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Borough of Pottstown, PA
Montgomery County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[1]
Editor's Note: Former Part 15, Vacant Property Registration, adopted by Ord. 2108, 2/11/2013, was repealed by Ord. 2139, 7/13/2015. However, Section 1 of Ord. 2139 provided: ". . .Ordinance No. 2108 will continue to apply to any properties that are currently registered under said ordinance. However, for future registration of those properties, requirements of this newly adopted ordinance shall apply."
[Ord. 2139, 7/13/2015]
1. 
The present mortgage foreclosure crisis has serious negative implications for all communities trying to manage the consequences of property vacancies and abandoned real properties; and
2. 
The Borough of Pottstown (hereinafter referred to as the "Borough") recognizes an increase in the number of vacancies and abandoned properties located through the Borough; and
3. 
The Borough is challenged to identify and locate owners or foreclosing parties who can maintain the properties that are in the foreclosure process or that have been foreclosed; and
4. 
The Borough finds that the presence of vacant and abandoned properties can lead to a decline in property value, create attractive nuisances and lead to a general decrease in neighborhood and community aesthetics; and
5. 
The Borough has already adopted property maintenance codes to regulate building standards for the exterior of structures and the condition of the property as a whole; and
6. 
The Borough desires to amend the Borough's Code in order to establish a foreclosed and vacant property registration process that will identify a contact person to address the safety and aesthetic concerns to minimize the negative impacts and blighting conditions that occur as a result of the foreclosures and vacancy; and
[Amended by Ord. No. 2190, 10/15/2019]
7. 
The Borough has a vested interest in protecting neighborhoods against decay caused by vacant and abandoned properties and concludes that it is in the best interests of the health, safety and welfare of its citizens and residents to impose registration and certification requirements on abandoned and vacant properties located within the Borough.
[Ord. 2139, 7/13/2015]
It is the purpose and intent of the Borough to establish a process to address the deterioration and blight of Borough neighborhoods caused by an increasing amount of abandoned, foreclosed or distressed real property located within the Borough, and to identify, regulate, limit and reduce the number of abandoned properties located within the Borough. It is the Borough's further intent to establish a registration program as a mechanism to protect neighborhoods from becoming blighted due to the lack of adequate maintenance and security of abandoned and foreclosed properties.
[Ord. 2139, 7/13/2015]
The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this Part, 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 Borough, 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, or has been transferred to the lender under a deed in lieu of foreclosure. The designation of a property as "abandoned" shall remain in place until such time as the property is sold or transferred to a new owner, the foreclosure action has been dismissed, and any default on the mortgage has been cured.
[Amended by Ord. No. 2190, 10/15/2019]
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, the Borough's Zoning Code, the Borough's Code of Ordinances, the Pennsylvania State Borough Code, and any and all applicable statewide building codes.
A. 
Properties that have broken or severely damaged windows, doors, walls, or roofs which create hazardous conditions and encourage trespassing; or
B. 
Properties whose maintenance is not in conformance with the maintenance of other neighboring properties, causing a decrease in value of the neighboring properties; or
C. 
Properties cited for a public nuisance pursuant to the Borough Code; 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 Borough and Zoning Codes.
DEFAULT
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 by Ord. No. 2190, 10/15/2019]
ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
Any law enforcement officer, building official, zoning inspector, code enforcement officer, licensing and inspections department officer, fire inspector or building inspector, or other person authorized by the Borough 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 code.
[Added by Ord. No. 2190, 10/15/2019]
FORECLOSURE or FORECLOSURE ACTION
The legal process by which a mortgagee, or other lienholder, 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, 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.
[Added by Ord. No. 2190, 10/15/2019]
MORTGAGEE
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; or any other person or entity with the legal right to foreclose on the real property, excluding governmental entities.
[Added by Ord. No. 2190, 10/15/2019]
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, property maintenance company or similar entity responsible for the maintenance of abandoned real property.
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 Pottstown Borough limits.
[Added by Ord. No. 2190, 10/15/2019]
A. 
Any real property located in the Borough, 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; or
B. 
Any property that is vacant for more than 30 days or any cancellation of utility or service, whichever occurs first.
SEMIANNUAL REGISTRATION
Six months from the date of the first action that requires registration, as determined by the Borough, 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 by Ord. No. 2190, 10/15/2019]
UTILITIES and SERVICES
Any utility and/or service that is essential for a building to be habitable and/or perform a service necessary to comply with all Borough codes. This includes, but is not limited to, electrical, gas, water, sewer, lawn maintenance, pool maintenance, and snow removal.
[Added by Ord. No. 2190, 10/15/2019]
VACANT
Any building or structure that is not legally occupied.
[Ord. 2139, 7/13/2015]
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 Borough above and beyond any other state, county or local provisions for same.
[Ord. 2139, 7/13/2015]
Pursuant to the provisions of § 1506 below, the Borough or designee shall establish a registry cataloging each abandoned property within the Borough, containing the information required by this Part.
[Ord. 2139, 7/13/2015; as amended by Ord. No. 2190, 10/15/2019]
1. 
Registration of real property shall be required under the following circumstances:
A. 
Any mortgagee who holds a mortgage on real property located within the Borough of Pottstown 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 Licensing and Inspections, or its designee, on form or website access provided by the Borough, 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. 
Any property located within the Borough of Pottstown vacant for more than 30 days, either not encumbered by a mortgage or encumbered by a mortgage that is not in default, shall be registered by the owner on forms or website access provided by the Borough.
2. 
If the property is occupied but remains in default, it shall be inspected by the mortgagee or his 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 Borough.
3. 
Registration pursuant to this section shall contain the name of the owner and, where applicable, the mortgagee and the server, the direct mailing address of the owner and of the mortgagee and the server, a direct contact and telephone number for both parties, facsimile number and e-mail address for both parties, the folio or tax 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.
4. 
A nonrefundable registration fee in the amount of $300 per property shall accompany the registration form or website registration as follows:
A. 
Semiannually for properties that are in default or foreclosure.
B. 
Annually for properties that are vacant and not encumbered by a mortgage and vacant properties encumbered by a mortgage that are not in foreclosure.
5. 
Each individual defaulted 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 $300 semiannual 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 $300 semiannual registration fee.
6. 
If the defaulted mortgage and/or servicing on a property is sold or transferred or the property is sold, the new owner/mortgagee is subject to all the terms of this chapter. Within 10 days of the transfer, the new owner/mortgagee shall register the property or update the existing registration. The previous owner/mortgagee(s) will not be released from the responsibility of paying all previous unpaid fees, fines, and penalties accrued during that owner/mortgagee's involvement with the vacant or defaulted property.
7. 
If the owner sells the vacant property or 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 owner/mortgagee was at the time registration was required, including but not limited to unregistered periods during the vacancy or foreclosure process, are the responsibility of the transferee and are due and payable with the updated registration. The previous owner/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 vacant or defaulted property.
8. 
If the vacant 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.
9. 
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 Borough and/or its authorized designee.
10. 
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.
11. 
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 or in default.
12. 
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.
13. 
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 section is a violation of the section and shall be subject to enforcement.
14. 
Pursuant to any administrative or judicial finding and determination that any property is in violation of this Part, the Borough 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.
[Ord. 2139, 7/13/2015]
1. 
Properties subject to this chapter shall be kept free of weeds, overgrown brush, dead vegetation, trash, junk, debris, building materials, any accumulation of newspapers circulars, flyers, notices, except those required by federal, state or local law, discarded personal items, including, but not limited to, furniture, clothing, large and small appliances, printed material or any other items that give the appearance that the property is abandoned.
2. 
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.
3. 
Front, side, and rear yards, including landscaping, shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable code(s) at the time registration was required.
4. 
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.
5. 
Maintenance shall include, but not be limited to, watering, irrigation, cutting and mowing of required ground cover or landscape and removal of all trimmings.
6. 
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).
7. 
Failure of the mortgagee and/or owner to properly maintain the property may result in a violation of the applicable code(s) and issuance of a citation or notice of violation in accordance with Chapter 5 of the Pottstown Borough's Code of Ordinances. Pursuant to a finding and determination by the Licensing and Inspections Officer, Hearing Officer/Special Magistrate or a court of competent jurisdiction, the Borough may take the necessary action to ensure compliance with this section.
8. 
In addition to the above, the property is required to be maintained in accordance with the applicable code(s).
[Ord. 2139, 7/13/2015]
1. 
Properties subject to these sections shall be maintained in a secure manner so as not to be accessible to unauthorized persons.
2. 
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 a child to access the interior of the property or structure. Broken windows, doors, gates and other openings of such size that may allow a child to access the interior of the property or structure must be repaired. Broken windows shall be secured by reglazing of the window.
3. 
If a mortgage on a property is in default, and the property has become vacant or abandoned, a property manager shall be designated by the 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 Part, and any other applicable laws.
[Ord. 2139, 7/13/2015]
Any person (which shall include any individual, partnership, association or corporation) convicted for violation of any provisions or requirements of this Part shall be sentenced to a fine not to exceed $1,000, plus costs.
[Ord. 2139, 7/13/2015]
Adherence to this Part 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. Upon sale or transfer of title to the property, the owner shall be responsible for all violations of the applicable code(s), and the owner shall be responsible for meeting with the Borough's Licensing and Inspections Office within 45 days for a final courtesy inspection report.
[Ord. 2139, 7/13/2015]
1. 
If the enforcement officer has reason to believe that a property subject to the provisions of this Part is posing a serious threat to the public health, safety and welfare, the code enforcement officer may temporarily secure the property at the expense of the mortgagee and/or owner. In such event, the enforcement officer may pursue any remedies, both in law and in equity, and both civilly and criminally, to be reimbursed for any such expenses incurred.
2. 
In the event the condition of the property poses a serious threat to the public health, safety and welfare, the Magisterial District Justice may direct the Borough to abate the violations and charge the mortgagee/owner with the costs of such abatement.
3. 
In addition to all other remedies, if the mortgagee/owner does not reimburse the Borough for the costs of temporarily securing the property, or of any abatement directed by the Magisterial District Justice, within 30 days of the Borough sending the mortgagee/owner the invoice, then the Borough may lien the property and such costs, along with an administrative fee of $500, including all reasonable legal and filing fees incurred.
4. 
Any and all fees established in this Part may be amended from time to time by resolution duly adopted by Pottstown Borough Council.
[Added by Ord. No. 2190, 10/15/2019]
[Ord. 2139, 7/13/2015]
Whoever opposes, obstructs or resists any enforcement officer or any person authorized by the enforcement officer in the discharge of duties as provided in this chapter shall be punishable as provided in the applicable code(s) or a court of competent jurisdiction.
[Ord. 2139, 7/13/2015]
Any enforcement officer or any person authorized by the Borough 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 Part.