Anti-blight bill advances
I am pleased to report that an anti-blight bill I authored was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 28.
This bill (H.B. 1322) passed the House 181-19 in July. It is designed to reduce the number of abandoned properties in Pennsylvania communities by changing state law on "adverse possession," a process that allows a person who lives in a home that's considered legally abandoned to take ownership of the property.
There are property owners in this state who lose interest, and this bill would help the neighbors and communities in Pittsburgh and across the state who have to deal with the results. A local attorney who works on these issues has informed me that this bill would help with the toughest-to-resolve tangled property titles in the Pittsburgh area.
Current law imposes a 21-year waiting period for adverse possession. My bill would reduce that to 10 years for single-family homes on properties of one-half acre or less. The owner would have one year to dispute the claim. The bill would not apply to property that is part of a common interest ownership community, such as a condominium development, a real estate cooperative or a planned community.
In addition to helping to reduce blight, this bill would help residents whose claim to a property is in limbo because of problems such as a defective or unfiled deed or an inheritance that wasn't provided through a legal will. Because they lack clear legal ownership, they have problems with getting property insurance, a grant or loan for property repair, utility discounts or real estate tax abatements, payment plans for real estate tax delinquencies, or a loan from Pennsylvania's Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program.
I am pleased the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved this important bill, and I hope the full Senate will soon do the same.
I am also encouraged that the House and Senate have both passed another bill (S.B. 900) that would reduce blight.
That bill would:
• Allow municipalities to recover the costs of demolishing or repairing a blighted property by placing a lien against the owner's personal assets.
• Give municipalities authority to deny permits or licenses to the owners of blighted properties.
• Allow for extradition of out-of-state property owners who have housing code violations filed against them.
At this writing, the Senate must vote for that bill as amended by the House before it can go to the governor's desk.
If you have a state-related concern or question, contact my office at 412-471-7760, or send me an e-mail through the "Contact Me" page of my website: www.pahouse.com/Wheatley.
State Rep. Jake Wheatley, Jr.
19th Legislative District