Township of Upper Merion, PA
Montgomery County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Supervisors of Upper Merion Township 12-7-2017 by Ord. No. 2017-851. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Property maintenance — See Ch. 127.
ATTACHMENTSAttachment 1 - Exhibit A
A. 
Purposes. This chapter is intended to serve the following purposes:
(1) 
To assist Upper Merion Township ("municipality") in protecting and promoting the public health, safety and welfare of its citizens;
(2) 
To establish rights and obligations of owners and occupants relating to the rental of certain residential units in the municipality, and to seek that such units are properly maintained by the owner, its manager and occupants;
(3) 
To ensure that owners, managers and occupants share responsibilities to comply with Codes, to prevent overcrowding, and to avoid nuisances for neighboring residents; and
(4) 
To provide for a system of inspections; issuance and renewal of licenses; and establish penalties for violations.
B. 
Findings. In considering the adoption of this chapter, the municipality makes the following findings:
(1) 
This chapter is pursuant to the authority granted by the Pennsylvania Second Class Township Code.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: See now 53 P.S. § 65101 et seq.
(2) 
There is a greater likelihood of violations of various municipal ordinances at rental residential communities than at owner-occupied residential properties, which may impact the health safety and welfare of the citizens of this municipality who reside within rental residential properties.
(3) 
There is greater difficulty in monitoring the maintenance and upkeep of rental residential properties than owner-occupied residential properties without a system to insure the proper maintenance, inspections, licensing and occupancy of such units.
(4) 
There is a greater drain on municipal resources resulting from increased incidence of disturbance of the peace and quiet of the neighborhood in which rental residential properties are located.
(5) 
A systematic inspection process can assist in protecting the health, safety and welfare of those citizens who reside in rental residential properties and the municipality at large, and reduce the amount of resources which must be expended to insure that rental communities become an asset of the municipality rather than a liability.
The following words and phrases when used in this chapter shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
BUSINESS DAYS
Days in which the municipality is open to the public for business.
CODE or ORDINANCE
Any Code or ordinance adopted, enacted, and/or in effect in the municipality.
COMMON AREA
In multiunit buildings, space which is not part of an individual regulated rental unit and which is shared among occupants of the dwellings. Common areas shall be considered as part of the premises for purposes of this chapter.
DWELLING
A building which includes one or more dwelling units.
DWELLING UNIT
A residential living area for one household that is used for living and sleeping purposes which has its own cooking facilities, a bathroom with a toilet and bathtub and/or shower.
GUEST
A person on the premises of a regulated rental unit with the actual or implied consent of an occupant.
LANDLORD
This term shall have the same meaning as "owner."
MANAGER/OWNERS AGENT
An adult individual designated by the owner of a regulated rental unit under this chapter who is responsible for the day to day maintenance, upkeep, and leasing of a regulated rental unit. The manager shall be the agent of the owner for all purposes under this chapter.
MULTIUNIT BUILDING
A building containing two or more dwelling units.
MUNICIPAL ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL
The individual, duly appointed by the municipality with the responsibility of enforcing this chapter, any assistants or deputies thereof and any other Code Enforcement Officer of the municipality.
OCCUPANT
An individual who resides in a regulated rental unit.
OWNER
One or more person(s), corporations, partnerships, or limited liability companies who, jointly or severally, have legal title to a regulated rental unit, dwelling unit or building.
OWNER-OCCUPIED DWELLING UNIT
A dwelling unit which is occupied by at least one owner.
PERSON
A natural person, partnership, corporation, unincorporated association, limited partnership, trust, or any other entity.
POLICE
Sworn law enforcement officers of the Police Department of the municipality or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
PREMISES
Any parcel of real property in the municipality, including the land and all buildings and structures located thereon, on which one or more regulated rental units is located.
REGULATED RENTAL UNIT or UNIT
A dwelling unit or rooming house unit that is occupied for residential purposes and that is not: a) an owner-occupied dwelling unit or b) otherwise exempted by this chapter. A college fraternity or sorority used for residential purposes shall be considered a regulated rental unit, unless it is within a dormitory that is owned by a college.
RENTAL AGREEMENT
An agreement, written or otherwise, between owner and tenant/occupant.
RESIDENTIAL RENTAL OCCUPANCY CERTIFICATE or OCCUPANCY CERTIFICATE
The certificate issued by the municipality to the owner allowing a dwelling unit to be rented or leased to an tenant/occupant who is not the owner of the dwelling unit.
ROOMING HOUSE UNIT
A living unit that does not meet the definition of a dwelling unit, but which serves as either temporary or permanent living quarters for an occupant/tenant.
TENANT
An occupant of a regulated rental 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.
UNRELATED PERSONS
Two or more persons who reside in a dwelling unit who are not related to each other through blood, adoption, marriage or formal foster relationship. A person who is only related as a cousin shall be considered unrelated for the purposes of this chapter. The term "related" shall be restricted to the following relationships: spouse, parent, child, sister, brother, grandchild, great-grandchild, grandparent, great-grandparent, aunt, uncle, or any of these same relationships in a "step" or "in-law" situation.
A. 
General.
(1) 
It shall be the duty of every property owner to keep and maintain the leased premises in compliance with all applicable codes and ordinances of Upper Merion Township and all applicable state laws, and to keep the leased premises in good and safe condition.
(2) 
As provided for in this chapter, every property owner shall insure compliance with all municipal ordinances and codes for each regulated rental unit.
(3) 
Each property owner shall apply for, obtain and maintain in good standing a residential rental occupancy certificate as required by § 132-5 of this chapter for each regulated rental unit owned. If a valid certificate has not been issued within the time frame established by this chapter, or the certificate has been suspended or revoked, then the regulated rental unit shall not be rented for residential use. If a regulated rental unit is rented for residential use without a valid residential rental occupancy certificate, such action shall be considered a violation of this chapter.
(4) 
The property owner and/or property owner's agent shall accompany the municipal enforcement official to all scheduled inspections conducted pursuant to this chapter.
B. 
Designation of property manager/property owner's agent.
(1) 
The property owner may designate a person to serve as property manager of all units owned (hereinafter "owner's agent"). The owner's agent shall have the authority to act on behalf of the property owner. The owner's agent shall be the agent of the property owner for service of process and receiving of notices and demands, as well as for performing the obligations of the property owner under this chapter and under rental agreements with occupants.
(2) 
The legal name, mailing address, daytime physical address (not a post office box), and daytime and evening telephone numbers of the owner's agent shall be provided in writing to the municipality by the property owner, and such information shall be kept current and updated within five business days after it changes.
C. 
Disclosure. The property owner or owner's agent shall disclose to the occupant, in writing, on or before the commencement of the tenancy: the name, address and telephone number of the owner's agent.
D. 
Maintenance of premises.
(1) 
The landlord shall keep and maintain the leased premises in compliance with all applicable codes and ordinances of Upper Merion Township and all applicable state laws, and shall keep the leased premises in good and safe condition, including all routine maintenance, lawn mowing, ice and snow removal, and shall promptly make any and all repairs necessary to fulfill this obligation.
(2) 
The property owner and occupant may agree that the occupant is to perform specified repairs, maintenance tasks, alterations, or remodeling if such responsibilities are established in writing. If the occupant is unable or unwilling to comply with or perform the required responsibilities or meet the requirements of this chapter, then the property owner shall be held responsible by the municipality for all required repairs.
(3) 
The existence of an agreement between the property owner and the occupant shall not relieve the property owner of any responsibility under this chapter for proper repair and maintenance of a building or premises. The property owner shall obtain all permits necessary from the municipality to perform any required repairs.
(4) 
Buildings that contain locking entry doors (security doors) at entry points to the building shall include a rapid key access system as may be approved by the Fire Marshal.
(5) 
Buildings containing a fire suppression system shall have the system inspected and certified by an approved and qualified fire protection system contractor who is trained and experienced in the maintenance and inspection of fire suppression systems, with a copy of the certification to be provided to the municipality. Inspection and maintenance shall be in accordance with the appropriate NFPA standard.
(6) 
Buildings containing a fire detection and/or alarm system monitored by a central station shall have the system inspected and certified by an approved and qualified monitoring system contractor who is trained and experienced in the maintenance and inspection of monitoring systems, with a copy of the certification to be provided to the municipality. Inspection and maintenance shall be in accordance with the appropriate NFPA standard.
E. 
Rental agreement and addendum.
(1) 
All rental agreements between property owners and tenants for regulated rental units shall be in writing.
(2) 
A rental agreement may not include terms and provisions which are contrary to the provisions of this chapter.
(3) 
Addendum to rental agreement. The addendum attached hereto as Exhibit "A" shall be made a part of each rental agreement for regulated rental units, and shall be provided by the property owner to the occupant before a rental agreement is presented for signing by an occupant.[1] The property owner shall furnish to the municipality copies of the addendum within 10 days after entering into a rental agreement.
[1]
Editor's Note: Said addendum is included as an attachment to this chapter.
F. 
Common areas. The property owner shall be responsible for ensuring that the common areas and the premises are in compliance with all applicable municipal ordinances.
G. 
Violations. Upon receiving notice of any violations of this chapter from the municipal enforcement official, the property owner shall take necessary action, or cause such action to be taken, to eliminate the violation within the time limit provided on the notice or citation, which shall include but not be limited to acquiring all necessary building and related permits from the municipality for the required repairs, as applicable.
H. 
Inspection of premises.
(1) 
The property owner or owner's agent shall permit, schedule and accompany the municipal enforcement official on all inspections of regulated residential units and premises during normal business hours.
(2) 
The property owner or owner's agent shall provide a minimum of three calendar days advance notice to at least one adult occupant of each regulated residential unit of the time and date of the inspection. These advance notice requirements shall not apply when the municipality or the municipal enforcement officer has reason to believe that an imminent threat to public health, safety and welfare may exist. In such event, the time periods set forth herein may be abandoned.
A. 
General. The occupant shall comply with all obligations imposed by this chapter, all applicable codes and ordinances of the municipality and such applicable provisions of state law.
B. 
Health regulations. Occupants shall collect and dispose of all rubbish, garbage, and other waste in a clean and sanitary manner, and dispose of same in such manner as may be designated by owner or owner's agent, as may be approved by the Health Department of Montgomery County, as applicable.
C. 
Inspection of premises. Occupants shall permit inspections by a municipal enforcement official of the premises during normal business hours.
A. 
Registration requirements.
(1) 
A residential rental occupancy certificate (hereinafter "certificate" or "occupancy certificate") shall be required for all occupied regulated rental units. Prior to the occupancy of a unit by a tenant, the property owner or the owner's agent shall be required to apply for an occupancy certificate for each regulated rental unit. A residential rental occupancy certificate shall not be issued or renewed until:
(a) 
The owner has provided information concerning an owner's agent, if applicable.
(b) 
The unit is inspected by the municipal enforcement official and found in compliance with the requirements of this chapter.
(2) 
The following shall not be considered regulated rental units for the purposes of this chapter:
(a) 
Owner-occupied dwelling units.
(b) 
Hotels and motels used for transient visitors to the area, but without units that serve the same purposes as rooming house units.
(c) 
Hospitals and state-licensed nursing homes and personal care homes.
(d) 
One dwelling unit that is on the same lot as a second dwelling unit, provided the two dwellings are only occupied by the owner and persons who are related to the owner.
(e) 
On-campus dormitories owned by an accredited college or university.
(f) 
Units owned by the municipal or county housing authority. Dwelling units that are owned by the municipal or county housing authority of the municipality shall be exempted from the requirements of this chapter. However, dwellings owned by the municipal or county housing authority shall be required to comply with requirements of this chapter unless such provision is specifically preempted by federal law.
(g) 
A single-family detached dwelling being utilized as a rental unit containing only one dwelling unit.
(3) 
All applications shall be on forms provided and approved by the municipality.
B. 
Occupancy certificates and fees.
(1) 
Each residential rental occupancy certificate shall have a three-year term, and each regulated rental unit shall be subject to a minimum of at least one inspection based upon the following schedule or a schedule later established by the Municipality. Structures and complexes having 10 regulated rental units or fewer shall have all units inspected during one single inspection once every three years. Complexes having more than 10 regulated rental units shall have 1/3 of all units inspected each year, so that at the end of the three-year program cycle all units will be inspected. The municipality is not obligated to complete all inspections within this schedule. If the municipality, through no fault of the property owner, manager or tenant, is not able to complete an inspection in a regulated rental unit in that particular schedule, the municipality may inspect the unit at another time.
(2) 
An extension of time for conduction of the required inspection may be granted if a regulated rental unit has been recently constructed or renovated and the regulated rental unit was inspected by the municipality for Code compliance and a use and occupancy certificate was issued relating to the new construction; then, a subsequent inspection will not be required pursuant to this chapter for the current program cycle.
(3) 
Upon application for an occupancy certificate and prior to issuance or renewal thereof, each applicant shall pay to the municipality a fee intended to cover the municipality's cost of administration, inspection and one reinspection of the unit. Inspections required beyond the one reinspection shall require an additional fee.
(a) 
The annual fee for a residential rental unit shall be as provided in the Fee Schedule adopted by resolution of the municipality, which may be amended from time to time.
(b) 
The fee for all units to be inspected within a calendar year shall be paid by June 30 of that year. If the fee is not paid by June 30, an additional fee may apply.
(c) 
If the fee is paid for all units to be inspected within a calendar year by April 1, the applicant may receive a discount as defined within the Fee Schedule.
(d) 
If a second reinspection is needed for a regulated rental unit, then an additional fee shall apply. For each subsequent reinspection that is needed, an additional fee shall apply.
(e) 
The fee to reinstate a revoked residential rental occupancy certificate, per regulated rental unit, shall be set forth in the Fee Schedule.
(f) 
The fees provided for in the Fee Schedule may be amended from time to time by resolution of the municipality's governing body.
(g) 
A residential rental occupancy certificate shall not be issued or renewed if the owner has not paid any fines and costs arising from outstanding fees or enforcement actions taken pursuant to this chapter.
(h) 
If a reinspection is required for a regulated rental unit solely due to the fact that the appropriate municipal official was unable to enter the unit at the time of the scheduled inspection, then an additional fee may apply.
(4) 
An occupancy certificate or inspection by itself shall not warrant that a rental unit is lawful, safe, habitable or in compliance with all applicable municipal ordinances.
C. 
Inspection.
(1) 
Each regulated rental unit shall be subject to inspection by the municipal enforcement official or another duly authorized agent of the municipality under the schedule established by the municipality.
(2) 
The municipal enforcement official and such deputies or assistants shall be the officials authorized to enforce this chapter and to take appropriate measures to abate violations hereof, for and on behalf of the municipality.
(3) 
This chapter shall not be construed as to limit the municipal enforcement official's authority to conduct inspections or enforcement actions under other applicable municipal ordinances, or to require that a property be made available for inspection whenever there is a complaint or probable cause that a violation of a municipal ordinance may be present.
(4) 
Owners and managers are encouraged to schedule inspections during times when a regulated rental unit is unoccupied.
D. 
Warrant. Within the limitations of federal and state law, a municipal enforcement official may apply to a District Justice having jurisdiction hereunder for an administrative search warrant to enter and inspect a regulated rental unit and the premises. Such warrant is only required where access to a regulated rental unit or common area(s) is denied to the municipal enforcement official after a request.
A. 
General.
(1) 
Notice of violations. The municipal enforcement official shall provide written notification of violations of the applicable municipal ordinance(s) and require that they be corrected within a reasonable period of time, as may be established by the municipal enforcement official in their reasonable discretion.
(a) 
If a municipal enforcement official determines that a regulated rental unit is unfit for human habitation, the unit shall be vacated and remain vacated until the violation is corrected.
(b) 
The municipal enforcement official may require a violation be corrected within 24 hours, or such other expedited time period as the municipal enforcement official may determine, if the municipal enforcement official reasonably believes that there is an imminent threat to the health, safety or welfare of the occupant, tenant or the public at large. Such time period for corrective action shall be provided on the notice of violation with a clear explanation of the corrective action necessary for the unit to come into compliance.
(2) 
Nonrenewal. A municipal enforcement official may deny the issuance of a renewal occupancy certificate if there are outstanding violations of applicable municipal ordinances remaining for any regulated rental unit owned or registered to that owner. If the violations are not a threat to safety of occupants or other members of the public, a municipal enforcement official shall permit the current occupants to continue to reside in the unit for a reasonable period of time to allow for the unit to come into compliance. A municipal enforcement official may issue a temporary occupancy certificate that is conditioned upon certain actions being taken within a certain time period.
(3) 
Revocation. The revocation of an occupancy certificate may occur if the municipal enforcement official determines that the existing violation(s) present a threat to the safety of occupants or other members of the public. Upon revocation, the owner shall take immediate steps to evict or relocate the occupants. The occupancy certificate may be reinstated upon the unit coming into compliance with the stated violation(s).
(4) 
Suspension. The municipal enforcement official may suspend an occupancy certificate if:
(a) 
Violations of the applicable municipal ordinance have not been corrected within a time period set forth in the pending notice of violation.
(b) 
The violation(s) are not a threat to safety of occupants or other members of the public, in which event, the current occupants may continue to reside in the unit.
(c) 
The property owner or his/her designated manager were not available for an inspection, or if the name and contact information for the property owner or manager are no longer valid and were not updated as required by this chapter.
B. 
Procedure for nonrenewal, suspension or revocation of occupancy certificate. Following a determination that an occupancy certificate shall not be renewed, suspended or revoked, the municipal enforcement official shall notify the property owner or manager of the action taken and the reason therefore. Such notification shall be in writing, addressed to the property owner or manager and shall contain the following information:
(1) 
The address of the premises in question and identification of the affected regulated rental unit(s).
(2) 
A description of the violation which has been found to exist.
(3) 
A statement that the occupancy certificate for said regulated rental unit(s) shall be suspended, revoked, or will not be renewed. Time deadlines shall be provided in the notice. In the case of a revocation, the notice shall state the date upon which such revocation will commence.
(4) 
A statement that during the license nonrenewal or revocation, the property shall not be rented for occupancy, except for any temporary conditional occupancy certificate extension that a municipal enforcement official may issue.
(5) 
Information regarding the owners and/or manager's right to an appeal.
C. 
Appeals. Any Person affected by a decision, violation notice, report or order of a municipal enforcement official under this chapter shall have the right to appeal to the municipality's property maintenance board of appeals. An application for appeal may be made when it is claimed that the provisions of this chapter have been improperly applied or administered or that factual errors were made by the municipal enforcement official, or for such other grounds under this chapter as the applicant may allege. A written application for appeal is required to be filed within 30 days after the day the decision, report, notice or order was received or served. A fee as identified within the Fee Schedule shall be paid in advance by the person requesting the hearing for each appeal to the property maintenance board of appeals.
D. 
Notifications.
(1) 
Notices of violations and license suspensions, revocations and nonrenewals shall be sent to the property owner, and manager, if applicable, by regular mail.
(2) 
The municipality shall not be responsible for failing to provide notice if the owner has not provided an up-to-date name and address for the property owner or the manager for the regulated rental unit.
(3) 
For purposes of this chapter, any notice required hereunder to be given to a manager shall be deemed as notice given to the property owner.
(4) 
A claimed lack of knowledge by the property owner of any violation hereunder cited shall not be a defense to occupancy certificate nonrenewal, suspension or revocation or an eviction order as long as all required notices involving such proceedings have been sent to the last known address of the property owner.
E. 
Reinstatement. An occupancy certificate may be reinstated if the property owner of a regulated rental unit corrects the reason for the revocation of the occupancy certificate within the time period provided in the notice of violation and has paid the required fee.
A. 
Basis for violation. It shall be unlawful for any person, as either property owner or manager of a regulated rental unit, to operate without a valid, current occupancy certificate issued by the municipality pursuant to this chapter. It shall also be unlawful for any person, either property owner or manager, to allow the number of occupants of a regulated rental unit to exceed the maximum number allowed by applicable municipal ordinance(s). It shall be unlawful for any owner, manager or occupant to violate this chapter.
B. 
Penalties.
(1) 
Any person who violates a provision of this chapter shall upon conviction thereof before a District Justice be liable to pay a maximum fine of $500 per day. For each day that a violation continues to exist after the time limit established for correction of the violation by a municipal enforcement official, a separate violation shall have been deemed to occur, requiring an additional fine.
(2) 
In addition to the penalties set forth above, a property owner or manager may be required to evict or relocate an occupant of a regulated rental unit and, if warranted under this chapter, have the residential rental occupancy certificate revoked, suspended and/or withdrawn.
C. 
Nonexclusive remedies. The penalty provisions of this chapter and the occupancy certificate nonrenewal, suspension and revocation procedures provided in this chapter shall not limit the ability of the municipality to enforce other municipal ordinances and to utilize the penalties, remedies and procedures provided under such other municipal ordinances and federal or state law.
A. 
Changes in ownership/occupancy.
(1) 
Each property owner of a regulated rental unit shall notify the municipality in writing within five business days after any change in ownership of the premises or of the number of regulated rental units on the premises, and submit new contact information.
(2) 
The property owner shall notify the municipality in writing within a maximum of five business days after the changing of a dwelling unit from owner-occupied to being a regulated rental unit for purposes of this chapter. Failure to so notify the municipality shall be considered a violation of this chapter.
B. 
Owners separately responsible. If any regulated rental unit is owned by more than one person, in any form of joint tenancy, as a partnership, or otherwise, each person shall be jointly and separately responsible for the duties imposed under the terms of this chapter, and shall be separately subject to prosecution for the violation of this chapter.