Lancaster Law Blog

Lancaster Law Blog

Lancaster's Legal Link

Condo & Homeowners’ Associations Do Not Need Unanimous Approval To Limit Or Prohibit Leasing

Posted in Aaron Marines, Condominium and Homeowners Associations

Governor Wolf recently signed a Bill that makes it much easier for condominium and homeowners’ associations to limit leasing in their communities.  House Bill 1340 makes it clear that a leasing restriction can be passed without unanimous approval of all unit owners.  This means that an amendment to limit or even prohibit leasing in the community can be enacted the same way as any other amendment to the governing documents.  It can be passed by the affirmative vote of sixty-seven percent of all unit owners (unless the Declaration provides for a larger percentage).

We have worked with many condominium and homeowners’ associations to enact amendments that would limit the number of units that are leased in a community.  In many cases, opponents of these amendments have argued that preventing a unit owner from leasing their unit is a “change in the use of a unit.”  Section 3319 of the Pennsylvania Uniform Condominium Act (and Section 5319 of the Pennsylvania Uniform Planned Communities Act) provides that an amendment that changes the use of a unit can only be enacted with unanimous consent of all unit owners.  This led to the question of whether prohibiting a unit owner from leasing their unit was a change to the use of the unit or not.  No Pennsylvania Court had ever ruled on the issue, however, there have been a number of rulings in the condominium setting from other states.  These rulings have been split.  Some states have said leasing amendments require unanimous approval, while others have said they do not. Continue Reading

Big Changes for the Pennsylvania Liquor Code

Posted in Aaron Zeamer, Business Law

You may have been surprised to see the news on the front page of the newspaper this morning:

More convenient beer and wine sales? Sure, say shoppers

Q&A: What does Pennsylvania’s new liquor law mean for you?

Believe it or not, the PA House of Representatives and Senate have been able to agree upon a bill which significantly expands and reforms the Pennsylvania Liquor Code.  Given the level of discord between Republicans and Democrats as well as between the House and Senate (not to mention the Governor), it came as a great surprise to many that a liquor bill was able to be passed, not to mention a bill with rather broad updates to the Liquor Code.  Governor Wolf signed this bill yesterday enacting it into law in 60 days.

Some of the highlights of this bill which have the potential to offer significant benefits to both consumers and existing operators include:

  • A wine permit which will allow restaurant licensees (including grocery stores and convenience stores which currently operate using a restaurant liquor license) to obtain a permit allowing them to sell up to four (4) bottles of wine for off-premises consumption. A separate permit will need to be acquired from the PLCB in order to sell wine to go, and it’s likely that this will be used in large part by the grocery stores and convenience stores which are currently scooping up available restaurant liquor licenses.
  • Speaking of convenience stores, this bill potentially resolves the issue that has been working its way through Pennsylvania courts regarding whether or not a business that sells liquid fuels can also hold a liquor license. This codifies some of the recent rulings by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and clarifies that permission can be received from the Board for a business which sells liquid fuels to also sell alcohol, provided certain additional requirements are met.

Continue Reading

Reflections on Leadership Lancaster – The Finale

Posted in Leadership Lancaster, Matt Landis

As a proud member of the Leadership Lancaster Core Class of 2016, I will be posting periodic updates of my experiences in the program. Learn more about Leadership Lancaster at www.leadershiplancaster.org or feel free to contact me directly with any questions you may have.

Leadership Lancaster Graduation

Last week I “walked” at our Leadership Lancaster Core Class of 2016 graduation. It was a great event that highlighted everything that makes Leadership Lancaster a special experience that I will carry with me. Throughout the program, I met passionate members of the community who care about Lancaster and work hard to make it a better place to live and work. I also observed many aspects of the County that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about or experienced.

For more insights into my experience, check out my earlier posts in the series:

Reflections on Leadership Lancaster – About One Month In

Reflections on Leadership Lancaster – Part Two

Finally, here’s a summary of the final sessions of the program:

Public Education – This session explored education in Lancaster County from a number of locations and perspectives. We started the day at Garden Spot High School in New Holland where we learned about some of the pressing issues facing K-12 education, including budgetary constraints, the changing landscape of public education and the pros and cons of standardized testing. Then we traveled to the Lancaster County Career & Technology Center for a panel discussion from Senator Ryan Aument, Senator Lloyd Smucker, B. Keith Yohn of the CTC, Dr. Michele Balliet, Superintendent of Elizabethtown Area School District, and Dr. Robert Hollister, Superintendent of Eastern Lancaster County School District. We finished off the day at J.P. McCaskey High School, where we received a tour of the school from students and heard perspectives from Superintendent of the School District of Lancaster Dr. Damaris Rau and Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera.

Law and Justice – Given my profession, I was interested to see how this day played out. The day began at the Lancaster County Prison, where we had a tour of the facility and a K-9 demonstration. We spent the rest of the day at the Lancaster County Courthouse learning about the judicial system from the perspective of law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and a victim of a crime. Hearing directly from the stakeholders in the process, particularly the victim of a crime and the impact it has had on her life, was an invaluable experience and unfortunately highlighted a perspective which is often overlooked.

Although there was a small portion of the day that focused on the civil justice system, the majority focused on the criminal system. In the afternoon, we had an exercise where we role-played various sentencing hearing scenarios before President Judge Dennis E. Reinaker of the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County.

CAT Presentations – On the first day of Leadership Lancaster, we were put into small groups called Community Action Teams (CAT), each focusing on an area of public interest. Our team’s focus was employment training and workforce readiness. Other projects focused on inclusion, education, environment, hunger, community engagement, mental health and substance abuse. This session was the culmination of eight months of work on our project, which sought to identify and address a need in Lancaster County relating to employment training and workforce readiness. Each team presented their project in front of a panel of non-profit experts and received constructive feedback on the potential implementation of the project.

Takeaways – The last nine months have been an incredible experience. It was a great way to experience all that Lancaster County has to offer, however for me, the best part was meeting all of the people who are passionate about Lancaster County, including the facilitators of the program, Kate Zimmerman (Program Director) and Deb Rohrer (Executive Director), all of the members of the Core Class of 2016, and finally all of the members of local organizations and government representatives that support Leadership Lancaster and allowed us all to have this experience.

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and works regularly with business owners and entrepreneurs.

Congratulations to Matt from everyone at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP.  The Leadership Lancaster program is an experience that requires a high level of commitment and effort from the participants.  Matt’s dedication and the insight he gained through his participation is an inspiration to all of us to work even harder to support the needs of Lancaster County through community leadership.  Visit the Leadership Lancaster website for more information about the program.

New Federal Rule Increases Employee Eligibility for Overtime Pay

Posted in Employment Law

In a March 17, 2016 press release, the White House announced that the Department of Labor will issue a final rule today that will expand workers’ eligibility to receive overtime pay (time-and-a-half). Under the prior rule, only workers making a salary of less than $23,660 per year ($455 weekly) qualified to receive overtime pay when working over 40 hours in a week. The new rule will increase the salary threshold to $47,476 per year ($913 weekly), thus expanding coverage to over four million workers nationwide, and approximately 185,000 Pennsylvanians. We expect that restaurant/hospitality employers and retailers will be impacted the most, but all employers may be impacted depending on the current payment structure of their workforce.

Employers have six months to prepare for the final rule, which goes into effect on December 1, 2016. Options include raising an employee’s salary to keep the employee exempt from overtime, payment of time-and-a-half when necessary, or evaluation and realignment of hours and staff workload.

For more information, here’s a list of resources from the United States Department of Labor that will answer common questions about the new rule:

The impact on your business may be minimal if your employees are compensated hourly and already receive overtime pay, or if salaries are already in excess of $47,476 per year, however if your employees are salaried in the range between the former threshold of $23,660 and the new threshold, some careful planning will need to occur prior to December 1, 2016.

In the coming weeks we will post additional information to help determine whether your employees are exempt from the overtime requirement and strategies to address the adoption of the new overtime rule.

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and works regularly with business owners and entrepreneurs.

The Successful Turnover: Best Practices for Transition from Developer to Association

Posted in Condominium and Homeowners Associations

Thank you to everyone who joined me and Lori Van Gorden of Horst Property Management for our real estate development seminar on May 2.  We led an informative discussion about “The Successful Turnover: Best Practices for Transition from Developer to Association.”  Lori and I have guided many developers and associations through this transition and appreciate the importance of the process.  We were happy to share our experience to try to make this as smooth and painless – for both the developer and the association – as possible.

Is there an Attorney Fee that is Too Big to Collect for Violations of Association Rules?

Posted in Condominium and Homeowners Associations

In a recent case in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, a condominium association was awarded attorneys’ fees that were almost 23 times larger than the fine and assessments they were trying to collect.  Because the litigation to collect past due assessments and a snow removal fee took three years to complete, the amounts awarded to the association broke down like this: $239 for late assessments, $500 for a snow removal special assessment, $300 capital improvement special assessment, $104 late fee, and $26,206.68 in attorney’s fees.

The matter was before the Commonwealth Court because the Unit Owner complained that the attorneys’ fees were not reasonable.  The Court disagreed and awarded all the attorneys’ fees to the Association and against the Unit Owner.  The decision made three important points that all associations should remember.  They are:

  1. An Association is not required to accept less than the full sum it is entitled. The Association can try to recover all of the attorney’s fees, late fees, and costs it incurs.
  1. Attorney’s fees should be awarded to the Association even if they are disproportionate to the assessments to be collected. Attorneys’ fees and costs that are 23 times greater than the actual fees are permitted.
  1. The Association does not need expert testimony to establish that attorneys’ fees are reasonable. In this case, the property manager testified that he worked with other attorneys in this field, and that the rate charged was “reasonable and competitive for the work involved.”  This means that the Association does not need an expert condominium attorney to testify that the attorney’s fees are reasonable.  So long as the property manager, or board member, or someone could present evidence that the fees were reasonable for the work performed, the Court was willing to accept this testimony.

Sometimes an Association can accumulate significant attorney’s fees, especially for cases involving collections or violations of rules and regulations, rental restrictions, etc. This is especially true when the Unit Owner delays or drags out the litigation.  Cases like the The Arches Condominium v. Robinson should be useful to remind courts to award Associations the attorney’s fees and costs to which they are entitled.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Commercial and Residential Real EstateLand Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

Congratulations to Christina Hausner

Posted in Outside the Law

Congratulations to our partner and colleague, Christina L. Hausner, on being appointed as the solicitor for the County of Lancaster.

Chris has practiced with RKG for 34 years.  She joined Craig, Gary, and Jon in 1982, upon completing her clerkship with the Lancaster County Common Pleas Court Judges Wilson Bucher and Ronald Buckwalter. Her practice areas include employment law, municipal law and civil litigation. Chris is known through our office as a thoughtful and thorough attorney.  While she has skillfully litigated cases in Pennsylvania courts, including administrative, and federal courts, she also has provided careful advice to municipal clients regarding sensitive and occasionally polarizing public issues.

Chris ran and oversaw the firm’s litigation meetings, often advising other attorneys about case management and procedure. We will miss not only her guidance, but her humor and insight around the office.

Chris is working with other RKG attorneys to transition clients. If you have any questions for Chris or just want to wish her well, feel free to call the office at 293-9293 or email her at clh@rkglaw.com.

Remembering David Greer

Posted in Julie Miller, Outside the Law

This article was first published in the Lancaster Bar Association’s quarterly newsletter to reflect on the life of David Greer, a friend, colleague and influential member of the Lancaster legal community, who passed away in August of 2015. David spent his last few years practicing law with Russell, Krafft and Gruber and everyone in our office feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with David.

Remembering David Greer

I met David Greer when he joined Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in 2008. He joined us at a time when he was ready to begin winding up his practice of more than 30 years. My partners and I all wish that our relationship with him would have begun earlier, as he was a pleasure to work with and to learn from. He spent the majority of his legal career working with Carl and Louise Herr and Judge Jay Hoberg, and managing their firm, Herr, Greer and Hoberg. That partnership formed the basis of Dave’s lasting footprint on the Lancaster legal community. However, we are grateful for the time we spent working with him, as it provided us an opportunity to get to know him both as a professional and as a friend.

At Dave’s memorial service held on December 9, 2015, Jon Gruber mentioned that we found Dave to be a very calming presence within the office, and he was. He was mild-mannered, yet jovial, and he lit up when he spoke of his wife, Linda, his four daughters, and his grandchildren.  By the time Dave came to work with us, his practice had become concentrated on advising businesses and estate planning and administration. He enjoyed the relationships he had with his clients and was always available – even after he retired – to weigh in or assist where his expertise was needed.

Dave loved sports, so much that he followed those events in which our office staff and/or their children participated with the same interest that he showed for Penn State football or the Philadelphia Phillies. His passion for boxing was paramount, though, and he judged professional boxing bouts in Maryland and Pennsylvania. He was regarded in that circle as a fair and consistent judge.  The Executive Director of the Maryland State Athletic Commission described Dave as a “true gentleman,” words which we have used in our office to describe Dave both before and after his death.

David and Linda travelled extensively throughout their lives and loved to find new places off the beaten path.  Afterhe retired,  they embarked on a cross country trip travelling the “blue highways,” visiting friends and national parks along the way.  He made sure to send us friendly postcards letting us know of their whereabouts. One postcard, sent in 2012 from Yellowstone National Park, reads:

Yellowstone never gets old, no matter how many visits one makes. This time there was lots of snow, ice covered the lake and bison abound.

There are others he sent from the Redwood National and State Parks and from the home of Lyndon B. Johnson in Texas, where he noted that he was “writing from the home of Chris Hausner’s favorite politician”. We still display all of his postcards in our office kitchen, as he remains part of our firm’s culture, even though his time practicing with us lasted just a few years. In a relatively short period of time, he made a lasting impression on all of us at RKG. He was our colleague, mentor and friend.  He is and will continue to be, missed.

Julie Miller is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Dickinson School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Collaborative Law and traditional Family Law.

Public Service Announcement – Pennsylvania Primary Voter Registration Deadlines

Posted in Matt Landis, Outside the Law

The Pennsylvania primary elections will be held on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The deadline for registering to vote in the primary is rapidly approaching, and is Monday, March 28, 2016. You can check your registration status and polling place using the following online form: Voter Registration Status

If you need to register to vote or change your party affiliation, you can register to vote online or download a paper form to submit here: Voter Registration Application

Keep in mind, only registered Republicans can vote for the Republican candidates (as of this writing, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Donald Trump) and similarly, only registered Democrats may vote for the Democratic candidates (Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders). Therefore, if you are registered as a member of the Independent party, any other party affiliation, or no party affiliation, you may not vote for any of the above listed candidates.

But wait! Any registered voter in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, regardless of party affiliation, can vote on the ballot measures that are certified for the April 2016 election:

  1. The Judicial Retirement Age Amendment, which would raise the state judicial retirement age from 70 to 75; and
  1. The Philadelphia Traffic Court Abolition Amendment, which would eliminate the Traffic Court in the City of Philadelphia.
Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University.

What Kinds of Leasing Restrictions are Allowed by the FHA?

Posted in Condominium and Homeowners Associations

Community Associations Institute (CAI)  reposted a blog article from Eric Boucher at Ready Set Loan Condo Team.  The article discussed the hot topic in condominium/HOA law across the country – leasing restrictions.  FHA has come out with much more definite guidance about what kinds of leasing restrictions will disqualify a community from being FHA approved.  The article explains:

Allowable Leasing Restrictions – The association can:

  • Restrict total number of units that can be rented at any given time
  • Restrict the total percentage of units that may be leased at any given time
  • Create a hardship clause for exception to the first two above
  • Require that the Board be provided with a copy of the lease
  • Require that the lease must be in writing
  • Request the names of the tenants
  • Require that the lease conforms to the legal governing documents of the association
  • Set minimum and maximum lease periods
  • Require unit owner to check the Registered Sex Offenders list
  • Require rent to be assigned to association if the unit owner is delinquent in the payment of his/her common charges
  • Require that the lease be on a specific form

Continue Reading

.