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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: February 3, 2015 04:15 PM
From: Representative Doyle Heffley
To: All House members
Subject: Heffley - Amending PA Uniform Construction Code Act

In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation that would amend the PA Construction Code Act (Act 45 of 1999) to require that municipalities which utilize a private third-party agency to enforce the Uniform Construction Code contract with at least two or more such entities to provide inspection services. The purpose of this legislation is to ensure property owners in such municipalities have a choice of where to obtain code enforcement services.

Over 90% of Pennsylvania's 2,562 municipalities have elected to administer and enforce the UCC locally, using their own employees, joint administration, or via certified third party agencies (private code enforcement agencies) that they have retained. It is estimated that about 60% of the “opt-in” municipalities have chosen to administer the UCC by contracting with a third party agency, with the vast majority using only one third party agency (thus a monopoly).

I am introducing this legislation in response to complaints I have received from my constituents about being treated in an abrupt, rude manner by third party agencies and, or, being "gouged" on fees. Because many of these agencies have monopolies, property owners have little immediate redress. This problem continues and I believe that it needs to be addressed.

The rationale that municipalities use for only contracting with one third party agency is that they can hold one agency accountable for administering a program, and also the fear that competition will lead to some agencies compromising their enforcement standards to obtain business. I argue that all third party agencies are certified by the department, and thus are legally required to enforce the standards of the code; in essence, the argument that some third party agencies will be more ‘lax” in enforcing UCC standards contradicts the certification requirements of the act.

It is important to note that my legislation has no effect on municipalities that have their own indigenous code enforcement program (such as Philadelphia or Pittsburgh), or a joint agreement with another municipality. Also, my bill will require that competitive bidding be utilized to contract with the two or more third party agencies that are required. The legislation will propose specific bidding requirements.

I strongly believe this legislation is supported by the general public and will provide much needed reform to protect individual property owners from abuse.

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Introduced as HB734