With one week left before the EU’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) takes effect, we have been fielding a lot of questions about how, or if, it applies to businesses here in Lancaster. Here are three questions to help you determine if you should worry about the GDPR.

  1. Who does it apply to?

It is easy to think that businesses here in the U.S. need not worry about the EU’s data protection laws unless you have stores or employees in Europe. But the GDPR’s reach is much broader than that. If you have the data of an EU citizen or use a service located in Europe, then the GDPR probably applies to you. Here are a few examples where the GDPR applies:

  • You send email blasts and some recipients are in England (yes, England is still in the EU… for now!).
  • You have a digital list of mailing addresses to send out physical mail and some recipients of that mail are in Italy.
  • You use an online marketing service that processes your clients’ data on servers in Germany.
  1. What data is protected?

Okay, okay. So I have contacts in the EU on my mailing list. But names and addresses aren’t protected, right? Wrong. Unlike many U.S. laws, such as Pennsylvania’s Data Breach Notification Act, the GDPR is very broad in its definition of protected information. For example, under Pennsylvania law you need a name combined with some sensitive piece of data, like a social security number or bank account, before the law applies. But the GDPR applies to any identifying information. This includes names, email addresses, physical addresses, and social media names, plus all the sensitive stuff you would expect like financial and medical information. Continue Reading Three Questions to Determine if You Need to Worry About the GDPR

* House Bill 595 was signed by Governor Tom Wolf on Monday, May 7, 2018.  The Bill becomes effective on Wednesday, July 6.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed House Bill 595, which is expected to be signed by Governor Wolf.  This Bill gives a process for deciding disputes in Condominium and Homeowners’ Associations.  There are a few things that every Association should know about this new requirement.  They are:

  • Most Associations need to adopt bylaws or rules and regulations that establish Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedures. This includes procedures for disputes between two or more unit owners and/or between a unit owner and the Association.
  • A “unit owner in good standing” can file a Complaint with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection for a violation of the Act relating to meetings, quorums, voting, proxies, and Association records. Previously, this option was available only to disputes over Association financial records.
  • A “unit owner in good standing” is someone who has no past due assessments. So a unit owner that is behind on their assessments cannot file a Complaint with the Bureau of Consumer Protection.  Except that if the unpaid assessments are related to a Complaint filed with the Bureau of Consumer Protection, then the unit owner is in good standing regardless of unpaid assessments.
  • A unit owner cannot file a Complaint with the Bureau of Consumer Protection until he or she has exhausted the ADR procedure or at least 100 days after the unit owner started the Alternative Dispute Resolution procedure. If there is no ADR procedure, the unit owner can go straight to the Bureau.
  • Finally, if a unit owner has a dispute with the Association and wins, he or she may be entitled to an award of costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

These additions to the Uniform Condominium Act and the Uniform Planned Communities Act are intended to help owners and Associations settle their differences without going to court.  In order to do this, Associations will need to take some steps to prepare themselves: Continue Reading Alternate Dispute Resolution Comes to Association Communities (Whether they want it or not)

Our favorite coworking space, The Candy Factory, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners has officially announced that they are teaming up to create a technology incubator in Lancaster City. The formal announcement can be seen in this Lancaster Online article: State-backed incubator for small, new tech businesses in Lancaster County to open March 29.

Last month, Brandon Harter and I attended a sneak preview headlined by Steve Fafel, Director of Business Development and Portfolio Manager for Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP). He introduced BFTP’s role as a state-funded economic development group helping early-stage technology and technology-related companies in Pennsylvania. It does this by providing direct financial resources along with indirect resources like mentoring, facilitating connections, and professional support. Mr. Fafel emphasized that encouraging and helping these entrepreneurs is better for all residents of Lancaster County, as it helps combat issues such as an aging population leading to decreased tax revenue over time, and a population that, for the seventh year in a row, has seen more households leave Lancaster County than move in. Continue Reading The Candy Factory Teams up with Ben Franklin Technology Partners in Lancaster City

Photo credit: JCT(Loves)Streisand* on Visual hunt / CC BY-NDWhen you think of Barbra Streisand, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it a career spanning six decades, including ten Grammy Awards, five Emmy Awards, a Special Tony Award, and more? The unique spelling of her first name? Is it her first album, titled (you guessed it!) The Barbra Streisand Album? Who could forget about her role in Meet the Fockers as Roz Focker. For me, the first thing that comes to mind is actually none of those things. And I’ll stop summarizing Barbra’s Wikipedia page now.

I would argue that no matter which of Barbra’s many talents you are most impressed with, as a business owner, the top association with Barbra Streisand should be the Streisand Effect. The Streisand Effect is “the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.” It stems from an incident where Barbra Streisand attempted to stop photographs of her house in Malibu, California, from being posted online, which unintentionally drew more attention to the photograph. You can read more about the Streisand Effect here.

Understanding the Streisand Effect is important when evaluating how to publicly respond to negative information about you or your business because it’s possible that taking certain actions could actually make the problem worse. It is inevitable that you will encounter conflict, whether it be with unhappy customers, competitors, disgruntled employees, or maybe you inadvertently get caught up in a conspiracy theory, such as Pizzagate. Negative information about your business may be posted online, or you could hear through the grapevine that so-and-so has been talking about you out in the community. Continue Reading What Would Barbra Do? A Business Lesson from Barbra Streisand

As an avid podcast listener, one of my favorite year-end activities is reading through the “best of” lists of the best podcasts and episodes of the year. Below are a few of my favorite lists of favorites (meta, right?) to get you started:

The Atlantic – The 50 Best Podcasts of 2017

Vulture – The 10 Best Podcasts of 2017

Vulture – The 10 Best Podcast Episodes of 2017

IndieWire – The 50 Best Podcast Episodes of 2017

My typical approach is to review the lists and their descriptions, then add episodes that sound interesting to a new playlist in my preferred podcast app, Overcast.

This year, I thought I’d share my own list of some of my favorite podcasts: Continue Reading My 2017 Podcast Picks

LNP recently wrote about the rapid rise in organic produce across Pennsylvania.  As it is with most other agricultural production, Lancaster County is leading the way in this increase.  The article says that the sale of certified organic products in Pennsylvania doubled in 2016.  Organic products accounted for $660 million, or about 9% of all agricultural products in Pennsylvania.  This is already a significant portion of Pennsylvania’s agriculture, and it will only continue to grow.  According to the LNP article one in every four organic operations in Pennsylvania is located in Lancaster County.

Part of the article focuses on Ebenezer Groceries in Ephrata and its owner, Jonah Dodd.  Ebenezer Groceries is a discount grocery store.  But Jonah has dedicated a large portion of his store to the sale of organic produce, even though organic produce costs a little more than his other items. Grocery stores like Whole Foods and Wegmans will soon be established in Lancaster County.  These stores have committed to featuring local produce, including certified organic produce.  It is telling that the demand for organic products comes from a wide range of shoppers, from more expensive stores like Whole Foods to discount stores like Ebenezer Groceries.  This tells me that the desire for organic produce, meat, eggs, dairy, etc., is not a passing fancy.  This demand is only going to increase, and Lancaster County farmers will continue to lead the way in this area.

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.

We have written a lot of articles about the countywide property tax reassessment covering the basics of residential and commercial assessment appeals and what the new assessed values will mean to property owners.  Now that most of the appeals have been processed, the county and each school district and municipality knows the total assessed value of property.  They will all set their tax millage rates before the end of the year.  All of this coming together will allow you to calculate your total property tax for 2018.

I had the opportunity to work with a few commercial property owners who decided to appeal their assessments.  In these cases, we were able to get the total assessed value of the properties cut almost in half.  This is going to save these particular landowners around $20,000 per year in property taxes.  Every case is different, and I cannot guarantee that anyone would be successful in a property tax appeal.  There were, however, major similarities in the properties that received big adjustments in their assessed value.  These were:

  1. There was something unusual about the property that the county did not take into consideration; and
  1. The property owners had a good appraisal report to support their appeal.

With both of these things present, a commercial property owner has a good chance at getting their assessment reduced.

So what happens if you decided not to pursue a property tax appeal this summer?  You are able to appeal your assessment every year.  There is a short window of time between when taxes are sent out and the tax appeal deadline of August 1.  This does not mean you have to wait until next summer to think about a tax assessment appeal.  If you believe that the assessment of your property is incorrect, we can help to evaluate and pursue an appeal.

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 Estate, Land Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court and General Assembly have created new rules on the amount of net loss carryover (NLC) a corporation can deduct.  This is an interesting instance where the Pennsylvania General Assembly has drafted a law trying to predict the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in the Nextel Communications case.  The General Assembly correctly predicted the outcome of the case, and so the new NLC provisions will become part of the new law.

The question is how much of a corporation’s loss may be carried over from prior years as a deduction against taxable income.  At the time of the case, the Pennsylvania Revenue Code provided that a corporation could carry over losses as deductions equal to the greater of 12.5%  of the corporation’s taxable income or $3 million (now those limits are $5 million or 30% of net income).  This produced a result where corporations with less than $3 million in net income could deduct all of their losses up to that $3 million cap.  Corporations with net income over $3 million could only deduct 12.5% of their net operating loss. The effect is that many corporations with income under $3 million paid no corporate taxes, while bigger corporations paid quite a bit.  The Supreme Court’s decision stated that 98.8% of Pennsylvania corporations did not pay Pennsylvania corporate income tax.  The Court decided that this was unconstitutional, as a violation of the Uniformity Clause that requires all taxes on the same class of subjects to be uniform.  Continue Reading New Pending Rules for Corporate Net Loss Carryover Deductions in Pennsylvania

I recently wrote about a trend in Pennsylvania case law that has permitted short-term vacation rentals, such as Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and others, in otherwise residential neighborhoods. In each of these cases, a homeowner rented out their single-family residential dwelling to vacationers, the municipality claimed the short-term rental was a violation of the Zoning ordinance, and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court said that the short-term rentals were still residential uses, not hotels or tourist homes.  All of these cases said that if the municipality wanted to prohibit short-term vacation rentals, they needed to specifically and unquestionably prohibit that use.  Continue Reading How Can Associations Deal With Renters – Either Short Or Long Term?

I had the pleasure of attending the 2017 general membership meeting for the BIA of Lancaster County at the Inn at Leola Village.  The featured speaker for the event was Dr. Robert Dietz, the chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.  Dr. Dietz gave a detailed status report about the state of the building industry today, and some projections for the near future.  Most of Dr. Dietz’s discussion centered on one main theme:  there are not enough single family homes to meet today’s demand.  He spent time discussing why this is happening and the effects it could have over the next few years.  Continue Reading Notes from the 2017 Annual Building Industry Association County Meeting