Lawsuit Forces Borough to Update Use and Occupancy Ordinance
Glenolden Borough, in suburban Philadelphia, recently voted to update its use and occupancy ordinance to bring it into compliance with state law following a federal lawsuit brought by the Suburban Realtors® Alliance.
The Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act, which was amended with PAR-supported language by Act 133 of 2016, addresses point-of-sale inspection ordinances. Roughly half of the municipalities in the Philadelphia suburbs require point-of-sale inspections for property transfers. MCOCA requires municipalities to issue a permanent or temporary certificate following a use and occupancy inspection and to provide the new owner with at least 12 months to make any required repairs. Municipalities are also prevented from requiring escrowed funds where repairs are required.
This case was brought jointly by the SRA and Mohammed Rahman, a property owner who was required to deposit funds into escrow and make repairs in far less that 12 months, and who was then fined over $1,200 by the borough. The suit alleged that Glenolden Borough was not following the law and was instead utilizing non-compliant, abusive and illegal point-of-sale property inspection practices. As a result, the borough council voted to repeal the chapter of the borough code titled “Certificate of Occupancy,” and replace it with a new version that more clearly conforms with state law.
“Glenolden is finally doing the right thing. Unfortunately, it took us asking them repeatedly for three years, then filing a federal lawsuit to get to this point,” said Jamie Ridge, president and CEO of the SRA.
“The updated ordinance is great news for Glenolden residents and Realtors®, but it doesn’t change the fact that the borough has violated people’s rights for years,” Ridge said.
After MCOCA was amended in 2016, most municipalities updated their ordinances and procedures to comply, but some have retained illegal ordinances and inspection practices. “PAR worked to encourage the passage of the amendments to MCOCA. We’re working with local associations to ensure homebuyers aren’t being subjected to ordinances that are clearly not compliant with the intent of those amendments,” said PAR President Bill McFalls Jr.