Saturday, July 30, 2011

Metal thefts in schools.

Metal theft has increased to the point of threatening this fall's opening of schools in parts of California:

The above films shows that metal theft has become more brazen, the thieves are more knowledgable and are branching into new areas.

In other metal theft news this week, thieves have stolen -

As the dollar continues to lose value, any unsecured piece of metal becomes the equivalent of real money in ever widening sectors of the economy. This is a nationwide trend that real estate investors cannot ignore. The ascendency of metal value affects not only the physical safety of buildings, but (most importantly) the fluctuating value of real estate.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Palmyra tables rental registration ordinance.

On Monday (July 25th), Palmyra Borough tabled a proposed rental registration ordinance:
Council President Keith Costello made the motion to table advertising the ordinance, saying he had learned about a study of such laws by the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs.

"We've had a lot of good input from landlords regarding the regulation," he said. "We haven't had any input from tenants. It would be interesting to see what other boroughs are doing in this area, and if there are some good ideas out there that are applicable to our borough we should use them."
H/T Lebanon Daily News

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hazleton Inspection Ordinance tabled; Ordinance 2011-13; Hazleton Area Landlords Association

On Wednesday, July 20, 2011, the Hazleton City Council considered a rental inspection ordinance. The ordinance would have required city inspections of every rental property in the City. The Ordinance was tabled by a unanimous vote of Council after numerous landlords, including the Hazleton Area Landlords Association, brought various facts to the attention of council.

A fair amount of discussion focused on the legal principle that the City could not use a measure like this as an income generator. I believe that Council lost much of their enthusiasm for this proposal when it became apparent that the fees imposed on landlords could not be used to close budget gaps or fund other projects.

Equally disturbing to Council was the news that prior ordinances had not worked. City employees reported to Council during the meeting that the 2006 rental registration ordinance had not been successful in obtaining addresses and registrations from every landlord with property in the city. Hundreds of property owners remain out of compliance with that measure. Council has not found the answer to the question of how the City would be able to conduct inspections of every unit when it could not ensure compliance with a simple registration ordinance.

More information was reported in the Hazleton Standard Speaker.

The following clip is from WYLN.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Metal thefts cause death, power outage and related hardship.

Metal theft continues unabated in recent days and weeks:

The fire chief in South Carolina referred to the discovery - near the thief's body - of "items that would be used in the metal theft industry, cutters and that type thing."

It is disquieting that metal theft is now referred to as an "industry."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Carlisle proposed rental property inspection; Carlisle Rental Housing Task Force meeting.

In Carlisle on July 18, 2011, the Carlisle Task Force on Rental Housing convened a panel discussion on proposed rental housing legislation. The Task Force invited panelists to address questions related to the operation of rental inspection ordinances in various parts of Pennsylvania. The panel consisted of myself (speaking on behalf of landlords), a representative of PAR and representatives of numerous municipalities, including Lancaster, West Chester, Bellefonte, Gettysburg, Shippensburg and Chambersburg.

The general purpose of the meeting seemed to be for the municipal representatives to explain how well their inspection ordinances worked for those municipalities. Despite their conclusions, they provided very few specifics regarding why an inspection ordinance is needed to address particular problems. The representative from Bellefonte stated that 95% of problems with rental properties related to the exterior of the buildings, thus indicating that 95% of problems can be observed and addressed without an inspection ordinance. Similar conclusions can be drawn from their conclusions and comments regarding police activity at rental units.

Lancaster's representative acknowledged that Lancaster's inspection program is partially funded by grants from the federal government.

The West Chester representative acknowledged the prior litigation whereby the Chester County Court forced the borough to refund more than one million dollars in inspection fees to the landlords several years ago.

The Task Force is set to vote on its recommendations at its August meeting.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Federal and state governments attempt to treat symptoms of inflation

Various states and the federal government are considering measures to make it more difficult to sell stolen copper. These measures are being considered in response to the upsurge in stolen copper and other metals in recent years:
When thieves ransacked eight air conditioners in an apartment complex in the city of Mobile, Alabama, the culprits made off with $800 worth of scrap metal and left residents with $38,000 worth of damages. "We've had copper robberies since forever," said Officer Christopher Levy of the Mobile Police Department, "but we've seen a spike so far this summer." Record copper prices have caused a surge in U.S. copper thefts, plaguing law enforcement and local governments and prompting states to pass new laws. "Since the beginning of the 2004 spike in copper prices, copper theft and copper prices have been directly linked," a 2010 U.S. Department of Energy study on copper wire thefts said.
These laws will not address the real problem, as metal prices will continue to rise as long as the currency is being devalued. The Reuters article attempts to explain the rise with reference to increased Chinese usage, but that explanation tells only part of the story. Copper is not the only metal that is being stolen in larger amounts. Other commodities have seen rising prices for several years, including fuel, gold and silver. The new laws will only treat the symptoms. If the government truly wants to stop the brazen metal thefts that now plague homes and businesses, the government must stop reckless deficit spending.

In related news, California scrap metal thieves have stolen the irrigation system from a vineyard, threatening the entire grape crop.

For other examples of rampant metal theft in recent months, click here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mortgage applications decline for fourth week in a row in July. reports that mortgage applications declined last week for the fourth straight week despite lower interest rates:
The Mortgage Bankers Association's seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity fell 5.1 percent in the week ended July 8, nearly identical to the 5.2 percent drop recorded the week before.

Refinancing, which makes up more than 65 percent of mortgage activity, slipped 6.2 percent. The MBA's measure of new home purchase applications edged down 2.6 percent.

This decline is not necessarily uniform throughout the entire country.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Copper thefts in Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County; downspouts, gutters

Click here for previous posts on increasing thefts of copper (and other metals) and how they reflect rising inflation. Previously, metal theft has focused on utility wires, catalytic converters, air conditioners, transformers, railroad tracks, etc. Abandoned or rehab real estate has often been targeted for copper theft in recent years.

From comes the story of copper thefts targetting gutters and downspouts in occupied homes in Montgomery County:
A rash of copper thefts in Montgomery county has residents on alert

They may not seem like your typical targets, but thieves in Montgomery County are looking for copper. Gutters and downspouts made of the precious metal are being stolen from people’s homes along the Main Line.

Lower Merion Township Police have reported a significant increase in the thefts of copper down spouts and gutters being taken from homes throughout the area.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pennsylvania HB 1696; Moratorium on county wide reassessments.

At the end of June, the Pennsylvania legislature enacted HB 1696, which imposes a moratorium on county wide reassessments in 4th class counties.

The full text of the bill appears here.

The Almanac covers the effects of this law on Washington County's reassessment plans.

The list of Pennsylvania's fourth class counties is as follows: Beaver, Butler, Cambria, Cumberland, Fayette, Schuylkill, Washington. The effect of this bill on Cumberland County is expected to be minimal, as Cumberland engaged in reassessment in 2010.

CCAP contains a breakdown of all Pennsylvania counties by class.

The moratorium shall last until November 2012 or until further reform is enacted - whichever occurs later.