By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
The Pennsylvania House recently tabled a bill that clarifies who will be responsible for maintenance of private roads.
HB 523, as amended on September 24 (2019), attempts to sort out a person’s obligation to pay for maintenance of a shared private road.
The reader may assume that all shared private roads and driveways are part of a common interest ownership community. In these communities, a homeowners, condominium, or cooperative association exists to collect maintenance fees and oversee regular maintenance.
However, the Keystone state has its fair share of non-public roads that are not funded by an HOA.
Pennsylvania residents sometimes share a private road or driveway with no formal agreement about how they will share the cost of maintaining that road. As expected, disputes commonly arise when only some residents who use the road are willing to pay for snow removal, pothole repair, regrading or resurfacing.
HB 523 proposes that all people who use a private road to access property are obligated to pay their fair share of costs to maintain that road.
Sharing the costs of private road maintenance
Here are a few highlights of HB 523, which is currently under consideration by the Pennsylvania House.
According to the most current draft:
The obligation for private road maintenance applies to each person that uses the road for regular access to the properties on that non-public road.
Notably, the bill’s reference to road “users” and “persons” is a bit vague. It implies, but does not specifically state, that the financial obligation for private road maintenance applies to homeowners or property owners.
Each person’s financial obligation is “in proportion to the amount of private road utilized.” But the current version of the bill is not specific about how each person’s proportional utilization will be calculated. As currently written, the bill does not appear to reduce the likelihood of user disputes over their “fair share” of financial liability.
If a person does not use the private road as a primary access to that “person’s property,” there’s no obligation to pay for its maintenance. Again, although the bill seems to imply that the financial obligation falls to the property owner, the current version refers to “primary access” to the “person’s property,” without specifying actual ownership of that property.
Users are only obligated or maintain a private road to its current improvement level. If it’s a gravel road, users are not expected to pay the additional cost of paving the road. If the road is paved, users would be obligated to maintain a paved road.
Any user of a private road has the right to bring a civil action (file a lawsuit) against other users to compel them to pay their fair share of road maintenance.
The bill specifically states that its provisions do not apply to HOA-governed common interest communities, as these roads are presumably already funded and managed by a homeowners, condominium or cooperative association. ♦♦
Pennsylvania Regular Session 2019-2020
House Bill 523, as amended Sept. 24, 2019
An Act amending the act of June 13, 1836 (P.L.551, No.169), referred to as the General Road Law, further providing for repair of private roads.
Prime Sponsor: Representative DAY
Last Action: Laid on the table, Sept. 24, 2019 [House]
Memo: Maintenance Agreements for Private Roads
Current Status: TABLED