LAC Talks Issues at State Capitol

Mar 2, 2015

CAI's Legislative Action Committee returned to the state capitol in Harrisburg on February 23 and 24, 2015 to visit with members of the legislature regarding issues important to community associations. Twenty one members of the chapter including managers, homeowners and business partner members from across Pennsylvania met with 45 separate members of the legislature over the course of the 2 day meeting. CAI's annual Legislative Day is held once a year to promote the issues confronting community associations and to educate legislators and policymakers on these issues as well as CAI's position on pending legislation.

Monday afternoon focused on meetings with legislative leaders who are responsible for setting the agenda in the legislature. These afternoon meetings were followed by a dinner attended by several state senators and representatives to talk about the LAC's biggest priorities. The bulk of the meetings took place on Tuesday, followed by a lunch for CAI members in attendance, which was also attended by several legislators and legislative aides.

The Issues

Shaffer v. Zoning Hearing Board of Chanceford Township 

Introduction of legislation is pending by Sen. Patrick Browne (R-Lehigh). In the court case of Shaffer v. Zoning Hearing Board of Chanceford Township, the township objected to the creation of a planned community and conveyance of parcels among family members.  The township took the position, which was adopted by the county court and affirmed by the Commonwealth Court, that the creation of a planned community fell within the definition of land development under the Municipalities Planning Code.  The PA Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Commonwealth Court without an opinion. CAI is advocating for this legislation which will make it clear that the creation of condominium associations and planned communities out of existing land or facilities does not require municipal approval unless and until new structures or buildings are constructed within the association or planned community.  This legislation will eliminate the unnecessary conflict of legal statutes to which condo associations and planned communities are now exposed and remove a potential impediment to the viability of residential and commercial associations and communities throughout the Commonwealth. Stay tuned for an announcement when the Bill is introduced.

Recording Fees

Introduction of legislation is pending on the issue of skyrocketing fees to record changes to community association declarations. Pursuant to the Pennsylvania Uniform Condominium Act (UCA), and the Uniform Planned Community Act (UPCA) , all amendments to a declaration must be recorded. Unfortunately, what has historically been an administrative act at minimal expense, has become a large financial burden in about two thirds of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. In these counties, the Recorder of Deeds office has implemented a requirement to index each amendment against each parcel number in the condominium or planned community.  And, for indexing amendments against each parcel number, these counties have adopted a “per parcel” fee. The examples listed below are just a few of those compiled by CAI that demonstrate the skyrocketing fees for recording a change to an association declaration: 

          Association Declaration Changes    Recording Fee
Bucks            Villages of Flowers Mill Three page amendment    $6,822
Chester         Orchard Valley HOA Changes to conform with state law    $1,862
Dauphin         Meadows of Hanover Changes to sub associations    $8,300
Montgomery   Blue Bell Country Club Six page amendment    $8,731
                        Morgandale Condo Three page amendment to regs          $5,738

Many other counties around the Commonwealth have adopted similar fees. Such fees are not only absurdly high, they bear no relation to the work required to record documents. Moreover, as recording is a legal requirement, such fees could prevent associations from complying with the UCA or the UPCA. Additionally, in some instances Declaration amendments are required to comply with Federal law requirements, as in the case with FHA or FNMA regulations. CAI is currently working on legislation to bring filing fees down to reasonable levels, and to prevent counties from imposing these exorbitant charges.

Tax Equalization

Introduction of legislation pending. House Bill 551 of 2013 was introduced by then State Representative, now Senator Mario Scavello from the Poconos. The Bill would allow a unit owner in a common interest ownership community (also known as a community association) to deduct 75% of his or her association assessments (also known as dues) from his or her personal income tax.  The purpose of this legislation is to address the problem of residents of associations paying taxes for municipal services that are often not provided to them.  CAI supported this legislation in the previous session.

Planned Unit Development Data Collection

Introduction of legislation pending: House Bill 1688 of 2013 as introduced by then State Representative, now Senator Mario Scavello from the Poconos. The Bill would require County governments within the Commonwealth to collect, maintain, and make available upon request, information identifying condominium associations, cooperative housing developments, and planned communities located within the boundaries of the County. While it is estimated that 2.8 million PA residents live in a common interest ownership community (CIOC) and that roughly 80 percent of new housing starts since 2000 are CIOCs, the actual number and location of these communities is, by and large, unknown. House Bill 1688 would mandate the collection of data, including information such as name, physical location, land area, lot size, number of units and location and would aid the State in assessing the impact of legislation specific to CIOCs.  To mitigate the impact on County governments, amendments to the original bill would permit the County to make the data available to the public at a cost not to exceed that allowed under the state Right to Know Law and would also permit the posting of the data in electronic form. CAI supported the adoption of this bill in the last session, and the legislation was endorsed by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

These represent just a few of the issues that the PA LAC is currently working on. Other issues, including new regulations on permits and bonds for private dams, are also being discussed with legislators. Keep up to date on all legislative activity by visiting the legislative page of our website. Updates on Bills will be sent via email when warranted and included in the chapter magazine.

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