[HISTORY: Adopted by the Borough Council of the Borough of New Hope 10-18-2011 by Ord. No. 2011-08. Amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter shall be known as the "New Hope Borough Municipal Claim and Lien Ordinance."
Pursuant to the authority vesting in New Hope Borough pursuant to the Pennsylvania Municipal Claim and Tax Lien Law, 53 P.S. § 7101 et seq., as amended (the "Act"), New Hope Borough is authorized file a lien against property for any and all unpaid municipal claims, municipal liens, taxes, tax claims and tax liens (collectively a "claim" or "claims"), as those terms are defined in the Act.
In all matters where New Hope Borough is authorized to and undertakes recovery efforts by legal proceedings or otherwise to collect unpaid claims, all other costs, expenses, interest and fees incurred, including without limitation reasonable attorneys' fees, as set forth in this chapter shall be added to the total amount payable with respect to such claim(s).
Title search. In any claim enforcement and/or collection proceeding, the actual cost of a title search in an amount not to exceed $250 shall constitute a reasonable expense for each title search necessary for the initiation of each proceeding and compliance with Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 3129, as amended. The sum not to exceed $50 shall constitute a reasonable expense for each bring-down or update of the title search in connection with entry of judgment, issuance of execution, listing for sale, or other action.
Actual out-of-pocket expenses in connection with any enforcement and/or collection action, such as for postage, non-Sheriff's service of process, investigation of the whereabouts of interested parties and other necessary expenses shall constitute reimbursable expenses as part of each claim recovered.
Flat fee matters. The following schedule of attorney fees is hereby adopted and approved as reasonable attorney fees pursuant to the Act for all matters described, which fees shall be awarded to New Hope Borough, its agents, counsel or assigns in each action initiated pursuant to the Act for the collection of unpaid claims. The property owner's obligation to pay the full amount of the flat fee for each phase of each action shall accrue upon the initiation of any aspect of each phase. The full amount of each flat fee for each prior phase of the proceeding shall carry over and be due on a cumulative basis together with the flat fee for each subsequent phase.
Preparation and service of writ of scire facias. The sum of $450 shall constitute reasonable attorney fees for the initiation of each proceeding and shall include preparation and filing of the praecipe for writ of scire facias, Sheriff's direction for service, notice pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 237.1, as amended, and the preparation and filing of the praecipe to settle and discontinue the proceeding. The above does not include:
Federal tax liens, judgments and mortgages. Where there are federal tax liens, federal judgments, federal mortgages or other record federal interests, the sum of $200 shall constitute reasonable attorney fees for all matters necessary to properly notify and serve the United States with all required additional notice and the presentation of related motions to court.
Alternative service of legal pleadings. In the event that a special order of court is necessary to serve original process or any other pleading, notice, court order or other document, the following amounts shall constitute reasonable attorney fees as follows:
Entry of judgment. The sum of $225 shall constitute reasonable attorney fees in connection with entry of judgment which shall include preparation and filing of the praecipe to enter judgment, notices of judgment, affidavit of nonmilitary status, and the praecipe to satisfy judgment.
Writ of execution; Sheriff's sale of property. The sum of $700 shall constitute reasonable attorney fees for preparation of all documents necessary for each execution upon any judgment pursuant to the Act. This sum shall include the preparation and filing of the praecipe for writ of execution, all Sheriff's documents, preparation and service of notices of Sheriff's sale, staying the writ of execution, and attendance at one Sheriff's sale.
Postponements. The sum of $100 shall constitute reasonable attorney fees for each continuance of Sheriff's sale at the request of the defendant.
Sale pursuant to Section 31 of the Act. The sum of $700 shall constitute reasonable attorney fees for the sale of property pursuant to § 31 of the Act, 53 P.S. § 7281, including preparation and service of necessary documents, court appearances, attendance at sale and preparation of proposed schedule of distribution of the proceeds realized from such sale.
Sale pursuant to Section 31.1 of the Act. The sum of $500 shall constitute reasonable attorney fees for a sale of property pursuant to § 31.1 of the Act, 53 P.S. § 7282, including the preparation of necessary documents, service, court appearances, and the preparation of proposed Sheriff's schedule of distribution.
Installment payment agreement. The sum of $150 shall constitute reasonable attorney fees for the preparation of each written installment payment agreement.
Motions. The sum of $200 shall constitute reasonable attorney fees for the preparation, filing, and presentation of motions, other than for alternative service, which shall include, but are not limited to, motions to reassess damages, motions to amend caption, and motions to continue the Sheriff's sale.
Hourly rate matters.
The following schedule of attorney fees is hereby adopted and approved as reasonable attorney fees pursuant to the Act, which fees shall be awarded to New Hope Borough, its agents, counsel or assigns as compensation in all contested matters, and in all other matters not specifically referenced in § 20-4A above, undertaken in connection with the collection of claims:
Each increment of time shall be recorded and charged in units of 1/10 of an hour for all time devoted to enforcement and collection of New Hope Borough's claims. Counsel, whether duly employed or duly appointed by New Hope Borough, its agents or assigns, shall not deviate from this fee schedule absent a subsequently enacted amendment to this chapter. Hourly rate matters include, but are not limited to, any matters where any defense, objection, motion, petition or appearance is entered in any phase of any proceeding by or on behalf of any defendant or other interested party.
Required notice. All notices required by the Act shall be provided in accordance therewith and shall be incorporated into an appropriate delinquency notice or notices sent by New Hope Borough, its agent, counsel or assigns. Prior to assessing or imposing attorney fees in connection with the collection of a claim, New Hope Borough shall provide notice of its intent to assess and impose attorney fees in the following manner:
By United States certified mail, return receipt requested, postage prepaid, mail to the owner of the property being assessed and/or subject to the claim and/or lien thereof, notice of New Hope Borough's intent to impose or assess attorney fees within 30 days of mailing the notice.
In the event the notice required under Subsection A(1) above is refused, unclaimed, or the return receipt is not received, then by United States first class mail, mail to the owner of the property being assessed and/or subject to the claim and/or lien thereof, notice of New Hope Borough's intent to impose or assess attorney fees within 10 days of mailing the notice.
The notice(s) required by this Subsection A shall be mailed to the property owner's last known post office address by virtue of the knowledge and information possessed by New Hope Borough and the Bucks County office responsible for the assessments and revision of taxes, following a reasonable investigation by New Hope Borough to determine such address.
Fees to be accrued and claims to be filed. Fees shall accrue for all efforts in collection after the 30th day after the notice provided for above, or after the 10th day of any required second notice, on all accounts referred to an attorney or other agency for enforcement. Fees accumulated as a result of enforced collection shall be certified by duly appointed counsel for New Hope Borough authorized to pursue collection of claims pursuant to the Act, or by counsel for the New Hope Borough's agents or assigns. If such fees are not collected in due course along with the claim as by voluntary payment, all such fees shall be included in any claims filed on behalf of New Hope Borough by its agents or assigns in the course of enforcement including any claims originally filed with the Bucks County Prothonotary, any claims filed with the Sheriff or in any other claims filed or statements provided where attorney fees are due.
The amount of fees determined as set forth in this chapter shall be added to and become part of the claim or claims in each proceeding as provided by the Act and as provided herein.
The following schedule of charges, expenses and fees (hereinafter collectively referred to as "servicing fees") is hereby approved and adopted by New Hope Borough pursuant to the Act, which amounts are the direct result of each person's or property owner's failure to pay claims promptly. The servicing fees established, assessed, and collected hereunder shall be in addition to the record costs, § 20-3 (Expenses) and § 20-4 (Attorney fees), associated with legal proceedings initiated by or on behalf of New Hope Borough to collect its claims.
Servicing of a claim or claims may result in voluntary payment without the initiation of enforcement proceedings. It is the intent of this section to pass the cost of servicing on to the delinquent person or property as part of each claim. The recovery of servicing fees established herein shall not be contingent upon the initiation of enforcement proceedings. However, such servicing fees are due even where enforcement proceedings are initiated. The purpose of this section is to pass the cost and expense associated with delinquent collection on to the delinquent person or property and to make New Hope Borough whole on all claims collected.
Schedule. The following schedule of fees shall constitute reasonable and appropriate servicing fees for each indicated service. The servicing fees shall be added to and become part of New Hope Borough's claims, together with the expenses, penalties, interest, costs and attorney fees, and shall be payable in full before the discharge or satisfaction of any claim. The schedule of fees is separate and distinct from any amounts imposed by the Sheriff, Prothonotary, court or any other public office in connection with the collection of New Hope Borough's claims.
Pursuant to the authority set forth in the Act, New Hope Borough hereby establishes an interest rate of 10% per annum assessable against all claims from the date of the completion of the work after it is filed as a lien; and on claims for taxes or lighting rates from the date of the filing of the lien therefor. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the interest collectible on any claim arising out of a municipal project for which New Hope Borough has issued bonds to finance shall be at the rate of interest of the bond(s) issued for the project or 12% per annum, whichever is less.
This chapter shall take effect on the date of enactment set forth below and with respect to attorney fees pursuant to §§ 20-4 and 20-5 of this chapter shall apply to all taxes, tax claims, tax liens, municipal claims, municipal liens, writs of scire facias, judgments, or executions filed on or after December 19, 1990, or as otherwise provided by law.
In no event shall New Hope Borough's right to charge and collect reasonable attorney fees pursuant to §§ 20-4 and 20-5 of this chapter be impaired by the fact that any claim may also include an attorney commission of 5% for claims filed prior to December 19, 1990. Any attorney fees assessed and collected under this or any prior ordinances pursuant to the Act shall be in addition to any commission of 5% previously included in any claim or judgment thereon.
Attorney fees and expenses incurred in pending enforcement proceedings prior to the effective date of this chapter, pursuant to a prior ordinance adopted under the Act, but not collected, shall remain due and owing in accordance therewith, and shall be incorporated in any future statement, claim, pleading, judgment, or execution. Attorney fees and expenses in any pending or new action incurred after the effective date of this chapter shall be incurred, charged, and collected in accordance with the schedules and procedures set forth in this chapter.
In the event New Hope Borough assigns any claim, New Hope Borough assigns the provisions of this chapter to any such assignee of its claims unless the assignment limits the assignee's ability to collect such amounts. New Hope Borough and its duly authorized agents and their counsel retain all rights to charge reasonable attorney fees, charges, expenses, and fees in accordance with the provisions of this chapter in actions commenced under the Act and for servicing any claims retained by New Hope Borough