NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Glenolden updates U&O code in response to SRA lawsuit

Bucks County
Falls to consider sewer lateral inspections at point of sale

Chester County
North Coventry approves comprehensive plan

Delaware County
Chester gets federal housing voucher boost

Montgomery County
County receives $1.8M to clean up lead in Pottstown, Lansdale homes

Philadelphia County
City council votes to shrink 10-year abatement, stoking real estate industry fears

 

Blog

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 The repealed version violated Act 133 of 2016, which amended the state’s Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act (MCOCA) and changed the way local governments issue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.

 

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.

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.                                      

###

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.

Designed and delivered by Accrisoft