Bi-Partisan Bill Ending Unjustified “Tax” on Community Association residents on the move in Harrisburg

Sep 16, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DATE: September 16, 2016

Contacts:

Tony Campisi, (610-506-1783)

            tony@cai-padelval.org

www.cai-padelval.org

 ATTACHMENTS: (1) Examples of ROD Fees in the following counties: Bucks, Chester, Dauphin, Montgomery, Monroe, Northampton and Washington AND (2) CAI Rebuttal on false claims.

 

Bi-Partisan Bill Ending Unjustified “Tax” on

Community Association residents on the move in Harrisburg


King of Prussia, PA: On behalf of nearly 3 million residents of community associations across Pennsylvania, Community Associations Institute’s (CAI) Pennsylvania Legislative Action Committee today commended House Urban Affairs Committee Majority Chairman Scott Petri (R-Bucks) for his leadership in working to win support in his committee for S.B. 1282, which reigns in skyrocketing recording fees charged by county Recorder of Deeds in one third of the state’s counties.

S.B. 1282, introduced by Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York), would clarify the manner in which a county Recorder of Deeds may charge fees for the recording of amendments to the declarations of condominium associations, homeowner associations, and cooperatives, commonly referred to as community associations or planned communities. The bill cleared the Senate earlier this summer by a vote of 48 – 2.

Homeowners in a community association must vote to amend their declaration, often to comply with state or federal requirements. Under Pennsylvania Title 68, all amendments to a declaration must be recorded in every county where the community association is located and is required to be filed against the association’s “master parcel” – or the original recorded parcel upon the creation of an association – which is automatically tied to all other parcels or homes in the community. However, many counties have begun to assess indexing fees in a different manner than they have done in the past and are charging fees based upon every unit and unit owner (per parcel) in a community association. Unfortunately, what has historically been an administrative act at minimal expense, has become a large and growing financial burden for community associations and homeowners.

Over one third of Pennsylvania’s county Recorders of Deeds Offices have implemented a requirement to index each declaration amendment against each parcel number in a community association, adopting a “per parcel” or per home fee as high as $15.00. If a homeowners association contains 100 homes, the recording fee would be $1,500.

“Increasingly, county Recorders of Deeds Offices are assessing thousands upon thousands of dollars in fees for a simple declaration amendment that was merely required of a community association to comply with changes to state or federal law,” said House Urban Affairs Committee Minority Chairman Thomas Caltagirone (D-Berks), co-sponsor of the companion legislation in the House. “The voluntary act to index a declaration amendment against each unit does not warrant duplicative fees, which are little more than targeted tax hikes and bear no reasonable relationship to the amount of work involved to perform this service.”

Examples of these excessive recording fees are becoming ever more prevalent. For example, in Montgomery County, Blue Bell Country Club Community Association filed a six page amendment in 2014. The association has 849 homes (parcels). Under the fee structure in effect in 2014, the association was forced to pay an exorbitant recording fee of $8,731. In 2015, Montgomery County increased the per parcel fee from $10 to $15, meaning the recording fee for that same amendment would have skyrocketed to over $12,000.  In neighboring Philadelphia County, the fee would have been $110.00.

This growing practice is not limited to southeast Pennsylvania. In 2014, the Meadows of Hanover Community Association in Dauphin County, with 830 homes, paid over $8,300 in fees to record changes to its declaration. In Monroe County, Lake Naomi Club with 1779 homes in Pocono Pines was charged a $17,800 fee for a deed amendment. And in Washington County, Meadowbrook Homeowners Association, with 527 homes, was charged $845 to record a change to its declaration in 2009, only after the community negotiated the fee down from $1,116. In neighboring Allegheny County, the fee would have been $150.

“This has truly been a bipartisan effort because we all agree on two things,” said Wagner. “First, the lowest common denominator of a limited government should be public service. And second, government should never be a profit-making entity which is how some counties view the Recorders of Deeds office.”

As a reference, the Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds’ website welcome message (see www.montcopa.org/rod) states: “The Recorder of Deeds Office is self-sufficient and generates a profit (over the operating expenses) for the Montgomery County General Fund.”

“We thank Sen. Wagner, Rep. Caltagirone and Rep. Petri for taking the lead on this critical issue affecting millions of Pennsylvanians living in planned communities and for pushing back on the false claims being leveled against these reforms by the opposition,” said Tony Campisi, CAI’s Executive Director. “These unjustified charges have become a burden to community associations and their homeowners and have no relation to the work necessary to perform the public service.”

CAI is a 34,000 member organization dedicated to building better communities and represents the interests of an estimated 2.8 million Pennsylvania residents, comprising nearly onefourth of the state’s population, living in approximately 10,000-12,000 condominium associations, cooperative associations, and planned communities (community associations) throughout Pennsylvania. Working in partnership with 60 state and regional chapters—including the Pennsylvania & Delaware Valley Chapter—CAI builds better communities through research and information, education and resources to associations and the professionals who support them. CAI’s mission is to inspire professionalism, effective leadership and responsible citizenship, ideals reflected in communities that are preferred places to call home.

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