Attention PA homeowners: Legislature weakens once promising HOA consumer protection bill


Legislative history of HB 1795

(See Previous post summary of original draft of HB 1795

Rep. Rosemary Browns introduces bill to increase integrity of HOA elections and voting processes

In August 2021, Rep. Rosemary Brown (R) introduced several bills aimed at helping owners of HOA-governed property by increasing accountability of HOA boards and managers.

One of those bills, HB 1795 (PN 2035) proposed the following reforms, in its original draft.

  • A majority (67%) of unit/home owners would be required to affirmatively approve any amendments to the community’s bylaws. (The intent was to prevent the HOA board from making unilateral changes without a vote fro unit/home owners.)
  • For all communities with more than 25 units, the HOA would be required to hire an independent third party to oversee board elections. The “independent reviewer”would be required to collect, tally, and certify written or electronic ballots. A majority voting interest of all unit owners in the HOA would be able to opt out of this election process, but only by amending their bylaws, under new statutory amendment requirements.
  • The HOA-governing board would be required to conduct a “meet the candidates” opportunity, so that unit owners would be able to know something about the members running for a seat on the HOA board.
  • The bill also created an enforceable penalty for individuals who interfere with HOA election procedures as delineated by state law. Specifically, if found guilty of violating state law, an individual would have faced fines up to $10,000, and up to five years in prison, or both.
  • Designated a Declarant’s (developer) or Executive Board Member’s willful violation of meeting and election procedures as an ‘unfair trade practice,’ subject to prosecution by the state Attorney General. 
  • If investigation resulted in a conviction, the court could have had the option of awarding punitive damages and recovery of attorney fees for unit owners. 

See Rep. Brown’s news release: House Urban Affairs Committee works on Comprehensive Community Living Reform Bill Package

House Urban Affairs Committee Votes: all 15 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted YEA, 6 Democrats voted NAY, citing opposition to imposing penalties for violations of new statutory requirements and any interference with HOA elections and ballots.

Early committee amendments

In September 2021, the House Urban Affairs committee made the following amendments: (see PN 2190)

  • Changed the size of HOA who are required to hire an Independent Reviewer for elections from at least 25 homes/units to at least 100 homes/units.
  • Added a provision allowing HOAs with 100-499 homes/units to OPT OUT of the Independent Reviewer election requirements by amending their bylaws.
  • Changed bylaw amendment voting requirements from at least 67% to at least 51%. 

At this point, HB 1795 stalled in the House, with no further consideration, until June 2022. 

*****

HB1795 sponsor leaving PA House to run for vacancy in the PA Senate

In January 2022, Rosemary Brown announced her imminent departure from state office:

Rep. Rosemary Brown Announces Last Year in the PA House

This week, with a sense of sadness, I announced that this year will be my last serving as state representative. I wanted to share with you the release I sent to the press. I cannot express deeply enough the honor it is to be your voice in the state House and to thank you for the support and friendship here at home. Thank you and know that I will continue to work as hard for you every day in the coming year as I have in the past. 

State Representative Rosemary Brown (R-189), who has represented Monroe and Pike counties in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives since her election in 2010, today announced that 2022 will be her final year in the House. 

“It has been one of the greatest honors to serve the people of my community both in Harrisburg and here at home. I will always treasure the relationships I have made with so many people throughout our area, and I cannot thank everyone enough for their trust and support,” Brown said. 

“But 12 years seems like the right time for me to move on into another position, whether that be in government or the private sector.”

Source: http://links.pahousenews.com/q/4tLssKbeyPt-arCEpEeDSBxHUzPrQxPRSj

By March 2022, Rosemary Brown announced her candidacy for state Senate, to succeed Senator Mario Scavello, upon his decision to retire from public service.

This sudden change of events occurred one month after Pennsylvania’s Legislative redistricting. 

Rosemary Brown announces bid for State Senate following Sen. Scavello’s retirement

by Rayna McGlynnThursday, March 17th 2022 (Fox56)

PA (WOLF) — Rosemary Brown, who has served as State Representative in the 189th District, announced today that she will seek the Republican nomination for State Senator in the newly drawn 40th District.

“When one door closes, another opens. While this was not planned, Senator Mario Scavello’s sudden retirement announcement ignited my desire to apply my experience and proven ability at a larger level.” Brown said in explaining her decision after she previously decided not to seek re-election for the State House seat.

When asked about his late decision to not seek re-election, Senator Scavello stated, “Due to some unexpected health reasons, I feel it is in the best interests of myself and the public to complete my career in public service. While it has been my honor and opportunity to serve the people for over 20 years and at many levels, the time has come for me to spend more time with my wife and family.”

Brown said she plans to continue to work on her many initiatives and her campaign will focus on a few key issues: providing greater opportunity to working families by promoting job and economic growth; continuing the fight for further property tax relief and, ultimately, elimination; improving the state’s education system to better prepare children for success; supporting law enforcement to provide for the public’s safety; ensuring election integrity across the state; and, preserving the Constitutional Rights of all Pennsylvanians.

Source: https://fox56.com/news/local/rosemary-brown-announces-bid-for-state-senate-following-sen-scavellos-retirement
See also: Rep. Brown for PA Senate

House deletes enforcement provisions from HB1795

In June 2022, Brown’s bill, HB175, was resurrected for a 2nd consideration in the House.

House Appropriations Committee votes (June 15, 2022) went along party lines. All 22 Republicans voted YEA, all 15 Democrats voted NAY, leading to the removal of Criminal and Unfair Trade Practices penalties against persons who violate HOA statutory election procedures, or improperly interfere with HOA elections or ballots.

View committee and floor votes on HB 1795 here.

The House Appropriations Committee removed all provisions relating to penalties: Read bill amendments (PN3242 as of 6/15/2022)

Deleted an enforceable penalty for individuals who interfere with HOA election procedures as delineated by state law. (If found guilty of violating state law, an individual can be fined up to $10,000, or sentenced to up to 5 years in prison, or both.)

Deleted the designation of a Declarant’s (developer) or Executive Board Member’s willful violation of meeting and election procedures to be an ‘unfair trade practice,’ subject to prosecution by the state Attorney General. 

Deleted provisions that, if an investigation results in a conviction, the court may award punitive damages and recovery of attorney fees to unit owners. 

House also added significant amendments to the bill


This version of the bill ADDED additional protection for owners: Allowed for electronic meetings, but only with advance written notice, and required that HOAs must conduct at least ONE IN PERSON meeting annually. 

ADDED a provision allowing for recording of HOA meetings, with a requirement to announce that the meeting will be recorded before the start of the meeting. And requiring the HOA to make the recording available, upon request, to owners within 6 months after a meeting. 

Also ADDED: provisions for recall or removal of board members “with or without cause,” by “a two-thirds vote of all persons present and entitled to vote at any meeting of the unit owners at which a quorum is present.”

Note that Pennsylvania law currently has NO provisions for either electronic meetings, notice requirements, or procedures for removal of board members that are not appointed by a declarant. 

The amended version of the bill (PN3242) ultimately received unanimous approval by a floor vote of the PA House (200-0). 

Why did House Republicans agree to remove enforcement penalties for violations of proposed HOA election laws? After all, Republicans outnumber Democrats in the House,113 to 88. 

I wanted to view the videos of the hearings, but none of them are posted on the state House Legislative website. 

The House version of HB1795 (PN 3242) was introduced in the Senate, and reconsidered in September 2022. At that time, it was amended by the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, as summarized in previously on Page 1 of this post. All 11 committee members voted in favor of the amendments. (PN3513)

Senate Urban Affairs & Housing Committee Members:

Joe Pittman (R-41), Committee Chair, serving Armstrong, Butler (part), Indiana and Westmoreland (part) Counties. Key issues: economic development, infrastructure improvement. Opposes the carbon tax. 

Nikil Saval, (D-1), Minority Chair, serving a portion of Philadelphia County. Extensive experience as a labor organizer, community organizer, and electoral organizing. Supported Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016. Contributing writer for the New York Times and the New Yorker, covering the topics of architecture, design, and housing. 

John Disanto (R-15), Vice Chair, represents parts of Dauphin and Perry Counties. According to his biography, “John DiSanto is a second-generation family business owner with broad experience in construction and real estate development. He is a managing trustee of the Terra Trust, a real estate development and investment trust that owns and operates a multi-state portfolio of properties as well as construction and property management service providers.

Jake Corman (R-34), Ex-Officio, represents Centre county, Juniata, Mifflin, and portions of Huntington counties (surrounding State College). Has served in the Senate for 22 years. 

Chris Gebhard (R-48), parts of Dauphin, York Counties, all of Lebanon County. Also a long-time member of the Senate.

Mario M. Scavello (R-40)retiring/not seeking re-election, serves portions of Monroe and Northampton Counties. A 69-year-old Italian immigrant, he has served as Senator for 20 years. Previous to that, he was a state House Representative for more than a decade. Scavello’s signature political issue is the elimination of the school property tax. 

Gene Yaw (R-23), serving Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, 

Susquehanna (part) and Union Counties. Attorney, serves as “Of Counsel” with the McCormick Law Firm in Williamsport. Also a U.S. Army veteran (1964-68)

Lisa M. Boscola (D-18), serves parts of Lehigh and Northampton Counties. Like Senator Scavello, Boscola has also pushed for the elimination of the school property tax. According to her bio: Most recently, Senator Boscola was the proud prime sponsor of the omnibus bill, Senate Bill 421 of 2019-20, which is known, today, as Act 77 of 2019. Act 77 was the largest voting modernization bill in decades that included the elimination of straight party voting, extending the deadline for absentee ballot submissions, and created a no excuse mail-in voting option for all Pennsylvania voters, in which, “kitchen tables and living rooms will be converted in polling places. Researching a candidate can be done while you vote from the comfort of your own home.” 

Wayne D. Fontanta (D-42), serving parts of Allegheny County. A Realtor and former Union member (Teamsters and Boiler Makers.)

Lindsey M. Williams (D-38) serves parts of Allegheny County. Fights for rights of Union workers. 

John T. Yudichak (I-14) Serving Carbon and parts of Luzerne Counties. Dedicated his entire career to legislative service. Former Democrat, who changed his party affiliation in 2019, and now caucuses with Republicans. 

(Current political party status in the PA Senate, 28 Republicans, 21 Democrats, and 1 Independent)

Deborah Goonan

is the creator of Independent American Communities (IAC), a Housing Consumer Education blog focusing on HOA governed Common Interest Developments.
IAC documents legal, social, and economic challenges — and explores solutions to problems — in U.S. HOA-governed common interest communities.

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