• Heller Real Estate Report Volume 2, Issue 3
  • December 11, 2009
  • Law Firm: Richard M. Heller - Media Office
  • Home Improvement Contractor License

    The Pennsylvania Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, 53 PS & 5171.1 et seq. goes into effect July 1, 2009. The law applies to contractors who perform at least $ 5,000 worth of home improvement a year. Contractors are required to submit an application to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office in order to obtain a registration number. The registration number MUST appear in all advertisements as any statement promoting home improvement services in a newspaper, periodical, board, sign, letterhead, business card or other printed materials. The law allows consumers to verify a contractor’s registration with the Attorney General’s Office by visiting the Attorney General’s Office website or by calling the toll-free contractor hotline, at 1-888-520-6680. You can learn more about the law and its requirements by visiting the Attorney General’s website at: http: www.attorneygeneral.gov/hic.aspx
    Partnership Taxes
    The IRS has released proposed regulations regarding income allocation when partnership interests are transferred or partners have varying interests for other reasons.
    The long-awaited proposed regulations, issued April 13, principally provide guidance under Section 706(d), a provision added to the Code by the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984. They will take effect upon adoption, but no earlier than the first partnership taxable year beginning in 2010.
    Tax Credits Available Homeowners
    Tax credits for homeowners are available at 30 percent of the cost, up to $ 1,500, in 2009 and 2010 for energy-efficient windows and doors, insulation roods, HVAC and more. Restrictions apply. 
    For more information click here:
    Mortgage Bill Now Law
    New legislation signed into law today improves the Hope for Homeowners Program, increases protection for services and makes it harder for bad actors to originate loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration. It also makes it easier to modify FHA loans.
    President Barack Obama signed S. 896, the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009, according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
    “This law improves FHA’s Hope for Homeowners Program, making it a more flexible and attractive option”, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said in the statement. “By reducing the cost of this program and easing the eligibility requirements, we believe Hope for Homeowners is better able to help struggling families.”
    FASB Codification: Are you Ready?
    Effective July 1, 2009, the FASB Accounting Standards Codification will become the single official source of authoritative, nongovernmental U.S. generally accepted accounting principals. The codification will supersede existing FASB, AICPA, EITF and related literature, which means there will no longer be a “GAAP hierarchy.’ Instead, there will only be one level of authoritative GAAP, excluding the guidance issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission, all other literature will be non-authoritative. Preparer and auditors and financial reports must be aware of and prepared for the transition to the new codification.  
    New Realty Transfer Tax Bulletin Issues
    The Department of Revenue recently has issued a new Realty Transfer Tax Bulletin, # 2009-01 Mortgages, Mortgage Foreclosures and Mortgage Assignments. The new bulletin supersedes Private Letter Ruling RTT-04-016.
    The bulletin states, in part, “A copy of the instrument by which the mortgagee obtained its mortgage interest should be submitted with the Statement of Value. Without the submissions of such documentation with the Statement of Value, the Recorder is authorized to reject the document for recording without the proper amount of tax being paid and remitted.”
    Under the previous letter ruling, an affidavit supplied with the realty transfer tax Statement of Value that included the mortgage holder’s name was sufficient to document the exclusion. However, the dramatic increases in the number of exclusions claimed for mortgage foreclosure, the frequency by which mortgages and notes have been assigned, the number of recent bank failures/mergers, and the number of unrecorded assignments passing through electronic mortgage registration systems, have combined to make it difficult for the Revenue Department to verify the accuracy of such exclusions.
    The new policy allows the Department to verify the accuracy of exclusions without an extensive review, thereby ensuring the realty transfer tax is appropriately paid on time. 
    Below is the link if you wish to read the full Bulletin:
    Pennsylvania's Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act Takes Effect July 1
    The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, which was adopted by Pennsylvania's General Assembly last October, will take effect July 1, 2009. The law requires that all Contractors, and sub-contractors who perform $5,000 or more in home improvements annually register  with the Bureau (The Bureau of Consumer Protection in the Office of Attorney General). Failure to do so is a violation of the Consumer Protection Act which subjects the contractor to financial consequences. It details the terms which must be incorporated into a written agreement, including the Contractor’s registration number, the start date and completion date, a description of work being performed and consumers' rights under the law.. It provides penalties for failure to follow the Act including the prohibition of suing for payment and the violation being considered a violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. It preempts the right of any political subdivision to require payment of a fee or registration or licensing of any home improvement contractor. Registration requires that contractors maintain minimum insurance coverage. The registration is valid for two years and costs $50.
    Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC)
    On December 23, 2008, New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (government sponsored enterprises) announced the final agreement of the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC). The agreement establishes standards on solicitation, selection, compensation, conflicts of interest and appraiser independence. The HVCC is effective May 1, 2009, for any mortgage that will be sold to the GSEs. Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) mortgages are not covered in the agreement.
    Real estate agents, including REALTORS®, and mortgage brokers are prohibited from selecting appraisers. Lenders are permitted to use “in house” staff appraisers to conduct appraisals. However, the loan production staff is prohibited from (1) selecting, retaining, recommending, or influencing the selection of an appraiser for an appraisal assignment or for inclusion on an appraisal roster and (2) having any substantive conversation with an appraiser or appraisal management company regarding valuation, including ordering or managing an appraisal assignment. The Independent Valuation Protection Institute (IVPI) will establish a telephone hotline and E-mail address to receive complaints from appraisers and users of appraisal services on the improper influence or attempted improper influence of appraisers.
    The agreement was first announced in January 2008. The NAR Appraisal Committee discussed the agreement and decided against adopting a formal policy position.
    When first announced the HVCC it included a period of time where the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) would solicit input from various appraisal stakeholders. The Appraisal Committee did provide feedback and comments to NAR staff for a letter drafted to the GSEs. The letter was submitted to both GSEs on April 30, 2008. NAR continues to provide information to its members on the agreement.
    Recording Fee Increase in Philadelphia as of August 3, 2009
    On August 3, 2009, there will be a fee increase for document recording at the Philadelphia Department of Records. To see a schedule of the new recording fee go to ww.phila.gov/records select “Document Recording”, then “Fees”.
    Property Tax Info Is a Few Clicks Away
    The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy has put its property tax database online. The database is a comprehensive source of information about finance in every state and many municipalities.

    Users can manipulate the database to compare property tax laws, rates, and assessment rules, and to identify property tax relief programs.

    The institute, which is associated with The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., plans to shortly add a database of property values across the United States.
    Zoning; variance: reminds that variances are only to be granted to prevent unnecessary hardships and granting a variance to construct an in-ground swimming pool on land unsuitable for a pool is improper. IN RE BOYER; 960 A2d 179; (Pa Cmwlth, 2008)
    Military Affairs Act; disabled veteran; property tax exemption: holds that once disabled veteran shows need for exemption, entire property must be exempted. No discretion to exempt only part. VANDERHOFF v OFFICE OF SUSQUEHANNA; 960 A2d 212; (Pa Cmwlth, 2008).
    Contracts; Parol evidence: holds that letter agreements preceding execution of lease amendment are not parol evidence and may be used, together with lease and amendment to find parties’ intent. GIANT FOOD v THE SILVER SPRING DEVELOPMENT; 959 A2d 438; (Pa Super, 2008)
    Municipal Water Connection: enforces a township ordinance requiring connection to township water line for domestic use, despite wife’s medical condition of allergy to chlorine. Ct say has to buy township water; but could install R.O. filter system to make it usable. GREENFIELD TP. MUN. AUTHY. V D.R. BURKET TRUST; 959 A2d 522; (Pa Cmwlth, 2008)
    Leases; intent to discontinue operations: holds that a letter to landlord asking leave to assign its lease to a major new tenant is not evidence of an intent to discontinue operations such as would allow landlord to eject tenant. DART CONTAINER CORP. v WCAB (Lien); 959 A2d 985; (Pa Cmwlth, 2008).
    Tax Upset Sale; Posting Notice: holds that posting notice on front door of property complied with notice provisions, though notice was not visable from public roadway and was 50 yards from private road. IN RE UPSET SALE TAX CLAIM BUREAU; 965 A2d, 1244; (Pa Cmwlth, 2009)
    Planning appeal; timeliness: holds that the 30 day period for filing appeal starts to run with the first decision approving the precise ruling from which appellants are appealing, in this case the height of a garage, not from the final approval of the over-all project. RIVERLIFE v PLANNING COM’N OF PITTSBURGH; 966 A2d 551; (PA, 2009)
    Landlord-Tenant; Fee Shifting: holds that a fee-shifting provision in a lease, providing that the winner of any litigation gets reasonable attorney’s fees from the loser, is enforceable. BAYNE v UCBR; 965 A2d 323; (Pa Cmwlth, 2009)
    The material appearing in this newsletter is for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice. Transmission of this information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein is intended only as general information, which may or may not reflect the most current developments.  Although these materials may be prepared by professionals, they should not be used as a substitute for professional services. If legal or other professional advice is required, the service of a professional should be sought.
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