By now you should have received your final assessment for your home’s value.  After opening the dreaded notice, it likely goes one of two ways – hopefully, the assessment is accurate and it’s no big deal, but if your jaw hit the floor, don’t fret, we are here to help!

Over the past few months we have posted a series of blog articles explaining the reassessments and outlining the process of an appeal.  Now that the time has come, here’s what you need to know in a nutshell.

  1. Final notices were either mailed out June 9 or June 14, which means that you only have until either July 19 or July 24 to get your appeal in. You can find the appeal deadline listed on the assessment.
  1. If you appeal the assessment value within forty days, the appeal application fee is waived. How often can you do stuff like this for free?
  1. You, as the filing party, are responsible for providing proof that your home’s market value is not what they think it is.

If you fail to provide the documentation you need to substantiate your appeal, your appeal will undoubtedly be denied.  No harm, no foul, right?  I mean you didn’t have to pay the $40 appeal fee. Well, chances are that if you had just put some time and effort into researching what you need and gathering enough evidence, you would be enjoying a lower value and tax bill.  Continue Reading Lancaster County Assessment Notices are Out…Now What?

We have written a series of blog articles dealing with property tax assessments.  Since the final reassessment notices have gone out in the past few weeks, I have talked with a number of people about appealing their assessments.  Two questions come up in every conversation. They are:

  1. Do I need to get an appraisal of my property?
  2. How much will this cost?

For a commercial or industrial property, you nearly always need an appraisal in order to reduce your assessment.  I have spoken with a number of commercial real estate appraisers, and even former members of assessment appeal boards. They (and I) believe that the Assessment Appeal Board will not even consider reducing the assessment of a commercial or industrial property without an appraisal report from a qualified commercial real estate appraiser. Continue Reading How Much Will a Property Tax Assessment Appeal Cost for Commercial Properties?

According to this worldatlas.com report, Pennsylvania has the fifth highest percentage of residents over the age of 65. As the Pennsylvanian population ages, senior citizens face a myriad of issues they may not have thought of or planned for such as living longer than their retirement, increasing health insurance costs, being the target of scammers looking for some quick cash, needing help with their finances and health care decisions, and navigating the confusing world of Social Security and Medicare.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) recently released “A Guide to Legal Issues for Pennsylvania Senior Citizens.”  In an effort to ensure this guide is made available to anyone who may benefit from it, the PBA provides this information free of charge and did not copyright the documents. Continue Reading Legal Issues for Senior Citizens- A Guide

A recent Pennsylvania case has again confirmed that a unit owner in a condominium or homeowners’ association is required to pay their assessments, regardless of whether they think the association has failed to provide some service. In Logans’ Reserve Homeowners’ Association v. McCabe, some unit owners believed that the association was not adequately mowing the area behind their units.  They complained that the overgrown common areas caused snakes and ticks to plague the unit owners.  Because of this, the unit owners decided to stop paying their assessments until the association mowed the common areas the way they wanted them to.

The Commonwealth Court held that unit owners are required to pay assessments “regardless of any alleged inadequacies in the association’s performance.”  The Court said that any breach of the association’s duties does not allow a unit owner to withhold their payments.  Unit owners are required to pay all assessments when due and they have no right to withhold payment of assessments for an alleged non-provision of services.

This case is nothing new.  Pennsylvania Courts have made and upheld this decision since 1990.  It is a good reminder that unit owners cannot withhold payment of their assessments, even if they are dissatisfied with the job of the association.

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 Real EstateLand Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

A recent case, Serota v. London-Towne Homeowners Association, dealt with an association trying to alter the voting rights of a unit owner.  More broadly, the case gives some instruction on how to amend the governing documents of a community that was created before the passage of the Pennsylvania Uniform Planned Communities Act (the “UPCA”).

The facts of the case are straightforward.  London-Towne Homeowners Association is a community with 70 townhouses.  Serota owned 12 of these.  The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (the “CCR’s”) was recorded in 1979, before the UPCA was enacted.  The CCR’s provided that each unit received one vote.  This means Serota had 12 of the 70 votes of the Association.  The CCR’s provided that they could be amended with the vote of 75% of all unit owners.  The Executive Board of the Association amended the bylaws to provide that each unit owner receives only one vote, regardless of the number of units they own.  The UPCA provides that no amendment can change the ownership percentages or the voting strength of any unit owner without that unit owner’s approval.

Even though the CCR’s were recorded before the UPCA, some of its sections apply retroactively to communities created before the Act.  One of these sections deals with amendments to the declaration or CCR’s. Section 5102(d) of the UPCA provides that an amendment may be made either in accordance with the law at the time of the declaration, or be using procedures in the UPCA.  This means that if the old CCR’s do not have any way to be amended, then the Association can use the process in the UPCA. However, all amendments to a need to comply with the procedures and requirements in the document being amended, as well as the procedures and requirements of the UPCA.  Continue Reading Association Cannot Change Voting Rights of Unit Owner Without the Unit Owner’s Consent

Lawyers aren’t known as the most forward-thinking, technologically savvy group. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since a key principle of the American judicial system is the concept of precedent; making decisions now that are bound by decisions of the past. Attorneys are notoriously hesitant to adopt change. But in today’s constantly changing legal market, it’s not good enough to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the benefits that technology can add to the attorney-client relationship.

The American Bar Association publishes the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which acts as guidance for the ethical rules adopted by each state. Model Rule 1.1 requires lawyers to provide competent representation to a client, which includes understanding the benefits and risks associated with technology. Technology is also referenced in Model Rule 1.6(c) which requires a lawyer to make “reasonable efforts” to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of or access to information relating to the representation. The Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct have implemented both concepts . Continue Reading Is Your Attorney Tech Savvy?

It was my pleasure to attend the recent Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry presentation of the “Changing Nature of Banking in Central PA.”  The presenters were Brian Bisignani of Post & Schell and Dave Hornberger and Andria Linn of Orrstown Bank.  They spoke about topics ranging from the effect of the recent bank acquisitions in central Pennsylvania, to the growth of community banks in Lancaster County, the challenges of marketing to millennials, the decline in retail sales, and cyber security and phishing attacks.

One of the things that struck me was that over thirty percent of all of the cash deposits in Lancaster County were affected by the recent bank acquisitions, or “roll ups” to use the term that Dave frequently called them.  In a very short amount of time there have been huge changes in local banking, affecting both banks and their customers.

Dave did a great job of summing up the concerns I have heard from many bankers over the past few months.  He noted that very big banks can be competitive because of their rates and lending base.  Smaller community banks gain customers by emphasizing their flexibility, with a faster speed to market and more personal customer service.  While these are all necessary, especially the personal level of service, they are not everything that our customers need.  Continue Reading Trends in the Banking Industry

As a recent graduate of Leadership Lancaster’s Core Class and member of the ACHIEVE Committee, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the programs that Leadership Lancaster offers to Lancaster County. For more information on my experience, check out the following series of Reflections on Leadership Lancaster posts: About One Month In, Part Two, and The Finale.

Earlier this year, Executive Director and fearless leader Deb Rohrer announced that she would be retiring after 10 years of serving Leadership Lancaster. The announcement was the beginning of a search for a replacement to fill Deb’s big shoes.

The search came to an end last week when Leadership Lancaster announced that Kate Zimmerman, currently Program Director of Leadership Lancaster, would be promoted to the role of Executive Director. To anyone familiar with the program over the past few years, Kate and Deb have been a great leadership team for the organization, so it comes as no surprise that Kate was selected for the role. Continue Reading Leadership Lancaster Announces New Executive Director

In the world of you just can’t make this stuff up, a woman recently swallowed over $7,000 in cash to keep it from her husband.  Apparently she had been saving for a vacation to Panama and was concerned that her husband would take it during a recent dispute.

There are several ways this woman could have protected those assets rather than swallowing them.  The most obvious answer would be a bank account in her name only.  While the couple is married and the money, if earned during the marriage, would be considered marital property in Pennsylvania in the event of a divorce, it would have been protected from him squandering it or taking it from her.  If she was so concerned about him taking her money, a prenuptial agreement prior to marriage could have protected the entire sum and then some.  If this distrust of her husband is a new development, she may want to speak with an attorney about her rights and how to protect this money.

Swallowing any sum of money is not a good idea.  It does make others question one’s capacity.  Perhaps a guardian may need to be appointed to protect her assets.  According to doctors, $5,700 was recovered from the woman during emergency surgery.  Which begs the question- what happened to the rest of the money?

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Family Law.

Another day, another scam.Scam Uses Pennsylvania Supreme Court Phone Number

According to a report from the Legal Intelligencer, in an attempt to obtain personal information and money, scammers have called hundreds of individuals. The caller ID shows the phone number 717-781-6181 and states “PA Courts.”

In the case of any suspicious call, email or other communication you receive requesting sensitive personal information or money, we recommend taking steps to independently determine the source of the communication and disregarding the contact information provided in it. You can do this by finding contact information from a reputable source such as a website and contacting the purported sender to inquire about the request. You can also do a Google search that includes the word “scam” and the purported source to get an idea of the typical types of scams that are used. Continue Reading Public Service Announcement: Scam Uses Pennsylvania Supreme Court Phone Number