NEWS BRIEFS

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?

 

News Briefs Archive March 30, 2020

 

General News

Real estate license renewal and CE requirements extended to Aug. 29
License renewal and continuing education requirements for real estate brokers and salespersons have been delayed 90 days, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. The bureau announced the delay as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Renewals and continuing education requirements will now be required by Saturday, Aug. 29. Association-owned real estate schools throughout the state have canceled and postponed continuing education classes over the past few weeks in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s restrictions imposed to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Read more on the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® website.
Source: PAR JustListed; 3/27/2020

Governor Authorizes Temporary Use of Remote Online Notarization
A temporary notarial rule suspension to allow for remote online notarization of documents in a limited category of real estate transactions was approved by Gov. Tom Wolf. For residential real estate transactions, the new rule only applies to transactions that were already in process (e.g. agreement of sale completed for residential property and only final closing needs to take place) at the time of the governor’s declared state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 6. The limited suspension will enable real estate professionals to complete transactions begun prior to the disaster declaration, but protect Pennsylvanians by limiting visitors to private homes and enabling real estate professionals to comply with the governor’s directive regarding non-life sustaining businesses. For commercial real estate transactions, the governor approved a similar suspension of the rules for both transactions that were already in process as well as new transactions during the emergency period. Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® President Bill Festa expressed support for the rule suspension and noted that PAR continues to advocate for the passage House Bill 1564 (Emerick, R-Northampton), which passed the House earlier this week and would permanently allow remote online notarization. Read more about the safeguards included in the rule suspension on the PAR website.
Source: PAR JustListed; 3/27/2020

Congress passes $2 trillion relief package
The U.S. Senate passed a $2 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package Wednesday night with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill now goes to the U.S. House, where it is expected to pass, and President Trump has said he will sign it into law. The measure includes $350 billion for the Small Business Administration 7(a) loan program.  Under the terms, eligible businesses (500 employees or fewer) can get up to $10 million toward mortgage interest, rents, utilities and payroll costs. A portion of these loans will be forgivable. The self-employed and independent contractors are also included in a dramatic expansion of unemployment insurance that could provide benefits for up to 39 weeks. These workers are not usually covered under traditional state unemployment benefit programs. In addition, the bill contains:

  • A delay in payment of employer payroll taxes, with half due by the end of 2021 and the other half due by the end of 2022;  
  • $500 billion to support large businesses like airlines affected by the virus
  • A one-time payment of $1,200 to most adult Americans and $500 per child

NAR will provide a complete analysis of the bill and how it affects REALTORS®. Watch for regular updates on www.nar.realtor.  
Source: NAR; 3/25/2020 

Coronavirus impacts public meetings, municipal activity
Many municipalities in the region are shifting how business is done during the coronavirus outbreak. Some towns, school districts and other public governing boards have been canceling or postponing meetings and votes, others have moved to online platforms, and still others continue to hold public meetings with social distancing precautions. The Suburban Realtors® Alliance staff continues to monitor municipal activity and public notices — the legally required advertisements that towns and boroughs are required to do prior to passing new ordinances or making other significant changes. 

Pa. primary moved to June 2
Pennsylvania legislators approved moving the state’s primary election to Tuesday, June 2, because of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill will go to Gov. Tom Wolf, who is expected to sign it. Voters do not have to go to the polls this year if they want to avoid crowds. They can apply for mail-in ballots, which do not require an excuse. Voters can apply for a mail-in ballot in one of three ways:

  • Fill out an online form at the Votes PA website if they have a Pennsylvania driver’s license or a PennDOT ID number.
  • Download the form (PDF) and mail it to the county elections office.
  • Visit a county elections office to apply in person.

Source: York Daily Record; 3/25/2020

Fannie Mae issues new appraisal requirements
Fannie Mae has issued temporary guidance allowing desktop and exterior-only appraisals on many mortgage transactions. The guidance came in a lender letter titled “Impact of COVID-19 on Appraisals,” which can be found in the Appraisers section of Fannie Mae’s website.
Source: Fannie Mae; 3/24/2020 

U.S. orders up to a yearlong break on mortgage payments for those who have lost income or jobs
Federal regulators, through the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are ordering lenders to offer flexibility to homeowners who have lost income or their jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak. Depending on their situation, homeowners are eligible to have their mortgage payments reduced or suspended for up to 12 months. The move covers about half of all home loans in the U.S. — those guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie. But regulators expect that the entire mortgage industry will quickly adopt a similar policy. Under the plan, people who have suffered a loss of income can qualify to make reduced payments or be granted a complete pause in payments. "That forbearance is up to 12 months, depending on their particular situation," says Mark Calabria, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie. Homeowners must contact their servicer to work out a payment plan. The relief is not a forgiveness of debt; homeowners will work out a repayment plan once they recover financially, such as extending the term of the loan. The move doesn’t do anything to help renters. Some local governments are halting evictions for people who can't pay rent. And housing advocates hope the federal government comes up with a program soon to offer financial assistance to renters who in most cases have fewer financial resources than homeowners.
Source: NPR.org; 3/19/2020 

Pa. legislature implements remote voting
Many members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate were able to remotely cast their votes as they approved a bill rescheduling the state’s primary election to Tuesday, June 2. Members of the public are able to watch votes in the chambers on a live stream, a measure both the House and Senate are taking to ensure there’s transparency during the coronavirus outbreak. Committee meetings will also be streamed live. Under new rules passed in response to the coronavirus outbreak, rank-and-file members in the House will be able to text or email their votes to each caucus’ whip from home. However, the rules also require some party leaders to be present on the floor in Harrisburg. Click here for more information.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times/Spotlight PA; 3/24/2020

Bucks County

Bucks County resources
Find Bucks County information, maps and resources about the coronavirus outbreak here

Bucks Recorder of Deeds office update
The Bucks County Recorder of Deeds office is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but employees who are able to work from home are available to assist the public. Recorder of Deeds Robin Robinson said her office is ready to record documents remotely and has opened all records online. For companies or individuals that electronically record on a normal basis, those services still will be provided. Companies who wish to start recording electronically can contact one of the following companies to set up an account: SimplifileCSC or ePN. Any documents mailed to the office will be recorded in a timely manner. Robinson also has opened all records, dating back to 1684, to the public. The office uses recording vendor Landex, which normally charges 15 cents per minute to search, but that fee will be waived, Robinson said.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 3/25/2020

Sewer authority: Don’t flush wipes
The Bucks County Water & Sewer Authority (BCWSA) is urging customers not to flush wipes or other inappropriate items down the toilet during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) emergency. BCWSA spokesman Patrick Cleary said that a northern California county is seeing a spike in sewage spills, and officials there say that the increased use of wipes and toilet paper substitutes are to blame for the spills. BCWSA is recommending customers don’t flush wipes, and instead place them in the trash. Cleary added that keeping the sewage lines open is vital for ensuring proper water treatment and for providing clean water to all BCWSA customers. Click here for more information.
Source: BCWSA; 3/20/2020 

Falls food bank seeking donations
Food supplies have become extremely limited in the Falls Township area, and local area food pantries have asked for help in replenishing their shelves. The Falls Township Fire Marshal’s Office has started a food drive. Anyone who would like to donate can email fallsfoodbank@fallstwp.com or call 215-949-9000, ext. 264, to arrange a no-contact pick-up at the donor’s location. 

Municipal spotlight: Doylestown Borough
Subscribe to Doylestown Borough’s email list, or “D-Mail,” for news and updates from the borough delivered right to your inbox. A subscription link is available on the borough website. One recent update from Borough Manager John Davis included a Doylestown area guide to takeout, curbside and delivery dining. Check it out here.

Chester County 

Chester County Recorder of Deeds Update
The Chester County Recorder of Deeds office is closed to the public and operating with a limited staff, but it is accepting and recording documents filed by mail and E-Recording. Access the Recorder’s Online and Mail Services:

  • The Recorder of Deeds accepts documents for recording through the US Postal Service, UPS and FedEx. It also accepts electronic recording through Simplifile and CSC eRecording. 
  • Documents are recorded same day or next day through the E-Recording system. 
  • If you are searching for, or need copies of, a document, utilize the Eagle Web Records Search

For any questions, call the Recorder of Deeds main office number at 610-344-6330 or email rodinfo@chesco.org. Updates will be posted to the Record of Deeds website and social media pages.
Source: Chester County Recorder of Deeds; 3/25/2020 

County planning commission office closed
The Chester County Planning Commission office will be closed through March 27. Plans can be submitted online at the commission website, and all staff are available through email. The public can access the staff directory for email addresses online, as well us updates on the evolving coronavirus situation.
Source: Chester County Planning Commission; 3/23/2020 

Chester County Hospital seeks donations from public to battle coronavirus
Chester County Hospital has mobilized an emergency donation center, seeking donations from the community for items needed to battle the coronavirus pandemic. The hospital is accepting the following items:

  • masks, face protection, paper ear loop or tie, in original carton
  • gloves, non-latex, all sizes in original carton
  • wipes, bleach, alcohol or hydrogen peroxide
  • bottles of non-splash bleach
  • hand sanitizer
  • head covers, disposable bouffant-type with elastic band
  • disposable shoe covers
  • eye protection, including face shields
  • safety goggles
  • gowns, disposable water-resistant cover gowns in original carton
  • powered air-purifying respirators and hoods.

Donations are accepted at the hospital campus. Follow the signs to the parking garage at 1701 E. Marshall St., West Chester. Don’t get out of your car. Staff members will be controlling traffic and ensuring the process moves smoothly. Remote open or unlock your trunk so staff can access donations. Chester County Hospital is not accepting home-sewn reusable masks or 3-D printed ventilator parts at this time. To request a gift receipt, email your name, address, phone number and items donated to CCHGift@uphs.upenn.edu.
Source: Daily Local; 3/24/2020

Delaware County

Delco strikes deal for services provided by Chesco Health Department
Gov. Tom Wolf approved a request from Chester County’s health department to temporarily provide service to Delaware County. With about 565,000 residents, Delaware County is the most populous county in the state without its own health department. The agreement allows Chester County to provide faster distribution of information about individual cases in Delaware County, as well as increasing the availability of coronavirus testing, quarantining areas and researching positive cases. Residents can learn more here and view data and maps tracking the spread of the virus in Chester and Delaware counties here.

Delaware County extends deadline to qualify for property tax discount
During the March 18 public meeting, Delaware County Council unanimously voted to extend the deadline to qualify for a discount for the payment of property taxes. The new deadline has been extended to April 30. The extension only pertains to county taxes. Read more here.
Source: Delaware County; 3/23/2020 

Thanks to new affidavit, Aston can continue use and occupancy inspections
Aston Township recently amended its use and occupancy procedures. The new rules require an exterior inspection of sidewalks and an affidavit relating to safety items, such as smoke detectors and proper discharge of sump pumps. One unexpected benefit of the new practice is that the township codes department has been able to provide uninterrupted service for those seeking resale/occupancy certificates during the coronavirus outbreak. To learn more about Aston’s affidavit system, visit the township’s entry in the SRA municipal database

Ridley Park extends tax discount deadline
Ridley Park Borough Council is extending the discount period for borough real estate taxes from March 31 to April 30 due to the restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. Borough Manager Richard Tutak said tax payments should be mailed to Tax Collector Richard Snyder directly — 223 Riverview Road, Ridley Park, PA 19078 — because there is no tax office at Borough Hall. Tutak said all permit applications should be emailed to megan_dewar@ridleyparkborough.org. “We are trying to continue to provide the services we normally do, because we are operating with only a borough manager and a secretary,” Tutak explained. “The borough hall is closed to visitors, but we are taking phone calls and emails.” The borough declared a state of emergency on March 13. The borough council’s March 17 meeting was cancelled and all standing committees have been postponed for the time being.
Source: Daily Times; 3/19/2020

Delco needs citizen volunteers to battle COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic grows, Delaware County is turning for help to the volunteers of the Delco Citizen Corps. “We are looking for any type of volunteer that can provide assistance — medical and non-medical,” said Edwin Kline of Delaware County Emergency Services. “We’re still trying to ramp things up so we’re really prepared.” He said volunteers need to be at least 18 years old with a desire to help. “If they’re in a high-risk group, stay home. We’re not going to have you doing something you’re uncomfortable doing.” Volunteer opportunities include working in call centers, providing medical services or delivering food, among others. For more information about Delco Citizen Corps, visit www.delcocitizencorps.com.
Source: Daily Times; 3/23/2020

Montgomery County

Montgomery County resources
Find Montgomery County information, maps and resources about the coronavirus outbreak here

Recorder of Deeds information
To minimize the potential spread or exposure to COVID-19 (coronavirus), all Montgomery County offices are closed to the public. People who utilize the Recorder of Deeds office are encouraged to use its online resources. Copies of documents can be obtained from the Recorder of Deeds office utilizing the Public Access System. The office accepts recording through the US Postal Service and through four eRecording partners. Read more on the county website. 

Lower Moreland ceases regular operations
Lower Moreland Township will cease regular operations for the next two weeks, in accordance with Gov. Wolf’s stay-at-home order for Montgomery County residents, effective from March 23 to April 6. The township will continue to provide police, fire, EMS, sewer, and trash and recycling collection services. For urgent matters involving sewer backups, emergency permit work, etc., email info@lowermoreland.org or call 215-947-3100 and leave a voicemail.
Source: Lower Moreland Township email; 3/23/2020 

Municipal spotlight: Jenkintown Borough
Visit the Jenkintown Borough website for the “Jenkintown Coronavirus Update” from the mayor and council president, and links to important community resources. Jenkintown Borough continues to update its website with the latest COVID-19 information. 

Towamencin Township administration information
Towamencin Township continues to suspend public access to the administrative building to promote social distancing. Phone lines remain open at 215-368-7602, and the general township email is info@towamencin.org. Following the state and Montgomery County directives to avoid mass gatherings, all public meetings and township activities and programs have been cancelled through April 6. Access to play equipment and restrooms at township parks has also been restricted. New building permit applications are on hold until April 6. If you have general questions about the process or need an update, please call the township. Tax and sewer payments can be made at the township building via the dropbox located at the front of the administration building, or online at online. Tax and sewer payments can also be mailed to Towamencin Township, PO Box 303, Kulpsville, PA 19443-0303.

Philadelphia

Mayor to landlords: ‘Be a good citizen,’ don’t evict people during a pandemic
As the end of the month approaches and rents come due, Philadelphia officials have strong words about evictions. “If your landlord changes your locks, bars your door, cuts off your utilities, or removes your possessions or otherwise forces you out of your home, they are breaking the law,” said Liz Hersh, director of the city’s Office of Homeless Services. “You can call 911 and report an illegal eviction to the police or call the tenant hotline at 267-443-5200.” The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has ordered all courtrooms in the state to close until April 6. Without a court order, it is illegal to evict anyone. Renter advocates fear that as the first of April approaches, and with many thousands out of work, some landlords may retaliate against those who are unable to pay. Last week one of the city’s largest landlord advocacy organizations, the Homeowners Association of Philadelphia (HAPCO), encouraged all its members to follow city orders against evictions. Local courts issued a two-week moratorium on evictions before the larger court system shut down. Philadelphia officials say they are hoping to roll out assistance for renters in the future, but they repeatedly underscored that any aid the city offers would be extremely limited because the municipal budget simply doesn’t allow for the scale of intervention required.
Source: Plan Philly; 3/24/2020

Philadelphia gives notice of adjustments to filing deadlines
Both the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Philadelphia License and Inspection Review Board have implemented emergency regulations concerning filing deadlines in light of the coronavirus pandemic. This is in accordance with the Mayor’s “Declaration of Extraordinary Circumstance: Suspending the Formal Regulatory Process for Regulations Concerning a Novel Coronavirus” dated March 11, 2020. Anyone affected thereby may file a written request for a hearing with the Philadelphia Department of Records within 30 days. 
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 3/23/2020

 

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