Mar. 17—Hazleton City Council will consider tweaking new business licensing regulations that city administrators pitched for 2022.
Council recently tabled a rewritten business license ordinance that keeps the licensing fee at $100 but would require owners of rental properties that are not owner-occupied to get a business license.
The revised regulations consolidate more than 80 pages of existing code that pertain to restaurants, manufacturing, food trucks, rental property registration and other local laws into a single ordinance, Mayor Jeff Cusat said.
Under existing regulations, rental properties that are not owner-occupied must be registered with the city and are subject to inspections and the mercantile tax, Cusat said. They would also have to get a business license under revisions pitched by the mayor.
Council, however, tabled the mayor's proposal after Councilman Jack Mundie pushed for expanding exemption criteria to include scenarios where a parent transfers a property to a child and the child allows the parent to live in the property rent-free.
Revisions that the mayor asked council to approve exempt a person who rents part of a duplex or has another structure on the same deed as their primary residence. However, the ordinance requires property owners to get a business license for properties that are "let for occupancy," which applies when a person is allowed to stay even if the owner does not collect rent.
Mundie said he objects to charging a business license fee in scenarios involving properties that are transferred between parents and children.
"There's a lot of homes out there (where you have) parents transferring homes to kids, trying to save them from the nursing home," Mundie said. "If parents are transferring homes to their kids and you're saying, 'That's a business, you have to get a business license,' I totally disagree with that."
Cusat said he doesn't disagree with Mundie's position and suggested having council fine tune the ordinance.
"If a deed transfers from parent to child, you can make that exempt," Cusat said. "It would be a deed with a line of succession occupied by the original deed owner."
When asked by Councilwoman Lauren Sacco, Cusat said that people in those scenarios can provide proof of a line of succession when business license fees are due.
Since this year's rental registration and business license forms have been mailed, Cusat said council has time to make amendments since the revised ordinance wouldn't take effect until 2022.
Cusat said council can incorporate the line of succession scenario in an exemption clause, which requires charitable organizations to file a registration form with the city but waives the licensing fee.
The fee, meanwhile, would apply to LLCs or other entities that own rental properties and are not classified as owner-occupied.
"You're saying that LLCs, even if you have 20 LLCs and different names, each one, even though they are owned by the same person or a person is a partner in all of them, they need their own license?" Mundie asked.
"Correct," Cusat said. "Every EIN (employer identification number) would need its own."
However, a single LLC that owns multiple rental properties would need one business license.
A restaurant owner who has more than one location in the city must get a business license for each location, he said.
A property owner who rents to a business would need a business license to rent the property and the business would need a license to operate in the building, he said.
Administrators pitched the business license fee at a time when the city is considering eliminating the mercantile tax, Cusat said.
Council voted unanimously to table the business license ordinance. President Jim Perry said he wants to give the public an opportunity to review the ordinance and ask questions or share concerns before the governing body acts on it.
"It's going to be a work in progress," Cusat added.
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