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  • Feb 19, 2020Property Tax Appeals Can Save You Money in 2020

    One obvious reason for filing real estate property tax appeals is to obtain a lower assessment on your real property and thereby save significant tax dollars. Another important reason to lower your assessment and taxes is to help maintain the value of the property by making it more marketable to potential buyers.

    Property owners often believe that their property is worth an amount equal to the assessment on the property. This misconception leads owners to overlook the different ratios of assessed value to true value applicable in each of the assessing districts of New Jersey and the fact that these ratios generally decline each year. For example, if a property worth one million dollars this year is located in a municipality with a 60% ratio, it should be assessed at $600,000 this year. If that ratio drops to 54% next year, its assessment should be $540,000. If the ratio drops, but the assessment remains high, it may be time for an appeal. The revaluation of all property within a municipality may increase the possibility of over-assessment on larger commercial and industrial parcels.

    Taxpayers with assessments in excess of $1,000,000 can file an appeal for direct review of their property’s assessed valuation by the Tax Court of New Jersey, without first filing an appeal with the local county tax board. Tax appeals on assessments of less than $1,000,000 must first be filed with the county tax board.

    If the taxpayer prevails in securing a tax appeal judgment reducing its assessment, the “Freeze Act” binds the municipality for the years covered by the tax appeal plus two additional years, subject to two exceptions. The first exception is a complete revaluation of all real property in the municipality. The second exception is proof by the municipality of a substantial increase in the property’s value. These exceptions aside, the assessment is frozen at the reduced level, at the taxpayer’s sole option. Thus, if a taxpayer wishes to appeal for a further reduction during the freeze period, he or she is free to do so.

    These points are merely intended to scratch the surface of this area of the law. This should also help to explain why property owners should have their tax assessments reviewed by legal counsel each year to determine whether a tax appeal is warranted. The experienced attorneys at Norris McLaughlin can help you review and analyze your real property valuations to determine if an appeal makes sense.

    For all counties, other than Monmouth and Gloucester, the deadline to file a tax appeal in 2020 is April 1st. For all towns subject to a revaluation or reassessment (other than those towns in Monmouth and Gloucester Counties), the deadline is extended to May 1, 2020.

    For additional information, contact one of our tax appeal attorneys, Nicholas F. Pellitta, Timothy P. McKeown, or Andrew D. Linden.

    This Real Property Tax Appeals Alert provides information to our clients and friends about current legal developments of general interest in the area of real property tax appeals law. The information contained in this Alert should not be construed as legal advice, and readers should not act upon such without professional counsel. Copyright © 2020 Norris McLaughlin, P.A.

    Posted in: Andrew D. Linden, Nicholas F. Pellitta, Real Estate & Finance, Taxation, Timothy P. McKeown |

  • Feb 11, 2020Julie Macomb Elected to Commercial Real Estate Women Network Lehigh Valley Board

    Julie M. Macomb, an Associate of law firm Norris McLaughlin, P.A., has been elected to the Board of Directors for the Commercial Real Estate Women Network (CREW) Lehigh Valley, the premier commercial real estate network in northeast Pennsylvania. She is also past president.

    “I love being a part of this network and look forward to continuing the strong leadership we’ve always had to help further develop our cause,” said Macomb.

    About CREW Lehigh Valley

    CREW Lehigh Valley, whose purpose is to advance the success of women in commercial real estate, is recognized for professionalism, leadership, expertise, and commitment. Norris McLaughlin is a proud sponsor of the organization.

    About Julie Macomb

    Macomb devotes her practice to business, health care, and real estate law. She is actively involved in the day-to-day legal counseling of businesses, formation of business entities, general contract matters, corporate restructurings, and shareholder disputes.

    In her health care practice, Macomb works with hospitals and their affiliated corporations, physician groups, clinical laboratories, medical staff, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities. Her real estate practice is focused on commercial lending issues; leasing; leasing projects for the firm’s healthcare clients; and acquisition, zoning, and disposition of commercial, residential, industrial, and retail properties.

    Macomb is on the Board of Directors of the Downtown Allentown Business Alliance and the Board of Directors of Community Music School, as well as the Board of Managers of The Bach Choir of Bethlehem. She has been recognized in Philadelphia Magazine as a “Rising Star,” a distinction for lawyers age 40 and under or who have been practicing for fewer than 10 years and reserved for no more than 2.5% of all attorneys in Pennsylvania. In 2017, Macomb was honored by Lehigh Valley Business as a “Woman to Watch,” an award for someone age 30 or under who is stepping up to help shape tomorrow’s Lehigh Valley. She received her J.D., magna cum laude, from Widener University School of Law and her B.A., magna cum laude, from The University of Maryland.

    Posted in: Julie M. Macomb, News, Real Estate & Finance | Tags: ,

  • Nov 27, 2019Ray Lahoud and Rich Somach to Speak at Pennsylvania Bar Real Estate Institute

    Raymond G. Lahoud, a Member of law firm Norris McLaughlin, P.A., and Chair of its Immigration Law Practice Group, and Richard Brent Somach, a Member of the firm, will present at the Pennsylvania Bar Institute’s Real Estate Institute on Thursday, December 5, at The CLE Conference Center Wanamaker Building in Philadelphia.

    About the Presentations

    “With the rapidly increasing number of immigrants in Pennsylvania who seek homeownership and real estate investment opportunities to the growing interest of foreign investors in Pennsylvania real estate development projects, immigration law has become increasingly relevant in the real estate industry. Given this, it is necessary that we continue to educate the real estate industry and others affected by today’s immigration climate, as well as the potentially lucrative means of the intersection of real estate and immigration law” said Lahoud. He will speak on “The (Hidden) Lucrative Intersections of Immigration Law and the Real Estate Industry,” 1:00 – 2:00 p.m., in the West Room.

    “There is a myriad of local rules and practices associated with sheriff’s sales and real estate tax sales. I look forward to participating once again for the PBI to answer questions and clarify misconceptions about buying properties at these sales,” said Somach. He will co-present “Advanced Sheriff Sale Jeopardy,” 1:00 – 2:00 p.m., in Room A.

    The two-day event is being held Thursday, December 5, and Friday, December 6, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Each day will offer sixteen courses. For more information and to register, visit pbi.org.

    About the Presenters

    Ray Lahoud

    Lahoud focuses his practice exclusively on immigration law and deportation defense for individuals, families, small to large domestic and multinational businesses and corporations, employers, international employees, investors, students, professors, researchers, skilled professionals, athletes, and entertainers, in every type of immigration or deportation defense matter—whether domestic or foreign. His immigration practice is broad, ranging from areas of corporate and employment immigration and related compliance to immigration litigation before agencies and courts across the United States, for corporations and individuals alike.

    Lahoud’s corporate immigration practice includes representing businesses of all sizes, in all corporate immigration and employer immigration compliance matters. He has served nearly every industry, including healthcare, education, manufacturing, global and domestic employment/talent recruitment, warehousing and distribution, pharmaceutical, economic development, local, county, and state government agencies, non-profit, religious, information technology, marketing, entertainment, sports, and real estate development and EB-5 investor financing. His experience includes EB-5 investor visas serving investors, regional centers, and project developers.

    Lahoud received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 2009 and his B.A., English, summa cum laude, from Lehigh University in 2006.

    Rich Somach

    Somach focuses his practice on real estate, commercial law, and creditors’ remedies, representing real estate development companies, shopping centers, and local banks. He has represented real estate owners, developers, and investors in a broad range of real estate transactions, including zoning matters, residential subdivisions, and shopping center development.

    A licensed title insurance agent, Somach is president of the title insurance and settlement company ABE Settlement Services. He is legal counsel to the Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS®, and serves as Assistant Lehigh County Solicitor, advising the Sheriff’s Office, the Tax Assessment Office, and the Tax Claim Bureau.

    Somach frequently writes and lectures on real estate matters, sheriff’s sales, and real estate tax sales. He received his B.A., with honors, in 1971 from Lehigh University, and his J.D. in 1974 from Hofstra University Law School.

    Posted in: Immigration, News, Raymond G. Lahoud, Real Estate & Finance, Richard B. Somach | Tags: , , ,

  • Oct 15, 2019Triple Play REALTOR® Convention & Trade Expo

    Norris McLaughlin is proud to have Raymond G. Lahoud, Chair of the firm’s Immigration Practice Group, present “What to Know About the EB-5 Real Estate Investor Visa Program” at Triple Play REALTOR® Convention & Trade Expo.

    Triple Play REALTOR® Convention & Trade Expo is tailored to meet the professional needs of serious real estate professionals in the tri-state area. Combining education, networking, and fun, this premiere event is a must-attend. Brought to you by the New Jersey, New York & Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS®.

    Course Description

    This program will provide an overview of the EB-5 program, including a background of the EB-5 program; entry into the program; legal, financial, and practical requirements; project vetting; investment structures; business plans; and examples of qualifying direct and regional center projects. Ray will also discuss the benefits and obligations that the EB-5 program offers local, regional, and state economies, as well as residential and commercial realtors and brokers, economic development professionals, real estate developers, and real estate investors.

    When: Wednesday, December 11, 2019

    9:00 – 11:00 a.m.

    Where: Atlantic City Convention Center

    1 Convention Boulevard
    Atlantic City, NJ 08401

    For more information and to register, please click here!

    Posted in: Events, Immigration, Raymond G. Lahoud, Real Estate & Finance | Tags: , ,

  • Sep 12, 2019Thinking of Renting Out Your House in Pennsylvania? Think Again

    By: Norris McLaughlin, P.A.

    Thinking about going into the web-based rental business in Pennsylvania (or trying to stop your neighbor from doing it)? Read this article first.

    Introduction

    A recent Supreme Court of Pennsylvania case, Slice of life, LLC vs. Hamilton Township Zoning Hearing Board, held that purely transient use of the property is not permitted in residential zoning districts restricted to “single housekeeping units.” In Slice of life, LLC, the property in question was governed by a 1985 Hamilton Township Zoning Ordinance permitting use for “single-family” dwellings and further defining single family as “a single housekeeping unit.” The owner of the property was an LLC whose sole member never lived at the property and purchased it entirely for use as a for-profit commercial enterprise. The property was advertised as a rental with a maximum stay of one week. The property’s use as a short-term rental resulted in noise complaints, instances of public urination, nudity, lewd conduct, bonfires, and fireworks. There were multiple police complaints related to the property. Eventually, a zoning officer issued an enforcement notice because of the property’s use for “transient tenancies.”

    Property owners generally have the right to enjoy their property limited only by things like zoning ordinances substantially related to the protection of public health, safety, morality, and welfare. Residential zoning districts are a historically acceptable way to promote the residential character, amenity, stability and safety of “family” oriented neighborhoods (e.g., quiet, desirable levels of density, residents engaged in the neighborhood and invested in maintaining the quality of the community). Slice of Life, LLC, explains that “single housekeeping unit” is a phrase commonly used to mean family within zoning ordinances that require occupants to both:  (i) behave functionally as a family unit, thereby cooking and living together, sharing access to the entire house, attending social functions together, etc., and (ii) remain for substantial periods, moving only for health or personal preference reasons.

    At the Commonwealth level, the court in Slice of Life, LLC, found that the person signing the short-term leases was a family for purposes of the ordinance, and any other persons staying at the property were guests of the family. Because “transient” was not used or defined in the ordinance, the court reasoned that where short-term rentals were not specifically prohibited, they were permitted, as ordinances needed to be interpreted to allow for the broadest possible use of the land. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania clarified that “web-based rentals of single-family homes to vacationers and other transient users for a few days at a time” is a purely transient use of the property that is not permitted where a zoning ordinance requires use as a “single-family dwelling.”

    Conclusion

    While Slice of life, LLC, dealt with an extreme set of facts, the holding in the case clearly indicates that “single-family dwelling” restrictions within zoning ordinances prohibit the use of property as short-term rental property investments. Had the tenants in question behaved in a more discreet manner, the use would have been no less transient in nature. If you seek to purchase property for the purpose of renting the premises for short-term stays, or you are concerned about the “transient tenancies” in your neighborhood, make sure to consult with a real estate attorney to determine the regulations your municipality has in place concerning the property in question.

    If you have any questions about this post or any other related matters, please email me at jlushis@norris-law.com

    Posted in: Real Estate & Finance |

  • Aug 22, 2019Pennsylvania Updates Legislation on Adverse Possession as of June 19, 2019

    By: John F. Lushis, Jr.

    Pennsylvania, like many states, has laws relating to adverse possession.

    What is adverse possession?

    Adverse possession is a method of acquiring title to real property by possession for a specified period under certain prescribed conditions. Historically, to acquire title by adverse possession in Pennsylvania, a party must have actual, continuous, exclusive, visible, notorious, and hostile possession of the property after a minimum of 21 years. While these words come across as heavily “legal” and perhaps complicated, these core elements of adverse possession are pretty straightforward.

    Actual possession occurs when a trespasser is on and using property owned by another. “Continuous” means that the trespasser is using the property without interruption for the 21-year period. If the property in question is sold, the adverse possessor can “tack” together the periods of different ownership to achieve the 21-year requirement.  A “hostile” use of the property occurs when the rights of the owner and the adverse possessor’s use are in conflict. If the owner gives permission to use his property, adverse possession cannot occur. To satisfy the visible and notorious requirement, the adverse possessor’s use of the owner’s property must be public. This allows an owner the opportunity to discover the adverse possessor’s use and take legal action, if necessary to end such use. For exclusive possession to occur, the adverse possessor must prevent or exclude others from using the owner’s property.

    What did Pennsylvania update?

    Pennsylvania has enacted legislation that became effective on June 19, 2019, which provides for a 10-year (as opposed to 21-year) time frame to obtain real property by adverse possession under certain circumstances. The legislation is designed to assist adverse possessors when a property has an “absentee” owner. Under this new law, the property must be a half-acre or less, be improved by a single-family dwelling, and identified as a separate lot in a recorded conveyance, on a subdivision plan or on an official map/municipal plan. The law does not apply to property that is part of a common interest ownership community (condominium, cooperative) or that is owned by a governmental entity.

    Under the new law, an adverse possessor may acquire title by filing a quiet title action against the record owner. The complaint, containing the legal description and notice of a one-year right to cure, must be served on the record owners, their heirs, successors, and assigns. This right to cure allows the defendant owners to file an action in ejectment against the plaintiff/adverse possessor within one year of the action. If no ejectment action is filed, the court may enter a judgment granting title to the entire property (not just a portion) to the plaintiff/occupant. The judgment, however, does not discharge, terminate, satisfy, or release any existing encumbrances on the title.

    If you have any questions about this post or any other related matters, please email me at jlushis@norris-law.com.

    Posted in: John F. Lushis, Jr., Real Estate & Finance |

  • Aug 01, 20195 Key Changes to the Pennsylvania Contractor and Subcontractor Payment Act

    By: John F. Lushis, Jr.

    Purchasers of real estate that desire to retain a contractor to construct improvements on the property know that timely payment of contractor and subcontractors is of critical importance. Pennsylvania has enacted significant changes to the Pennsylvania Contractor and Subcontractor Payment Act (“CASPA”) that affect all construction contracts entered into on or after October 9, 2018.

    Key Changes to CASPA

    1. The parties to a construction contract may not waive any provision of CASPA “by contract or other agreement.”
    2. CASPA as originally enacted provided that except as otherwise agreed by the parties, payment of a contractor’s invoices is due within 20 days. The amendments provide that if payment has not been made as provided in the construction contract, or if at least 30 calendar days have passed since the end of the billing period for which a payment has not been received by the contractor according to the terms of the construction contract, the contractor can provide written notice to the owner stating that payment has not been made. If at least 30 days pass subsequent to the contractor’s sending such notice and payment still has not been made, the contractor can provide 10 calendar days’ written notice of the contractor’s intent to suspend performance. If the construction contract sets forth a procedure that “exceeds” the foregoing procedure, the procedure set forth in the construction contract is unenforceable.
    3. The amendments include provisions relating to the owner’s authority to withhold payment. If an owner withholds payment for a deficiency item, the amount withheld must be reasonable, and the owner must notify the contractor of the deficiency item by a written explanation of the owner’s good faith reason within 14 calendar days of the date that the invoice is received. A failure to comply with this provision constitutes a waiver of the basis for the owner to withhold payment and necessitates payment to the contractor of the invoice in full.
    4. The amendments cover errors in documentation. As originally enacted, CASPA provided that if an invoice is filled out incorrectly or incompletely, the person who receives the incorrect invoice must give written notice to the person who sent the invoice within 10 working days of receipt of the notice. The amendments provide that after such written notice has been received by the person who sent the incorrect invoice, the person receiving the invoice is to pay the correct amount on the due date.
    5. The amendments also set forth changes relating to retainage. Upon reaching substantial completion of its scope of work, contractor or subcontractor may facilitate the release of retainage on their contracts before final completion by posting a maintenance bond with approved surety for 120% of the amount of retainage being held. The withholding of retainage for longer than 30 days after final acceptance of the work results in an owner’s, contractor’s, and subcontractor’s right to withhold payment.

    If you have any questions about this post or any other related matters, please email me at jlushis@norris-law.com.

    Posted in: John F. Lushis, Jr., Real Estate & Finance |

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