Property Maintenance Enforcement
Point of Sale Inspections
Some municipalities in Pennsylvania require a seller of residential real estate to obtain a point-of-sale inspection and to make any required repairs to the property before a certificate of occupancy may be granted to the buyer.
REALTORS® support the enforcement of reasonable use and occupancy criteria for all types of real property. However, Use & Occupancy requirements enforced solely at the Point of Sale do little to promote the health, safety, or welfare of all citizens. Other municipalities require the incoming or outgoing homeowner to pay for costly repairs to public infrastructure, such as sidewalks and sewer lines, resulting in a patchwork of sidewalk styles, conditions, and qualities. The sidewalks in front of one home is pristine, while their neighbor’s has disintegrated into rubble.
A cracked sewer line can create serious health concerns for the surrounding community, but Point of Sale inspections don’t require any repairs until the home is sold. On average, less than 5% of homes in a given neighborhood sell each year, meaning it’ll be decades until a majority of homes are inspected. With this method of selective inspections, one homeowner is required to make expensive repairs, while their next door neighbor isn’t.
The Reading-Berks Association of REALTORS® SUPPORTS a complete repeal of all Point of Sale Inspection ordinances. If inspections are to be required for occupancy of a home, business, or rental unit, they should be conducted on a regular basis for all properties, not only at the Point of Sale.
Repairs for public infrastructure such as sidewalks should be done wholesale, on a street-by-street basis. A municipal agreement with local contractors – through a competitive bidding process – to complete large repairs at a discounted rate results in higher quality infrastructure at a significantly lower cost to residents.
Signage is critical to the real estate industry. They serve two incredibly important purposes: identifying that a property is for sale, and identifying the contact information of the REALTOR® in order to inquire about the property. However, recent court cases have caused some municipalities to rewrite their ordinances, with potential negative impacts on the real estate industry.
In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously invalidated an ordinance that treated signs differently based on their content — forcing local governments to review and, in many cases, undertake a comprehensive rewrite of their sign regulations in order to avoid potential legal challenges based on constitutional principles articulated in Reed. Because the Reed decision set a strict, uniform standard for the review of content-based sign regulations, many local governments have taken a one-size-fits-all approach to writing their new sign regulations. It is important to note that the U.S. Supreme Court has specifically recognized the societal importance of real estate signs and ruled that communities cannot prohibit the posting of “For Sale” or “Sold” signs on private property.
The Reading-Berks Association of REALTORS® OPPOSES the enactment of sign ordinances that have a negative impact on the real estate industry. Such ordinances should allow REALTORS® to place off-premises “open house” and on-premises “For Sale” or “Sold” signs without permit or fee requirements, and closely abide by the following principles:
- Proposed maximum size limits should be consistent with the local industry standard size so as to allow REALTORS® to continue to use their existing signs.
- Rather than imposing a duration limit on the display of on-premises signs, signs should be allowed to be posted until the “completion of the duration of activity,” allowing real estate signs to remain so long as the property is advertised for sale or rent.
- Setback requirements are difficult to comply with, because not all rights-of-way and property lines are readily identifiable. Instead, regulations for on-site signs should simply require that on-premises signs be placed on private property and not create a traffic hazard by obstructing a sidewalk, trail, or pedestrian way.