[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Council of the Municipality of Kingston 12-7-2015 by Ord. No. 2015-13; amended in its entirety 5-6-2019 by Ord. No. 2019-5. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
Graffiti — See Ch. 105.
Grass, weeds, vegetation and hazardous conditions — See Ch. 107.
Landlord registration, licensing and occupancy — See Ch. 116.
Littering — See Ch. 118.
Property maintenance — See Ch. 135.
Editor's Note: This chapter was adopted as Ch. 117 but was renumbered in order to maintain the alphabetical organization of the Code.
This chapter shall be known and may be cited as "The Municipality of Kingston Abandoned Real Property Ordinance of 2015."
It is the purpose and intent of the Municipality to amend the process to address the deterioration and blight of Municipality neighborhoods caused by an increasing amount of abandoned, foreclosed or distressed real property located within the Municipality, and to identify, regulate, limit and reduce the number of abandoned properties located within the Municipality. It is the Municipality's further intent to amend the registration program as a mechanism to protect neighborhoods from becoming blighted due to the lack of adequate maintenance and security of abandoned and foreclosed properties.
The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning.
- ABANDONED REAL PROPERTY
- Any real property located in the Municipality, whether vacant or occupied, that is in default on a mortgage, has had a lis pendens filed against it by the lender holding a mortgage on the property, is subject to an ongoing foreclosure action by the lender, is subject to an application for a tax deed or pending tax claim bureau lien sale, or has been transferred to the lender under a deed in lieu of foreclosure. The designation of a property as "abandoned" shall remain in place until such time as the property is sold or transferred to a new owner, the foreclosure action has been dismissed, and any default on the mortgage has been cured.
- ACCESSIBLE PROPERTY/STRUCTURE
- A property that is accessible through a compromised/breached gate, fence, wall, etc., or a structure that is unsecured and/or breached in such a way as to allow access to the interior space by unauthorized persons.
- APPLICABLE CODES
- To include but not be limited to the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Municipality's Zoning Ordinance, the Municipality's Property Maintenance Code, the Municipality's Refuse Disposal Ordinance, the Municipality's Mandatory Recycling Ordinance, the Municipality's Snow and Ice Removal Ordinance, the Municipality's Landlord Registration, Licensing and Occupancy Ordinance, and all other Municipal laws that regulate health, safety, peace and good order.
- A. Properties that have broken or severely damaged windows, doors, walls, or roofs which create hazardous conditions and encourage trespassing; or
- B. Properties whose maintenance is not in conformance with the maintenance of other neighboring properties, causing a decrease in value of the neighboring properties; or
- C. Properties cited for a public nuisance pursuant to the Municipality codes or other applicable codes; or
- D. Properties that endanger the public's health, safety, or welfare because the properties or improvements thereon are dilapidated, deteriorated, or violate minimum health and safety standards or lack maintenance as required by applicable codes.
- E. Properties which because of their general condition are unsafe, unsanitary or dangerous to the health, safety or general welfare of the people of the Municipality.
- ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
- Any law enforcement officer, building official, zoning inspector, code enforcement officer, designated fire personnel, code enforcement officer or building inspector, or other person authorized by the Municipality to enforce the applicable code(s).
- Any individual, corporation, limited liability company or any other entity holding a security interest in real property located within the Municipality. This definition shall include assignees of any such security interest.
- Any person, legal entity or other party having any ownership interest, whether legal or equitable, in real property. This term shall also apply to any person, legal entity or agent responsible for the construction, maintenance or operation of the property involved.
- PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANY
- A local property manager, property maintenance company or similar entity located within 20 miles of the corporate boundaries of the Municipality responsible for the maintenance of abandoned real property.
- REAL PROPERTY
- Any residential or commercial land and/or buildings, leasehold improvements and anything affixed to the land, or portion thereof identified by a property parcel identification number, located in the municipal limits.
- REGISTRABLE PROPERTY
- Any real property located in the Municipality, whether vacant or occupied, that is encumbered by a mortgage in default, is subject to an ongoing foreclosure action by the mortgagee or trustee, has been the subject of a foreclosure action by a mortgagee or trustee and a judgment has been entered, or has been the subject of a foreclosure sale where the title was transferred to the beneficiary of a mortgage involved in the foreclosure and any properties transferred under a deed in lieu of foreclosure/sale. The designation of a "default/foreclosure" property as "registrable" shall remain in place until such time as the property is sold to a nonrelated bona fide purchaser in an arm's-length transaction or the foreclosure action has been dismissed and any default on the mortgage has been cured.
- SEMIANNUAL REGISTRATION
- Six months from the date of the first action that requires registration, as determined by the Borough, or its designee, and every subsequent six months the property is registrable. The date of the initial registration may be different than the date of the first action that required registration.
- Any building or structure that is not legally occupied.
These sections shall be considered cumulative and not superseding or subject to any other law or provision for same, but rather to be an additional remedy available to the Municipality above and beyond any other state, county or local provisions for same.
The provisions of this chapter shall apply to mortgagees. The responsibilities for the duties imposed by this chapter and the penalties imposed by this chapter are imposed on the mortgagee and are not subject to divestiture by mortgage foreclosure actions against the abandoning or absent property owner on the title.
Pursuant to the provisions of this chapter, the Municipality or designee shall amend the registry cataloging each abandoned property within the Municipality, containing the information required by this chapter.
Any mortgagee who holds a mortgage on real property located within the Municipality of Kingston shall perform an inspection of the property to determine vacancy or occupancy, upon default by the mortgagor. The mortgagee shall, within 10 days of the inspection, register the property with the Municipality or its designee, on forms or website access provided by the Municipality, and indicate whether the property is vacant or occupied. A separate registration is required for each property, whether it is found to be vacant or occupied.
If the property is occupied but remains in default, it shall be inspected by a designated municipal official along with the mortgagee or its designee to determine if the property is compliant with applicable codes and habitable. Occupancy of said property shall not be permitted until this inspection is completed.
If it is determined that the property is habitable, the property shall be inspected by the mortgagee or its designee monthly until 1) the mortgagor or other party remedies the default, or 2) it is found to be vacant or shows evidence of vacancy at which time it is deemed abandoned, and the mortgagee shall, within 10 days of that inspection, update the property registration to a vacancy status on forms provided by the Municipality.
If the property is a residential rental unit(s) as defined in the Municipality's Landlord Registration, Licensing and Occupancy Ordinance, the mortgagee or his designee shall register the occupants with the Municipality pursuant to the requirements of said ordinance.
Registration pursuant to this section shall contain the name of the mortgagee and the servicer, the direct mailing address of the mortgagee and the servicer, a direct contact name and telephone number for both parties, facsimile number and email address for both parties, the property identification number of the subject property, and the name and twenty-four-hour contact phone number of the property management company responsible for the security and maintenance of the property. The Municipal Administrator shall be authorized to share this information with emergency and appropriate personnel.
Each individual property on the registry that has been registered for 12 months or more prior to the effective date shall have 30 days to renew the registration and pay the $300 semiannual registration fee. Properties registered less than 12 months prior to the effective date shall renew the registration every six months from the expiration of the original registration renewal date and shall pay the $300 semiannual registration fee.
If the defaulted property is not registered, or the registration fee is not paid within 30 days of when the registration or renewal is required pursuant to this section, a late fee equivalent to 10% of the semiannual registration fee shall be charged for every thirty-day period, or portion thereof, the property is not registered and shall be due and payable with the registration.
All registration fees must be paid directly from the mortgagee, servicer, trustee, or owner. Third-party registration fees are not allowed without the consent of the Township/City and/or its authorized designee.
This section shall also apply to properties that have been the subject of a foreclosure sale where the title was transferred to the holder of a mortgage involved in the foreclosure and any properties transferred under a deed in lieu of foreclosure/sale.
Properties subject to this section shall remain under the semiannual registration requirement, and the inspection, security and maintenance standards of this section, as long as they remain vacant or in default.
Any person or legal entity that has registered a property under this section must report any change of information contained in the registration within 10 days of the change.
Failure of the mortgagee and/or owner to properly register or to modify the registration form from time to time to reflect a change of circumstances as required by this chapter is a violation of the chapter and shall be subject to enforcement.
Pursuant to any administrative or judicial finding and determination that any property is in violation of this chapter, the Municipality may take the necessary action to ensure compliance with this chapter and place a lien on the property for the cost of the work performed to benefit the property and bring it into compliance.
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 yards, including landscaping, shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable code(s) at the time registration was required.
Yard maintenance 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. Acceptable maintenance of yards and/or 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 ground cover or landscape and removal of all trimmings.
Pools and spas shall be maintained so the water remains free and clear of pollutants and debris and shall comply with the regulations set forth in the applicable code(s).
Failure of the mortgagee and/or owner to properly maintain the property may result in a violation of the applicable code(s) and issuance of a citation or notice of violation in accordance with applicable codes of the Municipality. Pursuant to a finding and determination by the enforcement officer as defined in this chapter, the Municipality may take the necessary action to ensure compliance with this chapter before the District Magistrate.
If the property is a residential rental unit(s) as defined in the Municipality's Landlord Registration, Licensing and Occupancy Ordinance, no license will be issued for any property not in compliance with this Abandoned Property chapter. If a rental license has been obtained, it will be revoked and considered invalid after a period of 30 days if compliance has not been accomplished with this Abandoned Property chapter.
In addition to the above, the property is required to be maintained in accordance with the applicable code(s).
Properties subject to these sections 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 or structure. Broken windows, doors, gates and other openings of such size that may allow a child to access the interior of the property or structure must be repaired. Broken windows shall be secured by reglazing of the window.
If a mortgage on a property is in default, and the property has become vacant or abandoned, a property manager shall be designated by the mortgagee to perform the work necessary to bring the property into compliance with the applicable code(s), and the property manager must perform regular inspections to verify compliance with the requirements of this chapter, and any other applicable laws.
All abandoned 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 Municipality.
Adherence to this chapter does not relieve any person, legal entity or agent from any other obligations set forth in any applicable code(s) which may apply to the property. Upon sale or transfer of title to the property, the conveying owner shall be responsible for all violations of the applicable code(s) and shall further be responsible to apply to the Municipality's Building Officer or Code Enforcement Officer for a pre-sales inspection.
If the enforcement officer has reason to believe that a property subject to the provisions of this chapter is posing a serious threat to the public health, safety and welfare, the Code Enforcement Officer may temporarily secure the property at the expense or the mortgagee and/or owner, and may bring the violations before the District Magistrate as soon as possible to address the conditions of the property.
The enforcement officer shall have the authority to require the mortgagee and/or owner of record of any property affected by this section to implement additional maintenance and/or security measures, including, but not limited to, securing any and all doors, windows 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.
If there is a finding that the condition of the property is posing a serious threat to the public health, safety and welfare, the Municipality may abate the violations and charge the mortgagee with the cost of the abatement.
If the mortgagee does not reimburse the Municipality of Kingston for the cost of temporarily securing the property, or of any abatement directed by the Code Enforcement Officer or District Justice, within 30 days of the Municipality of Kingston sending the mortgagee the invoice, then the Municipality of Kingston may lien the property with such cost, along with an administrative fee as determined by the Municipality's Fee Ordinance to recover the administrative personnel services.
Any property that has been liened for violations of this chapter that is later rehabilitated cannot be licensed as a rental unit(s) pursuant to the Municipality's Landlord Registration, Licensing and Occupancy Ordinance until the lien or liens is/are satisfied and the Municipality is made whole for any costs incurred.
Whoever opposes, obstructs or resists any enforcement officer or any person authorized by the enforcement officer in the discharge or duties as provided in this chapter shall be punishable as provided in the applicable code(s) or a court of competent jurisdiction.
Any enforcement officer or any person authorized by the Municipality of Kingston to enforce the sections here within shall be immune from prosecution, civil or criminal, for reasonable, good faith entry upon real property while in the discharge or duties imposed by this chapter.
A nonrefundable registration fee in the amount of $300 per property shall accompany the registration form.
Any person or entity that shall violate the provisions of this chapter may be cited by the Municipality and fined.
Failure to register abandoned real property on a semiannual basis and/or violations of this chapter shall carry a fine of $500 for the first offense, $1,000 for the second offense and $1,500 for any subsequent offense.
Registration and penalty fees as set forth in this chapter may be modified by resolution of the Town Council of the Municipality of Kingston.
If any section, sentence, clause, or phrase of this chapter is held to be invalid or unconstitutional by any court of competent jurisdiction, then said holding shall in no way affect the validity of the remaining portions of this chapter.
All ordinances or parts of ordinances in conflict herewith are and the same are hereby repealed.
This chapter shall become effective in conformity with the Charter of the Municipality of Kingston.