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Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
PUC seeks comment on terminations and consumer protections

Bucks County
Middletown to consider anti-discrimination ordinance

Chester County
West Chester’s new budget reality — $9 million in cuts

Delaware County
County drafts housing plan

Montgomery County
Public input needed for Montco Pikes roadway plan

Philadelphia County
How will the repeal of the fair housing rule affect Philadelphia?

 

Blog

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 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 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.

###

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:

Coronavirus News   FAQ     More Resources Contact SRA


   


Coronavirus News

How the pandemic is affecting Realtors® and real estate

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

 

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: Official assessment notices will be mailed July 1, 2020. Property 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 

 

   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. 

 

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.

 

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[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]

 

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)

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)

 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Suburban Realtors® Alliance moves to new office

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Monday, June 26, 2017 at 12:00:00 pm Comments (0)
 
The Suburban Realtors® Alliance have moved across town to a new office at 1 Country View Road, Suite 202, Malvern, PA, 19355.
 
In addition to being in an energy-efficient, certified LEED® Gold building, the new location places Alliance staff closer to the Pennsylvania Turnpike slip ramp, allowing them to travel more quickly to the communities served by the Alliance's three shareholder associations.
 
The office's phone number, fax number, website and employee email addresses remain the same.
 
 
Friday, June 23, 2017

Suburban West Realtors® Association Awarded Placemaking Grant to Help Improve Lansdowne Community

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Friday, June 23, 2017 at 12:00:00 pm Comments (0)

LANSDOWNE, PA (June 23, 2017) – The Suburban West Realtors® Association (SWRA) has received a $4,000 placemaking grant from the National Association of Realtors® to help Lansdowne Borough create a public gathering space. 

“The new gathering spot, the Lansdowne Landing, has enhanced an already vibrant community,” said SWRA Chairman Steve D’Antonio. “We are glad that this grant has helped create a place where friends and neighbors can come together, and it is our hope that the project will enhance Lansdowne’s historic downtown.”

Inspired by popular outdoor gathering places like The Porch in Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood, Lansdowne Landing has already become a community hub since it opened in May. Fifteen parking spots were painted over with a colorful ground mural by local artist Brad Carney, filled with tables, chairs and toys, and lined with plants. The space has been used for farmers markets, live music performances, meditation classes and other activities and events.

“The Lansdowne Landing planning committee and the Borough Council are thrilled to be partnering with Suburban West Realtors on this exciting project,” said Susan Williams, a member of Lansdowne Borough Council. “The grant monies will go toward finishing up the project, which includes: the creation of about 11 barrel planter/light posts; over 300 feet of string lights to cast a fabulous glow over the incredible ground mural; the three ornamental trees that will be planted in pots to finish the Lounge area of the space; and some final furnishings.”

The grant is intended to help Realtor® associations partner with others to plan, organize, implement and maintain placemaking activities in their communities. Suburban West Realtors® collaborated with Councilwoman Williams, Borough Manager Craig Totaro and Mayor Anthony Campuzano on the project. The Suburban Realtors® Alliance assisted in the grant application.

“Realtors® live, work, and volunteer in their communities, and they take immense pride in working to improve them,” D’Antonio said. “Placemaking can help foster healthier, more social and economically viable communities. It creates places where people feel a strong stake in their neighborhoods and are committed to making things better.”

Placemaking grants are awarded to local and state Realtor® associations to help them and their members initiate placemaking projects in the community, like turning a parking lot into a farmer’s market or a vacant lot into a playground. Realtor® associations and their Realtor® members are actively engaged in the community and know the neighborhoods and the properties that would benefit most from these improvement efforts. 

Lansdowne Landing can be followed online at facebook.com/lansdownelanding. For more about National Association of Realtors® placemaking grants visit, realtoractioncenter.org/placemaking. For information about the Suburban Realtors® Alliance, which advocates for public policy that benefits local real estate markets and protects private property rights, visit suburbanrealtorsalliance.com.

The Suburban West Realtors® Association is comprised of approximately 5,800 Realtor® and affiliate members who serve communities in Chester County and Delaware County, and beyond. Its Realtor® members are licensed real estate professionals who subscribe to a strict code of ethics as defined by the National Association of Realtors®. For more information about the Suburban West Realtors® Association, please visit www.suburbanwestrealtors.com or call 610-560-4800.                                      

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Top photo : Lansdowne Mayor Anthony Campuzano, Suburban Realtors® Alliance Government Affairs Manager Erin Smist, and Suburban West Realtors® Association Board Member Shannon Diiorio and Chairman Steve D’Antonio stand at the edge of the Lansdowne Landing, across the street from the historic Lansdowne Theatre.

Bottom photo: Lansdowne Landing, a new community gathering space in downtown Lansdowne, will benefit from a $4,000 placemaking grant received through the Suburban West Realtors® Association.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Alliance Office Visits: We'll Come to You!

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

The Suburban Realtors® Alliance offers free office visits to members of its three shareholder organizations: the Bucks County, Montgomery County and Suburban West associations of Realtors®.

A staff member will come to your location to discuss the topics below and answer any questions:

  • Overview of the Suburban Realtors® Alliance and its services
  • Recent changes to state law affecting municipal real estate inspections
  • Federal and state legislative updates
  • Other topics related to municipal regulations that impact Realtors®
Click here to view a flyer about the office visits.
 
To schedule a visit, contact the Alliance at 610-981-9000 or sra@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com.

 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Reminder: Schedule inspections in a timely manner

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Friday, May 5, 2017 at 12:00:00 pm Comments (0)

After noticing a slight increase in the number of use and occupancy inspection issues that are causing last minute delays in settlement, the Suburban Realtors Alliance (SRA) is reminding its members to request municipal inspections as early as possible. 

“When use and occupancy inspection or certificate issues come up a day or two prior to settlement, it can be very difficult to resolve them in a way that allows a transaction to move forward on time,” said Jamie Ridge, president/CEO of the Suburban Realtors Alliance. “We always recommend ordering these inspections at least 30 days prior to the settlement date to give municipal staff plenty of time to complete their work.”

Approximately 50 percent of municipalities in the SRA’s four-county territory require some level of code inspection prior to a home sale. Knowing where these inspections exist, and ordering them well in advance of a settlement date, is an important way to ensure that real estate transactions stay on schedule, Ridge said.

For more information about the various inspection requirements in southeastern PA, visit the SRA’s Municipal Database at: www.suburbanrealtorsalliance.com. The database is a password-protected benefit for members of the Bucks County, Montgomery County and Suburban West Realtor Associations.

 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Alliance CEO Addresses Montgomery County Boroughs Association

Posted by: Pete Kennedy on Friday, April 28, 2017 at 3:00:00 pm Comments (0)

Suburban Realtors Alliance president/CEO Jamie Ridge addressed representatives from 13 boroughs at the April 27  dinner meeting of the Montgomery County Boroughs Association.

At Woodside Lodge in Schwenksville, about 50 borough administrators and elected officials listened as Ridge spoke about recent amendments to the Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act. The presentation ended with a question-and-answer session. 

"It was a great conversation about the issues faced by both municipalities and Realtors during the use and occupancy inspection process," Ridge said. "I thank the Montgomery County Boroughs Association for the invitation."

The Alliance maintains a municipal database of ordinances and other information that Realtors use to make sure they are complying with local regulations. Attendees received copies of their respective municipalities' database entries to review and, if needed, suggest changes. 

(Photo: Nevin Scholl, president, Trappe Borough Council, Pat Webster, REALTOR and Trappe Borough Council member, and Jamie Ridge, president/CEO, Suburban Realtors Alliance.)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Yardley Borough, local REALTORS team up for main street project

Posted by: Jamie Ridge on Friday, April 22, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

YARDLEY, PA – Yardley Borough’s Business Enhancement Team (BET) and volunteers from the Bucks County Association of Realtors® (BCAR) teamed up on Wednesday April 20, to help spruce up a space in the borough that in recent years has become a summer concert venue and gateway into the borough’s main street and Buttonwood Park.

The improvement project, funded through a $2,500 grant from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), included assembling newly purchased café tables, matching chairs and planters for the public sidewalk space between 9 and 15 South Main St. on Buttonwood Place. Last summer the space was utilized as the venue for BET’s “Music on Main” outdoor concert series, which drew more than 1,200 people over nine Saturdays.

According to Borough Councilman Jef Buehler, chairman of Yardley’s BET, the project will help create a more festive atmosphere for the summer concert series, and encourage more visitors and residents to linger downtown throughout the year.

“Our downtown has become even more beautiful thanks to this unique partnership between Yardley Borough and local Realtors,” Buehler said. “This is a great example of how local stakeholders can team up to improve important public spaces and encourage more main street commerce on a limited budget.”

Maryellen O’Brien, who currently serves as president of BCAR, said that 13 Realtors from the area participated in the project.

“The Realtors who showed up today are all small business people who care deeply about their communities and the family’s that live here,” O’Brien said. “We’re thankful for the opportunity to provide the funding for this project through our national association and work directly with BET to make it a reality.”

For more information about the Yardley BET, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/YardleyBET/

 To learn more about National Association of Realtors® placemaking grants visit, realtoractioncenter.org/Placemaking.

 The Bucks County Association of Realtors represents more than 3,400 members living and working throughout the county and the region.      

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Bucks County Association of Realtors® awarded national grant to assist Yardley

Posted by: Jamie Ridge on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

WARMINSTER, PA – The Bucks County Association of Realtors® (BCAR) has received a $2,500 grant from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) to help Yardley Borough transform a currently under-utilized space on South Main St. into a signature gateway for the growing Buttonwood Place development, Buttonwood Park and the heart of the borough’s downtown.

According to Borough Councilman Jef Buehler, chairman of Yardley’s Business Enhancement Team (BET), the grant will be used to purchase colorful outdoor café tables and matching chairs, along with planters for the public sidewalk space between 9 and 15 South Main St. on Buttonwood Place. Last summer the space was utilized as the venue for BET’s “Music on Main” outdoor concert series, which drew more than 1,200 people over nine Saturdays.  

“Many of the attendees of last summer’s concert series said they would spend even more time enjoying our downtown and its businesses throughout the week if there were only more chairs and tables in this space,” Buehler said. “This grant will help us address that specific request while adding to the festive atmosphere of Music on Main and other events planned for the space.”

Maryellen O’Brien, who currently serves as president of BCAR, said the grant program is meant to help local Realtors® and their associations become more involved in the communities where they live and work.

“Realtors® live, work and volunteer in their communities and take immense pride in working to improve them,” O’Brien said. “These place making grants can help foster healthier, more social and attractive communities. All of these things can lead to a stronger and more stable local economy and housing market.”

For more information about the Yardley BET, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/YardleyBET/

To learn more about National Association of Realtors® placemaking grants visit, realtoractioncenter.org/Placemaking.

The Bucks County Association of Realtors represents more than 3,400 members living and working throughout the county and the region.      

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It's time for PA to get serious about governing municipal real estate inspections

Posted by: Jamie Ridge on Tuesday, December 23, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

A recent poll conducted by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo highlighted the concern of home builders across the country over constantly tightening construction codes. It seems that approximately 35 percent of home builders recently polled are “extremely concerned” that construction codes are making new construction cost prohibitive “without a measurable improvement in safety or other benefits.”

Based on the stories we hear from our members on a weekly basis, I think it’s safe to say that home builders and REALTORS have much in common when it comes to feeling frustrated over building code creep. But while home builders are mostly concerned with codes that govern new home construction, our members must contend with the wildly inconsistent enforcement of building and property maintenance codes by municipalities at the point-of-sale (POS).

How difficult do some municipalities in southeastern PA make it to sell a home within their borders? According to our Realtor Association colleagues across the country, there are very few areas that face the same crazy rules and regulations regarding the sale of private property. So you want to sell your historic property in Caln Township? Better hope it meets the over-the-top standards of one of the strictest code enforcement departments in the region. Does your client live in Downingtown Borough? They may be required to replace the sidewalk, even if it’s only slightly worn. In Eddystone, be prepared for a team of municipal inspectors to descend on your client’s property on multiple occasions, and for those inspectors to find previously “missed” violations on follow-up visits. Are you selling a home to a rental property investor in Marcus Hook or Lower Chichester? That’ll be $5,000 to $10,000 for a new fire sprinkler system, please.

That’s the problem with the way municipalities are allowed to enforce property maintenance and building codes at the point-of-sale in Pennsylvania. While the state does have a “Uniform Construction Code” (UCC) in place for building and renovating homes, there is no such law that ensures a consistent standard for municipal home inspections. Worse yet, there is currently no fair way for home sellers or buyers to challenge an overzealous municipal code department that has decided to run rampant over their real estate transaction. When a township code inspector, manager or solicitor tells your client to “go ahead and sue us” if you want to challenge a particular demand, it’s all too clear that they’re holding the best hand.
     
So where do we go from here? The fact that we do have a uniform code in Pennsylvania for new construction gives me hope that a similar state-wide law may be possible for governing point-of-sale inspections. This type of law could include limitations on the scope of such inspections, and clearer guidelines for inspecting older homes. It could include strict limitations on the fees that municipalities can charge for such inspections, and set a stronger licensing standard for code officials. A ban on the absurd practice of requiring expensive infrastructure repairs – such as sidewalk and sewer lateral replacements – only at the point-of-sale would be a welcome addition to such a law. Finally, the law could set up a clear arbitration process – not controlled by the municipality or county – for instances in which home sellers or buyers feel the need to challenge a municipal code ruling without having to spend thousands of dollars on a lawsuit.

What are the chances of a municipal resale inspection law passing the PA legislature? With the UCC already in force for new construction, there is a strong precedent for this type of regulation.  Is there language you’d like to see in such a law? Send your ideas to grassroots@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com

Friday, January 10, 2014

‘This Doesn’t Make Sense’ Campaign Leads to Increased Awareness of Municipal Inspection Issues

point of sale
Posted by: Jamie Ridge on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

By Jamie Ridge, president/ceo, Suburban REALTORS Alliance
Here at the Suburban REALTORS Alliance (SRA) we’ve noticed a significant increase in REALTOR-awareness regarding municipal “point-of-sale” inspection requirements since the Marchlaunch of our “This Doesn’t Make Sense” campaign and website.  This increased awareness has led to some very questionable municipal point-of-sale practices being brought to light by our members, and successfully challenged by the SRA.

In Chester County we learned that two boroughs – Phoenixville and Downingtown – were refusing to issue temporary use and occupancy certificates for required repairs that a buyer had agreed to complete after a sale. In both instances, the boroughs were in violation of the Pennsylvania Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act (MCOCA), which states that: “a municipality shall not refuse to issue a use and occupancy certificate … on the basis of a substantial violation or require the correction of a substantial violation as a condition to issuing a use and occupancy certificate … unless the substantial violation renders the property unfit for habitation.”

After SRA staff reached out to each borough, they began issuing temporary certificates that allow real estate transactions to move forward.

In Delaware County, where the vast majority of municipalities have some form of point-of-sale inspection requirement, increased member input has allowed us to address Ridley Township’s refusal to issue temporary use and occupancy certificates for sidewalk repairs. Once again, township staff seemed unaware of the state law that requires the issuance of temporary certificates unless a property is being condemned.

Perhaps our favorite “success” story this year involves Suburban West member Nick Vandekar, who is also a member of the SRA’s board of directors. Nick was in the process of closing a deal in East Norriton Township in Montgomery County when their codes department mentioned a required sewer lateral repair and a hefty escrow requirement to allow a temporary U & O certificate.

Being quick on his feet, Nick was able to encourage a conversation between East Norriton staff and SRA staff.  After being provided with an explanation of the enforcement tools that the Code and Ordinance Compliance Act provides to townships when home owners don’t comply with the terms of a temporary U & O permit, the township dropped their escrow requirement for Nick’s transaction, and future transactions. We think that is teamwork at its best!

The ultimate goal of the ‘This Doesn’t Make Sense’ campaign is to not only raise our members’ awareness of these issues, but also public awareness.  By sharing the campaign website with your neighbors and clients, you can help us accomplish this goal. Once on the website – www.thisdoesntmakesense.org – guests can find information about the point-of-sale requirements in their municipality, and even send a pre-written message to their elected official about why these local real estate regulations do more harm than good.

When more of our local elected officials begin receiving these messages from residents of their townships and boroughs, perhaps they’ll think twice about introducing any further point-of-sale requirements. Even better, maybe they will strongly consider repealing inspection ordinances that are already in place.

After all, at a time when the economy is still recovering and home sales are just beginning to perk up, the last thing we need is more barriers to real estate transactions.

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