Pa. measure strengthens blighted buildings law
Landmark bipartisan legislation that will dramatically reform Pennsylvania's current laws addressing abandoned or dilapidated properties cleared the Senate Thursday, according to State Senator David G. Argall (R-29).
Senate Bill 900, known as the Neighborhood Blight Revitalization and Reclamation Act, passed the Senate unanimously, further aiding the effort for local communities throughout Pa. to fight blight and repair or demolish dilapidated properties.
Earlier this week, the legislation was returned to the Senate for approval following technical amendments made by the House.
"I introduced Senate Bill 900 to carry on the efforts of my predecessor, Sen. Jim Rhoades," Argall said. "This bill will strengthen current law to identify property owners of blighted buildings and hold them responsible for the costs to rehabilitate or demolish these structures. Today, I was pleased to join with my colleagues in finally sending this bill to the governor."
"Senate Bill 900 is an important victory for communities affected by an aging infrastructure and absentee property owners," said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi. "This bipartisan comprehensive measure brings certainty to dealing with abandoned and blighted property, and substantially improves how communities can address these issues."
Senate Bill 900 provides that if any real property is in serious violation of a building or housing code, the municipality may institute an action to prevent, restrain, correct or abate the violation.
"The passage of Senator Argall's Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act is a significant step forward for Pennsylvania," said Elizabeth Hersh, Executive Director, Housing Alliance of Pa. "It provides unprecedented powers to local communities to stop the spread of blighted properties and hold slum owners accountable. Senator Argall has been a tireless leader in the fight against blight. The Housing Alliance is proud to have been an active member of the Blight Task Force begun by Senator Rhoades and proud to have been among the many Pennsylvanians who have worked so hard to get this new law passed, against the odds."
"Senate Bill 900 is a giant step forward in enabling municipalities to effectively fight slumlords and protect our citizens from dangerous properties." said James W. Felmlee, President of the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs.
The bill moves to the governor for his signature.
Highlights of the bill include:
• Allowing municipalities to deny a building permit, zoning permit, variance, or a municipal license, permit or approval if the applicant owns real property in any municipality for which taxes, water, sewer or refuse charges are delinquent or the applicant is in serious violation of a state law or municipal code and has taken no substantial steps to correct the violation 6 months following notification.
• Providing for extradition of out-of-state property owners and specifies under the extradition provisions that out of state property owners with code violations must have been charged under the Crimes Code and that the extradition shall be subject to the full extent allowed and in the manner authorized by Chapter 91 of the Judicial Code.
• Authorizing denial of permits only for code violations for which fines or other penalties or a judgment to abate or correct were imposed by a magisterial district judge or municipal court, or a judgment at law or in equity was imposed by a court of common pleas.
• Prohibiting permit denials in situations where the judgment, order or decree is subject to a stay or supersedes by an order of a court of competent jurisdiction or automatically allowed by statute or rule of court.
• In denying a permit based on an applicant's delinquency in real property taxes or municipal charges, or for failure to abate serious violations of state law or municipal code, requires the municipality to indicate the street address, municipal corporation and county in which the property in question is located.
• Providing for proof of compliance in which the permit applicant is required to obtain a letter from the appropriate agency or political subdivision. The compliance letter must indicate the property does not have tax, sewer, water or refuse delinquencies, is currently in compliance, and the owner of the property has presented and the appropriate state agency or municipality has accepted a plan to begin remediation of a serious violation of state law or municipal code, provided the remediation is completed within an agreed-to timeframe. The applicable state agency, municipality or school must issue the compliance letter within 45 days of the request. If not, the property in question is deemed in compliance.
• Allowing for an individual who inherits property to make payments and/or remediation arrangements to avoid personal liability and/or denial or permits for other properties.
• Providing that, if notice of a code violation for property owned by a corporate entity cannot be accomplished by hand delivery, the municipality must take additional steps to provide proper notice of a violation. These include delivery via certified mail to the registered office of the corporate entity or to the address used for real estate tax collection, if no registered address is available.
• Amending both Title 53 and Title 42 to allow establishment of a housing court in the county court of common pleas to hear and decide matters related to real property.
• Amending both Title 53 and Title 42 to encourage education and training programs for judges. The Administrative Office of PA Courts may develop and implement annual education and training programs for judges regarding the laws of blighted and abandoned properties and their economic impact on municipalities.