[Adopted 9-18-2013 by Ord. No. 1184]
It is the purpose and intent of the Borough of West Mifflin to establish a process to address the problem of abandoned personal and real property located within the Borough. It is the Borough's further intent to specifically establish an abandoned residential property registration and a mechanism to compel mortgagees and others in the execution process to maintain such affected properties in order to protect residential neighborhoods from becoming blighted through the lack of adequate maintenance and security.
The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this article, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:
- ABANDONED PERSONAL PROPERTY
- Wrecked or derelict property which has been left abandoned and unprotected from the elements and shall include wrecked, inoperative or partially dismantled motor vehicles, trailers, boats, machinery, refrigerators, washing machines, plumbing fixtures, furniture and any other similar article which has been left abandoned and unprotected from the elements.
- ABANDONED REAL PROPERTY
- Any property:
- A. Which is not legally occupied, but this shall not apply to rental property properly maintained with no "evidence of vacancy"; or
- B. Which is under a current notice of default and/or notice of mortgagee's or judgment creditor's sheriff sale; or
- C. Which was or is the subject of a foreclosure where title was taken by a mortgagee or judgment creditor; or
- D. The title to which was transferred by a deed in lieu of foreclosure or sale; or
- E. Which shows "evidence of vacancy."
- ACCESSIBLE PERSONAL PROPERTY
- Personal property that is accessible through a compromised/breached gate, fence, wall, etc.
- ACCESSIBLE STRUCTURE
- A vacant structure/building that is unsecured and/or breached in such a way as to allow access to the interior space by unauthorized persons.
- CODE ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
- The law and ordinance Enforcement Officer, Building Official, Zoning Inspector, Code Enforcement Officer, Fire Inspector or Building Inspector employed by the Borough.
- EVIDENCE OF VACANCY
- Any condition that on its own, or combined with other conditions present, would lead a reasonable person to believe that real property is vacant. Such conditions may include, but not be limited to, overgrown and/or dead vegetation, accumulation of abandoned personal property, as defined herein, statements by neighbors, passersby, delivery agents or government agents, or other evidence that the property is vacant. This shall further include a parcel of real property which is "accessible."
- The process by which real property subject to a mortgage is sold at public sale to satisfy the debt upon default.
- INOPERATIVE VEHICLE
- Any wrecked or partially dismantled vehicle that is parked or stored without having all the wheels mounted, or is in a condition of substantial disrepair, or which is parked or stored without having tires inflated, or other similar condition.
- JUDGMENT CREDITOR
- Any person having a judgment against an owner of real property in West Mifflin Borough who has issued a writ of execution against real property in West Mifflin Borough.
- NOMINAL SALVAGE VALUE
- The value of an article of abandoned derelict property which a reasonably prudent person would believe is the fair market value of the property, taking into consideration its useful life, earning capacity or replacement cost, less depreciation and items of general or special depreciation, would be nominally greater than the costs of salvage, including the removal, transportation, storage and sale of same.
- An individual, corporation, partnership, limited liability company or partnership or any other type of legal entity permitted under Pennsylvania law.
- PRIVATE PROPERTY
- All lands and improvements other than public lands and improvements.
- PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANY
- A local property manager, property maintenance company or similar entity responsible for the maintenance of abandoned real property.
- PUBLIC PROPERTY
- Canals, all waterways, lands and improvements owned by a governmental body or any governmental agency, including but not limited to easements and rights-of-way, but excluding the campus of any institution of the state university system.
- RESIDENTIAL BUILDING
- Any improved real property, or portion thereof, situated in the Borough, designed or permitted to be used for dwelling purposes, and shall include the buildings and structures located on such improved real property.
- Any building/structure that is not legally occupied.
This provisions of this article shall be deemed to provide cumulative remedies to the Borough and shall not be considered to supplant any other remedies available to the Borough.
Nothing in this section shall be deemed to apply to abandoned personal property authorized to be left on private business property operated, licensed and zoned in the Borough for the purpose of accepting abandoned property.
All abandoned personal and real property is hereby declared to be a public nuisance, the abatement of which, pursuant to the police power, is hereby declared to be necessary for the health, welfare and safety of the residents of the Borough.
When an enforcement officer ascertains that an article of personal property having nominal salvage value lies abandoned or derelict upon private property, that officer shall:
The enforcement officer shall also make reasonable effort to ascertain the name and address of the owner of the abandoned property, and if such address is reasonably available, the officer shall mail, by certified mail, a copy of the notice to the owner on or before the date of posting the above-described notice on the abandoned personal property.
The enforcement officer shall mail, by certified mail, a copy of the above-described notice to the owner of the real property upon which the abandoned personal property is located, as shown by the real estate tax records used by the county or any other address provided to the local government by such owner, on or before the date of posting such notice.
If at the end of five days after posting notice under this article the owner or any person interested in such abandoned personal property described in the notice has not removed same, the enforcement officer may cause the article of abandoned personal property to be removed and destroyed, and the salvage value, if any, of such article shall be retained by the Borough to be applied to the cost of removal and destruction thereof.
Before destruction, for abandoned property on public lands or private lands, at the end of the five-day period of posting of such notice, if the owner or person having interest in the property has not removed the abandoned property from public or private property, or shown reasonable cause for failure to do so, the Borough may cause the property so described to be removed by a towing company, which shall cause the article or articles of abandoned property to be removed and placed in storage if applicable with the local, state and federal regulations. At the conclusion of the required storage, if the article is not claimed and if the salvage value is above $100, the towing company shall pay the Borough of West Mifflin the sum of $25 or 10% of such value, whichever is greater, for the administrative costs in handling with said article. If the article is claimed, the Borough shall receive $25 as an administrative fee.
It is unlawful to remove abandoned personal property, including inoperative vehicles, from private property to public property after the posting of said property by an enforcement officer.
An inoperative vehicle shall not be on private property unless it is within a completely enclosed building structure or a designated storage area, which includes a wall or hedge to screen the stored inoperative vehicle from view.
In the event that the abandoned property is deemed to be an imminent public health and safety hazard, an enforcement officer is authorized to remove the property immediately. Subsequent to the removal of the abandoned property, the Borough shall make reasonable and diligent efforts to ascertain the owner and take the applicable action. If the abandoned property is on private property, the private property owner shall be provided notice and assessed the cost of removal of the abandoned property and any required cleanup of the private property.
Every judgment creditor or a person who holds a mortgage on abandoned real property located within the Borough shall conduct an inspection of the property that is the security for the mortgage or the subject of execution prior to the issuance of a notice of default of a mortgage or the issuance of a writ of execution on a judgment. If the property shows evidence of vacancy, it shall be deemed to be abandoned, and the mortgagee or judgment creditor shall, within 10 days of the inspection, register the property with the West Mifflin Code Enforcement Officer, or his or her designee, on forms provided by the Borough. A registration is required for each vacant property.
Registration, pursuant to this section, shall contain the name of the mortgagee or judgment creditor, the mailing address, a contact name and telephone number, facsimile number and e-mail address and, in the case of an out-of-area mortgagee, the local property management company responsible for the security and maintenance of the property.
An annual registration fee in the amount of $150, per property, shall accompany the registration form(s).
Properties subject to this section shall remain under the annual registration requirement and security and maintenance standards of this section as long as they remain vacant or show the evidence of vacancy.
Any person who has registered a property under this section must report any change of information contained in the registration within 10 days of the change.
Properties subject to this chapter shall be kept free of weeds, overgrown brush, dead vegetation, trash, junk, debris, building materials, any accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers, notices, except those required by federal, state or local law, discarded personal items, including, but not limited to, furniture, clothing, large and small appliances, printed material or any other items that give the appearance that the property is abandoned.
The property shall be maintained free of graffiti or similar markings by removal or painting over with an exterior-grade paint that matches the color of the exterior structure.
Front, side and rear yard landscaping shall be maintained in accordance with the Borough's standard at the time registration was required.
Landscape shall include, but not be limited to, grass, ground covers, bushes, shrubs, hedges or similar plantings, decorative rock or bark or artificial turf/sod designed specifically for residential installation. Landscape shall not include weeds, gravel, broken concrete, asphalt or similar material.
Maintenance shall include, but not be limited to, watering, irrigation, cutting and mowing of required landscape and removal of all trimmings.
Pools and spas shall be maintained so the water remains free and clear of pollutants and debris. Pools and spas shall comply with the enclosure requirements of the Codified Ordinances of the Borough of West Mifflin as well as the Uniform Construction Code and/or the International Property Maintenance Code, as amended from time to time.
All such properties must be maintained in compliance with all property maintenance codes in effect in the Borough.
Failure of the mortgagee and/or property owner of record to properly maintain the property may result in a violation of the Borough Code and issuance of a citation or notice of violation/notice of hearing by the Borough's Code Enforcement Officer. Pursuant to a finding and determination by the Borough's special magistrate, the Borough may take the necessary action to ensure compliance with this section.
Properties subject to this article shall be maintained in a secure manner so as not to be accessible to unauthorized persons.
A "secure manner" shall include, but not be limited to, the closure and locking of windows, doors, gates and other openings of such size that may allow a child to access the interior of the property and/or structure. Broken windows shall be secured by reglazing or boarding of the window.
If real property is owned by an out-of-area person, such person must employ a local property management company to perform reasonable and timely inspections to maintain compliance with this article and any other applicable laws.
The property shall be posted with the name and twenty-four-hour contact phone number of the local property management company. The posting shall be no less than an eight-inch-by-ten-inch sign. The posting shall contain the following language:
THIS PROPERTY IS MANAGED BY:
TO REPORT PROBLEMS OR CONCERNS CALL:
The posting shall be placed on the interior of a window facing the street to the front of the property so it is visible or secured to the exterior of the building/structure facing the street to the front of the property so it is visible or, if no such area exists, on a stake of sufficient size to support the posting in a location as close as possible to the main door entrance of the property. Exterior postings shall be constructed of and printed with weather-resistant materials.
The property management company, upon the request of Borough, shall provide a copy of the inspection reports to the Code Enforcement Officer.
Failure of a mortgagee, judgment creditor or property owner of record to properly maintain the property shall be a violation of this article.
Whoever opposes, obstructs or resists any enforcement officer or any person authorized by the Code Enforcement Office in the discharge of duties as provided in this article, upon conviction, shall, in addition to any other charges, be deemed in violation of the terms of this article and subject to the penalties set forth herein.
Any enforcement officer or any person authorized by the Code Enforcement Officer shall be immune from prosecution, civil or criminal, for reasonable, good faith trespass upon real property while in the discharge of duties imposed by this article.
The Borough of West Mifflin, or its designee, shall have authority to require a mortgagee, judgment creditor and/or owner of record of any property subject to the provisions of this article to implement additional maintenance and/or security measures, including, but not limited to, securing any and all door, window or other openings, employment of an on-site security guard, or other measures as may be reasonably required to help prevent further decline of the property.
Any person violating this article shall be subject to a civil penalty of not less than $100 nor more than $1,000, plus actual costs of enforcement incurred, including attorneys fees. Each day a violation occurs shall constitute a separate offense, regardless of whether a separate citation is issued which could lead to an additional fine for each day the violation is permitted to exist.