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NEPA Landlord Tenant Homeowner Association Blog

 

 
 

Commentary on issues regarding property rights, this blog relays information on events past, present, and into the future in Northeast PA (USA). While facts are presented, an opinion may be thrown in the mix to make things more interesting. Corrections are welcomed by using the comments -  as long as we see documents to back it up.

As far as the comment part of this blog, we appreciated hearing from people literally all over the world! We generally don't publish the comments though because this is a local blog. Even so, comments published are rare unless they add to the story or a correction is needed and information sent was confirmed. Glad you're enjoying it though! We STILL have some freedoms here and intend to exercise them at will!




Wilkes-Barre Struck Out!

August 16, 2016

 

Wilkes-Barre taxpayers will now pay $100,000 to each of the two tenants, and to three landlords (plus attorney fees!) because of a reckless and irresponsible ordinance to reduce crime by confiscating the properties of innocent landlords. That makes as much sense as burning a house down because residents caught the Zika virus. Common sense dictates that with mosquitoes you need to get rid of stagnant water in containers, ditches, and especially old tires. If you have them every month (short life span), you didn’t locate the water source. The same is true with drugs/crime. The reason we have a drug problem is due to the DEMAND. Get rid of the demand and drug dealers move somewhere else. It’s really that simple. So WHY do we have a demand?

 

NEPALTA has said from the beginning that politicians and the Chamber of Commerce have suppressed the wages of workers throughout Wyoming Valley to attract businesses who would keep the wages low to keep the cost of living low (also the source of blight – no money to renovate). Local colleges were funded to attract young talented people who left as soon as they could after graduation to make higher wages. The desperate politicians then invited low to no income folks from NYC, Philly, Newark, etc., and sure enough they brought the drug culture with them knowing this is a depressed area.

 

To add insult to injuries we have a flood of low wage immigrants thanks to the same people who brought us the drug problem! When will we hold THEM accountable? Of course we are referring to local politicians who really should be sued, not Wilkes-Barre taxpayers. Hopefully, the voters will learn that certain politicians are just BAD for taxpayers...hopefully.

 

Pittston has a similar ordinance that prior to NEPALTA’s lawsuit was called the Three Strikes Ordinance then changed to “Chronic Nuisance Ordinance”. Here are the basics:

  1. The ordinance applies to ALL properties, not just rentals

  2. If any city official is called three times in 6 months for any issue, your property is eligible

  3. The city officials can be anyone from code enforcement, police, to clerks.

  4. It could be ANYTHING unrelated to the owner such as dog feces from someone else’s dog or even people you don’t know fighting on YOUR property!

  5. The lack of prosecution does NOT prevent being declared a Chronic Nuisance property!

  6. The chief of police, not necessarily a judge, can then declare your property a Chronic Nuisance Property and move to Ejectment!

  7. You are removed from the property for 1 year, though still pay taxes, mortgage, and insurances.

  8. After 1 year, you’ll need a UCC inspection to get an occupancy permit…yes, $$ if you can afford it!

     

    As one can see, Wilkes-Barre isn’t the only city with bad ordinances. Pittston has the Chronic Nuisance Law (which a tenant may use against a homeowner!) and the Rental Registration Ordinance. NEPALTA has been dormant publically, but active working quietly and methodically through the court system and we do need support! Pittston’s Philadelphia lawyers have worked tirelessly to stall the suit hoping we would just go away draining every last penny, but we’re still at it! After fighting tooth and nail to deny the “Freedom of Information” request, Pittston was finally DIRECTED BY THE JUDGE to comply with the law. As a result, Pittston has finally produced a mess of information…and THINGS ARE A MESS. They apparently don’t believe in keeping ANY records showing how they do business – it’s apparently not something “they” need to do. The problem will be connecting the dots to justify the Rental Registration/Inspection program. Without justification, it’s simply another taxing scheme.

     

    And so, Wilkes-Barre’s defeat happened because that ordinance met resistance NEPALTA was happy to initially be involved in. Pittston’s bad ordinances will meet the same fate as long as NEPALTA continues to challenge them to the end. It’s been tough, but we’re gaining ground! The lawsuit has been made very expensive for both parties because Pittston doesn’t want it to go to court. They ARE vulnerable, but we need your help! Please donate today!

Pittston's Code Enforcement officer leaves for Easton during pre-trial interrogatories

Pittston's Code Enforcement Officer Steve Nowroski moving on to Easton, PA.

 


According to one commenter, "Easton needs fresh blood to lead this department". Yes, that is what they'll get depending on their ordinances. Strange though that most of the article points to his experience at Forty-Fort and a short mention of Pittston. As some may recall, Nowroski left Forty-Fort while under investigation eagerly hired by Pittston. And now while our case is moving forward (hopefully past the infamous Luzerne County courts) Easton eagerly hires a swiftly departing code enforcement officer from Pittston while the NEPALTA lawsuit moves on to collect information from code enforcement.

Easton, PA is just 38 miles from Hopatcong, NJ where Pittston's Manager Joseph Moskovitz, was a former borough administrator for Hopatcong, until he publically proved bad judgment with his car, alcohol, drugs, speeding, swerving, and no insurance.
 (http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2009/01/hopatcong_administrator_suspen.html ) Yes, "Everybody deserves a second chance in life," according to Michael Lombardo (unless you own certain properties) http://citizensvoice.com/news/pittston-officials-hire-city-manager-1.1029346   Rather than spending time in prison, Pittston hired him to manage the city and then hired Nowroski when Forty Fort, Pa's solicitor had him under investigation as well as the Pa Dept of Labor and Industry who gave him a warning. You couldn’t make this stuff up...

Hey, we're not saying Pittston is getting the code enforcement guy a temp job to get him out at a vulnerable time, but that Easton, Pa is waking up to some realities and it's worth reading about - maybe even comment.  One thing is certain, they don't know much about his work in Pittston.
 

 

Friday, March 13, 2015

 

Easton's New Code Inspector Accused of Playing Favorites in Forty Fort http://lehighvalleyramblings.blogspot.com/2015/03/eastons-new-code-inspector-accused-of.html
 

 

 


EDITORIAL: Easton administration to blame for bungling new code official's hiring

 






Luzerne County, the exception...

It is true that NEPA is 10-20 years behind the rest of the country...except the cost of living where as close as Harrisburg as an example, the cost of gas is 5-10 cents cheaper per gallon. Don't think that's by accident. There are those doing very well in the "Pit"  while the "Breaker Boys" scamper for crumbs.


Our latest re-filing of the suit is another example of Apalachin control in Luzerne County on the legal system where Pittston City can miss deadlines and go against standards set forth by the Commonwealth Of Pa while hand picked judges (did we forget Kids for cash?Two Judges, Thousands of Children, and a $2.6 Million Kickback Scheme, the Attorney General at THAT time IS our judge!?) not only looks the other way at Pittston's blatant delay tactics, but assist Pittston in finding loop holes. It's a technique designed to bankrupt organizations like NEPALTA into giving up.

While NEPALTA has had help from outside the area, we still need your participation in donating to a cause that actually helps each of us "coal" diggers that the lords of Apalachin despise so much.

And so what began as a simple gesture to talk to the "boys" of Pittston about what appears as unlawful even for Home Rule, is growing beyond the reach of the Controllers.

Once a councilman said, "you better have a lot of attorneys if you want to fight us cuz we have many of them". Yes, you do...but then NEPALTA doesn't play the same game of pool you'd expect.

Image: http://www.ecenbarger.com/



Lupas once again sides with ole Apalachin

Two Judges, Thousands of Children, and a $2.6 Million Kickback Scheme 4/8/2011 (Times Leader Joe McDonald)
"In an unusual rebuke, a justice of the state Supreme Court criticized the Luzerne County district attorney's office and the public defender's office for not keeping an eye on Juvenile Court hearings before Judge Mark Civarella Jr."
"The DA fell down" Justice J. Michael Eakin said, referring to former District Attorney David W. Lupas." "The public defender fell down. To fall down THAT OFTEN is just WRONG"

Yes Joe - as Judge in Luzerne County, old habits are hard to break. 
CASH for elections? Naw, not here!
Judge Lupas helped (as expected) Pittston City hide how they conduct business. While the rest of Pennsylvania complies with the Right To Know Act, Luzerne County once again makes their own rules. To be fair, the effort were interrogatories designed to study the structure behind the ordinances in question. This would have greatly benefited the city IF they were in compliance. By not directing cooperation with our request, Lupas has forced us to the next option.
Pittston City could easily make us go away by being open and honest...but then it wouldn't be Pittston now would it?

Book: http://www.ecenbarger.com/


NEPALTA Moves Forward With Pittston Complaint

Judge Lupas who presides over our hearing with Pittston City will most likely decide to allow Pittston City Government to hide their records from the public. The Interrogatories are questions designed to provide openness to ensure they are within the boundaries of law.


Not that Pittston is exempt from the Right-To-Know law Pennsylvania has in place...far from it.

We are, and will continue to forge ahead. Attorney Dornish has experience in this type of case, yet knows that Luzerne County has a rich history of colorful characters of corruption. 




The Scranton Commuter Tax goes down in flames!



A commuter tax - who commutes but those unfortunate enough to WORK in Scranton: well known across the country as a financial basket case. And for all who work and STILL vote for that political party (Taxaholics) who say they will tax the rich - time to wake up and realize that if you choose to work...YOU are rich.

But while the majority complained, a group of about 30 combined their resources and fought Pennsylvania's OPPRESSIVE CITY ...and WON. Congrats and a job well done!
When the people give in to politicians...they allow the destruction of their communities.

For years, the voters from Scranton, Pa (unlike booming cities in the USA) chose politicians who recklessly spent on their pet projects but then ran businesses and taxpayers out of town with high taxes to pay for it. The Commuter Tax was designed to FORCE those who wish to live outside to fund stupid irresponsible budgets. But working people voted with their feet - they comprehend very well that Scranton is hazardous to their wealth!

NEPALTA welcomes people willing to engage rather than complain. Please help us to help YOU. Whether landlords or renters (because your rent WILL go up), joining or even donating helps us to push back the heavy hand of progressive Home Rulers that pass anti-property laws when no one is looking.



NEWSPAPERS: The voice of government?

Newspapers only tell the people what they need to know. There must be approval from "above" to allow even News Releases from legitimate organizations to send out to people what their officials are causing. It has almost been a month since our News Release was sent to Pittston's Sunday "Mismatch" with the newspaper promising to have it in the next Sunday, then the next, etc. 


Of course a Pittson Sunday newspaper publishing the news that Pittston is being effectively sued wouldn't go over well with the kingdom wishing to keep 7,801 people in the dark, but alas, the lack of reporting does not stop the case. It just reflects why newspapers are becoming extinct and why governments wish to regulate the Internet!

Pittston's fine solicitor will be contacted soon to see how the Interrogatories are going. I'm sure there is a "compelling" reason that he knows to put this in "motion" here in Luzerne County...it's not going away guys.

As far as the "Mini" City snoozepaper - a gossip column may be your best source for news in the not so near future.



Dunmore's One Strike on the Landlord

Yes, you read it right...one strike sends the bad tenant to another apartment (probably a section 8 that is NOT affected by the ordinance). In the meantime, the landlord has no income but still must pay taxes, mortgage, and insurance. After 6 months, unless completely broke and destroyed credit, the landlord is now subject to thorough inspections, permits, and upgrades. $$$


If we can believe WNEP's article (sometimes, you need to question), Dumbmore is condemning the building because of tenant behavior (drugs). Yep...apparently, the building STRUCTURE is unsafe because the tenants did drugs. This leads up to the question of why we don't demand that the city councils (and in the case of Pittston's manager) become subject to random drug tests?? Sorry Joe, it really IS a fair question given your history and the incredibly poor judgement to hire you without one.

Condemning properties because of tenant behavior is a blatant abuse of the powers given to boroughs via Borough Code by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the adopted Property Maintenance Code that has NO such provision. Landlords should go to the Commonwealth Courts and sue.

As far as the drug dealers: they are here for a reason: they are invited by residents who have a demand for drugs (this IS a depressed area) and way too many people in single family homes buy the drugs. Is Dunmore prepared to pass ordinances that allow code enforcement to kick people out of their homes for possession? Think it can't happen?

Pittston City's Chronic Nuisance  Ordinance no. 4 (2008) can do exactly that and for far less. If your neighbor (who may be a renter!) doesn't like you, he/she can anonymously complain to various departments (code enforcement, police, fire, manager, dog catcher, etc) after three visits in 60 days from any, the chief of police may send notice of possible "ejectment" if you fail to abate the issue and they if get another call. The ordinance states that If the city solicitor moves on it, you are removed from your home for 6 months. "The failure to prosecute an individual, or the fact that no one has been convicted of a crime is NOT a defense to a Chronic Nuisance Action" (Section 6b). Don't even think "Constitution" because this is a civil matter...think NEPALTA and join! 

Yes, drugs are a problem and a danger...mostly caused by politicians and the Chamber Of Commerce who held the wages down, which is why young educated people flee Wyoming Valley. To complicate the matter, cities here advertise in the big cities about the low standard of living inviting people to live here and now they have the nerve to blame the behavior of whom THEY invited on landlords who struggle to keep housing affordable. 

For those in the Scranton area (including Dunmore)...we told you so last year that this will spread to other boroughs if you sit back and let it happen.
NEPALTA helped Duryea avoid massive heartburn, thanks to the leadership of Duryea's mayor.
NEPALTA is trying to help Pittston City get it right, but they like a challenge and we accept.

For all the other boroughs...it's only a matter of time. 



Kingston misuses the 1966 City Rent Withholding Act

Kingston, PA.

Solicitor Mattern compared the principle to the current law "WARRANTY OF HABITABILITY" that allows tenants to deduct expenses caused by landlord negligence from property rent to their recent ordinance (from what we've heard - a first in the Commonwealth), to force a tenant to pay rent to the local government because of a Property Maintenance Code Violation.


While on the surface this seems like a good thing, it can and may in the end hurt the tenant. If Kingston simply adopted and enforced the tenant's right to withhold rent paying for repairs (an option), there would be no issue. That's a part of the Warranty Of Habitability. If the furnace quits in the winter and the landlord does nothing, a tenant has the right to have it fixed and apply the rent money towards repairs keeping warm. All Kingston needs to do is stand behind the law if it goes to court.


What this recent ordinance does is expose the tenant to possible PII violations covered under federal and state laws.


PII stands for: Personally Identifiable Information. In the age of ID theft, the last thing tenants need is their personally identifiable information un-encrypted and unattended in a government office or as e-files that could be compromised. This could be state and federal violations in the making.


We have yet to discover just how Kingston, Pa manages the PII issues.


According to Federal and State laws:

Personally Identifiable Information is:

 (1) An individual's first name or first initial and last name in combination with and linked to any one or more of the following data elements when the data elements are not encrypted or redacted:

 (i) Social Security number.

 (ii) Driver's license number or a State identification card number issued in lieu of

 a driver's license.

 (iii) Financial account number, credit or debit card number, in combination with

 any required security code, access code or password that would permit access to an individual's financial account


SO, when a tenant pays in the form of a check, Kingston may obtain additional information it wouldn't otherwise have.

It may be a driver's license number, or other linking information.

The check routing number, account number as well as the address is on the check.

Do they keep a hard copy of the check or driver's license?

Do they redact the numbers?

How do they protect the information when it is a hard copy?

When converting it to a file - e-file, do they restrict access to the folder on a share drive? 

Do they email it, if so encrypted?

Do they have a program to shred/delete the information after a certain period?


This information is enough to cause major damage in the case of a breach (a way too often occurrence) and exactly why laws were passed to protect PII. On the surface, Kingston is setting itself up for a lawsuit because no where public (to our knowledge) have they specified just how they will protect this extra information for individuals who rent and it is they who will suffer in the event of identity theft.


Another consideration is if the tenant bounces a check - does Kingston report this to credit bureaus? Who pays the bank fee? Do they arrest the tenant? And what if the tenant doesn't pay? Does the city take the expense of not only moving to evict the tenant, but store the personal property as well??

Technically, the tenant doesn't have a contract with Kingston - so payment is voluntary. 

Seems as if maybe the Kingston solicitor didn't think this through.


This is most likely where the idea came from:


"The landlord/Tenant act of 1951: Section 250.206. Statement of Escrowed Funds

Whenever an agency or department certifies that a dwelling is uninhabitable and a tenant elects to pay rent into an escrow account established under the act of January 24, 1966 (1965 P.L. 1534, No. 536), referred to as the City Rent Withholding Act, it shall be the duty of the certifying agency or department to submit a monthly statement of escrowed funds to the landlord affected by first class mail."


If an agency CERTIFIES that a dwelling is uninhabitable - why are the tenants still there? This is one of those outdated dumb laws you hear about - still in effect such as "A special cleaning ordinance bans housewives from hiding dirt and dust under a rug in a dwelling."



The Power Of A Pen And A Smile

Who is more feared: the police officer or the code enforcement officer? Police officers have a tough job going after criminals and generally holding back the forces of anarchy. Yes, they too are used by politicians to "raise revenues" as allowed by the Commonwealth Of Pa. but appeals for a traffic ticket are very inexpensive and the judges are surprisingly fair (unless you really are a menace to society).


Code Enforcement Officers are another thing. They always are polite and take great pride in finding a torn screen, rusty bolt discoloring the siding, or some bizarre International Building Code violation born in California knowing, as in Pittston's case, that an appeal to the Board is more expensive than the permit (until you find out that you now need to bring everything up to the IRC 2009 standards). Besides, do we really believe the Cabal Board will be fair and impartial? Pittston City does have a history not exactly all about tomatoes.

A good recent example is a property on Center street Pittston. A disgruntled tenant, upset over the idea that rent was overdue (imaging THAT), called Code Enforcement Officer Harry Smith to get even with the owner. The REAL problem was the tenant who turned the place into a convenient dumpster. Smith placed orange stickers "unfit for human habitation" and ordered the tenant out...ooops guess that backfired huh! Good call on Smith's part...

But that wasn't enough for Code Enforcement. Smith continued to cite for other areas not related including a replaced section of fence installed 1 1/2 years ago now needing a zoning permit @ $50. Heck, that won't do either, because the owner can simply clean up the trash (dumpster permit $25) and a relative could move in once Smith peels the stickers off changing the occupancy to NOT being a rental.

And so Smith places a CONDEMNED sticker citing "UNSAFE STRUCTURE" Section 108.1.1 of the Property Maintenance Code which states that the structure is unstable and in danger of partial or complete collapse...a mobile home?? In an earthquake, a mobile home that's strapped down is safer than a brick home that COULD collapse. A mobile home is a vehicle - a trailer with wheels...Makes a person wonder just what the Pennsylvania UCC teaches inspectors in order to be qualified as structural inspectors.

Demolition permit @ $105. Of course then came the actual cost for demolition, landfill, etc.




First They Came For My Neighbor...And I did Not Speak Out

Yes, and then they came for you - alone with no one to speak for. This of course is in reference to the cowardice German intellectuals who watched the Nazis rise to power eliminating one group after another. 


Not about Nazis (not yet at least) this comment has more to do with those who sit back and watch ordinary men rise to seemingly untouchable power oppressing those they can - while "little people" are afraid to take a stand. By not offering a challenge, the nightmare eventually becomes reality. This is true of criminals and politicians. Both never make profits as they take from those who produce. The degree of their success depends on the willingness of the good to oversee and act.

And so it is, in NEPA...we are faced with the Cabal who have enriched themselves and friends off the backs of taxpayers. It's a growing problem throughout red-inked boroughs and cities struggling with the bad economies they over decades help create.

To balance books, they must get revenue AND trim the fat. Under the guise of safety, Pittston City created a very expensive rental program - when compared to other cities across the commonwealth. Let's keep in mind that most fire related deaths happen in single family homes - while this ordinance targets landlords...for now. The Property Maintenance Code, by the way, can be used against ANY one's home. It's only a matter of time, when Pittston wants to push "safety".

Heck, it you want to talk safety, more people are killed by drunk drivers and yet Pittston hired a manager from a small town in New Jersey who was arrested for drunk driving and possession of marijuana...safety? Puleeese! It's revenue especially when they continued to hire an aggressive Code Enforcement Officer who left Forty Fort while under investigation for targeting political opponents and providing political favors...so said City Solicitor Falcone. To be fair, the CE Officer said his leaving had nothing to do with the investigation...and we have beach front property in Pittston for sale if you believe that one.

LAWSUIT FILED !!!
NEPALTA vs. The City Of Pittston

Yes, we are...this time we have a law firm from Pittsburgh who has an impressive record in dealing with ordinances. The first set of Interrogatories is in Pittston's solicitor's hands. We want accountability and transparency to determine the ordinances' validity especially the fees charged and property confiscation. More information in the "Press Release" section of the website.

The fact is: we pulled our case out of a sure defeat (going federal) and now have a methodological approach better suited for Commonwealth Courts. At any time, Pittston could save their insurance company's (and down the road taxpayers') money by coming to the table - but the Cabal will force the issue as they did before. That's an easy prediction.

The question is, now that property owners see their aggressive approach to make housing less affordable by fees and fines trying to bring old but safe homes up to the big city standards, will they join us...or will they watch and hope the lanky Grim Reaper with his iPad passing by their door doesn't notice Property Maintenance Code violations one didn't know existed?

Join us today or donate. Membership is confidential, but your voice will be heard and no one can say "you didn't speak out".






The town that paid back permit fees plus interest

Pennsylvania really does want to have nice and safe living conditions. In order to achieve this goal, PA gives specific powers to boroughs to help the locals put together requirements (such as a property maintenance code as needed) and the authority to enforce regulations. This is across the board properties, not just rentals. 


That being said, rental property owners are a minority and because they wish to do business by leasing, the boroughs can require a license to operate. Putting together a rental licensing program which may include a safety inspection, should not cost rental property owners any more than the average cost elsewhere. If it does charge in excess, they may be considered levying a tax Pennsylvania forbids. There are enough ways the commonwealth allows local governments to raise revenues, but not in this manner. If you ever got a ticket while driving...yes, congratulations you just helped raise revenue and it IS authorized. Getting a local lawyer may get the ticket thrown out but now you've just sent money to a lawyer who knows a politician...never mind.

And so it went, that the PA Supreme Court upheld a decision by J. Sanchez March 17th, 2003 that West Chester's Code, Ch 66, Article 10, which imposes fees and charges as VOID. Further, the borough was required to reimburse all fees paid WITH INTEREST since 1997. Whoa...that was back when there was such a thing as interest! At any rate, food for thought as we begin to analyze Pittston's rental program.



We're BACK!

Now that the Arctic Circle has retreated, it's time to get down to business.

It's official now that NEPALTA is a member of PROA, the Pennsylvania Residential Owners Association as a local chapter serving Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wayne, and surrounding communities. The connections we have provide quite a reach and becoming a member of NEPALTA provides the additional benefit of being part of PROA. There is a yearly fee, but it's quite low when you consider  the benefits.

At any rate, we are making progress in helping Duryea create a common sense approach to their version of the Property Maintenance Code which applies to all buildings. Since there is NO requirement for boroughs/towns/cities to adopt the code as it is, the PA Borough Code suggest creating a custom version. Common sense dictates that when you have a financially depressed area (thanks to the Chamber Of Commerce bozos) you can't adopt the code as it is written because everyone will be homeless.

Pittston: "I mean people, can't we all just get along?" Apparently not... well, we'd like to think we can - in fact we'll try to open up a channel for communications over their rental inspection ordinance and the infamously bizarre Chronic Nuisance Ordinance which really applies to ALL buildings...yes - single family homes - you too. Since they adopted a strict version of the Property Maintenance Code, they ALREADY have the means for inspections on properties unfit for habitation. So why inspect NEW rentals? This couldn't possibly be a form of a tax, would it? This would be one of several topics to discuss hoping to work through civilly or work our way up in Commonwealth Courts. If I were Pittston's insurance company, I'd pay attention...profit is a good thing and having careless clients is hazardous to your wealth!


Meeting with W/B Real Estate Investors Association

What local governments run by ordinance happy folks count on is (a) the residents' not being informed, (b) inability to get together, and (c) the unwillingness to take action. Oh, sure you ALWAYS have the complainers, and there's probably an old book council members use on how to deal with "those" people. In the end the new laws rarely are challenged and life gets tougher.

Another issue is that fear we used to see in the old Soviet days, where people who speak are...re-educated. And this isn't necessarily unwarranted paranoia. A certain individual with rentals living in Leningrad next to Duryea got slammed with crippling expensive inspections after speaking out at a town hall meeting. Yes, you keepah you mouth shut, comrade! 

Most normally operated local governments respect people's basic Bill of Rights guaranteed in Pennsylvania and America...but there's a few who have emancipated themselves from the yoke of any Constitutional Law...because they can. This should raise the blood pressure of any self-respecting veteran of military service - the blood, sweat, and tears shed by so many though the ages mocked by a few brats drunk with power. It must be said, though,  that certain individuals really have the best interest in mind for safety, but are simply misinformed.

Well, NEPALTA sees a need to be filled. Once we identify issues, we desire an informal meeting to discuss discrepancies regarding property ordinances. Understanding the needs to correct blight conditions, we seek to find a common sense approach that fits this depressed area.

But the reality is that there are individuals who have elevated themselves, not as public servants, but as lords. That's what elections are for in THIS country and litigation in the meantime to keep them from becoming lazy.

 And so to those who have donated, we appreciate knowing others are willing to do their part in the quest for better government BY the people.


Inspections...safety, revenue, a third way?

Some people could not care less...even a red light doesn't get their attention. If they only killed themselves careless individuals would only keep responding agencies busy. But the fact is that the rest of us have a target on our backs. 


And so is the initial thoughts of why we need safety inspections and government to enforce the concept (like health insurance - just kidding). The secondary thought is, hey, my brother-in-law needs a job and the state is offering a course. Let's also keep in mind tertiary motivational thinking such as fines for non-compliance brings in much needed revenue and finally property confiscation via condemned for urban renewal. (Eminent Domain doesn't work well in PA for this).

But what about the rest of the responsible landlords? What did they do BEFORE government stepped in with code enforcement beyond property maintenance? 
To make money, (which really IS a good thing!) one needs to offer a great product. He/she buys property, then remodels it which does four things:
1. Generates income for other businesses (supplies/labor) and government (permits/inspectors)
2. Allows for higher tax assessment via higher property value
3. Attracts tenants most likely well employed (NOT section 8) to afford the higher rent which
4. Pays local income tax - something Wilkes-Barre apparently doesn't want while playing whack a mole...but I digress.

So chances are good that landlords HAVE been been self-inspecting to get the best paying client in the apartment/house. It has been in the best interest of the landlord to keep an eye on the property so the tenant doesn't destroy it, AND to inspect it after the tenant leaves to see if the security deposit needs to be kept to help get the place back in top shape for a new tenant. In addition, insurance companies that want to stay in business are doing their own safety inspections.

But alas, we still have the "careless" types who, like in any business, gives everyone else a bad name. Renting is a business of course, and like a hot dog stand still one must be subject to rules since it only takes ONE bad Wiener...

Our humble suggestion:
A Rental License program within the jurisdiction of a borough, issues licenses to landlords who have met requirements the license mandates. One major requirement is Self Inspection Certification. The federal Public Housing Authority has a list of concerns each dwelling must meet for Section 8. Adopting the same list assures that:
1. Federal standards for renting are met.
2. Landlords won't have to deal with Code Enforcement who some at times sees all landlords as criminals looking for an opportunity.
3. The need to get unnecessary administrative warrants disappears.
4. Landlords may be covered in the event of lawsuits and/or prevention of. It may also help in the case of evictions. If a landlord follows the city's program faithfully, how will the judge view the landlord?
5. The cooperation between government and landlords is enhanced.

QUESTIONS
1) But what about urban blight? 
That's what the borough's adopted version of the Property Maintenance Code (custom fit for the region) is for, and BTW, it's for all properties/businesses.

2) Will landlords actually be able to inspect items on the list? 
Absolutely - it's not like "the code of codes" where only the Rosicrucians could decipher and for those who still can't inspect, independent building inspectors could be hired to "certify" the results or not until something is fixed. But the PHA inspection list is easy common sense stuff. Doesn't pass? No penalty - just don't apply for the license until you have it fixed.

3) How will the borough know that the landlord inspected? 
Landlords will sign a notice of inspection completed certifying requirements met.

4) Do you honestly think landlords will self-inspect? 
Not all, (again, most do anyway) but signing that one "certified" means if they lied they committed fraud which the law penalizes and there are several ways to get caught...i.e - a potential renter may NOT be who you think which probably will be an invitation for code enforcement to perform the inspection...yeah, oh no.

So in closing, we again push for better living standards, higher quality landlords, while keeping government honest by not using a rental program to raise revenue and impose inspections when not necessary. It also makes for a great business atmosphere that a government can facilitate.



The Quiet Changes

Haven't gotten around to commenting on Wilkes-Barre's change to their rental program at the end of 2013...they seem to be leaving the PA UCC's Certificate of Occupancy alone in favor of a license. Maybe what we've been saying all along finally makes sense that a building can't be ruled unsafe because of a FORMER tenant's lack of discipline with the law. Or maybe they figured out that if you eventually throw everyone out, you have a lot of vacant buildings...no income tax, LOTS of tumbleweeds rolling down the streets.

Tumbleweed Snowman
Yes, it is a Tumbleweed Snowman!


Seriously Wilkes-Barre, The reason why you have drugs and violence is because of the DEMAND for drugs from people of ALL income levels - who most probably live in nice homes with mom and dad having to work 60 hours a week (2 jobs) because of the "low standard of living" local governments and the Chamber of Commerce successfully achieved. 


And then there was the case of the missing ordinance. Since our lawsuit with Pittston (the spell checker wants to correct to "Spittoon"?) ordinance no 4 of 2008 "Chronic Nuisance Property ordinance" is MIA...can't find it online but we still have a pdf copy on the membership education page. It appears to have been removed from view... hey, don't look at the man behind the curtain!
Ordinance no 4 of 2012, however, is a REAL nuisance ordinance referencing dog owners who let them deficate then walk away like the stuff evaporates. No...it attracts flies and rats people, not to mention harbor infectious diseases (parvo) other dogs get when they see it as a convenient snack. Just sayin...take baggies when you go for a walk. Couldn't agree with THIS ordinance more.






NEPALTA to join up with PROA

Started in 1986, the Pennsylvania Residential Owners Association is a statewide association representing over 8,000 landlords and 100,000 rental units. They represent the interest of residential rental owners in Pennsylvania state government by providing full time lobbying in the state legislature. One area they would like to have a presence in has been the northeastern part of Pennsylvania, giving folks the ability to become members via chapters. NEPALTA is happy to become a chapter with such a successful organization.

PROA provides lots of fantastic benefits for members from huge discounts at stores to educational material to help with the quest for excellence in providing housing.

Very important is a track record of successful litigation and actions regarding cities that target property owner rights via ordinances falling outside Pa laws and intent. And so now the reason for not going federal...we have a voice with the state.

On the legislative side, there are currently 41 common sense house bills relating to rentals such as amendments to the Landlord Tenant Act to help landlords deal with restrictions placed on them. Being a member facilitates your voice, as a minority, being heard by those who create the laws local governments follow.

Pennsylvania Residential Owners Association

For members, we will be having a meeting with the executive director of PROA where she will go over the program and benefits. Members will receive an email regarding the meeting. This is closed to membership only with NEPALTA, but once rolling as a chapter of PROA, NEPALTA will be glad to assist with membership questions.


NEPALTA's Motion To Withdraw Complaint

The City of Pittston made the motion to move the case to federal court since there was language about "rights". While we have individual rights under the US Constitution, we have rights under Pennsylvania's Constitution, the Bill Of Rights, that pretty well covers the same and in some cases (i.e. firearms) even better.

The issue here is a matter of jurisdiction. Pennsylvania has codes/laws and other mandates that guide municipalities’ ordinances. Federal courts (as in the case of Berwick) have proven to not address state matters properly if at all. Therefore the decision was NEPALTA's to bring the complaint back into the Commonwealth courts where they are in a more appropriate position to review ordinances and compare with the intent.

As always, we are for property rights and safety for residents. Moves by a select few to jeopardize rights, make housing unaffordable, and create a hostile business environment should and will be challenged.


Rental inspections vs. Rights

There's nothing more disturbing than government officials breaching your castle...looking for something...anything. If one would ask these same officers, they would feel the same - not MY house! Yet, when municipalities (boroughs/cities/etc) adopt the International Property Maintenance Code, they are bound by the letter of the code which states ALL buildings; business, homeowners - if it's property in that municipality it is subject to invasion. You may deny entrance (and should), telling the officials respectfully to get a warrant and they will return with an Administrative warrant IF they have reasonable cause or it is part of a program for safety. Pennsylvania did not adopt any of the Property Maintenance Codes, but does encourage municipalities to adopt and enforce their own version. And so PA tells the towns that it's okay to have a property code - but do shy away from adoption.

The issue with the state is safety and blight. NEPALTA is a firm believer in safety and strives for excellence with the business of renting. When it comes to inspections, landlords by nature self-inspect because they have a direct interest in maintaining their property values and not subject themselves to lawsuits. Insurance companies increasingly have more strict inspections in order to insure a rental property.

In addition, the Supreme Court Of Pennsylvania ruled that tenants could sue for monetary loss due to the landlord's breach of the "Warranty of Habitability" (Pugh v Holmes) each lease has. Tenants may opt to spend the rent on items that needs fixed (within reason) without ramifications - the courts back them up. They may also call local code enforcement if the landlord does not comply.

And so because the self-inspection process has been working for many years - it is a hard case to argue that the governments NEED to change inspections...unless there are other motives. True, just as there are bad politicians, there are bad landlords but we have yet to see evidence that across the board ordinances help. They do serve to raise the cost of housing hurting the low wage "workers". Associations like NEPALTA may serve to assist landlords behind the curve to provide the tools to improve their buildings and choices of whom they lease to with the benefits package soon to be released.

In the meantime, because the Commonwealth Of Penna. has authorized boroughs to adopt and enforce a form of a property maintenance code (for ALL buildings), NEPALTA has been working with places like Duryea to ensure (a) they are least intrusive to homeowners yet address blatant neglect (tires, junked vehicles, dangerous items of concern, etc), and (b) create a separate "Rental Program" ordinance to address basic concerns of safety while ensuring the primacy of the PA Uniform Construction Code, and the privacy of the tenants once in place.

It's a balance that is workable and Duryea should be applauded for taking the initiative to create an ordinance for the people and by the people.

As it always goes, there are people to the extreme on both sides who either want anarchy or a dictatorship. Our message is to run for political office and modify if not throw out the ordinances. It is your right to do so BECAUSE we don't have anarchy or a dictatorship.

Duryea elected officials decided to recommend that the Borough Council table the proposed ordinances

It was an 11th hour get together with Duryea's Mayor Keith Moss, Councilman Michael McGlynn, and Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Pisanchyn today (Dec 9). After researching the proposed ordinace, we needed to have the urgent meeting to bring out discrepancies seen as a problem not only for landlords, but more so for residents and the borough as well. The great thing about the elected officials in Duryea, is that they are willing to meet and discuss ordinaces before they are passed rather than create all the drama we see in other towns after the fact. Not everyone who writes ordinances understand the role of the PA UCC and have a tendency to blend other ordinances in with the state statute. We applaud the mayor, councilman, and code enforcement officer for taking the initiative to recommend that the Borough Council table the proposed ordinances, pending review by the Borough Solicitor.

Duryea will have a program for the business of renting and safety really is a concern here. The process doesn't have to be oppressive and cost prohibitive though as well as a challenge to individual rights, which the Commonwealth of Pa recommends caution. There is a healthy balance that can be achieved; still there will be unhappy people who want no regulations and in that case, the farther from civilization you get...the closer you'll be in achieving that goal.


Pittston request 30 days

We filed the suit (ordinance No. 4, and various other issues). Our intent is to protect the rights of property owners. No where in the so-called 3-strikes clause is the term 'landlord" used. It is about PROPERTY owners. The other issues have to do with fees other municipalities don't charge which show this to be a money making event, NOT for safety as they say. This only serves to drive the price of housing up for families who are struggling to ensure Pittston doesn't need to tighten the purse strings like the rest of us. Did their pay go down?

The solicitor of Pittston requested 30 days to reasearch - out of professional courtesy, we did allow this extension since WE are the reasonable party.


Wilkes-Barre's One Strike

Rust never sleeps...Not that we haven't been playing cards, in fact it's been busy.

Certain local municipalities are using code enforcement to enforce ordinances outside the boundaries of the adopted PA UCC. In the quest to appeal a code enforcement decision for Mr. Peters, it was certainly expected that the Board of Appeals will standy by the city's ordinance even though the PA UCC section 403.121 states qualifications for the members are neutral...I'll bet with an audit there's vilolations, but I digress. 

The best course of action may be the State Supreme Court where it will be proven that the one strike clause against a property owner does not fall in the jurisdiction of the PA UCC statute. At that point is becomes a Constitutional issue I'll bet the Commonwealth sides with the owner. Regardless of the owner's decision, we'll press on to show Wilkes-Barre is using building code for law enforcement. And for those who think this works - the "perps" can move to the Sherman Hills sanctuary.


All for one...

Great movie.


From Condemned to Good Government...?

 

We heard about Michaelene's situation (order to vacate in 5 days) and a neighbor business via concerned NEPALTA member Steve. From the news images it seemed as though the buildings appeared dilapidated and hearing the comments (on a local station) from half drunk people didn't peak an interest until the Times Leader Story by Jerry Lynott who by the way is a real journalist - quite rare - was read.

"Two independent structural engineer inspections, done at the request of the city shopping the properties to a potential developer, indicated her building at 67 S. Main St. is structurally sound". Whoah...potential developer's (cough sharks) engineers say the structure is safe...yet the mayor stands by the action of the building's condemnation. Fascinating! Could the mayor be a certified building inspector, certified structural engineer, AND also mayor?? Of course having knowledge of the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code and Wilkes-Barre's adoption favors the idea that something ain't right here and that the statute may be violated.

We (NEPALTA) just need a hearing via APPEAL, and if the Board Of Appeals denies the request to un-condemn the property, we go to the Pennsylvania Court Of Common Pleas where the excrement hits the fan. The fact is, there is a procedure to condemning a structure and it involves non-compliance. Place 1 property is in compliance (needs a new awning and a surface facelift), but the structure did not warrant proceedings to vacate and demolish it. The correct action for the city interested in the Place 1 property is eminent domain where the owner is paid for the building/property. But Wilkes-Buried (they actually have a link on their website telling us how to pronounce it – LOL) was determined to kick the owner out, demolish the building, bill the owner, placing a lien which would ruin a credit record...time to contact owner.

The 11/04/13 email contained all the information regarding the PA UCC “misinterpretations” that were forwarded to the Harrisburg based lawyer representing the owner. BTW, if you fight an ordinance/decision locally, you need to get an outside attorney (as we do with John Bradley, esq, Philadelphia). If you wish to negotiate, you need a “connected” attorney who is in the back pocket of other politician friends…just sayin...we're all adults here right?

A visit to Ms. Coffee revealed that there was a THIRD inspection by a structural engineer concurring the other engineers. After revealing to her of NEPALTA’s email containing the appropriate PA UCC information regarding the Order to Vacate and Condemn she forwarded it to her attorney. At this point, we have given him an arsenal of information to present an appeal.

Finally, her day 5 (November 7th) has arrived and the calls to save the building still rings out.

NEPALTA placed phone calls to the PA UCC in preparation for a possible denial while assembling together an appeal packet designed to not only stay the order to condemn but lift the order to vacate based on the (3) independent structural analysis.

NEPALTA delivered the APPEAL packet along with notice of PETITION OF HEARING to be placed in the windows to legally stop the order to demolish had it proceeded. Michaelene, being overwhelmed with the information, forwarded it to her attorney which was advised, but with a sense of urgency.

News at 11:00 pm, Wilkes-Barre council reverses action to demolish, opting to do all it can to preserve the structures with bids from reputable firms (translated: getting a reputable engineering firm to disassemble buildings rather than the planned GP bomb dropped from a B-52H).

Great news for Ms. Coffee and Wilkes-Barre officials who dodged high blood pressure causing ramifications. The idea that the council's ruling to reverse a certified building inspector's decision to condemn a "dangerous and unsafe" building because of customer's outcry is strange...but a face saving move.

NEPALTA, the silent partner, trolls on...

Below is the final email/hand delivered packet from NEPALTA made for her 11th hour appeal (cut short by officials and attorneys)

CITY OF WILKES-BARRE PENNSYLVANIA

CODE ENFORCEMENT BOARD OF APPEALS

PETTITION FOR HEARING

Michaelene Coffee

Place 1 At The Hollywood

67 South Main Street

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701

(570) 823-1164

TYPE OF VIOLATION: (Unknown/CONDEMNATION)

REASON FOR HEARING REQUEST

Wilkes-Barre, a party to the PA UCC agreement (6/11/2004) “administers and enforces the PA UCC, shall hear and rule on appeals”. I therefore respectfully appeal the condemned action requesting a hearing as per PA Uniform Construction Code Chapter §403.121 to present three independent engineering firms’ concurrence that the building on property known as “Place 1 At The Hollywood”, 67 South Main Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA is structurally sound and that the true intent of the UCC was incorrectly interpreted by the inspecting code official.

§403.83: (a) The Code official has not shown “violations of the UCC” to initiate closing my building. Due to the lack of evidence, this provision does not apply. (b)The order did not contain grounds for the action, nor a notice that “the owner shall submit within 30 days a written answer to the notice”.

§403.84: (a)(c) The order to vacate did not state “required repairs or improvements”. Since my building has been determined by three certified structural engineers as sound and compliant, the city’s building inspector only under §401.7(6)(ii) could not have comparable credentials to declare the same structure as “unsafe” unless he has the same degree of expertise. In that case, a hearing is necessary to bring the four parties together and review the building inspector’s qualifications vs. structural engineers’ determination.

§403.84 (e) I was not given the opportunity to abate or correct the unsafe condition warranting condemning because my building is in full compliance with the Uniform Construction Code.

Because certified structural engineers have determined that my building is structurally sound, I respectfully ask that the order to vacate (§403.84) be suspended as any enforceable action as stated in §403.122 (c) until the matter is resolved.  


**Notice to Code Enforcement officials in NEPA:  We sincerely embrace safety and appreciate Pennsylvania's effort to standardize the code. Stay within the parameters of the PA UCC and "approved" ordinances via PA UCC actions on submitted amendments. Politicians will throw you under the bus, which is why you need to contact us with questions.

 


When government officials come to your door

Freedom Foundation Conner Edwards:

As restrictions of what you can do with your own property continue to multiply, government employees from all jurisdictions are finding new justifications to pay you a visit.

 When government employees want to access your property, here are some basic rules of thumb:

1. If they don't have a warrant - don't give them access.

2. If they do have a warrant - you can't stop them, but contact the court who issued the warrant and verify it.

3. Videotape as much of the warrant access and search process as possible. Do not impede the search, but document it.

4. Say nothing at all if the warrant is valid. Government employees have used statements to justify "obstruction" charges. Just don't say anything.

 

 Doormats for sale: click on image



Land taken from a103-year old lady

For those who don't believe central planners are actively using eminent domain, in the city of Seattle, the city council voted unanimously Monday to use eminent domain to take the private property of its owner, a 103 year old lady. It was a parking lot she had owned.

Most observers believe that when Seattle’s Big Dig is done and the Viaduct construction is over, this woman’s land will be prime real estate worth far more than what the City of Seattle will pay by seizing it now.

Thank the Supreme Court Judges, who see the "good of the masses" outweighing individual rights. Votes for certain Presidents made that happen.

Seattle graduated from using awkwardly written ordinances to outwardly grabbing land using eminent domain. This could only be possible with comatose citizens that didn't see the need to elect politicians with a firm Constitutional grounding.



Pittston: Three strikes on who?

Ordinance no. 4, Section 6 (b): “The failure to prosecute an individual, or the fact no one has been convicted of a crime is NOT a defense to a chronic nuisance action”.

Breaker Boys

1911: South Pittston History

While applying for the “Rental Occupancy Permit”, landlords are ordered to place the 3-strike clause in the tenant’s lease…well, not really – Pittston says that part was removed from the application…but didn’t post the new application, yet…but if you didn’t send the “not-to-be-used” application in by now, you already received the second notice to comply. Hey Pittston – is the pdf software guy on vacation? Click HERE for the new one above the invalid application courtesy of NEPALTA.

 

 It is notable that government is dictating contracts terms between two parties in a business transaction. But they, unlike Forty-Fort, have backed out. It would be much better for a landlord while sued by a tenant to have proof of involuntary servitude. One has to keep in mind that children most likely are involved and they have quite an adjustment from one school to another, new friends, etc…. and lawyers are hungry IF they can get there before the ACLU (hello Wilkes-Barre).

 

 The (3) Three Strikes clause IS A MISNOMER

 

Chronic Nuisance Properties (Guide on how to get rid of neighbors) 

 

Ordinance No. 4, in place since July 16, 2008, is Pittston’s version of the Chronic Nuisance Properties issue that most municipalities have in place. Please do note that this ordinance is for ALL properties, not just those owned by landlords…and you thought it was only about getting rid of slumlords! 

 

What constitutes being labeled chronic nuisance property?

If the owner/occupants are “accused of” at or near (define?) the property:

Stalking, harassment, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, assault, domestic violence crimes, reckless, endangerment, prostitution/patronizing a prostitute, public disturbance noises, lewd conduct, firearms/weapons violations, drug related loitering, any drug activity, any dangerous animal violations and finally, the catch all: (drum roll) “Any nuisance as defined by state law or local ordinance occurring on or around, or near the property such as unauthorized and junk vehicles, barking dog, cutting grass, shoveling snow too early in the morning,  fire code, health and sanitation.” – let’s cut to the chase…complaints from a neighbor who doesn't like you.

 

It makes no difference if the person had a trial! After three or more occurrences (within 60 days), the Chief of Police “MAY” review (or not) the documentation of nuisances before the property owner is warned in writing that the property is about to be declared a “chronic nuisance property”. If the property owner responds as needed (kick out the tenant, divorce the significant whatever, no more Sunday football, etc), the matter settles down, though you’ll be watched. If another nuisance occurs (no time time limit) – the city may declare your house a “Chronic Nuisance Property” and the Commencement of Action is Ejectment (recover the possession of the land).

 

 Again note: From Ordinance no. 4, Section 6 (b): “The failure to prosecute an individual, or the fact no one has been convicted of a crime is NOT a defense to a chronic nuisance action”. 

 All they need are complaints - whether or not you're guilty, it makes no difference according to the ordinance. Due process of law? Please enlighten us in the comment part of this.

Recap:

1. This is a two strikes ordinance for the HOME owner, NOT the tenant. In Forty-Fort's ordinance, §11-202. Compilation of Three Strikes it clearly states "tenant has reached three strikes."    

 

2. Once declared a Chronic Nuisance Property, even if you remedy the situation, the next nuisance call to the police (no time frame set) may commence the ejectment process. The ordinance states 3 occurrences in two months starts the process. Working out a remedy (i.e. kicking out a tenant) only puts the enforcement on hold.

Forty-Fort's ordinance is as follows:

§11-204. Length of Time for a Strike  

 

A strike, regardless of how obtained, will remain on record on the “three strikes and you’re out list” for 5 years. Each strike will be documented with a date and after 5 years, "a" strike will be removed from the record. Ord. 2007-9, 12/3/2007, §4

 (Question for Forty-Fort...if the tenant with two strikes moves into another apartment, do the strikes follow the tenant or does it stay with the landlord?)

 Back to Pittston:

 3. If you have neighbors that you don’t like, now you know how the process works.

4. Tenants may use the nuisance ordinance on homeowners as well…just sayin homeowners…wake up!

 

 

Fun Facts About Pittston, PA


Pittston to make changes to inspection

Pittston to make changes to inspection law
October 12. 2013 5:37PM

Obviously due to the NEPA LTA efforts to address grievances members and those who participated in the process had, the City of Pittston has sent out a press release prior to the Town Hall Meeting, their desire to work with us and be reasonable with what we know is a process to enforce the adopted PA UCC.

Attorney John Bradley presented the concerns to the Pittston City Solicitor Sam Falcone who advised the council. The results we look forward to:

Lowered fines (they ARE authorized by the UCC up to $1,000 p/d),

Extended times landlord have to fix problems from 10 -30 days (this is an issue if professionals and/or materials are not available and it saves on appeals)

We'd like to caution Joe Healey from the Sunday Dispatch or any media, to please contact us at (570) 589-0655, or use the contact us page to get an "official response" to press releases. Attorney John Bradley is also a contact for proper responses.

4th Amendment issue on UCC §403.86

NEPA LTA understands that the "Administrative Warrant" maybe used to gain entry to ALL buildings (homes/apartments, etc) if a Fire Code Official or a Code Enforcement Official has "reasonable cause" to believe the building, structure, or premises is unsafe. This warrant to intrude is CIVIL law, not criminal. Because lower courts have ruled in favor of the Administrative Warrants (for the purpose of safety/well being), until it reaches the Supreme Court and is overturned, the Administrative Warrant stands as constitutional. When an abuse of the Administrative Warrant is detected, however, we'll certainly address this from a different angle. The key is for officials to use this authority responsibly until a remedy is found.

LANDLORD'S HOMEOWNER INSURANCE INSPECTIONS:

We are in the process of looking into how insurance inspections compare to the "Property Maintenance Code" inspections. Because Pittston City (like most) is an "opt-in" UCC enforcer, Pittston determines who is allowed to perform inspections. It may be that insurance companies could save Pittston money while performing comparable inspections.


 

Admin meeting

The October 9th meeting was rather long going over the applicable PA Uniform Construction Code Statute, International Fire Code, and International Property Maintenance Codes. These are the meat of inspections (what they look for) combined with the 2003/2009 Existing Building Codes, and the 2009 International Residential Codes that apply for construction and remodeling. One good thing about living in a flood zone is everytime the house gets flooded, you're guaranteed to have the latest codes. Of course people in flood zones should consider everything costing more, but I digress....We get to know the codes and therefore we speak the same language as the code enforcers. Posted in the members section will the actual inspections be! And then you can't say that you didn't know!


Membership Drive and Website Change

As the NEPA LTA continues to grow, we're stressing more about membership to begin limiting meetings for members only. This enables us to get down to business as a group rather than be seen as an open town hall meeting where we see plenty of theatrics and bad manners on both sides.

Also, sections of the website once open to public are in the MEMBERS section which requires a membership/password. We're gathering all the ordinances, tips, meeting recordings, documents, tools, APPs,etc for the benefit of members. Communication and participation will pull together folks from NEPA in order to pull resources together. This association is not only for landlords, but tenants, homeowners, and people concerned with government out of the control of the people who hire them. There's big money in politics and without ordinary people stepping up to the plate, we'll all get steam rolled. Supporting NEPALTA could be financially, participation, membership drive, or even bringing donuts and coffee to the next meeting! Every effort helps!

JOIN today!


NEPALTA Town Meeting news

Good turn out from concerned folks in Pittston. Without participation, your government (at all levels) passes nefarious laws without consent of the governed in this case via Home Rule abuse. They do this to address crime without the Constitutional hassels, an irresponsible budget (impose federal-level fines, and attempt to push landlords out of business for reasons suspected as less than honorable. With lawsuits mounting, these schemes (for want of a better term) end up costing the city taxpayer more money as the challenges move into the state level.

People who rent really should pay attention because the cost gets passed down and/or apartment availability will be less. Your rights, as a tenant, have a target painted on them and homeowners will be next. Joining us will help you.

Attorney John Bradley (pre-meeting) spoke at great lengths about the 4th Amendment issues and types of warrants in the event the landlord/tenant are less cooperative. His audio is in the media part of the website. Become a member to hear his valuable advice and participate in future endeavors not only in Pittston, but as the name implies - NEPA.

The attorney spoke about the meeting with the Pittston City Solicitor, and the people expressed their concerns that we will address with the city. That audio is also available in the media section on the website.

Pittston City's Town Hall Meeting is Wednesday October 16, from 7-9 pm.

The article title below is a bit misleading. NEPA LTA doesn't need to "fight" cities, we like to simply convince them to work with us!

thetimes-tribute article Group to fight Pittston rental rules


TOWN MEETING SCHEDULED THURSDAY OCT 3rd

NEPA LTA's attorney met with the Pittston City Solicitor. The result is a Town Meeting, sponsored (paid for) by NEPALTA scheduled Thursday 10/3/13 @ 6 pm to discuss POSSIBLE revisions to the ordinance.

Please keep in mind Pittston City's willingness is to work with the association's concerns. Only with your participation can we help you. Non-participants should contact Pittston City about their issues.

We will discuss what has been brought up and move on to new concerns, while our attorney takes notes. We look forward to a productive SHORT meeting.

PRESS RELEASE, directions CLICK HERE

 

“Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won't make us happier.”
Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture


WHY JOIN?

WHY JOIN?

First, consider that as an individual citizen, you really don't have a say at the federal level. Local governing STILL affords the opportunity to address concerns --- IF you participate. Because people have NOT participated, ordinances (thanks to Home Rule) are being passed that are affecting our lives in a negative way.

As a coordinated group, an association of the like minded, we can better address the issues by using a logical-systematic process. With local governments trying to deal with the overwhelming demographic shift in the populations and the crime concerns, landlords and tenants are the targets.

Since law enforcement has warrant limitations, it's only logical to see landlords as a way to control who the tenants are by forcing landlords to include "anytime" inspections of occupancy which may end up costing the landlord not only in fines and loss of business, but possible lawsuits from forcing tenants to sign a bad lease agreement. What a great way to get to know the ACLU!

If the concern really were safety, would they not inspect homes as well? They absolutely could via administrative warrants – very general look around for safety concerns type of invasions.

As with most municipalities, there are three justifications for inspections:

1. Initial

2. Bi-annual

3. OTHER (use your imagination)

Consider Hazelton:

SECTION (8): INSPECTIONS

(e) The "Inspector" OR Code Enforcement Officer may also inspect units upon any of the following occurrences:

(1) Upon receipt of complaints; and/OR

(2) For ANY reasonable cause. (Note: reasonable cause allows for an Administrative Warrant that can be broad (safety check, general welfare, report of ghost, etc)

Hazelton's Ordinance: CLICK HERE

Inspectors defined:

The Police Chief, any Police Officer, Code Enforcement Officer, Fire Chief, Deputy Fire Chiefs, Health Officers, and Director of Public Works…Yes, how amazing that all the above are certified building inspectors!

WHO calls in complaints?

Anybody - anonymously. It could be legitimate, but there is room for abuse. From neighbors who don't like the occupant's ethnicity to political hacks who keep track of landlords that don't donate to the “correct” party, landlords are very vulnerable.

Regardless, the tenant is at the receiving end since they have to move whether guilty or not (no due process). Fees imposed by government will get passed on to the tenants making housing un-affordable for many poor.

While homeowners may see this as a great way to take back the neighborhood, keep in mind that PA's Uniform Construction Code statute does not mention landlords/tenants but does ALL buildings...all homes. It's a matter of will and resources to do so, but they have authority from PA to do so.

By the way, Hazelton announced that they would not be inspecting Section 8 housing. How cool is that? Accept whomever section 8 sends to your approved housing and you don't go through the hassles! And people wonder why Hazelton is a magnet for crime!

The NEPA LTA's goal therefore, is to guide and assist landlord members to provide the best safest affordable housing while raising the standard for tenants. With each city we wish to create a model where government and business work together keeping individual investors in business and housing affordable.


Pittston Town Hall Meeting 9/11/13

Pittston City Council meeting on 09/11/2013

With emotions running high, the Town Hall Meeting at best served the purpose of folks on both sides venting their frustrations over an ordinance imposed on landlords in particular. While behavior on behalf of citizens expressed outrage over oppressive laws which may lead to less affordable housing, some council members stood their ground over the ordinance in a rather obnoxious way fueling the emotions. What happened to the podium, guys?

Much of the problem stems from the nice sounding title of "Home Rule" where council passes ordinances without the process of including the public. Once the ordinance is passed, the people negatively affected of course feel the lack of representation and the desire to take legal action is created...because the local government failed to seek the consent of the governed.

NEPA LTA has taken the position that Pittston's ordinance needs addressed while understanding that there is a need not only for uniformity in codes, but the enforcement as well.


East Stroudsburg (Monroe County) meeting

Well attended and exciting meeting last night in Monroe County! Many in attendance were from the East Stroudsburg area and were happy to know that they have our organization to help them in regards to the new Residential Rental Unit ordinances being passed throughout our Commonwealth!


NEPA Landlord Tenant Homeowner Association

The LTA and Pittston City counsels met today concerning the ordinance changes and issues landlords who attended the LTA meeting have. While the suggestions to modifications are an on going process, Pittston is applauded for reaching out to the people (via Landlord Tenant Association) giving us a voice.

Please do participate whether directly or though the LTA!


 


Why doesn't someone do something...?

Isn't that the $ 64,000 question? Governments at all levels pass laws that affect us all at some point in our lives. Generally, the intention, when not grounded on constitutional principles, goes from well meaning to oppressive.

When a small group started out helping to protect the rights of landlords and tenants in NEPA from the abuses of local governments passing ordinances such as the Chronic Nuisance Property ordinance (Pittston, Pa) and Wikes-Barre's "one-strike from a tenant and you lose your property" ordinance designed to make problem tenants move to another apartment in W/B, the Landlord Tenant Association didn't realize that homeowners and the rights of homeowners were just as targeted. So our efforts include all property ownership.

FEDERAL SUPREME COURT: Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005)

It has been ruled that the use of eminent domain for economic development does not violate the public use clauses of the state and federal constitutions. Our wacky US Supreme Court held that if a legislative body has found that an economic project will create new jobs, increase tax and other city revenues, and revitalize a depressed urban area (even if that area is not blighted), then the project serves a public purpose, which qualifies as a public use!

ENTER the Commonwealth Of Pennsylvania: (And why voting counts!)

In 2006, as a reaction to this federal decision, Pennsylvania adopted the "PROPERTY RIGHTS PROTECTION ACT", senate bill 881.

This bill introduced a clearly tightened definition of the term “blight”. The bill prohibits the taking of private property for private enterprises, while also placing a timeline and limits on the use of the term blight.

In addition, this bill states that agricultural property cannot be deemed blight unless the Agricultural and Condemnation Approval Board determines that eminent domain is necessary to protect the health and safety of a community or neighborhood. However, the bill has some drawbacks concerning certain municipalities and counties in the state that have authority to condemn property that have already been deemed blighted under urban renewal laws (not to be confused with the power to deem a new property blighted). Just a few of the excluded cities are Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and luckily this provision will expire within the next decade.

Since Kelo v. City of New London,

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has taken significant measures to help protect and uphold the right to own private property. Timelines, limitations and restrictions on condemning authorities have helped curb eminent domain abuse in the state, and will hopefully bring future legislative reform to the state of Pennsylvania.

Summary

Local governments in Pennsylvania rightfully need to be careful about using eminent domain as the state government's position is property ownership protectors, something the US Supreme Court would rather see.
In addition, the local government's use of PA's Uniform Construction Code as a law enforcement tool (remove the occupancy permit) is clearly not part of the the intent of Chapter 403 of the adopted code, which is the safety of a structure. In addition, Pennsylvania did NOT adopt the "Property Maintenance Code" as law leaving each municipality open to individual suits depending on the abuse.
While the NEPA Landlord Tenant and Homeowner Association's desire is high standards for landlords and tenants, we need to address the impediment to progress put forth by misguided individuals in local governments. One of the goals besides litigation and state engagement is getting the least intrusive politicians in government that will facilitate a better business atmosphere.


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