Abandoned Property Law

Pennsylvania laws allow individuals or nonprofits to take control of abandoned and blighted properties and rehabilitate them. Investors can use this opportunity to increase their returns while improving the community’s quality of life. The challenge is that the law is complicated. The investor must file a petition and meet specified requirements before the court will grant the application.

Learning more about abandoned property laws and hiring a real estate attorney can streamline the process.

Abandoned Property Law in Pennsylvania

The primary legislation regarding abandoned properties in Pennsylvania is the Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act (Act 135 of 2008). The legislature further amended the law in 2014 to modify the process for filing a petition for conservatorship, aiming to make the process more appealing to potential conservators or developers.

The law allows individuals and nonprofits to petition the court to be appointed as conservators, allowing them to possess and then rehabilitate the property. The conservator is responsible for managing and improving the property and bringing it into compliance with local codes and regulations. The goal is to revitalize the property and the surrounding neighborhood.

In general, the petitioner or person filing for conservatorship must demonstrate that the owner has abandoned or failed to maintain the property, causing it to become a blight in the community. A property qualifies as abandoned if it meets specified requirements.

What Are the Requirements for Conservatorship?

You must establish the following when filing for conservatorship of an abandoned or blighted property:

  • The owner has legally abandoned the building for at least 12 months.
  • The owner has failed to provide evidence that they have actively marketed the building during the last 60 days and have not made efforts in good faith to sell the building at a price reflecting the market condition and circumstances.
  • No individual or nongovernmental entity has a pending foreclosure action on the property.
  • The current owner has failed to present sufficient evidence that they acquired the property within the last six months, subject to specified exceptions.

You must also show that at least three of some specified factors exist. These factors:

  • The property is a nuisance to the public and unsafe for children.
  • The property needs substantial rehabilitation and there has been none in the last 12 months.
  • The property is unfit for human habitation.
  • The property is a fire, health or safety hazard.
  • The property’s condition affects the economic well-being of the community.

How Can the Property Owner Avoid Conservatorship?

The owner may avoid conservatorship by either remedying any code violations or nuisance or emergency conditions, or selling the property.

In any of these instances, the owner will repay the petitioner all costs incurred in preparing and filing the petition for conservatorship. If the petitioner borrowed funds to rehabilitate the property, they may apply to the court for priority lien status. A lien is a legal claim over the property, allowing the petitioner to recoup associated costs. This lien takes precedence over other liens, such as mortgages and judgment liens, that would otherwise be senior to the conservator’s cost claim.

What Is the Process for Applying for Conservatorship?

You can apply for conservatorship by filing a petition to the court. It’s crucial to support the petition with evidence showing the building’s condition meets the above-listed requirements. You may include evidence such as photographs, property records and documents indicating that the property is a public or safety hazard.

After filing the petition, the court will schedule a hearing to review the case’s merits. Any person with an interest in the property can present evidence to support or contest the petition, so you must prepare. The judge will examine the petition, evidence and law to grant or refuse the application.

Why Do You Need an Attorney?

Pennsylvania’s abandoned property laws are technical. Additionally, the filing process can be complex, especially when a person with interest contests. Working with an attorney with knowledge of real estate and municipal law can increase your chances of success.

Attorneys understand the laws and can help you navigate the legal challenges. They can evaluate your case and determine your chances of success. Additionally, an attorney can provide representation throughout the petition process. This includes gathering evidence, filing the petition and advocating on your behalf.

Why Trust Us?

At MPL Law Firm, we pride ourselves on being a leading real estate law firm in Pennsylvania. We have provided effective legal solutions to residents of York and beyond for over 40 years. Our attorneys understand the state and local laws and can develop practical strategies to deliver the best possible results.

We listen to our clients to understand their needs, allowing us to develop tailored solutions. Our attorneys are ethical, honest and transparent. These qualities have enabled us to form long-standing relationships with our clients, enabling us to form strong ties with the community.

Learn More From MPL Law Firm

MPL Law Firm has skilled attorneys ready to handle your real estate disputes. We will guide and support you throughout the process with personalized advice. Contact us today if you have any questions regarding conservatorship or need help with any other legal issue — we look forward to hearing from you.