No. 2542 Session of 1974

           JULY 10, 1974


                                     AN ACT

     1  Authorizing the Secretary of the Department of Community Affairs
     2     to adopt rules and regulations relating to the construction,
     3     alteration, demolition, maintenance, occupancy and use of
     4     buildings and structures; to provide for the administration
     5     and enforcement of the act; and establish remedies and fix
     6     penalties for violations of the act.

     7     The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
     8  hereby enacts as follows:
     9     Section 1.  Short Title.--This act shall be known and may be
    10  cited as the "Pennsylvania Building Act."
    11     Section 2.  Legislative Findings and Declaration of Policy.--
    12  (a) It is hereby found and declared that:
    13     (1)  There are inadequate resources at the local level for
    14  municipal governments of the Commonwealth to deal effectively
    15  with all the problems of sound building practices.
    16     (2)  There exists in the Commonwealth a variety of model or
    17  local building regulations that cause confusion.
    18     (3)  There exists at local levels restrictive obsolete,
    19  conflicting and unnecessary construction regulations that tend
    20  to increase construction costs or retard the use of new

     1  materials, products or methods of construction, or provide
     2  preferential treatment to types or classes of materials or
     3  products or methods of construction.
     4     (4)  There exists inadequate maintenance of buildings and
     5  structures throughout the Commonwealth to adequately protect the
     6  health, safety and welfare of the people of Pennsylvania.
     7     (5)  There exists in the Commonwealth both urban and rural
     8  residential, commercial and industrial structures which are
     9  substandard or unsanitary or are neglected and this trend will
    10  cause them to become dilapidated.
    11     (b)  It is declared to be the policy of the Commonwealth of
    12  Pennsylvania to promote the health and welfare of the
    13  inhabitants thereof by the enactment of the "Pennsylvania
    14  Building Act" to:
    15     (1)  Promote innovations and economy in construction and to
    16  provide requirements for construction and construction materials
    17  consistent with nationally recognized and approved standards.
    18     (2)  Formulate such requirements, to the extent practicable,
    19  in terms of performance objectives, so as to make adequate
    20  performance for the use intended as the test of acceptability.
    21     (3)  Permit to the fullest extent feasible the use of modern
    22  technical methods, devices and improvements consistent with
    23  reasonable requirements for the health, safety and welfare of
    24  occupants or users of buildings and structures.
    25     (4)  Eliminate restrictive, obsolete, conflicting and
    26  unnecessary construction regulations that tend to unnecessarily
    27  increase construction costs or retard the use of new materials,
    28  products or methods of construction.
    29     (5)  Insure adequate maintenance of buildings and structures
    30  throughout the Commonwealth and to adequately protect the
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     1  health, safety and welfare of the people.
     2     Section 3.  Definitions.--The following words and phrases
     3  when used in this act shall have the meanings ascribed to them
     4  in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
     5     "Accessory building."  A building, the use or occupancy of
     6  which is incidental to that of the main building.
     7     "Accessory use."  A use or occupancy incidental to the
     8  principle use or occupancy of a building.
     9     "Addition."  An extension or increase in floor area or height
    10  of a building that increases its exterior dimensions.
    11     "Allowable stress."  The maximum stress permitted at a given
    12  point in a structural member under given conditions.
    13     "Alteration."  Any addition, or change or modification of a
    14  building, or the service equipment thereof, that affects safety
    15  or health and that is not classified as a minor alteration or
    16  ordinary repair. The moving of a building from one location or
    17  position to another shall be deemed an alteration.
    18     "Amusement device."  A mechanically operated device or
    19  structure open to the public, used to convey persons in any
    20  direction as a form of amusement.
    21     "Approved."  When used in connection with plans shall mean
    22  approved by the secretary; when used in connection with
    23  materials or equipment shall mean approved by the board;
    24  otherwise shall mean approved by the department.
    25     "Assembly space."  Any part of a place of assembly exclusive
    26  of a stage, that is occupied by a number of persons during the
    27  major period of occupancy. Every tier of seating shall be
    28  considered a separate assembly space.
    29     "Attic."  The space between the ceiling framing of the top
    30  most story and the underside of the roof framing.
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     1     "Backflow" (water supply).  The flow of water or other
     2  substances into distribution pipes of a potable water supply
     3  from any source other than the intended source.
     4     "Basement."  A story partly underground, but having less than
     5  one-half its clear height below grade.
     6     "Board."  The Board of Standards and Appeals of the
     7  Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
     8     "Building."  A combination of materials to form a
     9  construction adopted to permanent, temporary or continuous
    10  occupancy having a roof.
    11     "Certificate of occupancy."  A certificate provided for in
    12  this act indicating that the construction authorized by the
    13  building permit has been completed in accordance with the
    14  building permit, the State Building Code, and any ordinance
    15  implementing said code.
    16     "Code enforcement."  The discharge by the building official
    17  of his duties pursuant to this act.
    18     "Construction."  Any or all work or operations necessary or
    19  incidental to the erection, demolition, assembling, installing,
    20  or equipping of buildings, or any alteration and operations
    21  incidental thereto. The term "construction" shall include land
    22  clearing, grading, excavating and filling.
    23     "Department."  The Department of Community Affairs.
    24     "Enforcing agency."  The municipal building official and any
    25  assistants and inspectors subordinate to him. In the absence of
    26  a municipal building official the department will assume the
    27  responsibility.
    28     "Hearing examiner."  Persons appointed by the secretary to
    29  conduct hearings, summarize evidence, and make findings of fact.
    30     "Maintenance."  The replacement or mending of existing work
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     1  with equivalent materials or the provisions of additional work
     2  or material for the purpose of the safety, healthfulness, and
     3  upkeep as are required in the interest of public safety, health
     4  and welfare.
     5     "Municipality."  Any county, city, borough, township,
     6  incorporated town or village.
     7     "Owner."  The owner or owners in fee of the property or a
     8  lesser estate therein, a mortgagee, or vendee in possession, an
     9  assignee of rents, receiver, executor, trustee, lessee, or any
    10  other person, firm or corporation, directly or indirectly in
    11  control of a building, structure or real property.
    12     "Secretary."  The Secretary of Community Affairs.
    13     "Structure."  A combination of materials to form a
    14  construction for occupancy, use or ornamentation whether
    15  installed on, above, or below the surface of a parcel of land,
    16  provided the word structure shall be construed when used herein
    17  as though followed by the words "or part or parts thereof and
    18  all equipment therein" unless the context clearly requires a
    19  different meaning.
    20     Section 4.  Adoption of State Building Code.--(a) The
    21  secretary shall promulgate a State building code for the purpose
    22  of regulating the design, construction, maintenance and use of
    23  buildings or structures to be erected and alterations, repair,
    24  maintenance, or demolition of buildings or structures already
    25  erected. Prior to the adoption of said code, the secretary or
    26  his designated representative shall consult with the other
    27  departments of State Government heretofore authorized to
    28  establish or administer construction regulations.
    29     (b)  The department shall promulgate rules and regulations to
    30  interpret and make specific the provisions of this act. Such
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     1  rules and regulations adopted, amended, repealed and substituted
     2  from time to time pursuant to this section shall assure the
     3  health, safety and welfare of the people of Pennsylvania by
     4  requiring safe and sanitary housing and shall include provisions
     5  imposing requirements reasonably consistent with recognized and
     6  accepted model codes.
     7     Section 5.  Powers of the Secretary.--The secretary shall
     8  have all the powers necessary or convenient to effectuate the
     9  purposes of this act, including, but not limited to, the
    10  following powers in addition to all others granted by this act:
    11     (1)  To adopt, amend and repeal rules relating to the
    12  administration and enforcement of the code and the
    13  qualifications or licensing, or both, of all persons employed by
    14  enforcing agencies or the State to enforce this act or the code.
    15     (2)  To enter into agreements with Federal agencies to
    16  provide, insofar as practicable, (i) single agency review of
    17  construction, and (ii) intergovernmental acceptance of such
    18  review and inspection to avoid unnecessary duplication of
    19  efforts and fees. The secretary shall have the power to enter
    20  into such agreements although the Federal standards are not
    21  identical with State standards; provided that the same basic
    22  objectives are reasonably expected to be met by either the State
    23  or Federal standards. The secretary shall have the power through
    24  such agreements with Federal agencies to bind the Commonwealth
    25  of Pennsylvania and all governmental entities deriving authority
    26  therefrom.
    27     (3)  To enforce the code in lieu of local enforcing agencies
    28  for projects financed by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance
    29  Agency.
    30     (4)  To take testimony and hold hearings relating to any
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     1  aspect of or matter relating to the administration or
     2  enforcement of this act and, in connection therewith, issue
     3  subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the
     4  production of evidence. The secretary may designate one or more
     5  hearing examiners to hold public hearings and report on such
     6  hearings to the secretary.
     7     (5)  To encourage, support or conduct educational and
     8  training programs for employees, agents and inspectors of the
     9  enforcing agencies, either through the Department of Community
    10  Affairs or in cooperation with other departments of State
    11  government, enforcing agencies, educational institutions or
    12  associations of building code officials.
    13     (6)  To determine after thorough evaluation whether any
    14  material, product, method of construction, or method of
    15  manufacture, or installation is acceptable under the code; to
    16  issue certificates of such acceptability; and to establish
    17  procedures for the testing of devices, materials, fixtures,
    18  methods, systems, or processes, and contract with existing
    19  laboratories for such testing.
    20     (7)  To make, establish and amend such rules as may be
    21  necessary, desirable or proper to carry out his powers and
    22  duties under this act.
    23     Section 6.  Enforcement.--(a) The municipality shall appoint
    24  an officer to administer this act within the municipality. Such
    25  officer shall be known as the building official and shall head
    26  the enforcing agency. The municipality shall have the power to
    27  appoint such assistants, inspectors and other subordinates,
    28  consistent with standards established by the secretary as are
    29  necessary for proper enforcement of the code. The building
    30  official, to be eligible for appointment, shall be certified by
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     1  the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community
     2  Affairs in accordance with subsection (b) of this section and
     3  shall have at least three years of experience in construction,
     4  design or supervision. The building official shall pass upon
     5  matters relative to the mode, manner or construction or
     6  materials to be used in the erection or alteration of buildings
     7  or structures. The building official shall pass on the actual
     8  execution of the approved plans and the installation of the
     9  materials approved by the State. He shall require compliance
    10  with the provisions of this act, of all rules lawfully adopted
    11  and promulgated thereunder and of laws relating to the
    12  construction, alteration, repair, removal, demolition and
    13  integral equipment and location, occupancy and maintenance of
    14  building and structures, except as may be otherwise provided
    15  for. Two or more municipalities may provide by ordinance subject
    16  to regulations established by the secretary for the joint
    17  appointment of a building official for the purpose of enforcing
    18  the provisions of this act. The Department of Community Affairs
    19  shall reimburse municipalities for enforcing the rules and
    20  regulations as promulgated under this act. A municipal governing
    21  body may, by ordinance transmitted to the secretary by certified
    22  or registered mail, transfer to the Department of Community
    23  Affairs all municipal powers to enforce the rules and
    24  regulations as promulgated under this act.
    25     (b)  No person shall act as a building official for any
    26  municipality unless the Department of Community Affairs
    27  determines that said person is so qualified except for the
    28  following: (i) a municipal building official holding office
    29  under tenure by law on the effective date of this act or within
    30  one year thereafter, and, (ii) a municipal building official
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     1  holding office without tenure on the effective date of this act
     2  or within one year thereafter provided said building official
     3  not having tenure shall be certified in accordance with this act
     4  within two years of the effective date thereof. The secretary
     5  may authorize the preparation and conducting of oral, written
     6  and practical examinations to determine if a person is qualified
     7  by this act to be eligible to be a building official or in the
     8  alternative may accept successful completion of programs of
     9  training as proof of qualifications within the meaning of this
    10  act. Upon a determination of qualifications the secretary shall
    11  issue or cause to be issued a certificate to the building
    12  official or trainee stating that he is so certified. The
    13  secretary may establish classes of certification that will
    14  recognize the varying complexities of code enforcement in the
    15  municipalities within the Commonwealth. The secretary may
    16  provide for educational programs designed to train and assist
    17  building officials in carrying out their responsibilities.
    18     Section 7.  Permits Required for Construction or Alteration
    19  of Buildings and Structures; Application Therefor; Required
    20  Contents of Application; Issuance, Effect and Duration of
    21  Permits.--(a) Application for Permit. Except as otherwise
    22  provided in the act, before construction or alteration of any
    23  building or structure, the owner, or his agent, shall submit an
    24  application in writing, including signed and sealed drawings and
    25  specifications to the building official as defined in this act.
    26  The application shall be in accordance with regulations
    27  established by the secretary and on a form prescribed by the
    28  secretary and shall be accompanied by payment of the fee as
    29  established by the enforcing agency in accordance with standards
    30  established in the rules and regulations. The application for a
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     1  building permit shall be filed with the enforcing agency and
     2  shall be a public record and no application for a building
     3  permit shall be removed from the custody of the enforcing agency
     4  after a building permit has been issued.
     5     (b)  Examination and Approval of Applications for Permits;
     6  Expiration or Cancellation of Permits. All applications for
     7  permits and any accompanying plans and papers, including any
     8  amendments thereto, shall be examined promptly after their
     9  submission for compliance with the provisions of this act and
    10  other applicable laws and regulations. Applications complying
    11  with the provisions of this act and other applicable laws and
    12  regulations shall be approved by the enforcing agency and the
    13  permit issued promptly and not later than thirty calendar days
    14  after the submission thereof; applications failing to comply
    15  with the requirements of this act and other applicable laws and
    16  regulations shall be rejected and written notice of rejection,
    17  stating the grounds of rejection, shall be given the applicant
    18  promptly and not later than thirty calendar days after the
    19  submission thereof. Whenever a permit application has been
    20  rejected and is thereafter revised and resubmitted to meet
    21  stated grounds of rejection the revised application shall be
    22  approved if it meets the stated grounds of rejection. The permit
    23  card bearing the permit number, application number, location of
    24  the premises for which the permit is issued shall be posted in a
    25  conspicuous place. No such permit card shall be posted or
    26  displayed at any location other than the location of the
    27  premises for which the permit was issued. At least twenty-four
    28  hour written notice shall be given to the enforcing agency
    29  before commencement of any work for which a permit has been
    30  issued.
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     1     (c)  Expiration or Revocation of Permits. Except as otherwise
     2  provided, all permits issued by the enforcing agency shall
     3  expire by limitation and become invalid if the permitted work or
     4  use is not commenced within six months from the date of issuance
     5  of the permit, or if commenced is suspended or abandoned for a
     6  period of six months thereafter. The enforcing agency may revoke
     7  any permit for failure to comply with the provisions of this act
     8  or other applicable laws or regulations; or whenever there has
     9  been any false statement or any misrepresentation as to a
    10  material fact in the application or accompanying plans and
    11  papers upon the basis of which the permit was issued; or
    12  whenever any permit has been issued in error and conditions are
    13  such that a permit should not have been issued. No permit shall
    14  be issued unless and until the required fee or fees therefor as
    15  prescribed shall have been paid. Permit shall be deemed to
    16  incorporate the provisions that the applicant, his agent,
    17  employees and contractors shall carry out the permitted work or
    18  use in accordance with the provisions of this act and other
    19  applicable laws and regulations, whether specified or not,
    20  except in so far as variations therefrom have been legally
    21  permitted or authorized. All work shall conform to the approved
    22  application and accompanying plans and papers, and any approved
    23  amendments thereto.
    24     (d)  Right of Entry and Inspection. All inspections pursuant
    25  to this act shall be between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00
    26  p.m. on business days, or when construction is actually being
    27  undertaken, provided, however, that inspections may be conducted
    28  at other times if the enforcing agency has reasonable cause to
    29  believe that an immediate danger to life, limb or property
    30  exists.
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     1     (e)  Notice of Violation of Building Permit; Stop Orders. If
     2  the construction, alteration or demolition of a structure or
     3  building is being undertaken contrary to provisions of a
     4  building permit, this act, the rules and regulations, or other
     5  applicable laws or ordinances, the enforcing agency shall give
     6  written notice of said violation to the owner and the holder of
     7  the building permit, if a building permit has been issued; or to
     8  the person performing the construction, and the owner as shown
     9  on the current tax duplicate in the municipal tax assessor's or
    10  collector's office, if a building permit has not been issued.
    11  The holder of the building permit or other persons performing
    12  the construction, as the case may be, shall be notified to
    13  appear and show cause before the building official why the
    14  construction should not be stopped. If the person doing the
    15  construction, alteration or demolition is not known, or cannot
    16  be located with reasonable effort, the notice may be delivered
    17  to the person in charge of, or apparently in charge of the
    18  construction. No person shall continue, or cause or allow to be
    19  continued, the construction, alteration or demolition of a
    20  building or structure in violation of a stop construction order,
    21  except with the permission of the enforcing agency to abate a
    22  dangerous condition or remove a violation, or except by court
    23  order. If an order to stop construction, alteration or
    24  demolition is not obeyed, the enforcing agency may apply to the
    25  appropriate court as otherwise established by law for an order
    26  enjoining the violation of the stop construction order.
    27     Section 8.  Certificates of Occupancy.--No building or
    28  structure hereafter constructed shall be used or occupied in
    29  whole or part until a certificate of occupancy shall have been
    30  issued by the enforcing agency.
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     1     Section 9.  Stay of Proceedings.--An appeal to a court of
     2  competent jurisdiction shall not automatically stay any order to
     3  stop construction issued by an enforcing agency or prevent an
     4  enforcing agency from seeking an order in a court of competent
     5  jurisdiction enjoining the violations of a stop construction
     6  order.
     7     Section 10.  Penalties.--(a) Any person or corporation,
     8  including an officer, director or employee of a corporation,
     9  owner or his agent, is subject to the penalties in subsection
    10  (b) who knowingly:
    11     (1)  violates any of the provisions of this act or rules
    12  promulgated hereunder;
    13     (2)  constructs, alters or demolishes a structure or building
    14  in violation of a condition of a building permit;
    15     (3)  fails to comply with any order issued by an enforcing
    16  agency or the department;
    17     (4)  knowingly makes false or misleading written statements
    18  or knowingly omits any required information or statement in any
    19  application or request for approval to an enforcing agency or to
    20  the department;
    21     (5)  refuses entry or access to an inspector lawfully
    22  authorized to inspect any premises, building or structure
    23  pursuant to this act or who unreasonably interferes with such an
    24  inspection; or
    25     (6)  fails to comply with a stop construction order validly
    26  issued by an enforcing agency or the department.
    27     (b)  The department may obtain injunctive relief from the
    28  Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania to enjoin the construction,
    29  alteration or demolition of a building or structure upon an
    30  affidavit specifying the manner in which the construction,
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     1  alteration or demolition does not conform to the requirements of
     2  this act or to rules and regulations issued pursuant hereto.
     3  Whoever violates any provisions of this act is guilty of a
     4  misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to
     5  pay a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500) or undergo
     6  imprisonment not exceeding six months or both.
     7     Section 11.  Appeals.--The department shall promulgate rules
     8  pertaining to hearing of appeals. The department shall hear
     9  appeals brought by any person regarding the application or
    10  interpretation of any rule or regulation promulgated by the
    11  department under this act.
    12     Section 12.  Variances.--The department may grant variances
    13  from the duly promulgated rules and regulations when it appears
    14  that such requested variances do not impair the health, safety
    15  and welfare of consumers.
    16     Section 13.  General Provisions.--Nothing in this act or in
    17  the rules and regulations herein adopted shall be construed to
    18  affect any suit or proceeding now pending in any court, or any
    19  rights acquired or liability incurred, or any cause or causes or
    20  action accrued or existing, under any act or rules and
    21  regulations repealed hereby. No right or remedy of any character
    22  shall be lost, impaired or affected by this act.
    23     Section 14.  Interpretation of Powers.--The powers enumerated
    24  in this act shall be interpreted broadly to effectuate the
    25  purposes thereof.
    26     Section 15.  Effective Date.--This act shall take effect
    27  immediately.

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