Foreclosure Prevention Tools
Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA)
PHFA has established the Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Initiative to help interested homeowners save their homes. Twenty-eight counseling agencies in the PHFA Comprehensive Housing Counseling network are participating in this program.
PHFA’s Foreclosure Prevention Programs
Homeownership Programs Hotline: 800-822-1174
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
HUD has developed guidelines for helping to avoid foreclosure, as well as a list of HUD-approved housing counseling agencies for those already struggling to save their home. Call 800-569-4287 to receive information from HUD or a HUD certified counseling agency.
Federal Reserve System of Philadelphia
The Federal Reserve Banks have established Foreclosure Resource Centers to help address local and regional challenges in their mortgage markets and local communities. In addition, they have dynamic maps and data that illustrate subprime and alt-A mortgage loan conditions across the United States. The Federal Reserve of Philadelphia has developed a toolkit to assist communities in addressing the current turmoil in the housing market and minimize the impact of foreclosures on neighborhoods. Web links and local resources are included.
Urban Affairs Coalition
The Urban Affairs Coalition has created a Foreclosure Prevention Resource Guide to raise awareness about the home foreclosure process, related grant and loan programs and housing counseling resources for the five-county Philadelphia metropolitan area. The
Guide is designed to help professionals who encounter homeowners facing foreclosure, as well as to demystify the foreclosure process for homeowners and help them take advantage of the opportunities to preserve ownership of their homes.
This website offers resources intended to help states and localities respond to the foreclosure crisis. It includes a Q&A on foreclosure prevention, a policy guide, and customized maps and data for your community. The site is maintained by the Center for Housing Policy, KnowledgePlex, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the Urban Institute.
KnowYourOptions.com by Fannie Mae
Fannie Mae created KnowYourOptions.com™ to help homeowners struggling with mortgage payments or facing foreclosure. They also set up a Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline to contact a housing counselor: 888-995-HOPE.
Making Home Affordable Program
The Making Home Affordable Program includes opportunities to modify or refinance your mortgage to make your monthly payments more affordable. It also includes the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) Program for homeowners who are interested in a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.
Provides free foreclosure prevention counseling by expert counselors at HUD-approved agencies. Homeowners facing foreclosure can seek help by visiting FindAForeclosureCounselor.org.
Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA)
PHFA has established the Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Initiative to help interested homeowners save their homes. Twenty-eight counseling agencies in the PHFA Comprehensive Housing Counseling network are participating in this program.
Project HOPE NOW
HOPE NOW is an alliance between HUD-approved counseling agents, mortgage companies, investors and other mortgage market participants that provides free foreclosure prevention assistance. Call 888-995-HOPE (4673) for help.
Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh
FHLBank partnered with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) and the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) to present a series of summits designed to help civic leaders learn more about specific ways they can help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
Mortgage Company Contact Information:
Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rules
PAR Offers MARS Disclosure Forms
Article announcing availability of MARS compliance forms (includes links to forms)
Mortgage Acts and Practices – Advertising (MAP) Rules
FTC Enacts MAP Rules
Article explaining MAP rules implemented in August, 2011
MAP Rules Q&A
Explanation of MAP rules
A Short Sale is a transaction in which the Seller’s proceeds are less than the amount necessary to pay off liens secured by the property. Examples of such liens include, but are not limited to, mortgages, home equity lines of credit, tax claims, homeowners’ association or condominium fees and legal judgments.
PAR has created the following standard forms to use in a short sale transaction:
Short Sale Addendum to Agreement of Sale is designed to be used with the Agreement of Sale. The Buyer or Seller should submit the SHS with the Agreement of Sale to convey any changes in terms or conditions that will apply to the Agreement in light of the transaction being a Short Sale.
Short Sale Addendum to Listing Contract is designed to help the Listing Broker get more information about the Seller’s financial situation and to explain the Short Sale process to the Seller. It should be attached to the Listing Contract.
Notification to Buyer of a Potential Short Sale is designed to be used as notification to the Buyer that a particular transaction may result in a Short Sale. Included in this form are some of the aspects of a Short Sale about which a potential Buyer or Seller should be aware. The NSS can be provided to the Buyer by the Seller, Listing Broker, or even the Buyer’s Broker, when it is apparent that a transaction may be a potential Short Sale.
NAR Field Guide to Short Sales
NAR Field Guides are a collection of relevant articles, videos and other relevant resources on various topics. This is a good place to get general background information on Short Sales and to see what is happening in other areas of the country.
NAR Short Sale Work Group
NAR put together a Work Group with members of several relevant committees to review short sale issues and how they related to various aspects of the practice. The Short Sale Work Group (headed by PAR member Bill Lublin), released a report in February 2008 which led to several NAR policy changes. View the report, policy recommendations and a “workflow” document that shows the various steps of a short sale transaction.
Federal Do-Not-Call Resources
Pennsylvania Telemarketer Registration Act
Text of Pennsylvania law
FCC Telemarketing Rules
FCC Telemarketing page with links to rules, registry and other FCC resources
Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
Text of federal law
Subscribe to the FTC Do Not Call List
New subscribers to the federal list must set up a “profile” before being allowed to access the list. Use the More Information button for instructions on how to fill out the profile form, information about the help desk and resetting passwords, among other common issues. You can also check out NAR’s explanation of how to access the list (may require password). NOTE: Accessing the downloaded list requires the use of software to “unzip” the file. Winzip and PkZip are two popular products for this use.
FTC: Basic rules for accessing the Federal Do Not Call List
Q&A with basic background to federal rules and information on how to access the federal list – good first step to understanding the registration process.
FTC: Complying with the Telemarketing Sales Rule
A 60-page document reviewing all aspects of federal compliance, published by the FTC. Note that some information may be incorrect, in that Pennsylvania’s law is more restrictive than the Federal rules in several areas. See the Do-Not-Call Presentation for a comparison.
Q&A on Federal and State Do Not Call Issues
This document covers many of the most common questions regarding the integration of Federal Do Not Call regulations with the currently existing Pennsylvania Telemarketer Registration Act.
Do Not Call Presentation — How do Federal regs and State law interact?
Adapted from Forum presented at Sept. 2003 PAR Business Meetings, with updates.
Sample Office Policy (Federal and State)
The Do-Not-Call rules provide a potential “safe harbor” for brokers who create, maintain and implement a compliant Do-Not-Call policy in the office. This sample policy can be used as a starting point for brokers who do not currently have their own policy. Be sure to consult with brokerage counsel before implementing any policy.
NAR Do-Not-Call Resources
NOTE: These resources are only valid for the Federal regulations. Certain requirements in the Pennsylvania Do-Not-Call law may be more restricted than the Federal regulations and will apply.
Do Not E-mail Resources (CAN-SPAM Act)
Federal “CAN-SPAM” legislation, which became effective in January 2004, regulates the sending of commercial e-mail advertisements. See below for additional information regarding the law and its implementation. Unlike the Federal Do Not Call regulations, this legislation does totally supersede any state law, so there should not be another “layer” of Pennsylvania law to deal with on this issue.
The primary requirements of the law (as stated by the FTC) are as follows:
Federal “CAN-SPAM” Legislation
Full text of bill
FTC website for CAN-SPAM
Requirements and prohibitions, includes information specifically targeted to businesses and consumers.
FTC “Commercial Purpose” Regulations
FTC guidelines to determine if a message has been sent with a “commercial purpose” and is therefore subject to the provisions of the CAN-SPAM law and regulations.
FCC Rules regarding “mobile service commercial messages”
Commercial messages sent to “mobile service” providers such as cellular phones, PDAs, etc.. A summary of Rules published by FCC in August 2004. This item is on the NAR website and requires a password for access. As of March 9, 2005, senders of commercial e-mails classified as “mobile service commercial messages” (“MSCM”) must comply with additional regulations. An MSCM is defined as a “commercial electronic mail message that is transmitted directly to a wireless device that is utilized by a subscriber of commercial mobile service… in connection with that service.” In short, any commercial e-mail message sent to a wireless device is classified ads an MSCM. Senders must check their e-mail lists against a list of domains maintained by the FCC at least every 30 days. A commercial e-mail may only be sent to a recipient at one of these domains if the sender has obtained the”express prior permission” of the recipient. A summary of the MSCM regulations can be found on the NAR website.
PAR Sample Office Policy
To be used by brokers as a basis for developing their own internal office policies.
PAR Broker Compliance Guidelines
More detailed guide to compliance for brokers.
Do Not Fax Resources
As required by the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005, the FCC has drafted regulations regarding fax solicitations.
The faxing rules:
(1) Codify an established business relationship (EBR) exemption to the prohibition on sending unsolicited fax advertisements
(2) Define EBR as used in the context of unsolicited fax advertisements
(3) Require the sender of fax advertisements to provide specified notice and contact information on the fax that allows recipients to “opt-out” of any future transmissions from the sender
(4) Specify the circumstances under which a request to “opt-out” complies with the Act.
The new rules took effect in August 2006. Go to the FCC website for a review of the regulations and a link to the full text.
NAR has posted a comprehensive Field Guide covering Do-Not-Call and Do-Not-Fax regulations that will be very helpful for understanding Federal regulations on both these topics.
Mold & Indoor Air Quality Resources
NAR Mold Resources Page
Linking to this page may require the use of your realtor.org password.
Environmental Protection Agency Mold Resources
Provides information and guidance on how to clean up residential mold problems and how to prevent mold growth.
Fair Housing Guidelines
Check out a this document for Fair Housing Guidelines.
Local Nondiscrimination Ordinances
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission
333 Market Street, 8th floor | Harrisburg, PA 17126
Discrimination is illegal in PA. Get the facts about equal opportunity at www.phrc.state.pa.us.
NAR Field Guide to Insurance Availability
Includes articles, website links, studies, and other information to help REALTORS®, homeowners, and others understand and weather the developing insurance availability crisis.
NAR Insurance Task Force
NAR leadership has created an Insurance Task Force comprised of REALTORS® representing all specialties. The Task Force is charged with assessing the state of affairs, exploring solutions and developing an appropriate role for NAR to help its state associations address what is now a very predictable, cyclical availability/affordability problem.
PA Guide to Homeowner’s Insurance
Booklet published by PA Insurance Department. Contains glossary of insurance terms, explanation of various aspects of the insurance process, and general rate comparisons for insurers licensed in the state.
Insurance Checklist for Buyers
Checklist for insurance-related issues buyers should consider during a transaction. Published by the Insurance Information Institute.
Website of the National Flood Insurance Program, administered by FEMA. General information about the NFIP, online copies of flood plain maps, links to insurance agents and similar information regarding flood insurance.
This website features information concerning current RiskMAP projects that might affect your community.
At the winter 2014 Business Meetings, Austin Perez from the National Association of Realtors® presented the following slides regarding the at-the-time status of National Flood Insurance Program.
This presentation contains the slides from the webinar “Flood Insurance: Our Latest Challenge.” It was given by Melanie McLane, NAR member and instructor for NAR RSPS and REBAC courses.
Resources collected and archived by NAR.
In anticipation of increasing flood insurance rates, FEMA identifies several options that may directly or indirectly result in flood insurance discounts to policyholders.
In this editorial published in the Wall Street Journal, Melanie McLane discusses how the Biggert-Waters Act is impacting Americans.
Penn State regularly provides educational programs in the areas affected by the Marcellus Shale leasing activities.
Penn State Public Broadcasting project explaining many of the basics of horizontal drilling and hydrolic fracturing (fracking)
Pennsylvania Land Trust Association – Natural Gas Resources
Resources from PALTA – an organization focused on natural resource conservation. Includes various links and resources regarding oil and gas extraction, as well as easements and other pipeline-related issues.
Resources for landmen (agents who generally work on behalf of drilling or land acquisition companies to obtain oil/gas/mineral leases from landowners). There are very good sample forms and clauses as well various other resources.
Land Owner and Royalty Owner Resources
Provides information and advocacy on behalf of oil & gas royalty holders.
West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Organization (WV SORO)
Focuses primarily on the rights and responsibilities of those who own the surface rights to land where the oil/gas/mineral rights have been leased, not the owners of the subsurface or royalty rights. The Guide to Oil and Gas is a comprehensive discussion of many issues. You can also find an overview of mineral rights issues under the Mineral Owner Info heading.
State and Local Government Resources
Resource page maintained by DCNR, which is responsible for tracking and regulating proposed and operating oil and gas wells within Pennsylvania. Extensive resources relating to the geology of Pennsylvania and geological information on the oil and gas drilling process. Links to various resources for tracking well development across the state.
Pennsylvania Clean and Green Regulations by County
Counties throughout the Commonwealth are administering Clean and Green differently when it comes to oil and gas leasing and drilling. Provided is a list of known regulations and contact information for each county. If you have a client that is affected by the oil and gas “gold rush” it is important to contact the county assessment office directly. As more information becomes available the list will be updated. Any information contained in this list is for reference only and should not be considered legal advice.
River Basin Commissions
Both the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Delaware River Basin Commission have been addressing the issues of withdrawing, using and properly treating the water necessary to operate these types of well. The websites for both Commissions have sections specifically dedicated to issues relating to Marcellus Shale drilling.
Valuation of Rights
International Institute of Minerals Appraisers (IIMA)
Professional organization of appraisers who specialize in mineral appraisals. Qualifications include specialized education, five (5) years of experience in the field and recommendations from at least three other mineral appraisers. AIMA members include appraisers from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
List of self-reported (not screened or recommended) professionals compiled by Penn State.
Consultants and appraisers primarily in Western PA (use “consultants” link for list).
License Reciprocity Resources
Pennsylvania law provides “license reciprocity” for real estate licensees in order to facilitate business transactions across state lines.
The law, which was proposed by PAR and came into effect February 28, 2004, provides the State Real Estate Commission the authority to enter into reciprocal agreements with other states. Pennsylvania licensees may not practice in another state without a reciprocal license until such time as the Commission signs an agreement with that state.
Under the Act, the Commission is required to publish on its website states with which Pennsylvania has reciprocal agreements.
The following information is provided by PAR to help licensees understand the law:
The following states currently have Reciprocal Agreements with PA:
Advertising by real estate licensees is governed by several different sources of law, regulation and policy. Use the links below to access the relevant resources.
Rules and Regulations of the State Real Estate Commission
See sections 35.301 – 35.307 for the regulations covering advertising by real estate licensees.
The Commission has been asked a number of questions about certain advertising issues not explicitly handled in the regulations. To help provide some clarity to how these issues should be handled, the Commission has released several Guidelines or Policies for licensees:
NAR Code of Ethics
Article 12 and the related Standards of Practice address most advertising issues. Pay special attention to SoP 12-5 and 12-9 (using the broker’s name in advertising), along with 12-8 and 12-10 through 12-12, which apply specifically to online and electronic advertising such as websites, blogs and social media.
Electronic Communications and Advertising – A Legal and Ethical Review
ALL of the advertising laws, regulations and policies that apply to “real world” advertising also apply to online advertising. While there are special rules that exist for electronic advertising, those rules are MORE restrictive, not less restrictive.
Telemarketing: Do-Not-Call laws and regulations
In Pennsylvania, telephone solicitations are covered by both the state Telemarketer Registration Act and the federal Do-Not-Call regulations enforced by the FCC. The Do-Not-Call Resources page has links to a number of resources on this issue, including a sample Do-Not-Call office policy.
E-mail: Federal CAN-SPAM Act
The Federal CAN-SPAM Act regulates the sending of “commercial” e-mails.
CMA and BPO Resources
One of the many benefits of Act 112, which went into effect November 25, 1999, is the reinstatement of a real estate licensee’s ability to perform a comparative marketing analysis (CMA) for clients and customers. That ability had been lost with the enactment of the Real Estate Appraisers Certification Act, which made it illegal for anyone who was not a certified appraiser to perform real estate appraisals in non-federally related transactions after September 3, 1998.
Act 112 specifically includes in its definition of broker, “any person who, for another and for a fee, commission or other valuable consideration… undertakes to perform a comparative market analysis.” Similarly, the definition of a salesperson is amended to read, “any person employed by a licensed real estate broker to perform comparative market analyses…”
The act supplies a very clear definition of what a comparative market analysis is: A written analysis, opinion, or conclusion by a contracted buyer’s agent, transactional licensee or an actual or potential seller’s agent relating to the probable sale price of a specified piece of real estate in an identified real estate market at a specified time, offered either for the purpose of determining the asking/offering price for the property by a specific actual or potential consumer or for the purpose of securing a listing agreement with a seller. [emphasis added]
Who can perform a CMA?
As of November 25, 1999, any real estate broker or salesperson can perform a CMA, regardless of whether they hold a Certified Appraiser license. It is important, though, to understand that a CMA is limited in scope to establishing the asking or offering price for a specific property and for a specific client or customer. Any activity that attempts to valuate a property for a purpose outside of this limited scope would not fall under the definition of a CMA and would require a Certified Appraiser license to perform.
Can a licensee charge a fee for a CMA?
Licensees may charge for a CMA. If the CMA is part of the licensee’s fee for the general services provided as a buyer agent or listing agent, no additional contract or writing is required. If, however, a transaction licensee or a licensee who did a CMA as part of a listing presentation, but failed to get the listing, wishes to charge a fee for that service, a written service agreement must exist between the licensee and the consumer who received the service. This written agreement must include all the points required of a written contract between a broker and a consumer whenever a fee is to be charged. Those requirements are:
1. A statement that the broker’s fee and duration of the contract have been determined as a result of negotiations between the broker and the consumer.
2. A statement that describes the nature and extent of the broker’s services being provided to the consumer and the fees that will be charged.
3. A statement that identifies any possibility that the broker of any licensee employed by the broker may provide services to more than one consumer in a single transaction and, if so, a statement of the duties owed to the other party and whether the broker may accept a fee for those services.
4. In an agreement between a broker and seller, a statement of the broker’s policies regarding cooperation with other brokers, a disclosure that a buyer’s agent will represent the buyer (even if compensated by the broker or seller), and a disclosure of any potential for the broker to act as a disclosed dual agent.
5. In an agreement between a broker and a buyer, a statement that identifies any possibility of the broker’s compensation being based upon a percentage of the purchase price, a disclosure of the broker’s policies regarding cooperation with listing brokers willing to pay buyer’s brokers, a disclosure that the broker will represent the interests of the buyer (even if compensated by the listing broker or seller), and a disclosure of any potential for the buyer broker to act as a disclosed dual agent.
6. A statement that describes the purpose of the Real Estate Recovery Fund and a telephone number of the Commission where consumers can receive further information about the Fund.
7. A statement regarding any possible conflicts of interest and informing the consumer of the licensee’s continuing duty to timely disclose any conflicts of interest.
This written agreement is not necessary where no fee is being charged for the CMA.
What information can be included in a CMA?
The definition of a CMA does not address what may or may not be included in the “written analysis . . . relating to the probable sale price” of a property. Therefore, whatever a licensee deems important to the analysis can be included in the CMA, including a review of comparables or details of adjustments.
One item that absolutely must be included in the CMA is the following statement, printed conspicuously on the front page:
This analysis has not been performed in accordance with the uniform standards of professional appraisal practice which require valuers to act as unbiased, disinterested third parties with impartiality, objectivity and independence and without accommodation of personal interest. It is not to be construed as an appraisal and may not be used as such for any purpose.
The language of this statement may not be altered.
Can licensees perform Broker Price Opinions for a fee?
“Broker Price Opinion” is not a legally defined term, as are “appraisal” and “comparative market analysis.” When a fee is charged for a BPO, it will either be considered an appraisal or a CMA. If it is determined to be a CMA (i.e., provided for the purpose of determining the asking/offering price for a property for the seller or buyer), then it falls within the scope of permitted activity for a real estate licensee. If, however, the BPO is determined to be other than a CMA, it will qualify as an appraisal, which requires an appraisal license to perform.
To avoid confusion, the term BPO should not be used for any written expression of value for a fee. “Appraisal” and “comparative market analysis” are the terms that should be employed, depending on the purpose and scope of the valuation.
RELRA and Qualified Associations
Qualified Associations FAQ – Last updated July 20, 2012
State Corporations Bureau
Information and forms to create the corporate entity that will become a qualified association. Brokers and licensees can also verify formation and status of the entity through the Corporations Bureau.
Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act (RELRA)
NOTE: This is the full version of RELRA, including the amendments included in Act 14.
Data Security Resources
Breach of Personal Information Notification Act (Act 94 of 2005)
The Breach of Personal Information Notification Act (“BPINA”) — effective June 20, 2006 — regulates entities that collect “personal information” about clients in computerized databases. “Personal information” is defined as any data that links a person’s name with their Social Security Number, driver’s license number or financial account information. If the security of any computerized database containing this information is breached, the entity collecting the information is required by the Act to notify the affected consumers.
Privacy of Social Security Number Act (Act 60 of 2006)
This Act, effective December 26, 2006, makes it a summary criminal offense to “intentionally communicate or otherwise make available to the general public” any individual’s Social Security Number (“SSN”) and prohibits certain other uses of the SSN that might have it exposed to public view. The law covers all types of communication, including electronic and non-electronic. Possible fines range from $50 – $5,000.
Q & A on Breach of Personnel Information Notification Act (BPINA)
Answers common questions on the enactment of Pennsylvania’s new Data Security law effective June 20, 2006.
Q&A on Privacy of Social Security Number Act
Answers common questions on the enactment of Pennsylvania’s Privacy of Social Security Number Act, an additional Data Security law passed by the state’s legislature and effective December 26, 2006.
Social Security Number Authorization Form (PAR Form SSA) (scroll to bottom of page to link)
The safest and easiest way to avoid becoming entangled in either of these laws is to simply not collect Social Security Numbers from clients. The reality of many transactions is that this can’t easily be avoided, as the real estate broker/agent is often expected to be the point of contact for submitting this information to other participants in the transaction. For those instances where it is necessary to collect a client’s SSN, PAR Form SSA should be used. This form provides necessary authorization to the broker to collect and distribute the SSN as necessary, and it also serves as a single point of collection so you only need the number once on that form rather than having it filled in on multiple forms.
Broker’s Guide to Consumer Data Security and Confidentiality<
Two Pennsylvania Data Security laws became effective in June and December, 2006. These laws work in connection with existing state and federal laws governing the collection, storage and use of various types of consumer information. This Broker’s Guide summarizes the relevant portions of these laws and regulations.
Sample Brokerage Office Policy
Sample policy drafted by PAR counsel. Note that brokers should NOT simply adopt this policy as written, but should consult with brokerage counsel in drafting a comprehensive data security policy based on your specific office practices and needs.
Identity Theft Action Plan
The plan from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency is a new initiative to make people more aware of identity theft, how to avoid it and what to do if they find they are a victim.
Privacy and Data Security Resources – NAR
Comprehensive privacy and data security information from NAR, directed at Federal issues. Includes regular updates on pending Federal legislation, links to the Federal Trade Commission and other resources, and additional information about NAR-created content. Includes a link to a thorough Data Security and Privacy Toolkit, which includes real estate-specific information and copies of some existing policies used by REALTOR associations.
Privacy Policies: Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say – Federal Trade Commission
Basic information about privacy policies.
Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business – Federal Trade Commission
Not specifically directed to privacy policies, but includes interactive tutorial, brochures and articles relating to information privacy and security, and various other FTC resources related to the protection of personal information. Good general resource to help determine basic rules on what to collect and how to collect it.
Ten Steps to Develop a Multilayered Privacy Notice – Hunton & Williams
Multilayered Notices Explained – Hunton & Williams
These detailed whitepapers discuss development of privacy notices. They have been prepared by the law firm of Hunton & Williams.
Privacy Statement Generator – Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
Data Security Tech Tips
Some helpful tips on how to protect sensitive data stored on your computer. Also includes links to a number of products and services that may help maintain client data security.
What NOT to do with your old cell phone
Article from August 30, 2006 issue of USATODAY describing problems with cell phone users who are unable to delete sensitive information from their phones or data devices (Blackberries, Treos, etc.).
Uniform Construction Code Resources
In 1999 the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act, which established the first Uniform Construction Code (UCC) across the Commonwealth. Because of delays in drafting regulations to implement the Uniform Construction Code, the provisions of the Act did not become fully effective until 2004. In response to consumer concerns about the provisions of the Act, Governor Rendell signed into law a number of changes to the UCC on July 15, 2004.
Although it is called the “Uniform” Construction Code, the law is truly not uniform in its application across Pennsylvania. There are over 2,500 municipal entities in Pennsylvania. According to the PA Department of Labor and Industry, about 1,000 had code enforcement ordinances prior to the passage of the UCC, some of which are still in effect if they were stricter than UCC requirements. Further, all municipalities are permitted to enact new ordinances with stricter requirements by going through a review and hearing process.
There is currently no single source where all local ordinances are collected. Practitioners are urged to check with local municipalities for specific information about codes enforcement in your area. Clients with code-related questions (e.g., “can I do this to the property after I move in?”) should be referred to the appropriate municipality as well.
Due to the recent changes to the Act, there will almost certainly be changes to the relevant Regulations adopted by the Department of Labor & Industry, and there may be changes to code ordinances enacted in many municipalities. Check back for developments as we are made aware of them.
Uniform Construction Code Regulations
NOTE: These regulations DO NOT reflect changes to the UCC enacted in July 2004. The Department of Labor and Industry will need to change portions of the regulations to comply with the new law.
Department of Labor and Industry Building Codes Page
L&I is the Department with primary oversight over UCC issues. Their Building Codes webpage has extensive resources and a great deal relevant information. Among other things, the site contains lists of approved third party inspectors, lists of those municipalities that have “opted-out” of enforcing the UCC through local enforcement officers, a list of Departmental contacts and a form for filing complaints about the actions of codes enforcement officers.
Labor & Industry Update on Finished Basements
One of the major amendments to the original Act specifically exempts “repairs” and “alterations” from the scope of the Uniform Construction Code. This has raised a question as to whether finishing a basement falls into the category of an “alteration” and is thus exempt from the Code provisions that might otherwise apply. This L&I update issued in September 2004, provides information on this subject (See item #3 on the list).
Consumer Notice in Commercial Transactions
Read the text of Act 125 and review PAR’s easy to use flow chart of questions to ask so you can determine whether the exception applies to a particular transaction.
Link to the Consumer Notice
Property Management Resources