In many cases, an association will seek a Court Order to enforce its rules and regulations.  In those cases, the association asks a Judge to order the unit owner to stop doing something that they are not allowed to do, or to make some sort of change to comply with association governing documents or rules and regulations.  Since the association is asking the Judge to require a specific behavior, it needs to be sure that it asks for exactly what it wants. 
Continue Reading Associations Should Be Careful What They Ask For

We have written a couple of posts about the Lancaster County-wide Property Tax Reassessment.  In this post, we want to focus specifically on commercial and industrial properties.  This includes any sort of income producing properties, including apartments and other rental properties.

As we explained before, the aim of the 2018 Reassessment is to make the assessed value of property equal to the actual fair market value of that property.  That is relatively easy to do with residential property – the County can see what properties of a similar size and location have sold for, and compare that to your residential property.  But for commercial property, that is much more difficult.  Your commercial property is different from most other properties. 
Continue Reading Lancaster County Reassessment – Commercial and Industrial Property Assessment Appeals

By now, all property owners have had some time to stew over the preliminary reassessments they have received.  You’ve read our recent post on the Lancaster County property reassessment, searched Google for more information and discussed it with friends and neighbors.  The good news is, you don’t have to do anything yet.  That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s not time for you to start considering your options and preparing for the inevitable.

Final assessments will be mailed to all property owners on June 1, 2017.  You have 40 days from the date of final notice to file your appeal if you don’t agree with your property’s assessed value or the value becomes final.  As is the case with everything else in life, that time will fly by.  And because the appeal process may in some cases require an appraisal of your property, your decision to begin the process should be made sooner rather than later.
Continue Reading To Appeal, or not to Appeal – That is the question after you receive your property reassessment.

One of my coworkers (thanks Taylor!) recently shared an interesting article with me: YouTubers Face Fines, Possible Eviction For Making Videos From Their Home. Since I often help clients start new business ventures, many of whom begin operating out of their home, this story was particularly interesting to me.

In short, the article describes a situation where a group of friends lived together and professionally make YouTube gaming videos and vlogs – one of the residents has nearly a million subscribers on his Channel. The residents of the house received a visit from their county code enforcement official, who said that the group was allegedly in violation of a zoning restriction that prohibited a certain number of unrelated people living in the same residence.

In addition, the group was allegedly running a business out of their house without a license and if they didn’t either stop operating or obtain a business license, they could be subject to fines of up to $136 per day.

While the definitions of what constitutes “doing business” can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, in Cobb County, Georgia, filming and uploading YouTube videos can constitute doing business and requires a business license.

So what lessons can be learned from the above situation?
Continue Reading Legal Considerations of Doing Business at Home

What did you do on your snow day? I woke up, got a cup of coffee, and brushed up on the changes to Pennsylvania’s Mechanics’ Lien Law in my pajamas. Anything to put off several hours of snow shoveling and to stave off the regret of not investing in a snow blower.

Anyway, back to why you’re here: mechanics’ liens. What is a mechanics’ lien? It’s a legal claim, technically a security interest, against property that has been remodeled or improved, and is typically held by subcontractors and suppliers to ensure that they get paid for the work, services or supplies that they contributed to the project.

Pennsylvania’s Mechanics’ Lien Law recently underwent some fairly significant changes. Act 142 of 2014 modified Pennsylvania’s Mechanics’ Lien Law and required the creation of a standardized online directory called the State Construction Notices Directory. For projects over a certain dollar amount, Act 142 also provides property owners the ability to limit subcontractors’ mechanics’ lien claims if they don’t comply with certain requirements.
Continue Reading Questions and Answers on Pennsylvania’s New Mechanics’ Lien Law and the State Construction Notices Directory

If you own property in Lancaster County, you probably have heard a lot about the County-wide property reassessment.  You should have received your Preliminary Assessment Notice in the mail.  If you suffered from a bit of shell shock after opening the Notice, take a breath, there are things you can do if you feel the value attributed to your home is incorrect.
Continue Reading So I Received My Preliminary Property Assessment Notice. Now What?

Recently a property management company was charged with wire fraud for its actions in managing a San Diego, California association.  The property manager was directed to obtain bids for a construction project. According to the criminal indictment, the property manager concealed all of the lowest bids.  Because of this, his affiliated company turned out to have the lowest bid on the project.

According to the indictment, the property manager’s actions get worse.  During the construction, the property manager discovered asbestos that needed to be removed. He negotiated a change order from his Association Board – and an increased amount for the project – for this asbestos removal.  He then concealed the presence of asbestos from the people doing the job. That way, the property manager collected all of the extra asbestos removal fee, while the construction workers removed the asbestos without following the proper procedures.

The property management company and its principal have been charged with four counts of federal wire fraud.  This indictment carries a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine.  In addition, the indictment seeks the recovery of $247,000.00, the cost of the construction project.
Continue Reading Property Manager Charged with Wire Fraud in HOA Construction Project

Today on Facebook, a friend of mine posted about a nightmare experience she had with an Airbnb reservation. While traveling for business, she often relies on Airbnb short-term lodging rentals as an alternative to booking a hotel. “My host literally told me that there would be a string of guests with no one cleaning or changing sheets and towels between them. Also her landlord had just called her to tell her to stop Airbnbing her apartment.”

Airbnb and similar services such as HomeAway have become increasingly popular for providing short-term lodging in residential properties across the globe. These services don’t actually own property, they are marketplaces where “guests” search for various types of accommodations – for example, Airbnb offers entire houses or apartments, a private room, or even shared rooms with their “hosts.”

The above scenario is among the more tame examples of Airbnb horror stories that I’ve read. While the majority of my friends who have utilized the service have had great experiences, the Internet is rife with cautionary tales for hosts and guests alike, including guests trashing an apartment and these horror stories from Reddit.

Let’s get back to my friend’s situation above. Does the landlord have the right to prohibit their tenant from using Airbnb?
Continue Reading Airbnb for Landlords

Starting January 3, 2017, it will be easier for condominium and homeowners’ associations to record amendments to their declarations, CCRs or other governing documents.  Senate Bill 1282 amends the Pennsylvania Uniform Condominium Act and the Pennsylvania Uniform Planned Communities Act.  The amendment provides that counties may not charge a “per parcel” fee to index and record condominium or homeowners’ association amendments. 
Continue Reading Lower Fees to Record Amendments to Condominium and Homeowners’ Association Documents

Some of my blog posts have talked about the mistakes that real estate developers make when they turn over condominium or homeowner associations to the residents.  This month, national homebuilder D.R. Horton lost a $16,300,000.00 judgment in Bankruptcy Court when it was sued by a homeowners’ association in Florida.  
Continue Reading National Homebuilder Liable for $16.3 Million in Condominium Association Turn Over