[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Supervisors of the Township of Lower Paxton 11-21-2017 by Ord. No. 17-14; amended in its entirety 1-21-2020 by Ord. No. 19-08. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
It is the purpose and intent of the Board of Supervisors to amend the process to address the deterioration, crime and decline in value of neighborhoods caused by property with defaulted mortgages and vacant property located within the Township, and to identify, regulate, limit and reduce the number of these properties located within the Township. It is the Supervisors' further intent to establish a registration requirement as a mechanism to protect neighborhoods from the negative impact and conditions that occur as a result of vacancy, absentee ownership, lack of adequate maintenance and security and to provide a method to expeditiously identify contact persons for each property responsible for this protection.
It is not the intent of this chapter to determine the rights and liabilities of persons under agreements to which Lower Paxton Township is not a party. This chapter shall not be construed to alter the terms of any lease or other agreement between a landlord and a tenant or others relating to property that is the subject of this chapter, provided that no provision of any lease or other agreement shall be construed to excuse compliance with this chapter. Additionally, a violation of this chapter shall not in and of itself create a negligence per se standard or otherwise expand existing liability in tort for either a landlord or a tenant.
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.
- 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, Lower Paxton Township's Zoning Ordinance, Property Maintenance Code, Solid Waste and Recyclables Ordinance, and the state and Township Building and Fire Codes.
- The mortgagor has not complied with the terms of the mortgage on the property, or the promissory note, or other evidence of the debt, referred to in the mortgage.
- ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
- Any law enforcement officer, Building Official, Zoning Officer, Codes Enforcement Officer, Fire Marshal, or other person authorized by Lower Paxton Township to enforce the applicable code(s).
- EVIDENCE OF VACANCY
- Any condition that on its own, or combined with other conditions present, would lead a reasonable person to believe that the property is vacant. Such conditions may include, but are not limited to: overgrown and/or dead vegetation; past-due utility notices and/or disconnected utilities; accumulation of trash, junk or debris; abandoned vehicles, auto parts and/or materials; the absence of furnishings and/or personal items consistent with habitation or occupancy; the presence of an unsanitary, stagnant swimming pool; the accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers and/or mail; statements by neighbors, passersby, delivery agents or government agents; and/or the presence of boards over doors, windows or other openings in violation of applicable codes.
- The legal process by which a mortgagee, or other lienholder, terminates a property owner's equitable right of redemption to obtain legal and equitable title to the real property pledged as security for a debt or the real property subject to the lien. This definition shall include, but is not limited to, public notice of default, a deed in lieu of foreclosure, sale to the mortgagee or lienholder, certificate of title and all other processes, activities and actions, by whatever name, associated with the described process. The process is not concluded until the property obtained by the mortgagee, lienholder, or their designee, by certificate of title, or any other means, is sold to a nonrelated bona fide purchaser in an arm's-length transaction to satisfy the debt or lien.
- The creditor, including, but not limited to, trustees; mortgage servicing companies; lenders in a mortgage agreement; any agent, servant, or employee of the creditor; any successor in interest; or any assignee of the creditor's rights, interests or obligations under the mortgage agreement, excluding government entities.
- Any person, firm, corporation or other legal entity who, individually or jointly or severally with others, holds the legal or beneficial title to any building, facilities, equipment or premises subject to the provisions of this chapter.
- REAL PROPERTY
- Any improved residential or commercial land, buildings, leasehold improvements and anything affixed to the land, or portion thereof identified by a property parcel identification number, located in Lower Paxton Township. Developed lots are considered improved land.
- A. Any real property located in Lower Paxton Township, 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.
- B. Any property that is vacant for more than 30 days or any cancellation of utilities or service, whichever occurs first.
- SEMIANNUAL REGISTRATION
- Six months from the date of the first action that requires registration, as determined by Lower Paxton Township, or its designee, and every subsequent six months. The date of the initial registration may be different than the date of the first action that required registration.
- Any parcel of land in Lower Paxton Township that is not legally occupied. Vacant property does not mean property that is temporarily unoccupied while the residents are away on vacation, personal matters or business, or is not intended by the owner to be left vacant, so long as the period does not exceed 30 days.
These sections shall be considered cumulative and not superseding or subject to any other law or provision for same, but rather an additional remedy available to Lower Paxton Township above and beyond any other state or Township provisions for same.
Pursuant to the provisions of § 152-5, Lower Paxton Township, or its designee, shall establish a registry cataloging each registrable property within the Township, containing the information required by this chapter.
Any mortgagee who holds a mortgage on real property located within Lower Paxton Township 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 Code Enforcement Department, or its designee, on forms or other manner as directed, 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.
Registration pursuant to this section shall contain the name, direct mailing address, a direct contact name, telephone number, and email address for the mortgagee/trustee, and the mortgage servicer, and the name and twenty-four-hour contact phone number of the local property management company responsible for the security and maintenance of the property who has the authority to make decisions concerning the abatement of nuisance conditions at the property, as well as any expenditure in connection therewith.
Mortgagees who have existing registrable property on the effective date of this chapter have 30 calendar days from the effective date to register the property with the Code Enforcement Department, or its designee, on forms or other manner as directed, and indicate whether the property is vacant or occupied. A separate registration is required for each property, whether it is vacant or occupied.
Any previous unpaid registration fees are the responsibility of the new mortgagee or trustee and are due and payable with their initial registration. Except if it is determined that the transferee is exempt from paying fees, then the previous mortgagee will not be released from the responsibility of paying all previous unpaid fees and fines, regardless of who the mortgagee was at the time when registration was required, including but not limited to unregistered periods during the foreclosure process. The provisions of this section are cumulative with and in addition to other available remedies.
If the servicing rights for a mortgage on a registrable property are sold or transferred, the registration must be updated to include all the new servicer information within 10 days of the servicing transfer.
Any previous unpaid registration fees are the responsibility of the new registrable property owner and are due and payable with their initial registration. Except if it is determined that the transferee is exempt from paying fees, then the previous mortgagee will not be released from the responsibility of paying all previous unpaid fees and fines, regardless of who the mortgagee was at the time when registration was required, including but not limited to unregistered periods during the foreclosure process. The provisions of this section are cumulative with and in addition to other available remedies.
As long as the property is registrable, it shall be inspected by the mortgagee, or designee, monthly. If an inspection shows a change in the property's occupancy status, the mortgagee shall, within 10 days of that inspection, update the occupancy status of the property registration.
A nonrefundable semiannual registration fee of $300 shall accompany each registration pursuant to this section.
If the registrable 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, trustee, servicer, or owner. Third-party registration fees are not allowed without the consent of Lower Paxton Township and/or its authorized designee.
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 are registrable.
Until the mortgage or lien on the property in question is satisfied, or legally discharged, the desire to no longer pursue foreclosure, the filing of a dismissal of lis pendens and/or summary of final judgment and/or certificate of title, voluntary or otherwise, does not exempt any mortgagee holding the defaulted mortgage from all the requirements of this chapter as long as the borrower is 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 to properly register or to modify the registration information within 10 days of the action requiring the update to reflect a change of circumstances as required by this chapter is a violation of this chapter and shall be subject to enforcement and any resulting monetary penalties and/or property liens.
Pursuant to any administrative or judicial finding and determination that any property is in violation of this chapter, Lower Paxton Township may take the necessary action to ensure compliance 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 maintained in accordance with the applicable code(s) of Lower Paxton Township.
Any owner of vacant property located within the Township shall, within 10 days after the property becomes vacant, register the real property with the Township registry.
Initial registration pursuant to this section shall contain at a minimum the name of the owner, the mailing address of the owner, email address and telephone number of the owner, and, if applicable, the name and telephone number of the property manager and said person's address, email address, and telephone number.
At the time of initial registration, each registrant shall pay a nonrefundable semiannual registration fee of $300 for each vacant property. Subsequent nonrefundable semiannual renewal registrations of vacant properties and fees in the amount of $300 are due within 10 days of the expiration of the previous registration. Said fees shall be used to offset the costs of: 1) registration and registration enforcement, 2) code enforcement and mitigation related to vacant properties, and 3) for any related purposes as may be adopted in the policy set forth in this chapter. Said fees shall be deposited to a special account in the Township of Lower Paxton General Fund dedicated to the cost of implementation and enforcement of this chapter and fulfilling the purpose and intent of this chapter.
If the property is sold or transferred, the new owner is subject to all the terms of this chapter. Within 10 days of the transfer, the new owner shall register the vacant property or update the existing registration. The previous owner(s) will not be released from the responsibility of paying all previous unpaid fees, fines, and penalties accrued during that owner's involvement with the vacant property.
If the vacant property is not registered, or either the registration fee or the semiannual registration fee is not paid within 30 days of when the registration or semiannual registration 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. This section shall apply to the initial registration and registrations required by subsequent owners of the vacant property.
Properties subject to this section shall remain subject to the semiannual registration requirement and the inspection, security, and maintenance standards of this section as long as the property is vacant.
Failure of the owner to properly register or to modify the registration to reflect a change of circumstances as required by this chapter is a violation of this chapter and shall be subject to enforcement by any of the enforcement means available to the Township.
If any property is in violation of this chapter, the Township may take the necessary action to ensure compliance and place a lien on the property for the cost of the outstanding obligation and any additional cost incurred to bring the property into compliance.
Properties registered as a result of this section are not required to be registered again pursuant to the foreclosure mortgage property section.