The Pennsylvania Department of State has issued new guidelines for real estate transactions initiated on or before March 5, 2020.  Under the new guidelines, a real estate transaction for the sale of an existing home may proceed with in-person inspections, appraisals, final walk-throughs and title insurance activities if the home was under a signed contract as of March 5, 2020.  For new construction, the same in-person activities are permitted if a contract entered on or before March 5, 2020, provides for closing and delivery of the home to the purchaser on or after March 6, 2020.  The new guidelines reiterate that all remote real estate business is permissible, including virtual or telework operation for desktop appraisals and any appraisal that does not require entrance into a physical location.
Continue Reading New Guidelines for Real Estate Transactions from PA Department of State

If your head hurts, it might be because you are one of the many who have been thrown off the Life-Sustaining Business Roller Coaster, which has had more ups, downs, loops, and spin-arounds than any coaster at Hershey Park.

At 4:00 P.M. yesterday, Governor Wolf released an updated FAQ for Life-Sustaining Business (“Updated FAQ”).  Perhaps the most glaring change is that “[a]ll exemption requests MUST be submitted no later than 5:00 P.M. on Friday, April 3, 2020.”  (Emphasis added.) We have heard the more than 32,000 waiver applications have understandably overwhelmed the Department of Community and Economic Development (“DCED”), which is charged with reviewing waiver applications.

The Updated FAQ has been revised significantly
Continue Reading WAIVER DEADLINE & New FAQ Updates for Life-Sustaining Businesses

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”), which executes the Secretary of Homeland Security’s authorities to secure critical infrastructure, updated its guidance on “what is” and “what is not” essential critical infrastructure to include housing construction.  The addition is significant because Governor Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations, including housing construction job sites, to slow the spread of COVID-19 (“Governor’s Order”).  Interestingly, the Commonwealth’s webpage that provides information on the Governor’s Order specifically references CISA.  It states: “Business guidance has been updated after conversations with businesses, stakeholders, and individuals and has been aligned with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency advisory released.” 
Continue Reading Housing Construction: “Essential Critical Infrastructure” Says U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security

During the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate professionals have struggled to get documents notarized while respecting social distancing requirements. The Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA), after all, requires an individual making a statement or executing a document to “appear personally” before the notarial officer. Recent direction issued by the Department of State which can be found here, however, indicates that the physical presence requirement in RULONA will be relaxed on a temporary basis for certain types of real estate transactions.

For personal residential real estate transactions
Continue Reading **UPDATE: In-Person Notary Requirements Relaxed for Real Estate Transactions**

From my colleagues with our Government Relations Group and Capitol Buzz:

During the daily COVID-19 update provided by the administration, Gov. Tom Wolf instituted a “shelter-in-place” order for seven counties in the Commonwealth, including those in the Philadelphia region and Allegheny County in western Pennsylvania.

The order, which came 24 hours after the city of Philadelphia announced action of its own to order its residents to stay home, will go into effect starting at 8:00 p.m. Monday, March 23.

Specifically, the “shelter-in-place” order will apply to
Continue Reading **Update 3/23/2020; COVID-19: Shelter in Place for 7 Pennsylvania Counties**

Overview of Force Majeure
With COVID-19 headlines dominating the news cycle, and with no end in sight to the uncertainty that the virus brings, affected businesses are wise to consider whether the current pandemic qualifies as a “force majeure.”  In the last few weeks, the Chinese government has issued “force majeure certificates” to domestic businesses as a way of shielding companies from breach of contract claims, American businesses are sending mass e-mails to customers explaining that the virus prevents the company’s performance or operations, and businesses in an array of industries have sent formal inquiries to their service providers seeking confirmation of continued performance.

What is “Force Majeure”
The defense of force majeure will excuse a party’s performance under a contract if
Continue Reading Force Majeure Provisions and the Impacts of COVID-19

Please see below regarding the Governor’s order from our Government Relations and Labor & Employment Groups.  Do not hesitate to contact anyone at McNees with questions, including how this order might apply to your job site, project approvals or your office.  McNees is a full service law firm that remains operational, remotely and in compliance with the Governor’s order.  We are ready and able to continue to support our clients’ needs during this trying time.

UPDATE: Latest on Gov. Wolf’s Closure Order amid COVID-19 Outbreak

 As detailed in a special edition of Capitol Buzz sent on Thursday evening, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all “non-life-sustaining” businesses throughout Pennsylvania to physically close their operations in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. The new directive, which went into effect at 8 p.m. on Thursday evening, contains the threat of enforcement action
Continue Reading Governor Wolf’s Closure Order

Black Box Kitchens, Dark Kitchens, Ghost Kitchens, or Zombie Kitchens.  Terms like these may sound scary, like the stuff of nightmares.  But these terms are used to describe an emerging food service industry concept known as “virtual restaurants.”

Very simply, virtual restaurants are kitchen-only restaurants.  With the rise of online and mobile app food delivery services, such as GrubHub, Uber Eats, Favor and DoorDash, traditional “brick-and-mortar” restaurants are turning more often to virtual restaurants to keep up with their customers’ preferences and demands.  There are no in-restaurant ordering or dining facilities:  no registers, no servers, no money, no tables or chairs.  Virtual restaurants are commercial kitchens purely for processing, preparing and fulfilling food orders.

Virtual kitchens can take many forms. 
Continue Reading Don’t be Afraid of Ghost or Zombie…Kitchens

Did you know that under certain circumstances a private individual can acquire government-owned land without the government’s consent? Although the Commonwealth’s immunity from adverse possession claims has never been in question, whether political subdivisions of the Commonwealth are subject to adverse possession claims has been less clear. On September 26, 2019, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania addressed this matter in the case of City of Philadelphia v. Galdo, 2019 Pa. LEXIS 5452. In Galdo, the Supreme Court held that political subdivisions in Pennsylvania may be subject to claims of adverse possession, except where the property is devoted to a public use. The facts of Galdo provide great insight into this matter.

In 1974, the City of Philadelphia condemned 1101-1119 N. Front Street in Philadelphia for transit purposes related to the construction of Route I-95 (the “Parcel”). The City, however, never physically occupied the Parcel or used it for public transit purposes as originally intended. Instead, the Parcel remained vacant and unmaintained, with the City viewing it as “surplus property” that was not actively being used.
Continue Reading Use It or Lose It: Political Subdivisions are Subject to Claims of Adverse Possession

Yesterday morning on the McNees Minute on ABC 27, I briefly discussed the role local public officials – such as your municipality’s council members, commissioners or supervisors – have in the development and redevelopment processes for our communities.  They play a major role in ensuring our land is developed in a smart, safe and efficient manner that provides for all the needs of a community.  I stressed the importance of electing public officials who are willing to trust municipal staff and other consultants.  In addition, I touched on why it is important to elect public officials who are willing and able to collaborate with developers and property owners.  Finally, I offered that it is equally important for developers and property owners to engage land use professionals who also are collaborative and able to work with elected public officials and municipal staff.  Having forward thinking, collaborative people in each of those roles is vitally important to the future development and redevelopment of our communities.

There are many posts on this blog that discuss or analyze the situation where a municipal ordinance has become antiquated.  We’ve discussed situations where ordinances just haven’t considered
Continue Reading Collaboration: A Better Way to Develop