Government & Law
August 21, 2023. AAMP's strong opposition paves way for additional public input hearings. Members are encouraged to pre-register to testify on Tuesday,August 29 (1pm or 6 pm).
Based on the strength of AAMP’s testimony at last month’s Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) hearings, another hearing date has been scheduled with respect to the proposed PWSA rate increase. This is your opportunity to make your voice heard as to the impact that this rate increase would have on you and your tenants. Please see this Consumer bulletin with all of the details for participating in the August 29, 2023 (1 pm and 6 pm) telephonic hearings.
Although AAMP has filed an opposition as a trade association and as your representative, we are not PWSA customers – you are. As such, the quantity, quality and diversity of multifamily voices heard will make a huge impact as the PUC considers all of the evidence this fall. Whether you include water/sewer fees your rent or bill your tenants for their usage, this is your opportunity to tell your story. Please pre-register to testify. While pre-registration by 4 pm on Monday, August 28 is encouraged, it is not required.
July 27, 2023. AAMP Opposes Exorbitant PWSA Rate Increase. AAMP opposed the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority's (PWSA) proposed three-year rate increase at a telephonic hearing scheduled by the Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) on July 27, 2023. Click on the button to the right for a complete copy of AAMP's testimony.
On May 9, 2023, the PWSA announced that it planned to increase residential rates (for residential buildings with 5/8th-inch meters) approximately 58 percents over three years. However, commercial customers, including multi-family residential buildings, could see a 70-to-72 percent increase, dependng on the building meter size. Click on the button to the right for a copy of the rate increase notice.
In mid-June, the PUC voted unanimously to halt implementation of the proposed increase and to schedule investigative hearings in front of an administrative law judge. The hearings held on July 25 (in-person) and July 27 (telephonic) were the first step in the process. A "technical evidentiary" hearing is scheduled for October 4, 2023. A decision is expected in February 2024.
As this complex matter continues to unfold, AAMP will continue to advocate on your behalf and keep you informed.
AAMP Victorious in Commonwealth Court;
PA Appeals Court Strikes Down Pittsburgh Rental Registration Ordinance
March 17, 2023. A unanimous panel of the Commonwealth Court sided with the Apartment Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh (AAMP) ruling on Friday, March 17th that the City of Pittsburgh’s 2015 rental registration ordinance – its third such attempt since 2007 – exceeded the City’s authority under its Home Rule Charter (See: Commonwealth Court Opinion). Once again, it was AAMP who stood strong in the face of long odds and complicated, twisted, and expensive litigation to protect our members from grossly improper municipal overreach.
In early 2016, AAMP, along with two other groups, filed suit against the City’s 2015 rental registration ordinance. In 2017, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Joseph James bifurcated hearings on the complaint into two parts – one, arguments about the law and two, a trial on whether the fees set forth in the ordinance constituted an illegal tax. In addition to inspection fees, the ordinance mandated an annual registration fee of $65, $55 or $45 per unit, depending on the number of units in the building.
With respect to the legal arguments – all of the claims at issue in this appeal to the Commonwealth Court – Judge James ruled in favor of the City in 2017 stating that that the ordinance was a “valid exercise” of the City’s police power. However, until the trial on the constitutionality of the fees was resolved, no appeal was permitted.
Even still, we successfully delayed the City from enforcing the ordinance for five years until the trial on the fees could be conducted in February 2021. In our pretrial statement, we contended that the fee structure was improper because “it aims to generate City revenue through regulating the business of rental housing.” We also considered the fee “excessive” and “improperly calculated.” In July 2021, after a four-day trial, Judge James agreed with us and ruled that the City’s proposed fee-structure was, indeed, an impermissible tax. (See, Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law Below, 7-20-2021)
However, it was our strong belief that Judge James’ ruling as to the validity of the City’s police power was inherently wrong. Allowing the ordinance to stand would be severely detrimental to AAMP members’ interests. So, we appealed that ruling to the Commonwealth Court in 2021. Oral arguments were heard in February 2023, resulting in this March 17th ruling.
Over the years, it has been our contention that while our members’ interests go well beyond City of Pittsburgh limits, Pittsburgh is a bellwether. Our successful efforts to tamp down impermissible overreach in Pittsburgh inhibits other municipalities from enacting similar anti-multifamily ordinances of their own. As needed, our memberships’ generous contributions to the AAMP Legal Action Fund have enabled us, as David, to combat, and so far, defeat Goliath. And, in preventing these unjust ordinances from going into effect, just in fees alone, we have saved our members an estimated $15 million.
We appreciate the support of our members who have recently contributed generously to our Legal Action Fund in getting us to this point, and we urge all those who haven’t contributed to please do so now. Please consider supporting the AAMP Legal Action Fund as an essential annual business expense. No individual multifamily owner or manager can adequately monitor and evaluate legislative activity, negotiate when possible, and have the financial resources on-hand to carry a big stick and litigate when needed on its own. You need AAMP to have your back!
April 17, 2023. The City of Pittsburgh filed a petition for “allocator” (appeal) with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. AAMP opposed the petition and the matter remains pending.
*Rental Registration - Part Deux* - Current Status. Court of Common Pleas. In October 2021, City Council introduced (and very quickly passed) two controversial ordinances that would drastically impact the local multifamily industry, the "Parking Permit" ordinance and the "Lead Safety" ordinance. At the same time, without any input from the multifamily industry, the City unveiled a new rental registration fee to replace the one that had been deemed an unconstitutional tax (See, July 20, 2021 Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law linked below) and tied the two aforementioned ordinances to the rental registration ordinance. AAMP filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas challenging this new ordinance. The bulk of the trial was conducted in January 2023 and the parties were preparing their written arguments. However, in light of the March 17, 2023 Commonwealth Court ruling, the Court stayed the litigation pending resolution of the Commonwealth Court case.
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Unanimous PA Supreme Court Strikes Down Pittsburgh
Source of Income Ordinance!
October 21, 2021. After nearly six years of dogged determination and complex litigation, the Apartment Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh (AAMP) has proven that the City of Pittsburgh’s “source of income” ordinance requiring landlords to accept Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers is illegal and unenforceable. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a 7-0 decision affirming multiple lower court decisions that Pittsburgh had exceeded its authority in enacting the 2015 ordinance.
In late 2015, Pittsburgh, a Home Rule municipality, adopted an ordinance which prohibited discrimination based on “source of income,” specifically requiring landlords in the City to accept federal Housing Choice Vouchers for payment of rent. Accepting such vouchers, however, would have forced landlords to participate in the otherwise-voluntary Housing Choice Voucher program, thereby subjecting them to a litany of burdensome requirements, such as, mandating they submit their lease to the Housing Authority for approval, agree to the Housing Authority’s timeline for rent increases, and submit various forms of identification for a government-mandated background check.
In early 2016, AAMP filed a complaint in Allegheny County’s Court of Common Pleas seeking to stay the enforcement of the ordinance and asking that it be ruled invalid. The Court granted the stay and, in 2018, the court ruled in AAMP’s favor, prompting the City to appeal. In 2019, in a unanimous, en banc, decision, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the ordinance was invalid as the City had exceeded its statutory authority under the Home Rule and Optional Plans Law by forcing landlords to participate in the Housing Choice Voucher program.
The City appealed to the PA Supreme Court, which remanded the case back to the Commonwealth Court to consider the validity of the ordinance in light of new criteria set forth in Pittsburgh Restaurant & Lodging Association v. City of Pittsburgh, which upheld the City’s ability to require that businesses provide paid sick leave to employees. On remand in 2020, the Commonwealth Court, once again, concluded that the ordinance was invalid.
Unhappy with the decision, the City sought Supreme Court review. The Supreme Court granted the City’s petition and oral arguments were heard in April. On October 21, 2021, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the lower courts’ decisions, striking down the ordinance, we hope, once and for all.
Getting to this decision was a long and costly process, but one the directors and members of the AAMP felt was necessary to protect and defend the ability of landlords to operate their business without undue interference.
The 31-page majority opinion and decision issued by the court, along with a concurring opinion, is linked below. Also below are various local and national articles referencing AAMP's successful effort on behalf of its members.
Needless to say, we are pleased by this decision and thank all our members who lent a hand in supporting this important legal action.