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City of Easton, PA
Northampton County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Adopted 6-12-2013 by Ord. No. 5412]
It is the purpose and intent of the City to establish a process to address the deterioration and blight of City neighborhoods caused by an increasing amount of abandoned, blighted, foreclosed or distressed real property located within the City and to identify, regulate, limit and reduce the number of abandoned or blighted properties located within the City. It is the City's further intent to establish a registration and inspection 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 article, 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 City, 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 Assessor's lien sale, has been transferred to the lender under a deed in lieu of foreclosure, and/or has been declared and/or certified blighted in accordance with the Vacant Property Review Committee Ordinance.[1] The designation of a property as "abandoned" shall remain in place until such time:
A. 
As the property is sold or transferred to a new owner and receives a certificate of occupancy from the City's Department of Planning and Codes; or
B. 
The foreclosure action has been dismissed; or
C. 
Any default on the mortgage has been cured; or
D. 
The property is removed from the vacant property determination and/or certification list and receives a certificate of occupancy from the City's Department of Planning and Codes.
ACCESSIBLE PROPERTY/STRUCTURE
A property that is accessible through a comprised/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
Includes, but is not limited to, the City's Zoning Code, Property Maintenance and Housing Standards Code, Public Health Standards Code, Solid Waste and Recycling Code, Construction Code, Rental Code, Buyer Notification Code, Vacant Property Review Committee Ordinance ("City Code"), and the Pennsylvania Building Code.
A. 
As defined in Chapter 152, Vacant Property Review Committee, § 152-4, Blighted property defined; or
B. 
Properties that have broken or severely damaged windows, doors, walls, or roofs which create hazardous conditions and encourage trespassing; or
C. 
Properties whose maintenance is not in conformance with the maintenance of other neighboring properties, causing a decrease in value of the neighboring properties; 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 the City and Zoning Codes.
DEFAULT
That 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.
[Added 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673]
ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
Any law enforcement officer, Building Official, Director of Planning and Codes, Zoning Officer, Code Enforcement Officer, Fire Inspector or Building Inspector, or other person authorized by the City to enforce the applicable code(s).
FORECLOSURE (or FORECLOSURE ACTION)
The legal process by which a mortgagee, or other lien holder, terminates or attempts to terminate 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. The legal process is not concluded until the property obtained by the mortgagee, lien holder, 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.
[Added 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673]
OWNER
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, local property maintenance company or similar local entity responsible for the maintenance of abandoned real property; an adult individual designated by the owner of a regulated rental unit under this article.
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 City limits.
[Added 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673]
[Added 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673]
A. 
Any real property located in the City of Easton, 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 judgement 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; or
B. 
Any property that is vacant for more than 30 days or any cancellation of utility or service, whichever occurs first.
SEMIANNUAL REGISTRATION
Registration six months from the date of the first action that requires registration, as determined by the City, 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.
[Added 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673]
VACANT
Any building or structure that is not legally occupied.
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 152, Vacant Property Review Committee.
These sections shall be considered cumulative and not superseding or subject to any other law or provision for same, but rather be an additional remedy available to the City above and beyond any other state, county or local provisions for same.
The City or its designee shall establish a registry cataloging each abandoned real property and blighted real property within the City, containing the information required by this article.
A. 
Any owner or mortgagee who holds a mortgage on real property located within the City 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 Department of Planning and Codes, or its designee, on forms or website access provided by the City, 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.
B. 
If the property is occupied but remains in default, it 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 City.
C. 
Any owner of vacant property located within the City shall within 10 days after the property becomes vacant, or within 10 days after assuming ownership of the property, whichever is later, register the real property with the City Registry.
[Added 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673[1]]
[1]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also redesignated former Subsections C through I as Subsections D through J.
D. 
Real property declared and/or certified blighted prior to the enactment of this article shall be inspected by the Department of Planning and Codes within 60 days of the enactment of this article and a copy of the City's inspection report presented to the Vacant Property Review Committee. The Vacant Property Review Committee shall review the City inspection reports and make a property-by-property recommendation to the Easton Planning Commission indicating inclusion or noninclusion on the abandoned real property and blighted real property registration.
E. 
Blighted real property resolved by the Easton Planning Commission to be included in the abandoned real property and blighted real property registration shall be subject to all applicable provisions of this article.
F. 
Registration pursuant to this section shall contain the name of the owner or mortgagee and the server, the direct mailing address (no post office boxes) of the owner or mortgagee and the server, a direct contact name and telephone number for both parties, a facsimile number and e-mail address for both parties, the Northampton County tax identification number, and the name and twenty-four-hour contact phone number of the property management company responsible for the security and maintenance of the property.
G. 
If the owner or mortgagee is not a full-time resident of the City of Easton nor lives within a thirty-mile radius of the City of Easton, then the owner shall designate a property management company to serve as manager which does reside or work on a daily basis within a thirty-mile radius of the City of Easton. If the owner is a corporation, a separate property management company shall be appointed, unless an officer of the corporation is appointed as the property management company and such officer lives within a thirty-mile radius of the City of Easton. If the owner is a partnership, a property management company shall be required if a partner does not reside within a thirty-mile radius of the City of Easton. Said partner shall perform the same function as a property management company. The property management company shall be the agent of the owner for service of process and receiving of notices and demands, as well as for performing the obligations of the owner under this article.
H. 
The property management company shall be authorized to accept service of process on behalf of the owner or mortgagee.
[Amended 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673]
I. 
In addition, an owner or mortgagee may designate a property management company to serve all of the same purposes of the owner. If a property management company is designated, then the City is not required to provide separate notice to the owner.
[Amended 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673]
J. 
A nonrefundable semiannual registration fee as enumerated in the City Fee Ordinance shall accompany the registration form or website registration.[2]
[Amended 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673]
[2]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 285, Fees.
K. 
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 semi-annual 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 semiannual registration fee.
[Added 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673]
L. 
If the property is sold or transferred, the defaulted mortgage and/or servicing on a property is sold or transferred, the new owner or mortgagee is subject to all the terms of this chapter. Within 10 days of the transfer, the new owner or mortgagee shall register the property or update the existing registration. The previous owner or mortgagee(s) will not be released from the responsibility of paying all previous unpaid fees, fines, and penalties accrued during that mortgagee's involvement with the defaulted property.
[Added 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673]
M. 
If the mortgagee sells or transfers the defaulted property in a non-arm's length transaction to a related entity or person, the transferee is subject to all the terms of this chapter. Within 10 days of the transfer, the transferee shall register the property or update the existing registration. Any and all previous unpaid fees, fines, and penalties, regardless of who the mortgagee was at the time registration was required, including but not limited to unregistered periods during the foreclosure process, are the responsibility of the transferee and are due and payable with the updated registration. The previous mortgagee will not be released from the responsibility of paying all previous unpaid fees, fines, and penalties accrued during that mortgagee's involvement with the defaulted property.
[Added 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673]
N. 
If the vacant and/or 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.
[Amended 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673[3]]
[3]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also redesignated former Subsections J through T as Subsections O through Y.
O. 
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 City and/or its authorized designee.
P. 
This section shall also apply to properties that have 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.
Q. 
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, in default and/or declared and/or certified as blighted and without a certificate of occupancy.
[Amended 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673]
R. 
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.
[Amended 4-10-2019 by Ord. No. 5673]
S. 
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 article is a violation of the article and shall be subject to enforcement.
T. 
Pursuant to any administrative or judicial finding and determination that any property is in violation of this article, the City may take the necessary action to ensure compliance with and place a lien on the property for the cost of the work performed to benefit the property and bring it into compliance.
U. 
If the owner is not a full-time resident of the City of Easton nor lives within a thirty-mile radius of the City of Easton, then the owner shall designate a property management company to serve as manager which does reside or work on a daily basis within a thirty-mile radius of the City of Easton. If the owner is a corporation, a separate property management company shall be appointed, unless an officer of the corporation is appointed as the property management company and such officer lives within a thirty-mile radius of the City of Easton. If the owner is a partnership, a property management company shall be required if a partner does not reside within a thirty-mile radius of the City of Easton. Said partner shall perform the same function as a property management company. The property management company shall be the agent of the owner for service of process and receiving of notices and demands, as well as for performing the obligations of the owner under this article.
V. 
The legal name, mailing address, daytime physical address (not a post office box), and daytime and evening telephone number(s) of a property management company which is designated as the manager shall be provided in writing by the owner to the City, and such information shall be kept current and updated within 10 business days after it changes.
W. 
The property management company shall be authorized to accept service of process on behalf of the owner.
X. 
In addition, an owner may designate a property management company to serve all of the same purposes of the owner. If a property management company is designated, then the City is not required to provide separate notice to the owner.
Y. 
If a mortgage on a property is in default, or the property has been declared and/or certified blighted in accordance with the Vacant Property Review Committee Ordinance and the property has become vacant or abandoned, a property manager shall be designated by the owner or 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 article and any other applicable laws.
A. 
Properties subject to this article shall be compliant with the City Property Maintenance and Housing Standards Ordinance.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: See Arts. I and II of this chapter.
B. 
Properties subject to this article shall be kept free of weeds; overgrown brush; dead vegetation; trash; junk; debris; building materials; any accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers or notices, except those required by federal, state or local law; discarded personal items, including, but not limited to, furniture, clothing, and large and small appliances; inoperable vehicles; printed material; or any other items that give the appearance that the property is abandoned.
C. 
Properties subject to this article shall be kept free of chipped or peeling paint, deteriorated windows, openings, walls, foundations and roofs and shall comply with the regulations set forth in the applicable code(s).
D. 
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.
E. 
Front, side, and rear yards, including landscaping and fencing, shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable code(s) at the time registration was required.
F. 
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.
G. 
Maintenance shall include, but not be limited to, watering, irrigation, cutting and mowing of required ground cover or landscape and removal of all trimmings.
H. 
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).
I. 
Sheds, garages, outbuildings and other nonprimary structures shall be maintained, which shall include, but not be limited to, being kept free of pollutants, debris, clutter and hazards to the public health and safety; remaining secure, free from peeling or chipping paint, deteriorated windows, openings, doors, walls, foundations and roofs; and complying with the regulations set forth in the applicable code(s).
J. 
Failure of the mortgagee and/or owner to properly maintain the property shall result in a violation of the applicable code(s) and issuance of a citation or notice of violation in accordance with the applicable code of the City. Pursuant to a finding and determination by the City, Magistrate or a court of competent jurisdiction, the City may take the necessary action to ensure compliance with this section.
K. 
In addition to the above, the property is required to be maintained in accordance with all applicable code(s) of the City.
A. 
Properties subject to these sections shall be maintained in a secure manner so as not to be accessible to unauthorized persons.
B. 
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 human children or adults, felines, rodents, canines or other mammals to access the interior of the property or structure. Broken windows, doors, gates and other openings of such size that may allow human children or adults, felines, rodents, canines or other mammals to access the interior of the property or structure must be repaired. Broken windows shall be secured by reglazing of the window.
C. 
Failure of the mortgagee or owner to properly secure the property shall result in a violation of the applicable code(s) and issuance of a citation or notice of violation in accordance with the applicable code of the City. Pursuant to a finding and determination by the City, Magistrate or a court of competent jurisdiction, the City may take the necessary action to ensure compliance with this section.
D. 
In addition to the above, the property is required to be secured in accordance with all applicable code(s) of the City.
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 City.
Adherence to this article 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. Prior to the sale or transfer of title to the property, the owner shall be responsible to obtain a buyer's notification inspection. Properties that remain vacant, abandoned and/or blighted for one year or more shall be inspected at least annually by the Department of Planning and Codes and, as necessary, Police Department or other City department having jurisdiction. Inspections may occur more frequently depending on complaints, necessity, violations of applicable City codes or other related to the public health, safety and general welfare.
A. 
If the enforcement officer has reason to believe that a property subject to the provisions of this article is posing a serious threat to the public health, safety and welfare, the City may secure the property at the expense of the mortgagee and/or owner, and a municipal claim or lien for costs associated with the security activity shall be filed and a municipal citation filed for the violations, as soon as possible, to address the conditions of the property.
B. 
The City or Magistrate 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.
C. 
If there is a finding that the condition of the property is posing a serious threat to the public health, safety and welfare, then the City or Magistrate may abate the violations and charge the mortgagee with the cost of the abatement.
D. 
If the mortgagee or owner does not reimburse the City for the cost of securing the property, or of any abatement directed by the City or Magistrate, within 30 days of the City sending the mortgagee or owner the invoice, then the City may lien the property with such cost, along with an administrative fee as outlined in Chapter 285, Fees, to recover the cost of services.
Whoever opposes, obstructs or resists any enforcement officer or any person authorized by the enforcement office in the discharge of duties as provided in this article 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 City 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 of duties imposed by this article.
A. 
Any person who shall violate the provisions of this article may be cited and fined as provided in this article, the City Fee Ordinance and the Municipal Claim and Lien Ordinance.
B. 
After the owner is given notice of the amount of the registration fee due, and the owner fails to pay the amount due, said amount shall constitute a debt due and owing to the City, and the City may commence a civil action to collect the unpaid debt.
C. 
After the owner is given notice of the amount of the registration fee due, and the owner fails to pay the amount due, said amount shall constitute a debt due and owing to the City and shall constitute a lien.
D. 
The failure or refusal for any reason of any owner, or agent of an owner acting on behalf of the owner, to register a vacant and/or blighted property or to pay any fees required to be paid pursuant to the provisions of this article within 30 days after they become due shall constitute a violation punishable, upon conviction thereof, by a fine in the amount of not less than $1,500 for each failure or refusal to register, failure to maintain or secure vacant or blighted property or for each failure or refusal to pay a required fee(s). Fine shall not be subject to suspension or reduction for any reason.
E. 
The failure or refusal for any reason of any owner, or agent of an owner acting on behalf of the owner, to register a vacant and/or blighted property or to pay any fees required to be paid pursuant to the provisions of this article within 30 days after they become due shall constitute a violation, and the City may lien the property with such cost, along with an administrative fee to recover the cost of administrative services as outlined in Chapter 285, Fees.