Core Issue: Taxes – Taxes relative to the real estate transaction, such as the realty transfer tax, and those associated with homeownership, such as the property tax, are a major burden to buyers and homeowners alike. An increase in any industry-related tax would have a negative impact on housing costs and the industry as a whole.
- House Bill 700 (Bloom, R-Cumberland) – Under Federal tax law, a “like-kind” exchange pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 allows for tax-deferral when property is exchanged for similar property. This long-standing Federal provision facilitates efficient investment in the job-creating assets businesses need to remain competitive, and every state but Pennsylvania provides for a similar deferral on the state level. Currently, Pennsylvania tax law contains no such provision. This legislation would allow for like-kind exchanges in Pennsylvania mirroring Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 provisions, thereby removing a disadvantage Pennsylvania small businesses face in competing with businesses in other states. House Bill 700 is currently in the House Finance Committee. PAR supports this legislation.
- Senate Bill 76 (Argall, R-Berks) – The Property Tax Independence Act authorizes school districts to levy, assess, and collect a tax on personal income or a tax on earned income and net profits as a means of abolishing property taxation by the school district. The bill also authorizes the imposition of a personal income tax or an earned income tax by a school district at a rate determined by the district via voter referendum. Senate Bill 76 broadens the Sales and Use Tax and increases its rate from six to seven percent and increases the Personal Income Tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent. This bill is currently in the Senate Finance Committee. In fall 2015 the language of SB 76 was attempted to be amended to another bill. Nearly 25 percent of PAR members participated in a Call to Action urging senators to support the amendment. The amendment was defeated by one vote.
- Senate Bill 877 (Argall, R-Berks) – Would remove a taxing jurisdiction’s ability to appeal the assessment of a property based solely on the sale of the property. Taxing authorities may only appeal an assessment when the property has gone through a countywide reassessment, been divided into smaller parcels, or a change in the productive use of the property has occurred. In addition, it will provide a retroactive remedy so that the property owners whose property tax assessments have been increased because of an appeal by a political subdivision could have those assessments reduced to prior levels. PAR supports this legislation.
- Senate Bill 486 (Argall, R-Berks) – Would allow counties to apply a fee through the Recorder of Deeds office of up to $15 for each deed and mortgage recorded to be used for a demolition program. This legislation would change the Record of Deeds Fee Law to add an additional fee on each deed and mortgage recorded to be used strictly for demolition within that county. PAR opposes this bill and was successful in defeating the bill in the House Urban Affairs Committee with over 3,800 Calls to Action sent in less than twenty-four hours. The bill has not moved in the House.
Core Issue: Practice and Professionalism – The Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act (RELRA) governs the practice of real estate licensees in the Commonwealth and serves to protect consumers who work with real estate licensees. It is incumbent upon the association to enact laws that enhance the industry, both for its members and for consumers.
- House Bill 1421 (Helm, R-Dauphin) – Would require all home inspectors to be licensed in Pennsylvania. Currently, home inspectors are not held to any specific professional standard. This means that although the home inspection report is relied upon heavily, if a home inspector fails to report an issue to a homeowner, there is little or no recourse available. This legislation will set statewide standards for the profession of home inspecting and standards for the home inspection report. License applicants must: Have a high school diploma or equivalent, complete a bureau-approved training program, pass a bureau-approved examination, and obtain liability insurance of $500,000 per occurrence and deductible of not more than $2,500. Existing practitioners will be grandfathered. Renewal requires 16 hours of continuing education. PAR supports this legislation.
Core Issue: Housing – An estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households across the U.S. pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes on housing. It is vital that the association play a role in helping to ensure that housing of all types is available at all income levels, and that programs are available to help homeowners achieve the dream of homeownership. The association must also contribute to the creation of revitalized communities while maintaining private property rights.
- House Bill 1510 & Senate Bill 974 (Rep. Frankel, D-Allegheny & Sen. Browne, R-Lehigh) – Currently, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and accommodations based on an individual’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, education status, handicap, or disability. This legislation will provide a basic level of protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. PAR has supported similar legislation in past sessions and continues to support them this session.
- House Bill 1437 (Goodman, R-Schuylkil) – Nearly 4,300 Realtors® sent a clear message to every member of the House to vote ‘yes’ to an amendment to House Bill 1437 (R-Goodman) earlier this year. The amendment passed the House (194-0) and has moved to the Senate Urban Affairs Committee before moving to the Senate for approval. The amendment more clearly defines “unfit for habitation” to provide better guidance to local code enforcement officials. Rep. Jamie Santora (R-Delaware), who’s also a Realtor®, initially introduced this as legislation (H.B. 1480) but asked to add his proposed language as an amendment to House Bill 1437. Many Realtors® and their clients have had issues with municipalities labeling houses “unfit for habitation” and refusing to issue temporary use and occupancy certificates to home buyers until cracked sidewalks are repaired and old house numbers are replaced. These minor issues no doubt exist elsewhere in the neighborhoods, but some municipalities are claiming they make the home “unfit for human habitation.” This legislation would require that certificates be issued by municipalities who choose to conduct resale code inspections, regardless of the nature of code violation found. The amendment creates a new category of “Temporary Access” certificate that would allow a sale to move forward, but require that substantial code violations be corrected prior to the new owner inhabiting the property. It would also require that all other code violations be corrected within a certain time frame, with financial and other penalties left in place for failure to comply.
- House Bill 447 (Saylor, R-York) – Amends the Landlord and Tenant Act providing for death of a tenant by adding that if the deceased tenant is the sole tenant of the residency, the estate’s executor will have the option to terminate the lease upon 14 days written notice to the landlord on the last day of the second month that immediately follows the calendar month in which the tenant died. This won’t relieve the tenant’s estate of liability for rent money or any other debt incurred prior to the date of termination of the lease including damages to the premises. The bill contains PAR’s recommended amendments.
House Bill 1051 (Dean, R-Montgomery) – Provides that tenants who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking may end their lease obligations without penalty, or have their locks changed within three days at their expense. This legislation would give tenants the ability to put an end to their lease obligations, without penalty, or have their locks changed within three days—at the tenant’s expense—if they decide to stay in the home. The PAR Legislative Committee voted to not take a position on House Bill 1051.
Senate Bill 482 (Brewster, D-Allegheny) – Would amend the Real Estate Tax Sale Law to allow certain counties to authorize the tax claim bureau of that county to charge and collect a fee, not to exceed 10 percent, for each property sold at tax sale. The fee raised shall be deposited into the Optional County Demolition and Rehabilitation Fund, which the county must create, to be used exclusively for the demolition or rehabilitation, or both, of dilapidated buildings on blighted property situate in the county. PAR opposes this legislation because it places additional burdens on homebuyers.
House Bill 773 (Masser, R-Columbia) -Provides that the title to a property may be acquired after no less than 10 years of actual, continuous, exclusive, visible, notorious, distinct and hostile possession of the property. The bill includes PAR’s amendment from two sessions ago to define the parcel size to be limited to .5 acre. PAR supports this legislation. This bill passed the House.
- House Bill 2008 (Sonney, R-Erie) – Amends the Landlord Tenant Act to require that if a landlord has actual knowledge that a unit previously was used as a meth lab, the landlord must provide written notice before execution of a written lease. If there is no written lease, the landlord must notify the tenant before occupancy takes place. If a tenant does not receive the notification as required above, the tenant may terminate the lease, in writing, within 60 days of finding out that the property was used as a meth lab. PAR opposes this bill.
- House Bill 2009 (Sonney, R-Erie) – Amends Title 68 regarding seller disclosure to add “previous use of premises as a methamphetamine lab” to the list of conditions that must be included in the seller disclosure statement. PAR opposes this bill because this is already covered under hazardous materials in the seller disclosure.
- Senate Bill 20 (Fontana, D-Allegheny) – Amends Title 68 (Real Property) to require that property disclosure statements, which are compulsory by law as a condition of most residential real property transfers, disclose whether lead contamination has been found in the drinking water of a home and/or a house built before 1978 contains lead paint. PAR opposes this bill because this is already covered under hazardous materials in the seller disclosure.
- House Bill 1919 (Schlossberg, D-Lehigh) – Amend The Safe Drinking Water Act to require more frequent testing for lead in water. Currently, state law requires water to be tested every three years, only at a reduced number of sample sites, after the initial passing. This legislation will require testing to be done annually at the reduced number of sample sites, and a complete test, from all sample sites, every three calendar years. In addition, this bill will subject residential rental properties built before 1978 to the same requirements the federal law has laid out for the sale of residential homes. Currently, federal law requires a lead inspection of homes prior to the sale. The legislation will place the same requirements on rental properties every time a tenant vacates a property, or prior to renting to a new tenant. If levels of lead are present, the renter must rectify the problem or face an annual $5,000 penalty until the lead is removed. The funds from those penalties will be deposited into the newly created Lead in Homes Abatement Grant. PAR opposes this bill because it is already covered under the sellers disclosure.
Core Issue: Local Issues – While municipalities in Pennsylvania have the authority to enact local ordinances on such issues as the registration of tenants, sewage lateral inspections, and installation of residential sprinkler systems, it is important for the association to monitor these ordinances in order to forestall any pending statewide implementation.
- Senate Bill 498 (Costa, D-Allegheny) – Requires all deeds and conveyances concerning any real property conveyed or sold at sheriff sales shall be recorded within 45 days of the conveyance or sale, provided that all costs, assessments and fees related to the conveyance or sale have been met or paid. This legislation provides for the timely filing of a deed by the purchaser after property is acquired at a sheriff’s sale. There have been several instances in Allegheny County, and in other counties, where property is sold at a sheriff’s sale followed by a delay in the recording of the deed to the property. There are several problems caused by this delay. Primarily, the owner whose property was foreclosed continues to receive tax notices from the local taxing bodies. This results in lost revenue to the school district and/or municipality as each continues to send their tax notices to the last person of record. Further, this situation causes a lot of confusion during title and deed searches. Under current law, such purchasers have up to 90 days to record the deed. This legislation will reduce that time to 30 days. PAR supports this legislation.