WEST CHESTER (March 14) – Local residents whose property rights have been threatened by pipeline companies recently spoke out in support of Senator Dinniman’s legislation to regulate land agents.
Several residents talked about being harassed, misinformed and threatened with eminent domain by land agents at a March 10 press conference in support of Senate Bill 991 at Ship Road Park in West Whiteland. The park is near several properties that are impacted by Sunoco Logistics proposed Mariner East pipeline project.
“Currently, land agents in Pennsylvania operate with no oversight whatsoever,” Dinniman said. “I’ve heard from constituents who feel that they have been intimidated, harassed and bullied by land agents. It seems like some of these agents, according to residents, will do or say practically anything to get landowners to sign over their property rights. That is not right and it cannot be allowed to continue.”
Dinniman cited residents’ concerns regarding land agents having access to their personal information and home addresses.
In addition, he said that several homeowners claim they were misled by land agents who threatened the imminent taking of their land even though the necessary eminent domain procedures had yet to be initiated in court. According to homeowners, land agents also make a practice of delivering such threats in the evening hours and on the days before holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Dinniman’s legislation calls for amending Pennsylvania’s Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act to define the role of “land acquisition broker” and require registration with the Pennsylvania Real Restate Commission. In addition, the bill calls for allowing public access to a listing of registered brokers, requiring criminal history background checks of brokers, and providing the commission with the authority to revoke or suspend them for a number of reasons such as fraud or misrepresentation.
“Chester County is not the Wild West and we will not allow residents to be pushed around and steamrolled by the land agents of pipeline companies,” Dinniman said. “These agents perform title or contract functions and negotiate the acquisition of land and property rights. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be held to the same standards and scrutiny of realtors.”
Other states, such as Texas and North Carolina, already have similar laws in place. Senate Bill 991 is currently in the Senate Consumer Affairs and Professional Licensure Committee.
Interestingly, Dinniman also noted that Ship Road Park is adjacent to a historically significant property that is believed to be the site of the encampment of the Pennsylvania First Militia during what became known as the “Battle of the Clouds” during the Revolutionary War. The event, which occurred on September 16, 1777, near present-day Malvern, was so-named because a sudden thunderstorm and torrential downpour prevented an imminent clash between General Howe’s British forces and the Continental Army under the command of General Washington. Dinniman, who sits on the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, will request that the commission conduct an archeological survey of the site to determine any historic artifacts.