[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Lancaster as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Article I Registration of Residential Rental Properties
[Adopted 2-10-2009 by Ord. No. 1-2009]
Editor's Note: This chapter also repealed former Ch. 238, Rental Property, adopted 9-9-2008 by Ord. No. 12-2008.
Except where the context clearly indicates otherwise, the terms used herein shall have the meanings ascribed to them in the City's Property Maintenance Code codified as Chapter 223 of the Code of the City of Lancaster. Additionally, the following words shall have the meaning ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates or requires a different meaning:
- The City of Lancaster, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
- CODE ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL/CODE OFFICIAL
- The code enforcement officers and officials of the City of Lancaster as defined in the Property Maintenance Code and other ordinances of the City of Lancaster.
- Any state or local code or ordinance adopted, enacted or in effect in and for the City of Lancaster, including, but not limited to, the Property Maintenance Code codified in Chapter 223 of the Code of the City of Lancaster.
- The County of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
- A. Any act by an occupant of a residential rental unit or by a person present at a residential rental unit that:
- (1) Is so loud, untimely as to the time of day, offensive and/or nuisance causing that it unreasonably interferes with the peaceful enjoyment by other persons of their premises or causes damage to property that is owned by others.
- (2) Involves music or noise that is disruptive to persons occupying a different dwelling unit.
- (3) Involves music that is audible from a street, sidewalk or dwelling from a minimum distance of 50 feet away from where the sound is originating.
- (4) Is the subject of a criminal citation for "disorderly conduct" under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code.
- (5) Is the subject of a criminal citation under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code or the Pennsylvania Liquor Code.
- (6) Involves the illegal possession of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia as defined by the Crimes Code or the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act.
- B. It is not necessary that such conduct, action, incident or behavior constitute a criminal offense, nor that criminal charges be filed against any person, in order for said person to have perpetrated, caused or permitted the commission of disruptive conduct, as defined herein; provided, however, that no disruptive conduct will be deemed to have occurred unless a police officer shall investigate and make a determination that such did occur, and keep written records, including a disruptive conduct report, of such occurrences. The occupant and the owner or, if applicable, the responsible agent shall be notified of any such occurrences, in writing.
- C. A domestic violence victim with a protection from abuse order shall not be subject to a disruptive conduct report if the police officer determines, after investigation, that the behavior complained of is the result of domestic violence.
- DISRUPTIVE CONDUCT LETTER
- A letter from the City advising that a disruptive conduct report has been filed and containing information, including the following:
- DISRUPTIVE CONDUCT REPORT
- A written report of disruptive conduct to be completed by a police officer, which shall be maintained by the Bureau of Police.
- A commercial lodging establishment that offers units for sleeping purposes to transient guests and which provides twenty-four-hour service for receiving and assisting guests.
- Any person over one year of age living and sleeping in a residential rental unit or having actual possession of such residential rental unit.
- Any person, agent, operator, property management group, housing authority or fiduciary having legal, equitable or other interest in any real property; as recorded in the official records of the state, county or municipality as holding title to the real property; or otherwise having control of the real property, including the guardian of the estate of such person and the executor or administrator of such person's estate. When used in this chapter in a clause proscribing any activity or imposing a penalty, the term, as applied to partnerships and associations, shall mean each general partner; as applied to corporations, the officers thereof; and as applied to limited liability companies, the members and any mangers thereof.
- Any natural person, partnership, association, limited liability company, corporation, firm or other similar entity.
- RESIDENTIAL RENTAL OCCUPANCY LICENSE
- A document issued annually by the Bureau of Code Enforcement of the City of Lancaster to the owner, operator, responsible agent or manager of a residential rental unit certifying the unit as licensed for being rented. Such license is required for lawful rental and occupancy of residential rental units, unless a Code Enforcement Officer certifies that violations of the applicable codes are being corrected or is a registered rental unit awaiting inspection. Whenever the word "license" is used herein, it shall mean "residential rental occupancy license" as defined in this definition.
- RESIDENTIAL RENTAL PROPERTY
- Any parcel of real estate, including land and all buildings and appurtenant structures and dwellings thereon that contain therein one or more residential rental units. Whenever the word "property" is used herein, it shall mean residential rental property as defined in this definition.
- RESIDENTIAL RENTAL REGISTRATION
- The document issued by the City of Lancaster to the owner, operator, responsible agent or manager of a residential rental property evidencing the existence of said residential rental property. A residential rental registration shall be required for lawful rental and licensing of residential rental units contained in said property. Rental registration does not warrant the proper zoning, habitability, safety, or condition of the residential rental unit in any way. Whenever the word "registration" is used herein, it shall mean "residential rental registration" as defined by this definition.
- RESIDENTIAL RENTAL UNIT
- A rooming unit, a dwelling let for rent; or a residential unit occupied by any persons other than are occupied solely by the owner and members of the owner's family. Each individual townhouse dwelling, each individual apartment unit, each individual unit in a multifamily building, each individual unit in a two-family dwelling, and each rooming unit shall be considered a separate residential rental unit. A residential rental unit shall not include a hospital room utilized for medical services. Whenever the word "unit" is used herein, it shall mean "residential rental unit" as defined by this definition.
- RESPONSIBLE AGENT OR MANAGER
- Any person or entity who or which aids in the rental of residential property or who takes responsibility for the care or supervision of the property, including responsible agents as defined by the City's ordinances.
- ROOMING HOUSE/BOARDINGHOUSE (DORMITORY)
- A building arranged or occupied for lodging, with or without meals, for compensation and not occupied as a one- or two-family dwelling.
- ROOMING UNIT
- A portion of a dwelling unit including any room or group of rooms forming a single habitable unit used or intended to be used for living and sleeping but not for cooking purposes. The granting of permission to use shared or common cooking facilities may be associated with the leasing of a rooming unit.
- An occupant of a unit with whom a legal relationship with the owner is established by a lease or other enforceable agreement under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- TRANSIENT DWELLING
- A one-family, two-family or multifamily dwelling which is not occupied exclusively by the owner thereof and each dwelling unit therein is not occupied pursuant to the terms of a written lease or is occupied pursuant to a written lease with a term of less than one month.
It shall be the duty of every owner or responsible agent of residential rental property to:
Keep and maintain all property in good and safe condition.
Be aware of, and to act to eliminate, disruptive conduct in all units.
Employ policies to manage the units under his/her control in compliance with the provisions of this chapter and applicable state laws.
Pay or ensure payment of all real estate taxes, sewer rates, water rates, and trash collection fees to insure that such vital utilities are provided.
Obtain a registration for each property. Obtain and maintain a license for each unit. All such licenses shall be prominently displayed at the unit for which they are issued.
Provide trash and recyclable collection and disposal services and instruct tenants of the method of trash and recyclable collection (e.g., curbside or dumpster) and, if applicable, the day of week of trash and recyclable pickup.
Provide each tenant with a disclosure statement containing the requirements of this chapter, including the provisions relating to disruptive conduct. Providing of a copy of this chapter to each tenant will satisfy this requirement.
Provide, upon request of the Code Enforcement Officer, a written rental agreement for each unit which shall include the names of all permitted occupants.
Designation of responsible agent.
If the owner of a property is not a full-time resident of the County of Lancaster, then the owner shall designate a person to serve as the responsible agent who does reside within the County of Lancaster. If the owner is a corporation, a separate responsible agent shall be appointed unless an officer of the corporation is appointed as the responsible agent and such officer lives within the County of Lancaster. If the owner is a partnership or a limited liability company, a responsible agent shall be required if a partner or member does not reside within the County of Lancaster. Said partner or member shall perform the same function as a responsible agent.
No license shall be issued to any person for a unit unless such owner or operator provides the Code Official with the name, address and daytime telephone number of a designated responsible agent, who shall be an individual and who shall reside within the County of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A post office box shall not be considered a valid address.
A responsible agent must be authorized to receive notices and communications necessary or deemed to be appropriate under the terms of the codes of the City of Lancaster and to accept service of process of initial and subsequent pleadings on behalf of the owner or operator which may be necessary or deemed to be appropriate for the enforcement of the codes of the City of Lancaster; provided, however, that nothing contained herein shall affect the right of the City of Lancaster to submit notices and communications directly to the owner, rather than to the responsible agent, or to serve process and initial and subsequent pleadings in any other manner permitted by law.
The designation of responsible agent shall not be valid unless signed by both the owner and the responsible agent.
Any owner or responsible agent to whom a license has been issued or any owner of property who subsequently changes her/his place of residence or who changes the designation of a responsible agent shall notify in writing the Bureau of Procurement and Collection within 30 days after such change.
No owner, manager or responsible agent may offer for rent or assist in offering for rent, by advertising or otherwise, any unit without first ascertaining that the property is properly registered with the City of Lancaster. No unit may be occupied prior to the unit being properly licensed.
If the owner has appointed an agent, manager or responsible agent, the agent, manager or responsible agent shall be jointly responsible to fulfill all of the obligations set forth in this chapter.
The owner or, if applicable, the responsible agent or manager shall include the document attached hereto as Exhibit A, identified as "Addendum to Residential Rental Agreement," in each lease of a unit taking effect on or after March 2, 2009.
Editor's Note: The Addendum to Residential Rental Agreement is on file in the City offices.
The owner or responsible agent or manager shall not include text in any lease that is contrary to the provisions of this chapter.
Any public or nonprofit housing entity may, in lieu of the attachment of the leasing addendum, incorporate the requirements of said addendum into its existing lease upon demonstration to the City that its lease is a product of a federal or state requirement or program.
In addition to the information on the license, the following information must also be posted in each unit:
The evenings on which trash and recycling are to be placed curbside for collection.
The telephone number to call to register complaints regarding the physical condition of the unit.
The telephone number for emergency police, fire and medical services.
A summary of the owner's duties as set forth in herein.
This chapter shall not be construed as diminishing or relieving the responsibility of occupants or their guests for their conduct or activity.
The occupant(s) shall not engage in, nor tolerate, nor permit others on the property to cause damage to the unit or engage in disruptive conduct. It shall be the duty of each occupant of a unit to:
Comply with all obligations of this chapter and all applicable codes and City ordinances, as well as all state laws and regulations.
Conduct himself/herself and require other persons, including, but not limited to, guests on the property and within his/her unit with his/her consent, to conduct themselves in a manner that will not disturb the peaceful enjoyment of adjacent or nearby dwellings by people occupying the same.
Not engage in, nor tolerate, nor permit others on the property to cause damage to the unit or engage in disruptive conduct, or other violations of this chapter, City ordinances, or applicable state laws.
Use the trash and recyclable collection services provided by the owner.
Maintain the unit in a manner meeting all requirements for occupants of structures set forth in the codes.
Allow the Code Enforcement Official to inspect the unit in accordance with this chapter at reasonable times.
Not allow persons other than those identified on the lease to reside in the unit.
Not allow the unit to be occupied in a way that conflicts with the City Zoning Ordinance.
Not permit the possession of, serving to or consumption of alcoholic beverages by underage persons.
Police officers may investigate alleged incidents of disruptive conduct. A police officer shall complete a disruptive conduct report upon a finding that the reported incident constitutes disruptive conduct as defined herein. The information filed in the disruptive conduct report shall include, if possible, the identity of the alleged perpetrator(s) of the disruptive conduct and the factual basis for the disruptive conduct described in the disruptive conduct report.
A disruptive conduct letter shall be given or mailed to the occupant and mailed to the owner or, if applicable, the responsible agent within 30 working days of the occurrence of the alleged disruptive conduct.
[Amended 7-22-2014 by Ord. No. 10-2014]
The occupant or the owner or, if applicable, the responsible agent shall have 10 working days from the date of mailing of a disruptive conduct letter to appeal the disruptive conduct report. The appeal shall be made in writing and submitted to the Board of Housing Appeals and Revisions.
After three disruptive conduct incidents documented by disruptive conduct reports in any twelve-month period involving an occupant or person present at the unit, the owner or, if applicable, the responsible agent shall have 10 working days from the date of the mailing of the third disruptive conduct letter to begin eviction proceedings against the occupants. The owner/agent must submit a copy of the document indicating the eviction process has begun to the Department of Economic Development and Neighborhood Revitalization. Failure to take such action will result in the immediate revocation of the license. The unit involved shall not have its license reinstated until the reinstatement fee is paid and the disruptive occupants have been evicted, the Magisterial District Judge has ruled in the occupant's favor, the Magisterial District Judge has ruled in the owner's favor but has not ordered the eviction of the occupant(s), or the occupants have filed an appeal to a higher court or declared bankruptcy, thereby preventing their eviction. The disruptive occupants, upon eviction, shall not reoccupy any unit on the same property involved for a period of at least one year from the date of eviction. This subsection is not intended to limit or inhibit the owner's and, if applicable, the responsible agent's right to initiate eviction actions prior to the issuance of the third disruptive conduct letter in a twelve-month period.
The disruptive conduct report shall count against all occupants of the unit. More than one disruptive conduct report filed against the occupants of a unit in a twenty-four-hour period shall count as a single disruptive conduct report for the purpose hereof. The Department of Economic Development and Neighborhood Revitalization shall maintain a list of the names of all occupants evicted as a result hereof. The names shall remain on the list for a period of five years.
Every owner or responsible agent of property shall register the property with the City on a form provided by the Code Official. With each registration, the applicant shall pay a registration fee according to the following property type:
No person shall permit a rooming house, dormitory, hotel, multifamily dwelling (a building containing three or more dwelling units which is not a transient dwelling), transient dwelling or other rental property to be occupied unless he has first registered the property with the Code Official and obtained a license. It shall be the duty of the owner or responsible agent to notify the Code Official whenever any unit becomes occupied.
Every owner or responsible agent of a unit shall pay an annual occupancy license fee according to the following property type:
Each license shall remain in force for one year from the date of issuance unless sooner revoked in accordance with the Code of the City of Lancaster.
No registration or license required hereunder shall be transferable unless the new operator shall give notice in writing to the Code Official within 10 days after the transfer, in any manner, of ownership or control of the interest in the property. Such notice shall include the name and address of the person succeeding to the ownership or control. The fee for transferring a registration and/or license shall be $25 per unit and shall be paid at the sale or transfer of title. An additional $50 per unit shall be due should the $25 per unit transfer fee not be paid upon sale or transfer of title.
Whenever the Code Official determines that the unit is in violation of the City's Property Maintenance Code, it shall serve notice as provided in Chapter 223 of the Code of the City of Lancaster and may notify the owner or responsible agent in writing that unless the Notice of Violation is complied with, the license may be revoked. After the expiration of the time for compliance as stated on the Notice of Violation, an inspection shall be made to determine compliance. If violations still exist, a reinspection shall be made. A fee for such reinspection shall be imposed in accordance with the provisions hereof. If the violation has not been corrected and no appeal is pending, the Code Official may revoke the license and, in such event, shall serve written notice upon the owner or operator or responsible agent of such action. The license may also be revoked for failure to properly designate a responsible agent; for failure to pay the annual fee; for failure to pay water, sewer, solid waste, recycling fees or City taxes with respect to the unit; and/or for failure to comply with any other provision of this chapter. If a license is revoked and the unit is vacant, it shall remain vacant until such time as the license is reinstated. Reinspections shall be made by the Code Enforcement Official within a reasonable time after the owner or responsible agent notifies the City that the violation causing the revocation of the license has been cured. A license shall be reinstated if the reason for its revocation is cured and a reinstatement fee of $200 is paid.
Any person whose license has been revoked or whose application for a license for a unit has been denied may appeal to the Board of Housing Appeals in accordance with Section 111 of the Property Maintenance Code as codified in Chapter 223 of the Code of the City of Lancaster.
Upon the filing of an application for a license, the person filing such application shall select a time period during which the unit is to be inspected, provided that the time selected is stated as a series of specific consecutive days not less than two weeks and not more than four weeks prior to the date intended for occupancy of the dwelling unit.
All property owned by the Housing Authority of the City of Lancaster which is inspected annually by that agency to assess compliance with federal standards established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or state standards established by the Pennsylvania Housing Financing Agency shall be exempt from the licensing provisions of this chapter. The registration and inspection provisions of this chapter shall, however, remain applicable. The Housing Authority agrees to pay a registration fee of $200 for each of the following facilities: Church Street Towers, Farnum Street East high-rise, Susquehanna Court development, and Franklin Terrace development. The Housing Authority shall pay a single registration fee of $200 to register all Housing Authority owned scattered site properties.
[Amended 7-13-2010 by Ord. No. 9-2010]
All properties possessing a current residential health-care facilities license issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may apply to be exempt from the licensing fee provisions of this chapter in the manner provided for by the City and shall receive said exemption upon submission of a formal request for exemption and a copy of the current residential health-care facilities license issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. All other registration, licensing and inspection provisions of this chapter shall, however, remain applicable.
[Added 7-13-2010 by Ord. No. 9-2010]
It shall be the duty of all owners, Agents, managers and occupants to provide access to the City officials to all units subject to inspections hereunder, and failure to permit such access shall be deemed a violation of the chapter.
For purposes of enforcing this chapter, the Code Enforcement Official or his designee may seek to obtain an administrative warrant issued by a competent authority for the purpose of compelling an inspection of a unit.
If requested, the Code Enforcement Official or his authorized representative shall disclose proper credentials of their respective offices for the purpose of inspecting any and all structures and property in the performance of their duties under this chapter.
In addition to the inspection referenced above, the Code Enforcement Official may also inspect units upon any of the following occurrences:
[Amended 7-13-2010 by Ord. No. 9-2010]
Application, inspection, issuance and reinspection. The Code Official shall, upon receipt of an application for a license, inspect the unit. In the event such dwelling is in compliance with this Code, the license applied for shall be issued upon 1) payment of the license fee; 2) confirmation that a proper responsible agent has been designated, if required; and 3) there are no outstanding water, sewer, solid waste or recycling fees, or municipal taxes owed to the City related to such property or unit. The Code Official shall inspect each such unit at least once on or before the fourth anniversary of the initial inspection following submission of the application for the license. These periodic inspections shall occur notwithstanding more frequent inspections which may be required in the investigation of complaints regarding the dwelling. The licensee shall maintain and make copies of all written leases under which each unit is occupied and available for inspection upon request of the Code Official. Such written leases shall indicate the name of the occupants of each unit and the term of the lease. In the event that the unit is not in compliance with the Codes of the City of Lancaster, the Code Official shall notify the applicant in writing and shall specify the noncompliance with the Code. Upon abatement of the violations, the Code Official shall inspect the property and/or unit, upon the unit passing the inspection issue the license applied for. If any violation still exists, reinspections shall be scheduled. For any reinspections, the fee shall be $75 per unit.
If the Code Enforcement Official, upon completion of the inspection, finds that the applicable codes have not been met, the Code Enforcement Official shall issue notices and, if appropriate, may commence enforcement actions under the procedures set forth in the code which has been violated or under any other applicable ordinance of the City. Notice provided to an Agent shall be deemed notice provided to the owner. The following notices shall be issued to the owner of the property and the responsible agent:
If the Code Enforcement Official finds violations of the unit under the property Maintenance Code, in addition to the remedies under the property Maintenance Code, the Code Enforcement Official shall:
Issue a notice of violation that establishes a timeline for abatement; and
If, after the abatable period expires, an inspection reveals that the violations are not corrected and arrangements satisfactory to the Code Enforcement Official have not been made, the license for the unit may be revoked. If the unit is vacant, it shall remain vacant.
Violations. It shall be a violation of this chapter to commit or to permit any other person to commit any of the following acts:
To lease, let, or allow the occupancy of a unit without obtaining a license where required by this chapter.
To fail to register a property as required by this chapter.
To refuse to permit inspections required under this chapter for a unit.
To fail to perform the duties established by this chapter if such person is an owner or a manager of a unit.
To fail to perform the duties established by this chapter if such person is an occupant of a unit.
To place false information onto or omit relevant information from an application for a registration or license.
To fail to comply with any other provision of this chapter.
Penalties and Remedies.
Allowing occupancy of a unit after the license has been revoked: a fine of not less than $500 per unit for each month the violation exists or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 90 days, or both. Each month the violation exists constitutes a separate violation. Notwithstanding the foregoing, no fines shall be imposed for any period during which the unit is vacant and the owner, Operator, and/or manager is taking affirmative action to correct the violations.
Failure to seek a license. The owner or manager shall be sent a thirty-day notice of violation, warning him/her of his/her failure to comply with the terms of this chapter. If he/she does not comply at the end of 30 days, a fine of not less than $500 per unit for each month the violation exists or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 90 days, or both. Each month the violation exists constitutes a separate violation.
Whoever violates any other provisions of this chapter shall be subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 90 days, or both. Each month that a violation exists constitutes a separate violation.
In addition to prosecution of persons in violation of this chapter, the Code Enforcement Official or any duly authorized agent of the City may seek such civil or equitable remedies, including injunctive relief and other measures to enforce this chapter in any court of record of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, against any person or property, real or personal, to effect the provisions of this chapter.
The provisions of this section and the provisions of this chapter governing revocation, suspension or nonrenewal of licenses shall be independent, non-mutually exclusive, separate remedies, all of which shall be available to the City as may be deemed appropriate.
No person whose license has been revoked by the City may, pursuant to the Act of July 7, 1947 (P.L. 1368, No. 542) (the "Act"), as amended, purchase property in Lancaster County at any tax sale governed by the Act. The City shall furnish, to the Lancaster County Tax Claim Bureau at least 48 hours in advance of the sales, documentation regarding license revocations.
Editor's Note: For the Real Estate Tax Sale Law, see 72 P.S. § 5860.101 et seq.
§ 238-12 Appeals; identification of violations; liability of City; promulgation of rules and policies; tenant right to report violations.
Appeals. Except as otherwise set forth herein, all appeals shall be heard by the Board of Housing Appeals and Revisions.
Codes violations. Nothing in this chapter shall preclude or prohibit the Code Enforcement Officer or his designee from identifying any violations of the codes and taking lawful action in connection therewith.
The issuance of a license is not a representation by the City that the unit and/or the building in which it is located is in compliance with the Codes. The issuance of a license indicates that the unit did not have any patently dangerous conditions as of the date of inspection. However, neither the enactment of this chapter nor the issuance of a license shall impose any liability upon the City for any errors or omissions which resulted in the issuance of such license, nor shall the City bear any liability not otherwise imposed by law.
The Department of Economic Development and Neighborhood Revitalization is authorized to promulgate rules, regulations, policies and procedures for the implementation and enforcement of the provisions of this chapter, which rules, regulations, policies and procedures shall be effective 20 days after they are filed with the Clerk of the City of Lancaster.
It is the right of every tenant and resident to report any alleged violation of City codes to the appropriate City official. A landlord shall not evict a tenant in retaliation for the reporting of alleged code violations. This defense to eviction shall not be available to tenants or occupants being evicted pursuant to § 238-7D of this chapter.