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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: December 21, 2022 01:13 PM
From: Senator Wayne D. Fontana
To: All Senate members
Subject: Changes to the Municipal Claims and Tax Lien Law for Cities of the Second Class
Act 153 of 2012 provided Pennsylvania communities the ability to create what are known as land banks. These entities can be an effective tool to revitalize neighborhoods by transitioning blighted properties to beneficial reuses like single family homes, stabilization of standing structures supporting neighborhood commercial districts, and transforming vacant land into uses for community needs. Unfortunately, since being established in 2014, the Pittsburgh Land Bank continues to struggle to succeed due to the difficulty in property acquisition. For this reason, I will once again be introducing my Senate Bill 811 of the 2021-22 session. 


The Pennsylvania Land Bank Act (PLBA) provides special abilities that makes it easier for land bank communities to gain access to abandoned properties and determine their outcome through a Sheriff Sale process, but not tax sales like Pittsburgh’s Treasurer’s Sale. Unfortunately, tax sales are cumbersome and do not produce a clean and insurable title until a separate court action to quiet a title takes place.  


My bill would extend the more efficient and inexpensive means of foreclosing municipal claims and tax lien powers of the Municipal Claims and Tax Lien Law (MCTLL), which governs Sheriff Sales, to the City of Pittsburgh and the surrounding municipalities in Allegheny County and their land banks. By placing Pittsburgh and the other municipalities into MCTLL, they would have the ability to use the priority bid process which in turn would get properties to Sheriff’s Sales faster and ultimately making it easier to insure title post-sale. Currently, these powers are only available to Philadelphia.   


Additionally, under MCTLL, there is a nine-month redemption period that is required which can pose serious challenges for land banks. This redemption period is established so that property owners may come forward and pay their debt to regain full ownership of the property after the sale.  Although this is an important safeguard, in practice, properties are very rarely redeemed. My legislation would reduce the period for redemption to three months after acknowledgement of a Sheriff’s deed.   


Thank you for your consideration to accelerate and enhance the ability of Allegheny County’s land banks with the hopes of returning vacant, abandoned, and tax delinquent properties to productive use.  

Introduced as SB202