Rohrer Calls on County Commissioners to Help Seniors Keep Homes

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Rep. Samuel Rohrer
128th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
(610) 775-5130
(717) 787-8550
Contact: Ty McCauslin
House Republican Public Relations
(717) 772-9979

September 16, 2008

Rohrer Calls On County Commissioners to Take Emergency Action to Prevent PA Seniors from Losing Their Homes

HARRISBURG–With the Pennsylvania House returning for fall legislative session, Representative Sam Rohrer (R-Berks) is calling upon county commissioners statewide to take immediate action in order to prevent seniors from losing their homes due to rising school property taxes.

Amended in the early 1990s, the 1947 Real Estate Tax Law Sale (Act No. 542, P.S. 1368) gives county commissioners the authority to enact emergency guidelines that would save certain qualifying individuals from being evicted from their homes.

“Obviously, this is not a long-term solution for either the school district, which needs funding, or residents, who need school property tax relief,” said Rohrer. “Therefore, it still remains absolutely critical to enact House Bill 1275, the School Property Tax Elimination Act. However, as long as the Legislature refuses to act, this Real Estate Tax Sale Law literally represents a quality of life-preserving measure for Pennsylvania senior citizens, who through no fault of their own, cannot afford to pay their property taxes.”

In order for this law to be applied, county commissioners would need to pass statutes that would allow implementation of this state act. Currently, only two of Pennsylvania’s 66 counties have taken the necessary action. For example, in Rohrer’s legislative district, the Berks County Tax Claim Bureau makes the “Tax Deferral Option for Senior Citizens, Act 220” available to qualified seniors.

Under the statute, citizens 65 years or older with delinquent property taxes, making less than $15,000 per year, and desiring to remain in their home may be allowed to defer property taxes until the “title to the property is transferred or the eligible owner is no longer the sole occupant.”

Those who are under 65 years of age may also defer taxes for up to 12 months as long as they submit a payment plan, if they can show that serious injury or unemployment contributed to their inability to pay taxes.

In both cases, taxes still must be paid on the property; however, this law allows those least able to pay taxes, through no fault of their own, to remain in their homes.

“I applaud participating counties for implementing this emergency legislation,” said Rohrer. “It is certainly regrettable that both the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the governor have denied addressing school property tax elimination to the point that emergency legislation is necessary. What’s even sadder is that this emergency legislation rewards senior citizens, who have worked hard their entire lives to pay off mortgages, by saddling their heirs with increased taxes and fines, just to ensure that they can remain in their homes during their golden years.”