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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: June 14, 2017 12:53 PM
From: Senator David G. Argall
To: All Senate members
Subject: Real Estate Tax Sale Owner Responsibility Act

I plan to introduce legislation in the near future to amend the Real Estate Tax Sale Law to clarify ownership of properties that are in the delinquent tax sale process.

Many of these properties have code violations pending against them. Municipalities attempt to go after the owner of record but because of a 2002 Commonwealth Court decision, many times the cases are dismissed on a technicality.

The Commonwealth vs. Sprock decision held that a tax claim bureau becomes the trustee of a tax delinquent property the moment it concludes an upset tax sale. As a result, if there is no successful bidder at the upset sale, the owner of record, who may or may not continue to reside at the property, may assert a defense to a citation for violation of a property maintenance or similar ordinance. These owners of record are asserting that they are not liable for the violation of the ordinance since legal title has passed to the tax claim bureau. In recent years, owners of record are becoming more and more successful in presenting this defense.

This legislation will clarify that ownership responsibilities for the delinquent property will remain with the owner of record until the property is actually sold and the deed is transferred to the new owner. It will close the legal loophole that more negligent property owners are using in court on a regular basis. It will keep responsibility with the appropriate party – the negligent owner who was cited for the violations in the first place.

This legislation will further clarify that a tax claim bureau will have a limited trusteeship with only enough control over the property in order to further the purposes of the act.

Introduced as SB851