May 24, 2011 |

Wheatley bill to reduce number of abandoned properties moves forward

 The House of Representatives recently passed a bill introduced by state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, to help to reduce the number of abandoned properties in Pennsylvania communities.

"This bill would help the neighbors and communities who are left to deal with abandoned properties and the negative effects that come with them," Rep. Wheatley said. "I am pleased with the bipartisan support and cooperation I am again receiving on this bill."

Rep. Wheatley's bill (H.B. 1022) also passed the House last session, but it expired in the Senate. It would change 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.

Current law imposes a 21-year waiting period for that process. Wheatley's 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," Rep. Wheatley said.

"Current law provides an incentive to homeowners in these cases to abandon property rather than spending large amounts of money to fix it up. Local governments end up having to spend money to demolish many of these properties. My bill would avoid these unproductive costs and instead help to keep people in homes and help them establish homeownership," he said.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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