to view a video demonstration of the ADA-compliant option:


M
ore information:

Chester Co. website
Pa. Dept. of State — includes step-by-step instructions and videos.

 

Delaware County

Delaware County uses Hart Verity voting machines.

To mark ballots:

✏️  Most voters will use a hand-marked paper ballot. 

  See instructions for hand-marked ballot.

♿  An ADA-compliant option is also available — the Hart Verity Touch Writer.

Click to view a video demonstration of the ADA-compliant option:


To cast ballots:

🗳️  All voters will cast their ballot using the Verity Scan Scanner.

Click to view a video demonstration:


M
ore information:

Delaware Co. website
Pa. Dept. of State — includes step-by-step instructions and videos. 

The Delaware County site also offers this overview video of the voting process (click to expand):

  

Montgomery County

Montgomery County uses Dominion systems.

To mark ballots:

✏️  Most voters will use a hand-marked paper ballot. 

  See instructions for hand-marked ballot.

♿  An ADA-compliant option is also available — the Dominion Imagecast X.

Click to view a video demonstration of the ADA-compliant option:


To cast ballots:

🗳️  All voters will cast their ballot using the ImageCast Precinct Scanner.

Click to view a video demonstration:


M
ore information:

Montgomery Co. website
Pa. Dept. of State: includes step-by-step instructions and videos

 

 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Watch: 'Legislative Update: Reopening Real Estate in Pennsylvania'

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Friday, May 15, 2020 at 2:00:00 pm Comments (0)

The Suburban Realtors® Alliance hosted a webinar — "Legislative Update: Reopening Real Estate in Pennsylvania" — on Friday, May 15, 2020. Watch it below:

 

The discussion covered efforts in the state House and Senate to reopen real estate throughout Pennsylvania, with a focus on House Bill 2412. The bill would to allow real estate service providers to be designated as a life-sustaining industry and resume working with safety precautions.

Jamie Ridge, SRA CEO/president, facilitated the conversation. Panelists included:

• State Sen. Tom Killion (9th District/Chester and Delaware counties)
• Mike McGee (PAR CEO)
• State Rep. Todd Polinchock (144th District/Bucks County)
• Jamie Ridge (SRA president/CEO)

 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Watch: 'State of Bucks County: An Update for Realtors'

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Friday, May 1, 2020 at 2:00:00 pm Comments (0)

The Suburban Realtors® Alliance and the Bucks County Association of Realtors® hosted a webinar — "State of Bucks County: An Update for Realtors®" — on Friday, May 1, 2020. Watch it below:

 

Bucks County leaders provided an update on how the county is operating during the coronavirus outbreak.

BCAR executive Pam Croke and SRA CEO/president Jamie Ridge facilitated the conversation.  Panelists included:

Commissioners Chair Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia (@ 2:30)
Commissioners Co-chair Robert J. Harvie Jr. (@ 9:20)
Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo (@ 15:10)
Recorder of Deeds Robin Robinson (@31:50)

 

Friday, April 24, 2020

Watch: SRA Hosts Legislative Town Hall with NAR, PAR

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Friday, April 24, 2020 at 6:00:00 pm Comments (0)

The Suburban Realtors® Alliance hosted a virtual town hall on Friday, April 24, to provide legislative updates at the local, state and federal levels. Watch it below:

 

The town hall was conducted as a Zoom webinar and focused on efforts to protect and support real estate during the coronavirus outbreak.

Speakers included:

  • PAR director of public policy Alex Charlton (segment begins at 01:30)
  • NAR political representative Drew Myers (segment begins at 25:50)
  • NAR director of federal housing and commercial policy Megan Booth (segment begins at 31:35)
  • SRA president/CEO Jamie Ridge (segment begins at 56:10)

 

 

 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Upper Darby considering costly sewer mandates for already stressed homeowners during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Friday, April 10, 2020 at 1:00:00 pm Comments (0)

April 10, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Pete Kennedy, 610-981-9000, sra@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com

UPPER DARBY, Pa. — The Suburban Realtors® Alliance (SRA) is urging Upper Darby Township Council to table a proposed ordinance that would require residents to perform costly sewer inspections and repairs when they sell their homes.

Draft Ordinance 3070, which is set for a council vote during an online meeting on April 15, would require home sellers to have a plumber inspect their sewer laterals — the pipes that carry sewage from homes to sewer mains under the street. The proposal is being considered at a time when the township has closed its offices to the public and drastically changed its public meeting procedures in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The idea of introducing such an ineffective, but very expensive point-of-sale inspection during an unprecedented pandemic and financial crisis is mind-boggling,” said Jamie Ridge, SRA president/CEO. “Why rush through this major piece of legislation when there are obstacles to public engagement? Why add a new burden on home owners who are already worried about their income and upcoming mortgage payments?”

What's wrong with Upper Darby Draft Ordinance 3070?

• Home sales become more costly and difficult

• Ineffective at goal of preventing sewer infiltration

• Shouldn't be rushed through in health crisis

The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records advisory on coronavirus says, “To the extent that agenda items can be delayed until in-person meetings can resume, it’s a good idea to do so.” The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association says, “What can happen in the ordinary course of business should happen in the ordinary course of business with full and complete transparency after the emergency has ended.” The Pennsylvania State Association of Townships says, “if the township does not have business that it needs to conduct, then PSATS believes that it would be appropriate under these emergency circumstances to cancel or postpone the meeting.”

The proposed ordinance could deliver a devastating blow to an Upper Darby real estate market already troubled by extremely high local property taxes that have depressed the value of homes compared to neighboring communities. Typical sewer lateral inspections cost hundreds of dollars, and needed repairs can run into many of thousands of dollars.

“Point-of-sale inspections are also a wholly ineffective method of addressing the serious issue the township wants to fix — infiltration of fresh water into the municipal sewer system,” Ridge said. “By only inspecting approximately 1-2% of sewer laterals each year, it will take Upper Darby more than four decades to stop the infiltration of fresh water into the system via residential laterals.”

See also:

SRA Letter to Upper Darby Council 
(April 6, 2020)

PDF version of this press release
(April 10, 2020)

A smarter, more cost-effective plan would be to first determine whether the issue is being created by problems in the main sewer lines, Ridge said.

The SRA previously submitted comments to Upper Darby Council on portions of the draft ordinance that would violate Pennsylvania Act 133 of 2016. Ridge said that while those legal issues have been addressed, the SRA is strongly encouraging the council to table the proposed ordinance entirely until the state of emergency has been lifted and a more comprehensive solution can be designed with proper opportunities for public comment.

About Suburban Realtors® Alliance

The Suburban Realtors® Alliance is a subsidiary of the three largest local Realtor® associations in Pennsylvania: the Bucks County, Montgomery County and Suburban West associations of Realtors®. Between its three shareholder associations, the Alliance serves more than 12,000 members. For more information, visit www.suburbanrealtorsalliance.com.

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Monday, March 30, 2020

SRA Coronavirus Updates

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Monday, March 30, 2020 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

The coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak is causing municipal and county government offices to drastically reduce their operations — affecting local code inspection processes and county recorder of deeds offices. At the Suburban Realtors® Alliance, we're working to minimize the impact of these changes on Realtors® and their clients who are involved in property transfers.

Because municipalities have different regulations and are reacting to the public health emergency in different ways, each case is unique. If you're involved in a transaction being held up by a municipal closure, your best sources for guidance right now are your company’s broker and counsel, as well as suggesting that sellers and buyers consult with their personal attorneys. 

What Realtors® should know:

  • Act 133 is still in effect. If a municipality has conducted a U&O inspection, it must issue a resale certificate — at least a temporary access certificate.
  • Many municipalities have altered their U&O procedures.  Some are issuing conditional U&O certificates without a full inspection, on the condition that buyers (and in some cases sellers and agents) sign affidavits stating that certain items like smoke detectors are already in place and that any issues revealed during the eventual inspection will be the responsibility of the buyer.
  • Recorder of Deeds offices in the four SRA counties are being affected by the state of emergency.
  • The Suburban Realtors Alliance is available to help you through specific issues. We continue to track news and public legal notices, and we've been assisting members with their municipal issues throughout the region.

Below are resources for more information about how coronavirus is affecting real estate in the Philadelphia suburbs.

 
 
Jump to a section of this page:

Best Practices COVID-19 News   FAQ     More Resources


 


Best Practices

Buying and selling real estate during a pandemic. 

See also: PAR's Real Estate in the Age of COVID-19

 Take the virus seriously — it has infected and killed thousands of people in our area, and the long-term health effects for those who recover are still not known. 


Wear a mask — Visit this CDC guide for tips on how to choose one and make sure it's effective.


Provide a wastebasket — Whether you provide PPE like booties, gloves and sanitizer available at your listing or the visitors bring their own, it's helpful to have a waste receptacle so used items are not left by the door or carried to another location.


 Keep civil: harsh words hurt us — Vitriolic language can turn off potential clients and colleagues and make lawmakers less open to considering your point of view in the future.


Limit face-to-face contact — Minimize in-person activities, and minimize attendance to only the most critical individuals, while maintaining social distancing in all in-person interactions. Choose times that minimize contact, such as viewing commercial properties outside of business hours.


Make a plan to sanitize listings — Creating a checklist to clean a listing after each showing can reassure both sellers and potential buyers who are nervous about exposure to the virus. Read more in Realtor® Magazine: Make a Plan With Sellers to Sanitize Listings


Have a best practice suggestion? 

Email us at sra@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com.

 

    


Coronavirus News

How the pandemic is affecting Realtors® and real estate

September 2020

  9/11 — NAR offers FAQ for housing providers (NAR)

  9/1 — As CDC White House Unveil Eviction Moratorium Executive Order, NAR Urges Immediate Congressional Action on Rental Assistance (NAR)

 

August 2020:

   8/14 — Think twice before you post on social media (PAR)

   8/10 — State Supreme Court tosses challenge to eviction ban (SRA New Briefs) 

   8/7 — NAR urges Congress to support rental assistance (NAR)

 

July 2020:

   7/13 — Gov. Wolf extends eviction and foreclosure moratorium through Aug. 31 (SRA News Briefs)

   

June 2020:

   6/26 — Suburban Philadelphia counties set to go green on June 26 (SRA News Briefs)

   6/11 — Watch: Realtor Town Hall with Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (SRA Video)

   6/5 — PAR Obtains More Clarification on State Guidance for Business Restrictions (PAR)

 

May 2020:

   5/22 — All red PA counties move to yellow on June 5 (Spotlight PA)

   5/21 — Wolf clarifies: Some evictions and foreclosures are permitted (Gov. Wolf)

   5/19 — All Real Estate In Pennsylvania Reopened With New Guidance (PAR)

   5/15 — Watch: 'Legislative Update: Reopening Real Estate in Pennsylvania' (SRA Video)

   5/14 — House Passes HB 2412; PAR Urges Wolf to Sign the Bill (PAR)

   5/11 — PAR issues call-to-action to support HB2412 to designate real estate as life-sustaining industry (PAR)

   5/1 — Watch: 'State of Bucks County: An Update for Realtors' (SRA/BCAR Video)

 

April 2020:  

   4/29 — PA real estate market adapts to COVID-19 (ft. SWRA Chairman Kit Antsey) (6ABC)

   4/29 — PA House Passes Bill to Allow Real Estate Services to Reopen (HB2412) (PAR)

   4/28 — Your Guide to PUA Benefits (NAR)

   4/24 — Watch: SRA Hosts Legislative Town Hall with NAR, PAR (SRA Video)

   4/24 — Wolf outlines three-step reopening plan; real estate returns in ‘yellow’ phase (SRA news brief)

   4/24 — Pandemic Unemployment Assistance application available online (PA Dept. of Labor & Industry)

   4/17 — Killion legislation would halt business evictions and foreclosures (Daily Local News)

   4/16 — Rep. Polinchock introduces bill to allow safe real estate transactions (SRA news brief)

   4/15 — Updates on industry waiver request and amicus brief filing (PAR) 

   4/10 — PAR Advocates for Real Estate During Pandemic (PAR)

   4/3 — PAR Files Brief Supporting Lawsuit to Request Governor to Designate Real Estate as a Life-Sustaining Business (PAR)

 

March 2020:  

   3/30 — Thanks to new affidavit, Aston can continue use and occupancy inspections (SRA news brief)

   3/27 — Real Estate License Renewal and CE Requirements Extended to Aug. 29 (PAR)

   3/26 — No deed, no deal: Pa. real estate industry stymied by move online (Inquirer)

   3/26 — PAR Officers: Follow Governor’s Order, Cease In-Person Business (PAR)

   3/24 — Governor Authorizes Temporary Use of Remote Online Notarization (PAR)

   3/19 — COVID-19 Addendum Available for Use (PAR)

   3/17 — As Local Governments Close, What Happens to Property Sales? (SRA Blog Post)

 

 

 


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Questions we're hearing from Realtors about this situation.

Is Act 133 still in effect during the coronavirus outbreak?

Yes — if you have a property that was previously inspected, the municipality must issue at least a temporary access permit, allowing buyers of homes deemed “unfit for habitation” to access the building (without residing in it), and make substantial repairs within 12 months. It may also issue a normal use and occupancy permit (U&O) or a temporary U&O permit. Read more about Act 133 and the three types of resale permits here

What have you heard about ____________ township?

We have been in contact with most boroughs, townships and cities in our coverage area, but the circumstances have been constantly evolving. We ask our members to contact us with issues in specific municipalities. For municipalities that have offered new formal processes for the state of emergency, e.g. those that have created new affidavits, we have updated our municipal database accordingly.  

How are the recorder of deeds offices being affected?

We have confirmed that recorders of deeds in Bucks, Chester and Montgomery counties will accept online notarizations in compliance with Gov. Wolf’s temporary order. Those offices also have web-based systems for e-filing and in some cases have waived fees for those services.

The Delaware County Recorder of Deeds does not currently have a web-based system for e-filing and has not responded to our inquiries regarding online notarizations.

How is the outbreak affecting the Delaware County comprehensive reassessment project?

According to the county's project website:

"[A]ll informal property reviews with Tyler Technologies will be conducted by telephone. ... Tyler Technologies will be calling you within an hour of that scheduled time to conduct your informal hearing by phone. ...  YOUR PHONE LINE MUST ALLOW CALLS FROM PRIVATE NUMBERS OR WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO REACH YOU."  

 

 


More Resources 

Where to find the latest information about the coronavirus outbreak.

Realtor-specific resources

PARThe PA Association of Realtors has an indispensable information page with daily updates. 

NAR: The National Association of Realtors page has been tracking federal relief packages and other topics.

BCAR: Important information for Realtors® in Bucks County.

MCAR: Important information for Realtors® in Montgomery County.

SWRA: Important information for Realtors® in Chester and Delaware counties and on the Main Line.

 

Government/other resources

Bucks County Tracker Map

Chester County Tracker Map

Delaware County Tracker Map

Montgomery County Tracker Map

PA Health Department

 


Contact Suburban Realtors® Alliance 

We want to hear about your experiences — good and bad — in working with municipalities.

Email: sra@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com

Phone: 610-981-9000 (The SRA office is closed, but we are checking messages regularly.)

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

SRA Municipal Update: As Local Governments Close, What Happens to Property Sales?

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 at 2:30:00 pm Comments (0)

Here's a sampling of what we've been hearing from members since the coronavirus hit our region:

"I have a closing scheduled on March 25, but we need a re-inspection and the borough office just closed."

"The township just told me they are not conducting U & O inspections."

"Since they won't inspect, they want my buyer to sign a waiver saying she'll be responsible for any repairs they require after the sale."

Here are examples of municipalities finding a way to get the job done, even during the crisis:

“We are continuing with external inspections of properties, but we would love to see pictures if possible for the smoke detectors, fire extinguisher, hand rails and relief valve on the water heater. If needed, we will issue a conditional U&O for the property.”

“We are continuing our inspections, but will only enter buildings if they are unoccupied in an effort to protect our staff and avoid spreading the virus.”

Many municipal government offices have shut down or drastically reduced their operations during the public health emergency that is the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak. Where does that leave Realtors® and their clients?  Because municipalities have different regulations and are reacting to the public health emergency in different ways, each case is unique. If you're involved in a transaction being held up by a municipal closure, your best sources for guidance right now are your company’s broker and counsel, as well as suggesting that sellers and buyers consult with their personal attorneys.  

The Alliance has been in contact with individual municipalities when a settlement issue has been brought to our attention (with mixed success), and we are actively coordinating with the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® to find a broader solution to this unprecedented situation. 

Here's what we know:

Municipalities can't do use and occupancy inspections if their codes departments are shuttered.

That leaves several possibilities that we have heard: 

  1. An Impasse — Municipalities simply do not inspect, and our members have relied on their own company’s counsel to decide whether to move forward through an agreement between sellers and buyers.  

  2. Waiver/Buyer Responsibility — Municipalities provide a waiver, in which the buyer agrees to be responsible for addressing any code issues cited when an inspection is eventually done, after the sale closes.  We have already seen some municipalities issuing such waivers. While they allow the sale to proceed, they put the buyer on the hook for unknown — and potentially significant — expenses.

  3. A Modified Use & Occupancy Process – Several municipalities have created a new "self-serve" process that allows transactions to move forward through the signing of an affidavit. While there are several versions of this to date, the Aston Township model has been offered by SRA staff as an alternative to allow settlements to move forward without the post-settlement risk to buyers mentioned above. 

  4. A Statewide Solution? — PAR is working closely with statewide associations that represent the Commonwealth’s boroughs and townships to raise this important issue. While it is highly unlikely that a statewide and "one-size-fits-all" solution will be found, PAR and the SRA are actively seeking solutions to help alleviate the challenges being created by the myriad of municipal approaches to use and occupancy inspections and requirements.     

Of course, municipal inspections are just one part of the more complex process of buying or selling a property, and other areas may be similarly affected by the ongoing public health emergency. We will continue to coordinate with our leadership, our shareholders and the state association to find resolutions for these issues.

Please continue to keep us informed about your experiences with local, county and state government during the coronavirus outbreak. Email us at sra@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com.

 

See also:

https://www.parealtors.org/coronavirus/

https://www.nar.realtor/coronavirus-a-guide-for-realtors

 

COVID-19 Update: SRA Office Closes Temporarily

Posted by: Jamie Ridge on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 at 11:00:00 am Comments (0)

 
Dear SRA members,
 
In response to the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak in our region, the Suburban Realtors® Alliance office in Malvern is temporarily closed, but our work continues uninterrupted.

Alliance staff are working remotely, starting this week through the end of March. We continue to monitor the news and legal notices for any issues that could affect the members of our three shareholder associations. Our municipal database remains online. We are in contact with government officials to ensure necessary public health measures cause as little disruption to real estate as possible.

Stay in touch.

As always, our Realtor® members are a vital source of on-the-ground information. Please continue to contact us with any questions, concerns or issues you’re experiencing. We are responding promptly to messages sent via email and phone.

As this outbreak progresses, we will send updates as necessary.  In the meantime, we encourage you to utilize these sources of information.

Coronavirus: A Guide for REALTORS®
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Pennsylvania Department of Health
Analysis from NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun  
 
Sincerely,
Jamie Ridge
President/CEO, Suburban Realtors Alliance
Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Delco Reassessment Project — Explained

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Thursday, February 20, 2020 at 3:00:00 pm Comments (2)


Delaware County is reassessing all 200,000 residential and commercial properties within its borders.
 

The county is working to determine the market value of each property, which will be used to calculate real estate taxes starting in 2021. 

• Why is it happening?

• What is the timeline?

• Important points to know  

SRA flyer and other resources

 


Update: Delaware County has posted the 2021 property assessment rollsProperty owners have until Sept. 1 to file an appeal. Read more here on the county project website.

  

   Why is the comprehensive reassessment happening?

The countywide reassessment is the result of a court order.

Two families who purchased homes in Rose Valley Borough and Haverford Township in 2014 found their tax assessments to be too high. They challenged the county’s assessment process in court, and won.

The judge who heard their petitions — Judge Charles B. Burr of the Delaware County Common Pleas Court — determined that property assessments in the county were so inconsistent that they violated the state constitution.

In 2017, the judge ordered the county to reassess all properties within its borders.

The goal of the reassessment is to determine accurate values of all properties in the county, so that owners are paying a fair amount of property tax and the tax burden is distributed equitably across all taxpayers.

   What is the reassessment timeline?

February - March 2020:  New 'tentative assessment' notices mailed out

On Feb. 14, the county began sending out notices of new tentative property assessment values to property owners. The notices will go out in four batches. To find out when each municipality is scheduled to receive notices, view the mailing schedule.  

Owners who feel their new assessments are too high — meaning they could not sell their property at that price — can request an informal review meeting via the Tyler Technologies website, but they must do so within 10 days of the date on the notice. Otherwise, they can go through the formal hearing process. 

March 2 - May 15, 2020:  Informal review hearings

During informal reviews, property owners meet with representatives from Tyler Technologies. Property owners should bring any documentation, including comps and photos, to support their claim that their assessment is too high.

View a sample informal review (17-minute video)

Delco-Assess from The Media Message on Vimeo.

July 2020:  New assessments mailed

The county will mail out new assessed values to property owners, reflecting any updates from the informal hearings.

July - October 2020:  Formal appeals period

The county Tax Assessment Appeals Board will hold formal assessment appeal hearings with property owners whose disputes were not resolved in the informal hearings. 

Due to an expected high number of appeals, the county is looking for residents to serve as Auxiliary Tax Assessment Appeals Board Members. Applicants must live in Delaware County and cannot be an active property assessor. Selected applicants will receive a six-hour training and be paid $200 a day. For more information, read the county press release (PDF).

Jan 2021: New assessments take effect

New assessment values become effective for tax year 2021.

The values will be used to calculate state, school district and municipal property taxes.



   

   Other important points to know about the reassessment:

Click a bullet point below to expand.

The reassessment project will be revenue-neutral overall.

The county will not be able to collect more revenue based on the assessment.

The same is true for other local taxing entities, i.e. the municipality and school district.

A lower (or higher) assessment won't necessarily mean a proportionally lower (or higher) tax bill.

Tax rates are likely to change when the assessment is complete, in some cases substantially.  Here's why:

According to an analysis by the Philadelphia Inquirer, about one-third of homeowners will see their assessments rise, one-third will see their assessments decrease, and the remaining one-third won’t see a significant change. But here’s the catch — according to that analysis, the over- and underassessed homes tend to be clustered. The bulk of property taxes are levied by the school district, so if nearly all the homes in a district receive lower assessments but the district needs to collect roughly the same revenue as the previous year, the tax millage rate will simply increase.

Put simply — if your assessment goes up, but all your neighbors' assessments do, too, the tax millage rate will be lowered, because the assessment must be revenue neutral overall.

There will certainly be many homeowners who see significant changes in their tax bills, but it’s important that homeowners and Realtors® exercise caution before making assumptions about how the countywide reassessment could impact tax bills. 

The county is looking to hire auxiliary members of the assessment appeals board.

Delaware County is currently seeking qualified professionals to preside over the formal tax reassessment hearings to be held the summer and fall of 2020. Selected applicants will be appointed to an Auxiliary Tax Assessment Appeals Board.

The hearings will begin in July 2020 and continue for approximately eight to 10 weeks. Applicants must live in Delaware County and cannot be active property assessors. Selected applicants will receive a six-hour training prior to hearings.

Auxiliary Tax Assessment Appeals Board members will be paid $200 a day for days they preside over hearings. Application details can be found here

 

Delaware County's last comprehensive reassessment was in 2000.

Ideally, homes are assessed at 100% of their market values. That’s what happens immediately after a countywide reassessment.

But assessment values become inaccurate over time as the real estate market changes. To keep new assessments in line with old ones, the PA Department of Revenue sets a Common Level Ratio factor for each county every July.

In 2020, a property assessment in Delaware County was supposed to equal about 56.5% of the market value.

Read more in this SRA blog post:  What is an accurate property assessment?  

What should Realtors® know about how the reassessment affects agreements of sale or properties already under contract?

According to Suburban West Realtors® Association:

Paragraph 17 of the Agreement of Sale, “Real Estate Taxes and Assessed Value,” provides notice to buyers about the possibility and effect of re-assessment or appeal of current assessment. Buyer agents should use the opportunity presented by this paragraph to alert potential buyers about any known re-assessment prior to the buyer executing the agreement of sale.

Article 2 of the Code of Ethics requires Realtors® to avoid exaggeration, misrepresentation or concealment  of pertinent facts about the property or the transaction. If the buyer has questions or concerns, the buyer agent can direct the client to available resources.  

Read more on the Suburban West website: Agreement of Sale and Assessed Value (PDF)
 

What if you miss the 10-day window to schedule an informal review hearing about your tentative new assessment?

The county has said it will be very strict regarding the 10-day deadline.

However, you will still be able to file a formal appeal with the Board of Assessment Appeals. According to the  Assessment Appeal FAQ on the county website, there are three ways to request an appeal form:

Annual Appeal forms are available from March 15th to August 1st

Calling the Assessment Office at (610) 891-4879
Visiting the office 201 West Front Street, Media, Pa. 19063.
Downloading the form by clicking on the appropriate link 

What if you misplace the notice with your new assessment value?

The full roll of 2021 assessments has been posted to the county website. Select your municipality and then search for your property in the spreadsheet.
 

 

   One-page flyer and other resources:

SRA:  View a one-page overview flyer (PDF).

SRA: What is an accurate property assessment?

SWRA:  Information about the Agreement of Sale and Assessed Value (PDF) from Suburban West Realtors® Association.

Delaware County:  Visit the Delaware County Reassessment Project website. 


Still have questions about the reassessment?  
Contact the Delaware County Tax Assessment office (610-891-4879) or the county's consultant on the reassessment project, Tyler Technologies: (610-891-5695).

 

The information on this page is provided as a general summary of the reassessment project. It is not intended to take the place of written law, county or municipal regulations, or information that can be obtained directly from the county or its affiliates. 
Thursday, December 5, 2019

2019 Annual Report

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

 

Read our 2019 Annual Report below.  Click the icon in the center to make it full-screen.

 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Borough of Glenolden Amends Illegal Property Inspection Ordinance

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

GLENOLDEN, Pa. — Glenolden Borough Council voted Nov. 19 to bring the municipality’s use and occupancy ordinance into compliance with state law. The move comes as a direct result of a federal lawsuit brought by the Suburban REALTORS® Alliance over the borough’s abusive and illegal point-of-sale property inspection practices.

The borough council voted to repeal Chapter 61 of the borough code, titled “Certificate of Occupancy,” and replace it with a new version. The repealed version violated Act 133 of 2016, which amended the state’s Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act (MCOCA) and changed the way local governments issue occupancy permits to homeowners. 

“Glenolden is finally doing the right thing.  Unfortunately, it took us asking them repeatedly for three years, then filing a federal lawsuit to get to this point,” said Jamie Ridge, president and CEO of the Suburban REALTORS® Alliance (SRA).

“The borough made up its own rules, then broke them,” Ridge said.  

Roughly half of the municipalities in the Philadelphia suburbs require point-of-sale inspections for property transfers. Act 133 mandates that after such an inspection, the municipality must issue a use and occupancy certificate — or a temporary access permit in the case of an unsafe property — and provide no less than 12 months for repairs to be made. Act 133 also states that the municipality cannot require escrowing funds in return for the issuance of a use and occupancy certificate.

After MCOCA was amended in 2016, most municipalities updated their ordinances and procedures to comply, but a handful of outliers, including Glenolden, have retained illegal ordinances and inspection practices.  The SRA’s intent is to have these municipalities replace their illegal ordinances with MCOCA, as Glenolden now has done.

Read the Delco Times coverage:

Glenolden updates code in wake of lawsuit (Dec. 3)

Suit claims Glenolden ordinance violates state law (Oct. 17)

“The updated ordinance is great news for Glenolden residents and Realtors®, but it doesn’t change the fact that the borough has violated people’s rights for years,” Ridge said. “Our lawsuit continues.”

The SRA filed a federal lawsuit against Glenolden Borough in July 2019 for its failure to abide by MCOCA. The Alliance’s co-plaintiff in the suit, Mohammed Rahman, recently sold a property in the borough and was subjected to enforcement of unconstitutional ordinances.

Mr. Rahman was required to provide $5,000 in escrow while he made repairs, which is explicitly prohibited by MCOCA. The borough demanded that he complete all repairs within 30 days of settlement — another clear MCOCA violation. And though he completed the repairs within the arbitrary time frame, he was still fined more than $1,200 for not having a use and occupancy certificate at the time of settlement.

“The borough made up its own rules, then broke them,” Ridge said. “You can bet we’ll be watching closely to make sure Glenolden sticks to the law it just enacted so that its residents get the benefit of the new ordinance.”


About Act 133 of 2016 and MCOCA

Act 133 of 2016 is a Pennsylvania law signed by Gov. Tom Wolf that changed the way local governments issue occupancy permits to homeowners. The act amended the Municipal Code & Ordinance Compliance Act, which was passed in 2000. Act 133 was expressly designed to allow property transactions to proceed without compromising safety. The amended law allows code inspectors to issue three kinds of permits after a use and occupancy (U&O) inspection has been performed: 1) a full U&O certificate; 2) a temporary U&O certificate for minor violations, which must be fixed within 12 months; and 3) a temporary access permit, which allow buyers of unsafe homes to make necessary repairs but not move in until an inspector approves. For more information, visit www.suburbanrealtorsalliance.com/act133.

About Suburban Realtors® Alliance

The Suburban Realtors® Alliance is a subsidiary of the three largest local Realtor® associations in Pennsylvania: the Bucks County, Montgomery County and Suburban West associations of Realtors®. Between its three shareholder associations, the Alliance serves more than 12,000 members. For more information, visit www.suburbanrealtorsalliance.com.

 

See Also:  SRA Sues Borough of Glenolden for Violating Homeowners’ Rights  (SRA press release 10/15/2019)

 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

SRA Sues Borough of Glenolden for Violating Homeowners’ Rights

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Tuesday, October 15, 2019 at 3:00:00 pm Comments (5)

October 15, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: 610-981-9000, sra@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com

GLENOLDEN, Pa. – The Suburban REALTORS® Alliance has filed a federal lawsuit against the Borough of Glenolden for refusing to issue residential use and occupancy certificates after municipal code inspections in accordance with state law.

The Alliance’s co-plaintiff in the suit, Mohammed Rahman, recently sold a property in the borough and was subjected to the enforcement of unconstitutional ordinances that violate the Pennsylvania Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act (MCOCA).

“Not only did Glenolden Borough ignore state law and impose unconstitutional conditions on the transfer of his property, the borough also extracted from Mr. Rahman more than $1,200 in fines and has forced him to defend himself against criminal charges,” said Jamie Ridge, president and CEO of the Suburban REALTORS® Alliance. “Glenolden denied him a use and occupancy permit to which he was entitled, then levied criminal sanctions against him for his failure to have the permit. It's ridiculous, arbitrary and wrong.”

See also:

Borough of Glenolden Amends Illegal Property Inspection Ordinance 
(SRA Press Release, Dec. 4, 2019)

Among the unconstitutional conditions that the borough imposed on Mr. Rahman were requiring that he post a $5,000 escrow in return for the issuance of a use and occupancy permit, and requiring that code inspection repairs be made within 30 days, both of which are prohibited by MCOCA.

“Mr. Rahman is just one example of how Glenolden’s outdated ordinances and bullying enforcement tactics continue to stifle the ability of residents and Realtors® to engage in the transfer of private property,” Ridge said.

The lawsuit seeks to have Chapter 61 of Glenolden’s code of ordinances, titled “Certificates of Occupancy,” declared unconstitutional and to stop enforcement techniques that violate MCOCA.  Right now, the borough ordinances require that a property be brought into full compliance before the borough will issue a use and occupancy permit and allow the property to be sold. Such a restriction violates MCOCA, as amended by Act 133 of 2016, which states municipalities must issue a use and occupancy certificate after an inspection — or a temporary access permit in the case of an unsafe property — and provide no less than 12 months for repairs to be made.

Mr. Rahman acceded to a borough demand that he complete all repairs within 30 days of settlement, though he was under no legal obligation to do so. He completed the repairs within 30 days, but he was still fined more than $1,200 for not having a use and occupancy certificate at the time of settlement. The borough also held $5,000 from Mr. Rahman in escrow during the repairs — a practice explicitly prohibited by MCOCA.

Glenolden Borough took these actions despite its officials knowing their demands violated Pennsylvania law.

“We have asked the borough for the past two years to bring its ordinances and enforcement practices in line with state law, but they have chosen to ignore it,” Ridge said. “The extent to which the borough officer’s intentional actions have harmed Rahman and other property owners and wasted the borough’s resources is undetermined at this time.”

The lawsuit — Mohammad Z. Rahman and Suburban Realtors Alliance v. Borough of Glenolden, et al — was filed July 24, 2019 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Several borough officials are specifically named as defendants: Kenneth Pfaff, council president; James Boothby, council vice-president; Brian Razzi, borough manager; and Anthony Tartaglia, chief of code enforcement. The plaintiffs are represented by Connor, Weber & Oberlies, based in Paoli, Pennsylvania.

As a part of the lawsuit, Rahman is seeking relief from the criminal sanctions and compensation for the borough’s intentional violation of the rights that should have been afforded to him under MCOCA.  The SRA has joined Rahman in the lawsuit to bring to light the borough’s unconstitutional ordinances and to force the borough to incorporate MCOCA’s rights and protections for property owners and Realtors® into the borough’s ordinances. 

Although the lawsuit is still ongoing, through a sworn affidavit of Michael Puppio, the borough Solicitor, the borough has represented that it “intends to repeal its existing ordinances and to enact new ordinances consistent with MCOCA.”  Under Pennsylvania law, the borough must advertise its new ordinance provisions at least seven days prior to the borough council voting to enact the new provisions. 

Roughly half of the municipalities in the Philadelphia suburbs require point-of-sale inspections for property transfers, and most of them have updated their ordinances and practices to comply with MCOCA. Glenolden is one example of the municipalities who maintain ordinances and procedures in contravention of MCOCA.

 

About Act 133 of 2016 and MCOCA

Act 133 of 2016 is a Pennsylvania law signed by Gov. Tom Wolf that changed the way local governments issue occupancy permits to homeowners. The act amended the Municipal Code & Ordinance Compliance Act, which was passed in 2000. Act 133 was expressly designed to allow property transactions to proceed without compromising safety. The amended law allows code inspectors to issue three kinds of permits after a use and occupancy (U&O) inspection has been performed: 1) a full U&O certificate; 2) a temporary U&O certificate for minor violations, which must be fixed within 12 months; and 3) a temporary access permit, which allow buyers of unsafe homes to make necessary repairs but not move in until an inspector approves. For more information, visit www.suburbanrealtorsalliance.com/act133.

About Suburban Realtors® Alliance

The Suburban Realtors® Alliance is a subsidiary of the three largest local Realtor® associations in Pennsylvania: the Bucks County, Montgomery County and Suburban West associations of Realtors®. Between its three shareholder associations, the Alliance serves more than 12,000 members. For more information, visit www.suburbanrealtorsalliance.com.

 

###

 

[View a PDF Version of this press release]

Friday, July 26, 2019

What is an accurate property assessment?

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Friday, July 26, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Ideally, homes are assessed at 100% of their market values. That’s what happens immediately after a countywide reassessment.

But assessment values become inaccurate over time as the real estate market changes. To keep new assessments in line with old ones, the PA Department of Revenue sets a Common Level Ratio factors for each county every July.  

For example, Montgomery County has 2019-2020 ratio factor of 2.03, meaning assessments should equal 49.3% of market value.  So, a home with a market value of $100,000 would be assessed at about $49,300, and that assessed value would be used to calculate local property tax bills.

Here’s the math behind that percentage:

Assessment
_______________

Market Value


   =   

1
______________

2.03
(Common Level Ratio factor)


   =   


    49.3%  

Here are the Common Level Ratios and assessment value percentages for Greater Philadelphia counties:

9.4%
Bucks County
Common Level Ratio factor = 10.64
Last assessment in 1972
49.3%
Chester County
Common Level Ratio factor = 2.03
Last assessment in 1998
56.5%
Delaware County*
Common Level Ratio factor = 1.77
Last assessment in 2000
49.3%
Montgomery County
Common Level Ratio factor = 2.03
Last assessment in 1996
99%
Philadelphia County
Common Level Ratio factor = 1.01
Ongoing assessments (AVI)
 

This recent Philadelphia Inquirer article provides more explanation on assessments and appeals in the Greater Philadelphia region.

 * Delaware County is currently conducting a countywide reassessment, the values of which will take effect in 2021. Learn more about that in our blog post:  Delco reassessment project: an overview.

 

 

Friday, June 28, 2019

A disturbing trend is emerging around U&O inspections

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Friday, June 28, 2019 at 9:00:00 am Comments (1)

A trend is emerging among some municipal code inspectors in the Philadelphia suburbs — they're asking home buyers to sign away their rights. 

Per state law, buyers have at least 12 months to make repairs cited in a use-and-occupancy inspection. But Downingtown Borough, for example, has a “U&O Waiver Form” on its website in which buyers agree that, "I will make all repairs [within] 30 days of the closing of the sale.” These 30-day affidavits are popping up in municipalities across the region.

Considering the power these municipalities hold and what's at stake — a new home — buyers and agents may be inclined to sign the form to keep transactions on track.

But the bottom line is that these towns and boroughs cannot force the buyers to sign, and they cannot withhold a U&O certificate as leverage. The Alliance has been addressing these situations on a case-by-case basis while working toward setting a legal precedent that would force these municipalities to obey the spirit of the law, not just the letter.

If your clients are being asked to sign such an affidavit, please contact the Suburban Realtors® Alliance.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Bristol Twp sewer lateral inspections: What's been your experience?

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Monday, April 22, 2019 at 9:00:00 am Comments (0)

 We are seeking input from BCAR members regarding the recently introduced sewer lateral inspection requirement in Bristol Township.

As our members may be aware, the SRA has met several times with Bristol Township staff and council members to ensure that the new inspection requirements are compliant with PA Act 133 of 2016. The act sets forth procedures that must be followed by municipalities that require property maintenance and other code inspections upon the sale of a residential property.

Please contact the SRA if any of the following apply:

  1. Your client is being denied a U&O permit or a temporary access permit. The municipality must provide one of these as long as a required code inspection has been completed.
  2. Your client is being asked to provide escrow toward repairs on the home prior to the sale, as a condition of receiving a temporary U&O permit.
  3. A municipal official tells you that Act 133 does not apply to them for any reason.

Realtors can reach the SRA via our online Contact Us form or by email: sra@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com. 

 

 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Delco reassessment project: an overview

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Monday, April 15, 2019 at 2:00:00 pm Comments (0)

The reference sheet below answers a few questions about the Delaware County Reassessment Project, and provides links to other resources like a sample of the questionnaire property owners may receive in the mail.

Click the image below to view the PDF file.

[Note: PDF updated 2/10/2020]

 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Why is a Delco school district suing the state?

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Tuesday, February 26, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

In 2014, William Penn School District in Delaware County joined with other districts, associations and parents to file William Penn School District et al. v. Pennsylvania Department of Education et al. They argue that the state is failing in its constitutional duty to provide adequate public education and is discriminating against students based on geography.

In fact, Pennsylvania does have a reputation for unfair education funding. In 2015, a Washington Post analysis declared, “Pa. schools are the nation’s most inequitable.” In 2016, the General Assembly tried to address the problem by enacting a new Fair Funding Formula, which was designed to equitably distribute Basic Education Funding to all districts in the state by taking into account factors like the poverty level, number of non-English speakers and charter schools.

However, only money added since the Fair Funding Formula was put into place is distributed through it. In the 2018-2019 school year, that’s $539 million out of $6.1 billion — less than 9 percent.

What would happen if all of the $6.1 billion was put through the Fair Funding Formula?

William Penn would receive an additional $2.92 million dollars, about $530 more for each of its roughly 5,500 students, according to a 2018 report by the House Appropriations Committee.

In Delaware County, 12 of the 15 districts would receive more money. Upper Darby would receive an additional $16.2 million per year over its current state allocation of $38.6 million.   

In Chester County, 7 of the 12 districts would see a boost. Phoenixville Area School District would receive an additional $2.7 million per year over its current state allocation of $4.9 million.

In Bucks County, 6 out of 13 counties would receive more money. In the 2018-2019 school year, Bensalem Township School District would receive an additional $6.8 million per year over its current allocation of $12.8 million.

In Montgomery County, 18 out of 22 school districts would receive more money. In the 2018-2019 school year, Pottstown School District would receive an additional $13 million per year — more than doubling its current allocation of $11.5 million.

The corresponding losses would be felt by districts who are benefiting from a “hold-harmless” provision that allows them to maintain previous funding levels despite falling enrollment.

State funding is important for districts like those listed above, where a low tax base means raising tax rates wouldn’t yield much increased revenue. The lawsuit is expected to go to trial in 2020, and it could result in major changes in state education funding.

Read more about Pennsylvania public education funding at www.suburbanrealtorsalliance.com/schools

Monday, August 27, 2018

Whose (Sewer) Line Is It, Anyway?

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Monday, August 27, 2018 at 9:00:00 am Comments (0)

Making sense of sewer laterals beyond the property line

When a municipal sewer lateral inspection reveals a problem that is beyond a homeowner’s property line, who is responsible for fixing it? The answer, many municipalities assume, is that the burden falls on the homeowner.

For example, West Brandywine Township’s sewer ordinance states that:

Maintenance, repair, or replacement of the building sewer between the sewer main and the building served by the building sewer shall be the responsibility of the property owner.

But is this fair, and more importantly, is it legal? Should homeowners be on the hook for expensive repairs that are literally beyond their property line?

This situation has arisen often enough that recently we have been consulting with legal counsel for the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® to determine if such ordinances are worth challenging. If you have thoughts or experiences to share about this topic, please contact us at via our online form or by email at sra@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com.

Flickr image by Adam Rose (CC BY SA 2.0)

Monday, July 2, 2018

Have your clients been affected by Lower Bucks municipal authority enforcement?

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Monday, July 2, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

The Suburban Realtors® Alliance wants to hear from Realtors® whose clients have been affected by the point-of-sale enforcement of easements by the Lower Bucks County Joint Municipal Authority (LBCJMA).

The LBCJMA has in recent years taken a hard-line approach to enforcing easements, leading to reports of homeowners incurring losses in the tens of thousands of dollars because pools and outbuildings, which were properly permitted and inspected by their municipalities, encroached on easements, even by small amounts.

If you have had an experience you’d like to share, contact us via the Alliance website, email sra@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com or call 610-981-9000.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Act 133 Doesn’t Cover Pre-existing Conditions

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 12:00:00 pm Comments (0)

One seller was denied a U&O certificate because of tall grass.

What if your $600,000 home sale was in jeopardy, but a 15-year-old who lived around the corner could save it for about $30?

We recently got a call from a Realtor® who was selling a home, and the township would not issue a use and occupancy certificate because the grass wasn’t cut.

While that may sound like an excessive action by the township and a violation of Act 133, it actually was not illegal. The reality was that the township had issued a citation for the overgrown grass before the home sale began.

Act 133 prevents municipalities from withholding resale certificates based on code issues discovered during point-of-sale inspections, but it does not apply to pre-existing violations. Such violations might include building code violations, or missing or open permits.

We can glean two pieces of advice from this anecdote:

1) Listing agents should be proactive about finding out whether there are municipal code violations standing against a client’s property.

2) When it comes to small fixes — mowing the lawn, installing a smoke detector, etc. — it’s often faster and easier to simply address the issue than to fight city hall.

Read more about Act 133 in our blog post: ‘When Do I Schedule Inspections?’ And Other Important Questions.

Flickr image by Green Shadows (CC BY 2.0)

Friday, February 23, 2018

New Congressional District Maps Released

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Friday, February 23, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Update 3/20/2018: The U.S. Supreme Court and a federal district court both rejected lawsuits to overturn the revised Pa. congressional map.
Read about the rulings here: https://goo.gl/TM3vT6

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Feb. 19, 2018, released its map updating congressional districts in the commonwealth. Below is an interactive version of the new map, created by Kerrin Garripoli of Ceisler Media

 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

How a Government Shutdown Would Impact Realtors®

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at 4:00:00 pm Comments (0)

Lawmakers in Washington D.C.  are under pressure to reach a spending deal — and have it signed by the president — by Friday, Jan. 19, at midnight.  The date marks the expiration of a short-term spending agreement passed during a similar deadline in late December 2017. 

If Congress can't reach a deal in time, the federal government will shut down, which would close many government offices, and prevent hundreds of thousands of federal employees from working. Essential  government operations, such as those related to safety and national security, would continue to operate, as would the U.S. Postal Service. 

How would a shutdown affect real estate and Realtors®?

According to a CNBC article posted last April, furloughs at the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Housing Administration can create roadblocks for home buyers and sellers:

  • Mortgage applications could be delayed if the lender can't verify IRS data.
  • Some lenders may even need to verify your Social Security number.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is also at risk, after being extended last month along with the rest of government spending in a  short-term continuing resolution. NAR has written letters to both the House and Senate urging long-term extension of the program, noting that when NFIP lapsed in 2010, "Each month cost more than 40,000 home sales."

What happened during the last shutdown?

After the government shutdown in 2013, from Oct. 1 to 16, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) surveyed members about how they were affected. Seventy-one percent of respondents said their deals were not impacted at all, while those who experienced problems cited FHA/USDA closures as the biggest impediments. Note that NFIP was not affected in the 2013 shutdown.

 

 

 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Amended State Constitution Could Bring Property Tax Reform

Posted by: Peter Kennedy III on Monday, December 18, 2017 at 9:00:00 am Comments (0)

Pennsylvania voters have approved a constitutional amendment that many experts feel could lead the way to real property tax reform in the state. The amendment expands the reform options available to state legislators by making a key change to the tax uniformity clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution. That change could allow local taxing authorities, such as school districts, to exempt up to 100 percent of the assessed value of homestead properties (primary residences) from paying property taxes, without the requirement that non-homestead properties also be excluded.

While the initial euphoria of the amendment’s passage is still fresh in the air, it’s very important to note that voter approval was just a first step. Before school districts or other local entities are allowed to fully exempt homes from property tax liabilities, the PA General Assembly must pass a law authorizing such action.

Along with allowing school districts to exempt homes from property taxes, the legislature must also come up with a new menu of tax options that could be used to replace the revenue lost through the exemptions. A requirement of such a plan will be that local authorities may not increase the millage rate on other real property to pay for homestead exclusions.

Even with all of these hurdles, the passage of the ballot question is certainly welcome news for many home owners whose local property tax burdens have outstripped their ability to keep up over the past decade. It is also good news for many school districts who have done all they can to slow the growth of property tax burdens, while at the same time dealing with strict limits on other means of raising revenue.

What’s next in Harrisburg?

Now that voters have done their part to make change possible, our elected leaders in Harrisburg must take the next step of producing implementing legislation. Given the most recent efforts of the legislature to reform property taxes, it’s safe to bet that they’ll be taking a new look at several revenue-replacement options that have been previously on the table.

Raise Local Earned Income Taxes: Only four states, including Pennsylvania, allow school districts to levy a local earned-income tax for school funding. Currently, the local income tax rate in most districts is capped at 1%, which is typically divided by the district and municipal governments. One drawback is that income tax proceeds are historically less stable than property tax revenues, making the budget planning process more difficult.

Collect Personal Income Taxes: While a personal income tax could capture revenue from a broader base of taxpayers, there is currently no taxing jurisdiction besides the state that collects it. This could make implementation of such a tax more difficult at the local level. Additionally, the personal income tax is a less stable tax regarding the collection of the unearned income portion (interest, dividends, capital gains, etc.) as it can vary dramatically from year to year.

Allow Local Sales Taxes: Currently, only two states – Louisiana and Georgia – allow individual school districts to levy a sales tax. Nonetheless, sales taxes are easy to collect at the retail level, and studies have shown that voters sometimes prefer them to income taxes. However, revenues from sales taxes are even less stable than income taxes. In addition, local sales taxes could create situations in which businesses are penalized by consumers because of the district in which they reside.

Statewide Approach: Proponents of Senate Bill 76, the most recent attempt at property tax reform in Pennsylvania, feel that their effort to eliminate property taxes through a centralized system of school funding could regain momentum as a result of the amendment to the Constitution’s Uniformity Clause. However, that measure has proven to be very unpopular in southeastern Pennsylvania, as opponents claim it would leave important budget decisions to a state government that has continually cut education spending over the past decade.

While it’s clear that the task ahead for the state legislature will not be easy, the passage of the Constitutional amendment could produce a window of opportunity for change. Only time will tell whether our elected leaders are up to the task.

 Flickr image  by David Woo (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Meet Our Board: Q+A with Vice Chairman John McFadden

Board of Directors, John McFadden
Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Monday, November 27, 2017 at 9:00:00 am Comments (0)

John McFadden brings nearly three decades of real estate experience to the SRA board, plus firsthand knowledge of local government. He has served as a commissioner in Springfield Township and as chairman of Delaware County Council. He's also one of the founders of the annual Run for Heroes, a 5k fundraiser that provides scholarships to children of Delaware County first responders killed in the line of duty. 

John McFadden
2017-18 Vice Chairman, Suburban Realtors® Alliance 
RE/MAX Hometown Realtors®

Hometown (born/raised):  Born in Southwest Philadelphia, raised in Aldan
Hometown (current):   Springfield, Delaware County 
Years as a Realtor®:  29

Why did you first join the Alliance Board?

I want to continue the collaborative approach to working with local officials that our organization is known for.​

What do you see as the most important legislative issue for Realtors® right now?

Fair and balanced tax reform both locally and nationally. Locally, I don't see any of the leading state plans accomplishing that, and nationally, I am worried about cutting taxes when our national debt is out of control. 

          You can earn a good income from selling real estate,

                    but you can build wealth by owning real estate.  

How do you like to spend your time when you're not working?

I love to read, and at this time each year, I enjoy playing the new Call of Duty game.​

What is one piece of advice you would give to a new Realtor®?

​Find a mentor who is successful in a similar area of Real Estate and learn from them. Also, you can earn a good income from selling real estate, but you can build wealth by owning real estate.​

What book(s) is on your nightstand?

A President and a Pope, about Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul working together to defeat communism. A lot of new information in it.​

Offices/titles held: 

Past Treasurer of Suburban West Realtors® Alliance
Former Springfield Township Commissioner
Former Delaware County Councilman
Monday, November 20, 2017

Municipalities have six weeks to ban mini-casinos

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Monday, November 20, 2017 at 9:00:00 am Comments (0)

Satellite casinos would have up to 750 slots, 40 table games

Mini-casinos are coming to Pennsylvania, and municipalities across the commonwealth have until the end of the year to decide whether to prohibit them within their borders.

On Oct. 30, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law House Bill 271, a gambling expansion act that allows for up to 10 satellite casinos, each having between 300 and 750 slot machines and up to 40 table games. 

Ten of the state’s 12 existing casinos will be able to bid on licenses to open these "category 4" satellite casinos with slot machines, with minimum bids starting at $7.5 million. A table games certificate will cost the winning bidders an extra $2.5 million. The new casinos are already not allowed in certain places — within 25 miles of an existing casino owned by another company, or within a county that already has a category 3 resort casino, such as Montgomery County and its Valley Forge Casino Resort. 

While some municipalities may encourage mini-casinos to open in hopes of boosting the local economy, those who wish to prohibit the new casinos are on a tight deadline. Each municipality must pass a resolution banning the casinos and deliver it to the state Gaming Control Board by Dec. 31, 2017.

Municipalities that do so and later wish to allow the casinos may subsequently rescind their resolutions, but they may not change back again. For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board website.

 
Flickr image  by Graeme Maclean (CC BY 2.0)

 

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Strange Thing: Tax Breaks for Private Jet Owners

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Friday, November 17, 2017 at 11:00:00 am Comments (0)

Fans of the Netflix show Stranger Things might feel like they've entered the murky world of The Upside Down as they read over details of tax reform bills in Congress now.

Case in point: the Senate tax reform bill, dubbed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, would hurt middle-income homeowners but give tax breaks to private jet owners.

According to Yahoo News:

The new Senate tax bill will give those who own or lease private planes breaks on the amount they pay to companies for maintenance, storage, fueling and even when they want to hire pilots and a crew onboard. 

The proposal is tucked in the middle of the controversial bill's latest version, dubbed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The House approved the bill Thursday and it's now headed to the Senate. 

The good news is pushing back on this ill-informed legislation isn't as perilous as battling the monsters from Stranger Things. It's as easy as contacting your elected officials in Washington and letting them know you think homeowners shouldn’t have to pay for corporate tax cuts with their home equity.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tax Reform Would Hit Pennsylvania Homeowners Hard

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 1:00:00 pm Comments (0)

The National Association of Realtors® engaged KSE Focus to analyze the impact of the mortgage interest and real estate tax deductions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The results show that Pennsylvania homeowners would be hit hard if these deductions are removed or rendered useless by tax reform legislation currently being considered.

Here are the results of KSE's analysis:

Facts on the Mortgage Interest and Real Estate Tax Deductions in Pennsylvania

Of the approximately 3,404,000 owner-occupied houses in Pennsylvania in 2014, 2,062,000 or 61% had a mortgage.

In 2014, 1,354,200 taxpayers in Pennsylvania claimed a deduction for mortgage interest (MID). The total amount deducted was $9,863,101,000. This means that the average taxpayer claiming the MID subtracted $7,300 from taxable income in 2014 as a result of the MID.

At a marginal rate of 25 percent1 , this means that the average taxpayer saved $1,820 in taxes as a result of the MID. The total tax savings from the MID in Pennsylvania in 2014 was $2,465,775,250.

In 2014, 1,592,700 taxpayers in Pennsylvania claimed a deduction for real estate taxes. The total amount deducted was $8,005,489,000. This means that the average taxpayer claiming the real estate tax deduction subtracted $5,050 from taxable income in 2014.

At a marginal rate of 25 percent2 , this means that the average taxpayer saved $1,260 in taxes as a result of the real estate tax deduction. The total savings from the real estate tax deduction in Pennsylvania in 2014 was $2,001,372,250.

If the MID and real estate tax deductions were eliminated, the loss would not be a one-year event; homeowners lose out on these potential savings each and every year. The present value3 of these lost savings could total $114,542,243,600. The value of all owner-occupied real estate in Pennsylvania in 2014 was $697,742,720,400. If the lost tax savings are fully capitalized into the price of houses, the average decline in value in Pennsylvania could be 16%. From the individual perspective, the median priced home in Pennsylvania in 2014 was $160,800. A decline in value as projected could mean a loss in home value of $26,400 for the typical home owner.

_______________________________________

1 Marginal rates range from 10 to 35 percent.

2 Ibid.

3 Present value calculation assumes 3.9 percent discount rate and 1000 year time horizon.

Sources for the data above include: Internal Revenue Service 2014, American Community Survey 2014, National Association of Realtors® 2014; All calculations are by the National Association of Realtors® Research Division, July 2017.

Let your elected officials know how you feel about tax reform that harms homeowners by answering NAR's Call For Action.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Voters Approve Homestead Exemption Referendum: What's Next?

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 3:30:00 pm Comments (0)

 
Pennsylvania voters on Tuesday approved a statewide property tax referendum affecting local taxing authorities, but that does not mean any changes for taxpayers yet.

We made this graphic to show how things will proceed.

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