Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
Senate GOP halts fixes for Pa.’s troubled rent relief program, surprising even their own
Falls Township issues new U&O fact sheet, but process remains too burdensome
Chester County initiative will support families and child care providers
Middletown to consider update to the comprehensive plan
No tax hike in Upper Pottsgrove budget draft
City council proposes 1% construction tax, but also a delay in reducing property tax abatement
NAR provides answers on coronavirus, mortgage and personal finance
Congress has passed three relief packages to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Bank regulators have also adopted many new policies in light of needs resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. Visit the National Association of Realtors® CARES Act and Regulatory FAQ (PDF) for information about those provisions and actions that are designed to address homebuying, homeowner/landlord and personal finance issues.
Source: National Association of Realtors; 4/3/2020
PAR files brief in support of lawsuit asking governor to designate real estate as life-sustaining
The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® filed an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit filed against Gov. Tom Wolf. The lawsuit is on behalf of several businesses that have been impacted by the arbitrary and unclear rules under the governor’s closure order issued last month in response to the coronavirus. PAR is specifically requesting that the governor designate real estate services as a life-sustaining business, as most other states have done. Early on, PAR asked the governor’s office to reclassify real estate services as life-sustaining, following his business closure order. The association has continued to reach out to his office for the last three weeks and has received no formal written response. The governor’s waiver process has created inconsistencies in the marketplace and the guidelines of how these requests would be reviewed has changed throughout the process. The waiver process has now been shut down with little advance notice and no stated rationale. Read the letter on the PAR website.
Source: PAR; 4/3/2020
State commission issues broker price opinion regulation
The State Real Estate Commission’s broker price opinion (BPO) regulation is now effective. In order to prepare a BPO, an individual must have completed a commission-approved initial education course in the preparation of BPOs and completed at least three hours of commission-approved continuing education in BPO topics during the current or preceding licensure period. Read the Just Listed article for more details and questions that remain.
Source: PAR Just Listed; 4/1/2020
PA primary election postponed to June 2
Pennsylvania approved delaying the primary election to Tuesday, June 2. With the change, deadlines for voter registration and mail-in ballot requests have also been pushed back. The deadline to register to vote is now Monday, May 18, and the deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Tuesday, May 26. For more information, please check out the Department of State website.
Penn State Extension offering free online courses for a limited time
As a way to support its customers during the coronavirus pandemic, Penn State Extension is offering its library of online courses at no cost through April. Some courses offer certificates, while others provide continuing education credits. Among the offerings is a course on "Getting Involved in Your Pennsylvania Local Government," which may be of interest to Realtors® looking to enhance their civic engagement as part of C2EX. Other topics include food safety, nutrition and food preparation, best agricultural practices, horticulture, environmental stewardship, community involvement, business planning, and healthy families. To view offerings available under the special offer, visit the Extension course catalog. The deadline to register is April 30.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 4/3/2020
SRA coronavirus information page
The coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak is causing municipal and county government offices to reduce their operations — affecting local code inspection processes and county recorder of deeds offices. The Alliance is working to minimize the impact of these changes on Realtors® and their clients who are involved in property transfers. The Alliance website has a coronavirus page with more information, answers to frequently asked questions and links to other resources.
K.C. Tomlinson takes oath of office for 18th District
Kathleen “K.C.” Tomlinson recently took the oath of office as the 18th Legislative District’s new state representative. Tomlinson won the special election held March 17 to fill the House seat left vacant when former state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo resigned to assume a seat on the Bucks County Board of Commissioners. Tomlinson defeated Democratic candidate Harold Hayes in the special election. The two will face off again in November in the general election for a full, two-year term. Tomlinson’s district office is located at 2424 Bristol Road in Bensalem and can be reached at 215-750-1017. She can also be reached via her official website.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 4/6/2020
Council Rock to restart Rolling Hills renovation project
The Council Rock School Board voted to restart a major renovation-addition project at Rolling Hills Elementary School in Northampton at a special virtual meeting. The district received clearance from the state to restart the work, according to Superintendent Robert Fraser. The Rolling Hills project will proceed while “adding several precautions that are consistent with [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines,” Fraser said. The project was on schedule to be done in July before being halted, but now it will not be completed prior to the start of the upcoming school year.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 4/6/2020
Warwick to consider ‘Accessory Farm Business’ ordinance
Warwick Township Board of Supervisors will hold a virtual public hearing on Monday, April 20, at 7 p.m. to consider amending zoning regulations for agricultural uses to include Use A11, Accessory Farm Business. The public hearing will be held by way of a virtual hearing. A full copy of the ordinance and information on how to join the virtual meeting are available on the Warwick Township website. A summary of the ordinance includes a definition of the term "farm" and amends the regulations for the A11 use to add more activities to encourage the continuation of farming by setting forth permit requirements and required compliance with outside agencies. The proposed ordinance requires a minimum lot size of 20 acres, and provides that no activity, event or structure shall be located within 200 feet of a road or property line, except for parking areas. The ordinance establishes hours of operation for the permitted activities, which include educational tours, private social gathering of less than 300 people, seasonal festivals and farm animal shows. Concerts, amplified music, mechanical rides, flea markets and craft shows would not be permitted activities. The ordinance limits the number of events per year, limits the length of the events, and requires that access to the farm be on arterial or collector road, and also sets forth regulations for parking, signage and lighting.
Source: The Intelligencer; 4/6/2020
Chesco courts will try video conferencing in virus crisis
Although the courts in Chester County will remain generally closed to the public through at least the end of April because of the coronavirus crisis, some criminal proceedings that had earlier been postponed may begin under new guidelines. The majority of live, in-person proceedings in the courts — including criminal trials and pre-trials hearings, civil trials, and family court matters — have been continued through April 30, according to an order signed by Chester County Common Pleas Court President Judge John Hall. The order directed that “advanced communication technology” — most generally video conferencing through computers and the internet — can be used to convene criminal case preliminary hearings at the lower court level and other proceedings, both criminal and civil, in Common Pleas Court. It will be up to each judge to determine whether such methods are appropriate for non-essential matters. Essential matters, such as protection from abuse filings and emergency custody hearings, can still be held. The order was filed after the state Supreme Court last week continued its order shutting down courts statewide until the virus abates. The court allowed supervising judges in the state’s 67 counties to extend their own shutdown orders through May 31 if necessary.
Source: Daily Local; 4/6/2020
Phoenixville will consider amendments to ordinance regulating pipelines
Phoenixville Borough Council will consider amendments to Chapter 22 of its municipal code, Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance, to create new buffer and design standards for transmission pipelines. The ordinance is available on the borough’s website here. The hearing will take place on Tuesday, April 14, at 7 p.m. at Phoenixville Borough Hall, 351 Bridge St.
Source: Mercury; 4/6/2020
East Coventry Township accepting comments on Act 537 update
A special study has been prepared for the East Coventry Township Act 537 Plan. The plan addresses planning and management requirements necessary for providing public sewer service to meet the needs of development in the Parker Ford area of the township. The study area is generally bounded by the Schuylkill River to the northeast, Sanatoga/River View Road to the northwest, Pigeon Creek to the southwest and the East Vincent/East Coventry Township line to the southeast. The area’s existing properties are served by on-lot disposal systems and properties identified for proposed development. The primary alternatives for this plan included: (1) Continue to utilize the existing on-lot disposal systems and implement on-lot disposal for proposed residential and commercial development; or (2) Provide public sewer service to the respective existing and proposed properties and provide for future public sewer service for those properties with existing on-lot systems. The alternative for public sewer service was selected. A gravity sewer collection system will be constructed to collect wastewater from proposed development and existing development. Wastewater will be conveyed to a regional pump station that will also be constructed. The cost for the proposed sanitary sewer collection system is $15.5 million. The planning-level cost for the proposed regional pump station and the force main is $3 million. The township will pay for the project through municipal financing as well as seeking potential state grant opportunities, with a portion of the costs being recouped through tapping fees and user rate structures that will be established. The township is providing a 30-day public comment period. The plan is available for review at the township offices located at 855 Ellis Woods Road, Pottstown, Pennsylvania, 19465, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Comments may be addressed, in writing, to Mr. David Kraynik, township manager, no later than April 15.
Source: The Mercury; 3/16/2020
County to test front line workers
Chester County officials announced the launch of a new program to conduct antibody testing of health care workers, first responders and others on the front line in the fight against the COVID-19 crisis. Chester County is the first in the state to undertake this type of test. The pin-prick blood test will determine the presence of antibodies and will help officials to address workforce prioritization with patient care, crisis care management and staff shortages. Results from the test will be available in as little as 15 minutes, said county health director Jeanne Casner. “We have just received a shipment of 10,000 blood test kits and are expecting a second shipment of 10,000 more next week,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz. “These kits will be administered to priority individuals — emergency responders, health care workers and staff at long-term care facilities throughout Chester County, to determine those who have developed coronavirus antibodies, with or without symptoms.”
Source: Daily Local; 4/7/2020
SRA urges Upper Darby to table sewer inspection ordinance
The Suburban Realtors® Alliance (SRA) sent a letter (PDF) to Upper Darby Township Council members in opposition to a proposed ordinance that would require sellers to conduct sewer lateral inspections prior to a real estate settlement. “At a time when thousands of residents are unable to work because of the COVID-19 crisis, and are likely worried about their ability to pay upcoming mortgages, we are extremely concerned that you are considering an ordinance (3070) that would instantly make selling a home in the Township much more expensive and difficult,” SRA President/CEO Jamie Ridge wrote. The letter also criticized the design of the ordinance as ineffective. “Using this method, it will take Upper Darby more than four decades to stop the infiltration of fresh water into the sewer system,” Ridge wrote. “A much more cost-effective plan would be to first determine whether the issue is being created by the main sewer lines in the system,” followed by a comprehensive inspection program with financial assistance for homeowners who must make repairs. The council is planning to vote on Ordinance 3070 at its meeting on Wednesday, April 15, at 7 p.m. in a virtual meeting.
Upper Darby to consider sewer lateral and property maintenance ordinances
Upper Darby Township Council will consider two ordinances that significantly impact properties in the township. One will require the inspection of sewer lateral connections at point-of-sale, and the other adopts a property maintenance code. The council meeting will take place on Wednesday, April 15, at 7 p.m. Due to public health recommendations, council members will be participating remotely and the meeting will be streamed live to the public via YouTube or on the Upper Darby Township Council Facebook page. When the meeting begins at 7 p.m., residents can call in to 484-393-5861 to leave their name, address and public comment. Comments will be read into the record during the public comment section of the meeting for up to 30 minutes. Comments can also be sent immediately via email to email@example.com. Any comments not read into the record will be sent to council for a response and will be referenced at the end of the meeting prior to the adjournment.
Source: Mainline Media Group; 4/8/2020
Radnor extends state of emergency for 60 days
Radnor officials extended the township’s state of emergency for the next two months. At the same time, they decided not to open the Radnor Trail. Their original declaration was first declared on March 12. The extension is for 60 days or whenever Gov. Tom Wolf ends the statewide disaster declaration, whichever is later. Like most municipalities throughout the region, Radnor is holding its meetings remotely.
Source: Daily Times; 4/7/2020
COVID-19 prompts municipalities to extend tax periods
With COVID-19 wreaking havoc across the county and state, many Delaware County municipalities have opted to extend tax filing deadlines and/or discount rate periods. The following list is incomplete, as some municipal offices are temporarily closed and online information is limited.
Source: Daily Times; 4/2/2020
MontcoStrong grants support small businesses
Montgomery County is providing $1 million in economic development funds to provide grants to eligible small businesses. Administered in partnership with the Redevelopment Authority of Montgomery County, eligible applicants may apply for up to $25,000 that may be used for costs including rent or mortgage payments, payroll expenses, utility expenses or debt service. Click here for program guidelines and specific information.
Source: Jenkintown Borough; 4/2020
Lower Merion to amend Volunteer Service Credit Program
The Board of Commissioners of Lower Merion Township will consider for adoption an ordinance amending the township’s volunteer service credit program. The hearing will be held on Wednesday, April 15, at approximately 6:30 p.m., in the township administration building, 75 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore. The proposed ordinance will revise the definitions of “active volunteer” and “emergency responder,” and extend the program to members of the Narberth Fire Company who reside in Lower Merion Township. Refer to the township website for meeting procedures regarding public comment due to current restrictions.
Source: Main Line Times; 4/5/2020
Pottstown to consider ordinance for minimum parking requirements and pools
The burgess and council of the Borough of Pottstown will hold a public hearing on Monday, April 13, at 7:30 p.m. at Pottstown Borough Hall, 100 E. High St., to consider an ordinance amending various parts of the borough’s zoning ordinance. The amendments will: delete redundancies related to floodplain regulations; reduce minimum parking requirements for the downtown district; and amend the regulations for swimming pools, including storable pools. Visit the Pottstown Borough website for specific meeting information.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 3/30/2020
Tenants fear eviction. Landlords fear bankruptcy. How can Philly balance the two?
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to prevent people from earning paychecks, Philadelphia is struggling to strike a delicate balance between the needs of newly unemployed renters and those of landlords with bank debts to pay off. Gov. Tom Wolf has declared a state of emergency through at least April 30. During that time, landlords are banned from evicting anyone — but tenants’ rights groups now want to extend the current moratorium by at least two months. They argue that lifting the eviction moratorium as soon as the state of emergency is over won’t allow people time to earn enough money to pay past-due rent, potentially leading to mass evictions that destabilize the city. Mayor Jim Kenney denounced those who would first look after their own financial interests over the greater public good during the current public health crisis. But landlords have their own bills to pay. Paul Cohen, the general counsel for the Homeowners Association of Philadelphia (HAPCO), said landlords in the city have been working with renters during the pandemic, and his group came out early on in support of a federal freeze on evictions and foreclosures. However, he said landlords are afraid about their own futures and want to see more protections, too. But he noted that about half of Philadelphia’s rental units are owned not by big companies but by individuals who own anywhere between one and four units. Those people, he said, still have to pay property taxes and mortgages. The $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief plan does give property owners government-backed mortgage forbearance, essentially a way to temporarily reduce or defer payments to some lenders. Councilmember-at-large Helen Gym said forbearance will help a “sizable percentage” of Philadelphians, but Cohen pointed out that property owners will still have to make interest payments.
Source: WHYY; 4/4/2020
Philadelphia COVID-19 resources
The City of Philadelphia has created a Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource website that compiles updates and information related to the COVID-19 coronavirus in Philadelphia. Residents, business owners and health care providers can use it to stay up to date on the evolving public health situation. Residents may also text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive updates on their phone.