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Local Ordinances

Municipalities across Pennsylvania have proactively adopted state legally authorized tools since 2006 to expand local government's power to improve the condition of problem properties.  In this section we include sample local ordinances, forms and other documents that may be helpful to a Northampton County municipality seeking to utilize one of these legal tools. [1]

[1] The Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania provides updated information on blight related laws and sample local ordinances, forms and other documents at http://www.pablightlibrary.com/ We included many of the documents that were posted in January 2019 for this statewide resource library.    

International Property Maintenance Code

Municipalities need to enact codes and laws that affirmatively require owners to maintain and care for their properties. One option is to adopt the International Property Maintenance Code, a model code that spells out the minimum maintenance requirements for existing buildings. Municipalities can adopt the code in whole or in part, and they can modify it to suit local conditions.  Where a property is in violation of the Code, code enforcement officials can leave a door hanger with information about how to address the violation and then work with the property owners to bring their property back up to code.  This tool only addresses the exterior condition of a property.

 Northampton Borough Property Maintenance Code Adopted

 Spring Grove Borough International Property Maintenance Code Sample Ordinance

 Etna Door Hanger for violations

 Etna Building and Property Maintenance Code Appeal Form 

 Penn Hills Code Violations Questions and Answers 

Quality of Life Violation Ticketing Ordinance 

Several Pennsylvania municipalities have passed quality of life ticketing ordinances that allow code enforcement staff to issue tickets and fines for code violations that are visible on the exterior of a private property for immediate payment similar to a parking ticket.  A quality-of-life ticketing ordinance is designed to streamline the process of punishing violators, freeing up both the magisterial court system and municipal code officials, and ensuring that revenue from fines goes to local government.  The ordinance also makes the process of paying a fine quicker and less expensive for owners and may identify small code violations at a point in time when they can be corrected at low cost. While there is typically a high response rate, if an owner refuses to fix the condition or pay a fine, the matter must be addressed in court.

Bangor Borough Quality of Life and Violations Ticket Process – Ordinance 961

Allentown SWEEP Ordinance 

Allentown Sweep Ticket Appeal Request 

City of Hazelton Quality of Life and Violations Ticket Process Regulations

City of Reading Quality of Life Ordinance

Rental Property Licensing or Registration

Require rental property owners to obtain a rental license and/or register their rental properties.  Rental registration is a local regulation that requires landlords to register with the city as a landlord and provide the city with essential information including the owner or agent's contact information should there be a problem at the property. Rental licensing is a stronger local regulation that requires an inspection to ensure a property meets basic health and fitness standards before it can be rented.  Typically licensing ordinances require inspections annually or every few years.

Easton Residential Rental Licensing Ordinance 4954 (2007)

Erie Rental Registration Law

Borough of Mahanoy City Rental Registration Ordinance (2011)

Coal Township Rental Registration Ordinance

Mt. Carmel Borough Rental Registration Ordinance

Allentown Residential Rental Unit Registration Application

2009 Allentown Progress Report Discusses Rental License Registration/Revocation  (p.11)

 Vacant Property Registration

Require vacant property owners to register their vacant properties with their local government.  It also typically requires the owners to pay an annual fee to cover costs of regular inspections and file a plan to sell or reactivate the property.  Some ordinances require a property owner to carry a minimum amount of insurance as well. 

Borough of Wilson PA Abandoned and Foreclosed Property Ordinance 138A

City of Reading 2012 Ordinance

City of Reading Vacant/For Sale Property Application

Steelton Borough Vacant and Foreclosed Property Ordinance 

Registration of Foreclosed Properties

Registration of properties that are in the process of foreclosure or have been foreclosed upon allows municipalities to identify the appropriate person at a lending institution or other parties responsible for the care of the property during the critical time period when the property is left vacant.  There are a number of for-profit companies who will work with the municipality to enforce this law.  These companies know who the appropriate contact is at each lending organization and can work with the municipality to collect an annual fee and ensure the security and maintenance of the foreclosed property.  These companies typically contract for a percentage of the fee and fines collected from the lender.

Steelton Borough Vacant and Foreclosed Property Ordinance (2011)

Allentown Registration of Foreclosed Property Ordinance (2012)

Easton File a Citizen Complaint re Foreclosed Property Using ProChamps

Pre-Sale Inspections

Require sellers to pay for an inspection prior to transfer of a property to a new owner and to bring property up to code or notify new owners of any deficiencies.

City of Easton Pre-Sales Ordinance

City of Allentown Pre-Sales Inspection Procedure

City of Allentown Request for Pre-Sales Inspection

2009 Allentown Progress Report Discusses Implementation of Pre-Sale Inspection Program  (p.7)

Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act

Require purchasers of a property with known code violations to resolve the violations within 18 months of purchase.

Borough of Susquehanna Depot Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Ordinance  (Note:  Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act was amended in 2016).

Borough of Doylestown Occupancy Certificates Ordinance

Philadelphia Doors and Windows Ordinance

Impose fines for each missing door and window on a vacant property and increase fines over time.  Philadelphia launched its Doors and Windows program in October 2011 using the powers authorized by Pennsylvania's Act 90.  The program requires owners of vacant buildings on blocks with at least 80% occupancy that have a blighting influence on the surrounding community to install windows with frames and glazing on all window openings and operative doors on all door openings.  The fines for noncompliance are $300 per opening per day. The program targeted owners of multiple blighted buildings. A 2014 study by the Reinvestment Fund found that properties that complied with citations from the city's Department of Licenses & Inspections created $74 million in sales value for surrounding properties and increased the city's transfer tax revenue by $2.34 million.   Another study by the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine found that the installation of working windows and doors in vacant buildings significantly reduced many categories of crime and violence near the buildings, including a 19% reduction in assaults, a 39% reduction in gun assaults, and a 16% reduction in nuisance crimes.  In an order of July 6, 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the ordinance as an exercise of the City's police power and its "compelling interest in combatting blight".

Philadelphia Securing Vacant Property Ordinance

Windows and Doors Summary January 2014

City of Philadelphia Licenses and Inspections: Act 90 Enforcement Analysis, William Penn Data Collaborative Presentation  (January 21, 2014).

University of Pennsylvania study finding ordinance lowered crime

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decision upholding as constitutional

Permit Denial

Deny municipal building, zoning and occupancy permits to owners of delinquent properties or properties with a judgment of serious code violations in order to motivate owners to fix up their properties or pay their taxes. In 2010, the Pennsylvania legislature passed the Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act (Act 90) into law.   Act 90 gives local government several new tools to deal with properties that have serious code violations.  First, Act 90 allows municipalities to deny certain permits and licenses to property owners who have significant tax delinquencies or a judgment of serious code violations by a magistrate or judge anywhere in the Commonwealth. To identify property owners who have judgments of code violations in other Pennsylvania municipalities, local governments are encouraged to search a magisterial court database at https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/CaseInformation.aspx.

Linesville Act 90 Ordinance

Marple Township Act 90 Ordinance

Model Act 90 Ordinance Draft (March 2011)

Asset Attachment

Attach owner's personal assets such as wages and bank accounts to cover municipal costs incurred to demolish or improve a property.  Act 90 also gives municipalities the power to attach the assets of an owner of a property if the owner fails to take substantial steps to correct a "serious violation" within six months of a final court order. To date, no municipality has completed asset attachment in Pennsylvania, but several have used a petition to the court to motivate a property owner to appear in court to defend his or her valued assets. Note that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that property owners have a constitutional right to a notice and a hearing before their assets are attached.

Estate Administration

Redevelopment Authority opens estate of deceased property owners to transfer blighted property to a new owner.  This tool is currently only available within Easton and Bethlehem as these are the only jurisdictions with a redevelopment authority.

Pettrone Templates of Forms and Letters Regarding Administration of Estates by a Redevelopment Authority: Packet #1 , Packet #2

PA Department of Revenue Estate Information Sheet Completed by Pettrone

Orphans' Court Family Agreement and Information Accounting Completed by Pettrone

PA Department of Revenue Inheritance Tax Return Completed by Pettrone

Real Estate and Personal Assets Inventory for Estate Completed by Pettrone

Petition for Probate and Grant of Letters Completed by Pettrone

Orphans Court Petition For Citations To Next Of Kin To Show Cause Why The Court Should Not Appoint A Third-Party to act As Administrator Completed by Pettrone

Correspondence Related to Administration of Estates by Redevelopment Authority  of Wilkinsburg

Conservatorship

Court may appoint a third party to enter onto someone else's property to address code violations. In 2008, Pennsylvania passed a conservatorship law authorizing the courts to appoint a nearby neighbor, nonprofit organization, municipality, school district, or redevelopment authority as a receiver to make improvements to privately owned property.  This tool has been used extensively by non-profits across the state. In 2014 the conservatorship law was amended in order to include vacant lots, increase the "developer's fee" and give neighbors, businesses, and non-profits who are located farther from the property the authority to file a petition for conservatorship.  The Housing Alliance Conservatorship Handbooks offer extensive information and sample documents on using conservatorship to eliminate blight.

Checklist for Conservatorship

Columbia County Lightstreet- Final Order- Special Warranty Deed

Commonwealth Court Opinion 2385

Conservatorship Handbook- General (2013)

Conservatorship Handbook- Philadelphia (2013)

Conservatorship Handbook- Allegheny County (2013)

Girardville Pleadings and Court Order

OARC vs Kalemkerian

PBA Quarterly Article

Pittsburgh- ELDI- Church Conservator Petition

Summary of Act 135

Summary of 2014 Amendments to Act 135

Housing Alliance Conservatorship Webinar and PowerPoint (April 2017)

City of Bethlehem Commonwealth Court Opinion

Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation Commonwealth Court Opinion

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