State House Action on Two Legislative Priorities

May 5, 2015

The arrival of Spring has brought with it some momentum for two issues pending in the Pennsylvania legislature that would help community associations and for which Community Associations Institute’s Pennsylvania Legislative Action Committee (PA LAC) has been advocating for several years.

In March, two companion bills were introduced in the state senate by Senator Pat Browne of Lehigh County. Senate Bills 687 amending the Uniform Planned Community Act and Senate Bill 688 amending the Uniform Condominium Act are intended to correct a conflict which was created by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Shaffer v. Zoning Hearing Board of Chanceford Township.  In the case, 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. The two bills were unanimously voted out of the Senate’s Urban Affairs & Housing Committee on April 22, 2015.

Over on the other side of the Capitol, House Bill 1101 was introduced by Rep. Thomas Caltagirone of Berks County to address the issue of recording fees for 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.  Nearly a third of Pennsylvania counties have 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. CAI has documented several examples of skyrocketing fees for recording a change to an association declaration – in some of these examples, the association has been required to pay thousands of dollars in fees for simple declaration amendments. In one example in Montgomery County, an association had to pay $8,731 to record a six page amendment to its declaration. Similar fees have been documented in counties in the Lehigh Valley, Southeast PA, Central PA and Western Pennsylvania.

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 supports adoption of House Bill 1101 which would bring filing fees down to reasonable levels.

For updates on these and other issues on which PA LAC is working, please make sure you are subscribed to our email list. If you are not a member of CAI, consider joining to receive benefits of membership and to support our advocacy work in Harrisburg. For membership information, join online or contact our office at 610-783-1315.

 


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