|Posted:||January 3, 2019 02:49 PM|
|From:||Representative Doyle Heffley|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||PA Construction Code Act legislation|
I will be introducing this legislation to amend the PA Construction Code Act (Act 45 of 1999) to require that municipalities, which opt to enforce the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) by utilizing third-party agencies, have at least two or more of them under contract for UCC administration. This legislation has been well-vetted because it directly mirrors the version of my legislation from last session (HB 1469) on this this issue as it was amended by the Senate and passed by the Senate (in a form that was “agreed to”); it was not considered by House on concurrence because of timing issues at end of last session. As many of you are aware, I have been involved for several sessions with advocating legislation to give property owners more choice in municipalities that have given a third-party agency a monopoly on UCC plan review/inspection services. I believe this proposal offers the most realistic opportunity to pass the House and Senate and be enacted into law.
It is first important to note that 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 clear majority using only one third-party agency (thus a monopoly).
The primary arguments that municipalities use to rationalize contracting with one third-party agency is that they can hold the agency accountable for administering a program, and they also argue that competition will lead to some agencies compromising their enforcement standards to obtain business. I have argued, and continue to argue, that all third-party agencies are certified by the Department of Labor & Industry, and thus all are legally required to enforce the standards of the code; in fact, there are many areas of the state where municipalities allow property owners the choice of multiple third-party agencies, and there have been no issues.
My legislation simply requires that municipalities with third-party agency monopolies contract with another third-party agency to provide some choice for property owners. Agreements between municipalities and third-party agencies are considered “professional services” under the law, and not subject to competitive bidding requirements. I argue that the requirement for maintain a second third-party agency is not a burdensome mandate, and I believe there are ample third-party agencies in this state that would be willing to offer their services as the second third-party agency. The legislation provides a means for very rural municipalities to obtain a waiver from the “two or more” requirement if they cannot contract with a second third-party agency.
I am reintroducing this legislation in response complaints that I continue to receive from constituents about poor service, and, or, being "gouged" on fees. Because many of these agencies have monopolies on a municipality, property owners have no immediate redress; they must submit to interpretations/mandates given to them by code enforcement officials working for the third-party agency. This problem continues, and I strongly believe that the Legislature needs to protect property owners from “for profit” companies that have monopolies on enforcement.
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. I strongly believe my legislation is supported by the public, and especially those property owners who are attempting to make improvements to their property.
My legislation is specifically supported by the PA Builders Association and the Associated Builders and Contractors.
Introduced as HB349