Real Estate, Zoning & Land Use

Due to increased property foreclosures, Lancaster County has developed a new Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program (RMFD).  The Program gives a separate pathway that residential mortgage foreclosures need to follow.  Hopefully, the RMFD will allow homeowners to work out mortgage defaults without losing their homes through foreclosure.  If so, the RMFD has the added bonus of taking some foreclosure cases out of the Court’s schedule.

Eligibility

A homeowner with a mortgage in default is eligible for the program if the home:

  • is owner-occupied
  • is the owner’s primary residence
  • is part of a building with four or fewer residential units
  • has a remaining balance on the Mortgage of $400,000 or less
  • is not part of any bankruptcy, divorce or estate proceedings


Continue Reading New Foreclosure Process in Lancaster County

We all know someone with a story like this these days:  You find the house of your dreams.  It is in a good neighborhood with a good school district.  You are preapproved for a mortgage, and you tell your realtor to put in an offer for the full asking price.  The next day, your realtor tells you that there were five all-cash offers all over the asking price.  So you lose out on the home.  For some, this scenario has played out over and over again in the past 18 months.

From the outside, today’s housing market looks a lot like the one in 2006.  Buyers are racing to make offers on existing homes.  Developers are overpaying for vacant land, hoping to sell at a high enough price to cover their debt.  People much, much more qualified than me — like Nobel Prize-winning economists and professors — are trying to figure out why housing prices are increasing so rapidly.  And more importantly, they are trying to figure out what is coming next.

Is this a housing bubble?  Is the market going to crash again like it did in 2008?

Continue Reading Will Housing Prices Ever Come Down? Comparing the Housing Bubble of the 2000s to Today

This time of the year, our thoughts turn to family and friends.  Maybe we reflect on the past year or look forward to the next.  For association boards and property managers, these happy thoughts are interrupted by questions about snow removal. When do we call snowplows? What kinds of deicers should we use? And does our association have any liability for slips and falls?

Continue Reading HOA Snow Removal: Your Questions Answered

On October 29, 2020, Governor Wolf signed House Bill 2438, Expanding Broadband Access with Existing Infrastructure, into law.  This new bill will make it easier for rural residents of Pennsylvania to access high-speed broadband internet by changing the rules for easements.
Continue Reading Easing into Easements: PA Expands Access to Broadband Internet

**UPDATE 5/9/2020**  Governor Wolf ordered all foreclosures and evictions delayed until July 10, 2020.  If a mortgage company, landlord or manufactured home park owner has already sent out the required paperwork to start a foreclosure or eviction (Act 6 or 91 Notice, Notice to Quit, MHCRA Notice, etc.), they have to start all of the

Are you thinking about investing in Pennsylvania real estate? If so, forming a Pennsylvania limited liability company (LLC) has numerous benefits that will save you time and money in the future.

Here are the top five reasons why the LLC has become the entity of choice for investment real estate ownership in Pennsylvania:

  1. Realty transfer tax implications and timing

If you plan on owning real estate in an LLC, timing is critical to avoid paying Pennsylvania’s realty transfer tax more than once. Realty transfer tax in Pennsylvania is 2% of the value of the real estate.

You should form the LLC prior to signing the agreement of sale, and the party entering into the agreement of sale should be the LLC, not one or more of the individuals’ names. The reason for this is that Pennsylvania’s realty transfer tax law provides that a taxable event includes an assignment of an agreement of sale, which would trigger transfer tax twice.

Further, if you buy the real estate in your individual name and later wish to transfer the property into an LLC that is owned by you, you would also be required to pay realty transfer tax on that transfer.

Creating an LLC from the outset would avoid paying more tax than you are legally required to pay under the above two common scenarios.

  1. Limited liability protection for owners of the LLC

The owners (known as members) of an LLC enjoy limited liability for the debts and obligations of the LLC and the negligent acts of other members. A member’s liability is limited to the amount of his or her investment in the LLC, and their personal assets would be protected in the event causing liability.
Continue Reading Why (and When) You Should Consider an LLC for Real Estate Investments

The Right to Farm Act protects farmers from being sued by their neighbors.  The RTFA says that a person cannot sue an agricultural operation for a nuisance arising out of a normal agricultural operation more than one year after the operation started or was substantially expanded or altered.  This one year limitation is a “statute of repose.”  That means that neighbors have no more than one year to bring a complaint, even if an injury or problem occurred after the year expired.  A recent case (Burlingame, et al. v. Dagostin) provided another victory for farmers.

In this case, a group of neighbors complained when a farmer began spreading liquefied swine manure (LSM) from its finishing operation onto their farm.  When I say “group of neighbors” I mean a big group.  I counted 83 Plaintiffs in the caption.  The Dagostins operated Will-O-Bet Farm since 1955.  In 2011, they switched from a beef farm to a swine finishing operation.  They received their CAFO permit and nutrient management plan approval in 2012.  They began spreading LSM in June 2013.  In May of 2014, a large group of the neighbors brought a suit for nuisance because of the odors of the manure.  Both the Trial Court and the Superior Court held that the Right to Farm Act did not allow neighbors to bring this action because the action was started more than one year after the agricultural operation started.
Continue Reading Nuisance Claims Against Farmer Dismissed by Right to Farm Act

One of the questions I am asked most frequently from condominium and homeowner Association boards (and managers) is whether the Association is liable for injuries that occur on the common elements? The answer that I always give is that an Association is only liable for an accident on the common areas if they knew of the problem and failed to take reasonable care to make the common area safe. The recent case of Hackett v. Indian King Residents Association reinforced this answer.

In this case, a resident of the Association slipped and fell on some branches on a common area sidewalk. The branches fell only hours before she slipped on them. It was dark when the resident fell, so she could not see the branches that caused the accident. 
Continue Reading Association Not Responsible for Resident’s Slip and Fall Accident on Common Areas

This is a post about reasonable accommodations that does not involve an emotional support animal. I cannot remember the last time I did not write about dogs. Recently, the Pennsylvania Federal Courts ruled that an Association does not need to provide the exact accommodation requested, if the Association offers accommodations that achieve the same function.

In this case, a resident needed a walker to get around. She would use the walker to get from her condominium unit to the lobby of the building. From there, she would leave the walker in the lobby of the building and use her cane to get to her car. The resident insisted that she needed to leave her walker in the lobby of the building.

The Association was not happy leaving the walker in the lobby. It offered a handful of possible solutions. The Association offered to store the walker at the concierge’s desk and retrieve it anytime she asked. They offered to have someone bring the walker to her parking space so she could use it to get out of the car. This building has valet parking, so the Association offered to allow her to use the valet parking (presumably free of charge). The resident rejected all of these solutions. She insisted that she needed to store her walker in the lobby.

The resident sued the Association under the Fair Housing Act, claiming that they did not provide a reasonable accommodation for her disability. The District Court and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals both sided with the Association. In doing so, the Court made two extremely important points that help guide Associations.
Continue Reading Associations are Only Required to Make Reasonable Accommodations, Not All Accommodations

Last week, a new law was passed that allows municipalities to prohibit Video Gaming Terminals (VGT) in truck stops. If a municipality wants to opt out of allowing VGTs, it must pass a Resolution that prohibits VGTs before September 1, 2019. This new law reverses the 2017 gaming law that forced many municipalities to permit VGTs, provided certain conditions were met. This bill was sponsored by two Pennsylvania Senators from Lancaster County, Scott Martin and Ryan Aument.

In 2017, Pennsylvania amended its gaming laws to permit “mini casinos” and VGT arcades. The law gave different rights to counties depending on whether a casino was located in the county. If the county had a casino, the municipalities in that county could prohibit VGTs. If the county did not have a casino already, the municipalities could opt out of mini casinos, but were not allowed to prohibit VGT arcades in “truck stops.” A truck stop was given a very broad definition in this new gaming law. Practically, many convenience stores could be built or converted to meet this definition.
Continue Reading Lancaster County Municipalities May Opt Out of Video Gaming Terminals