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Howell v. City of Erie Blighted Prop.

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

March 12, 2014

Lance T. Howell, Appellant
v.
City of Erie Blighted Property, Property Maintenance & Rental License Appeals Board

Argued: November 12, 2013.

Appealed from No. 2012-13806. Common Pleas Court of the County of Erie. DiSantis, Jr., J.

Michael Musone, Erie, for appellant.

Kenneth A. Zak, Erie, for appellees.

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge (P), HONORABLE JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge. OPINION BY JUDGE LEADBETTER.

OPINION

Page 950

BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge

Lance T. Howell appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County that affirmed the decision of the City of Erie Blighted Property, Property Maintenance and Rental License Appeals Board (Board) to deny his appeal from a notice of violation issued pursuant to the City's Uniform Construction Code (UCC)[1]

Page 951

relating to the minimum headroom clearance for a third-floor stairwell. We reverse.

Howell owns the property at issue, a 1926 two-family residential home at 3009 Glenwood Park Avenue, Erie, PA. In June 2012, he filed an application for residential rental registration with the City of Erie, which led to an inspection pursuant to its residential rental licensing program.[2] Subsequently, the inspector issued Howell a notice of violation indicating the following: " Fire & Life Safety; Means of Egress; Interior Stair-60 inches at the top landing and 57-69 at the middle landing." Notice of Violation at 1; Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 38a. The notice also provided that a re-inspection was scheduled in approximately thirty days and that a re-inspection " [i]ndicate[d] that significant code violation(s) were observed and documented." Id. at 2; R.R. at 39a. Although the City did not specify the UCC provision at issue,[3] Section 1503.21(a)(7)(C)(5) of the UCC sets forth an eighty-inch staircase headroom requirement.[4] Howell appealed to the Board, arguing that the UCC did not apply to his property.[5] In support, he cited Section 1503.11(a) and (b)(1) of the UCC, which provides as follows:

1503.11 SCOPE.
(a) The [UCC] applies to the construction, alteration, repair, movement, equipment, removal, demolition, location, maintenance, occupancy or change of occupancy of every building or ...

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