Property, lots & housing

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Service overview

The City of Philadelphia has partnered with Bank On to help residents get safe and affordable banking services. By using a Bank On-approved account, residents can avoid costly check-cashing services and unexpected fees. They can also get access to online banking and bill payments.

All Bank On-approved accounts have:

  • A minimum opening deposit of $25.
  • Low or no monthly fees.
  • No overdraft fees.
  • Online and mobile banking.
  • Online bill payments.

Who

Anyone who meets the requirements can open a Bank On-approved account, even if they have debt or a low credit score.

If you’ve had a bank account before, but the bank closed it, you can still open a new account.

Requirements

To open an account, you must provide:

  • A valid form of identification, such as a driver’s license, state ID, or Social Security card.
  • Proof of your address.
    • If you are experiencing homelessness, you can ask a local shelter to use their address. You can also use the address of a friend or family member.
  • A phone number.
    • Lifeline, a federal program, may be able to help you get low-cost phone service.

You must also:

  • Make a deposit of $25 or more.
  • Be prepared to pay a small monthly account fee, if needed. All Bank On-approved accounts cost $5 or less per month.

Where and when

In Philadelphia, you can get a Bank On-approved account at:

  • Bank of America (Safe Balance Banking Account).
  • Chase (Secure Banking Account).
  • Key Bank (Hassle-Free Account).
  • Wells Fargo (EasyPay Account).

You can find out more about these accounts online or by visiting the banks in person. You can also get free help by contacting a Financial Empowerment Center at (800) 346-7445.

How

1
Research your options and choose the account that is right for you.

As you make your decision, you might consider:

  • How close is the bank to where I live or work?
  • When is the bank open?
  • What fees are there on the account, if any?
  • Does the bank offer services in my language?
2
Gather your documentation and the money for your deposit.
3
Visit the bank of your choice to open an account.

Before you begin

It helps to know what material your water pipe is made of before making the appointment. Watch this video or read this fact sheet(PDF) for instructions on checking your pipes.

Service overview

The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) will conduct free water quality tests for customers with concerns about lead or water quality in their homes.

Who

If you have lead plumbing in your home or other water quality concerns, you can contact PWD to arrange for a free testing of your water.

Cost

There is no cost for water quality testing.

How

1
Contact the Water Department.

Customers who have lead plumbing or other water quality concerns and would like to have PWD test their water should call (215) 685-6300 to request a test.

2
You will be contacted to schedule an appointment within 10-15 business days.
3
A Water Department representative will test your water.

A representative from our lab will come to your home and take a tap water sample that will be tested for lead and other water quality parameters.

Service overview

Effective September 3, 2019, parking workers in Philadelphia can no longer be discharged without just cause. Discharge without just cause is the illegal practice of terminating an employee without progressive discipline, and without providing a precise reason for the discharge.

Examples of violations under the wrongful discharge from parking law include:

  • Failure to post the wrongful discharge from parking employment poster
  • Failure to keep records for two years
  • Failure to use progressive discipline
  • Wrongful discharge without just cause

Employers can contact the Office of Benefits and Wage Compliance for a sample HR progressive discipline policy template and sample discharge letter that is compliant under this law.

How

If you have been wrongfully terminated or have experienced other violations of this law, you can file a complaint provided that your complaint is filed within two years of the incident.

In order to file a complaint, fill out and sign the Wrongful Discharge From Parking Employment Complaint form.

Forms can be emailed to justcauseparking@phila.gov, or mailed to:

Office of Benefits and Wage Compliance
1515 Arch St., 11th floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Information and resources for vendors doing business with the City.

The Philadelphia Beverage Tax (PBT) covers the distribution of both regular sweetened (caloric) beverages and sweetened “diet” (non-caloric) beverages. While PBT includes both types of drinks, they are reported on separate lines on a PBT return.

Distributors, registered dealers and special dealers can refer to the information below if they are unable to report caloric and non-caloric products separately.

Obtain permission

The PBT online return provides fields for reporting the following information:

  • The volume of taxable ounces of non-caloric (diet) beverages supplied.
  • The volume of taxable ounces of caloric (regular) beverages supplied.
  • The volume of taxable finished non-caloric (diet) beverages produced from concentrates and syrups supplied.
  • The volume of taxable, finished caloric (regular) beverages produced from concentrates and syrups supplied.

Fill out all the fields that apply to your business. Some beverages may contain both caloric and non-caloric sweeteners. In that case they should be reported as caloric.

If it’s very difficult to report caloric and non-caloric beverages separately, you may obtain permission to report all sweetened beverages as caloric. Write to revenue@phila.gov to explain your situation and make the request.

PBT is calculated for concentrates and syrups based on the amount of finished beverage intended to be produced, using the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • For example, if the manufacturer says to dilute 1 tablespoon of powdered drink mix with 20 ounces of water, then each tablespoon should be treated as 20 ounces of taxable product. The tax would be 20 ounces times 1.5 cents for a total of 30 cents.
  • If you don’t follow the instructions, mixing the powder into a greater or lesser volume of water, you must continue to treat the tablespoon as 20 ounces.
  • If the manufacturer provides more than one set of instructions, calculate the tax based on the instructions that produce the largest volume of finished beverage.

The online return will calculate the amount of tax due for you automatically. It will also calculate late fees, if necessary.

The Philadelphia Beverage Tax (PBT) is filed and paid monthly on the Phila. Tax Services website. The information below helps distributors and dealers know how to file in some special situations.

Before filing and paying PBT

To file and pay PBT, distributors and registered dealers must create a user profile and register a PBT tax account on the Phila. Tax Services website.

Partnerships and sole proprietors should register with their Federal EIN numbers. If they don’t have an EIN, they can use a Social Security Number (SSN).

Businesses with an existing Philadelphia tax account number, can use the same EIN/SSN and account number to file PBT.

Distributors who sell to other distributors do not file and pay PBT. The distribution of sweetened beverages to other wholesalers is not subject to the tax.

Dealers with multiple locations in and outside Philadelphia may find it difficult to inform a distributor how much product is intended for retail sale in the city. In this case, a dealer can register to file and pay PBT to the City directly. These businesses are known as Registered dealers.

Amended returns and refunds

PBT is a tax on the distribution of sweetened beverages that are intended for sale in Philadelphia. For that reason, distributors are not entitled to a credit or refund when:

  • Dealers fail to pay them for the products supplied.
  • Products expire and must be destroyed.
  • Products are returned, or given away after sitting on the shelves.

Similarly, they are not allowed to reduce the number of ounces of product reported to the City to deduct for inventory that was damaged or stolen.

Distributors and Registered dealers may nevertheless discover they underpaid or overpaid PBT for a certain month.

In the case of an underpayment, they must file an amended return, and pay what is owed with interest and penalty from the due date.

In the case of an overpayment, they will claim a credit when filing their next return. They can only claim a refund if they are no longer required to file and pay PBT.

A dealer might notify a distributor that more product was held for retail sale in Philadelphia than first thought. In this case, a distributor can allow a dealer to recharacterize the sale as a Philadelphia sale. An amended return must be filed, and an additional payment made.

Dealers who don’t inform distributors they are purchasing sweetened beverages for retail sale in Philadelphia, must become a Registered dealer and pay the tax to the City directly.

If a distributor or Registered dealer overpays, they should contact a customer collections representative to request that a credit be applied to a future tax period. Contact a collections representative by:

There is no alternative tax calculation if the amount of the tax due is equal to, or more than, the retail price of a product. The tax is based on the volume of the beverage distributed and is unrelated to the price.

There is no annual reconciliation form for PBT.

Dealers and distributors of sweetened beverages in Philadelphia help each other remain tax compliant by acknowledging, and keeping records, of their business transactions.

A dealer sends a notification to their sweetened beverage distributor. In turn, the distributor sends a confirmation to the dealer. The distributor pays Philadelphia Beverage Tax (PBT) and remits it to the City electronically. When a PBT investigator makes a field visit, a dealer proves compliance by providing:

  • Their Pennsylvania Sales Tax exemption form (to confirm location)
  • A Dealer notification
  • A Distributor confirmation
  • Invoices

Dealers gather the documents by following the steps described below.

Dealer notifies their distributor

Dealers must notify distributors they are in Philadelphia and that the sweetened beverages distributed to them are covered by the Philadelphia Beverage Tax. The City keeps a list of official registered distributors. To complete this requirement, a dealer must send distributors:

  • Their PA Sale for Resale Sales Tax Exemption form with a Philadelphia address, or
  • A Dealer notification form, provided by the Department of Revenue.

This should be done whenever a new business relationship starts, and at least annually after that.

Dealers with multiple locations in Philadelphia are not required to send separate notices to their distributors for each location –one is enough. However, if some of their locations are outside the City, they should alert the distributor as to which beverages are to be sold in the City and which are not. This way, the distributor avoids taxes on products meant for retail sale outside Philadelphia.

Distributor confirms

Distributors who receive a notification from a dealer of sweetened beverages in Philadelphia, must in turn confirm they are registered to file and pay PBT. Distributors provide this confirmation using the Distributor confirmation form provided by the Department of Revenue.

A PA Sales Tax Exemption Certificate can serve as the required notification. If a distributor has an Exemption Certificate on file for a dealer with a Philadelphia address, the distributor should:

  • Send confirmation to the dealer that they are a registered distributor, and
  • File and pay the tax online.

Send and collect invoices

Distributors must record each transaction of sweetened beverages on their own invoices, or an Invoice Supplement provided by the Department of Revenue. Distributors must record:

  • The volume of taxable beverage distributed; and
  • The amount of tax due.

The information can be presented as a grand total, or by item.

Some dealers have locations both in and outside Philadelphia, but PBT covers only beverages intended for sale in the city. A distributor should ask dealers with multiple locations to clarify how much of their order will be held for retail sale in Philadelphia.

If the dealer fails to clarify, a distributor should assume 100% of the product is taxable. If the distributor receives updated order information after the return is filed, the distributor can file an amended return.

Dealers should keep invoices on file for at least six years.

What if I don’t comply with the notification-confirmation process?

A dealer who cannot provide required documents during an inspection, or present invalid documents, risks legal action. Legal action could include a $1,000 non-compliance fine and suspension of their Commercial Activity License.

Dealers who sell sweetened beverages at retail in Philadelphia and fail to notify their distributors are liable for payment, as well as and any fees and penalties for non-compliance.

Note that a dealer may decide to be a “Registered dealer” or a “Special dealer.”  A Registered dealer agrees to assume all the obligations of a distributor, including filing and paying PBT. A Special dealer is a dealer who is granted a special waiver by the Department of Revenue to purchase a specific sweetened beverage from someone other than a Registered distributor. As a result, the Special dealer assumes responsibility for filing and paying PBT on that specific beverage.

Dealers who disagree with a PBT audit assessment can file an appeal with Tax Review Board.

PHLpreK offers free, quality pre-K to children ages 3–4 across Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Beverage Tax funds this program.

Who

Families with children who are 34 may apply for PHLpreK. There are no income requirements.

Requirements

If your child will be 3 or 4 years old on September 1, 2019 and lives in Philadelphia, they are eligible to enroll in PHLpreK in the 2019–2020 school year.

Where and when

PHLpreK is adding over 1,000 new seats in the 2019–2020 school year at existing and new locations. When enrollment opens in June, we will announce the new centers participating in PHLpreK.

Learn more about our current providers by visiting PHLpreK.org/programs or calling 1-844-PHL-PREK.

Cost

PHLpreK is free.

How

To enroll in PHLpreK, bring the following materials to the provider where you want to enroll your child:

  • One document proving your child’s age
  • One document proving your residency in Philadelphia
  • A completed PHLpreK application (or, you can fill this out at the provider’s location)

Proof of age documents include your child’s:

  • Birth certificate.
  • Valid U.S. passport.
  • Social Security card.
  • Medical or school records.

Proof of residency documents include your:

  • State issued ID or driver’s license.
  • Voter ID.
  • Current lease or rental agreement.
  • Social Security award letter.

Forms & instructions

Information about properties on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.
Some projects require approval by the Philadelphia Art Commission.
The City Planning Commission is part of the permit process for many types of development, and some permits require PCPC review and approval.

The Division of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) supports the Energy Coordinating Agency’s Neighborhood Energy Centers (NECs).

At a NEC, residents can:

  • Apply for help paying utility bills.
  • Learn how to conserve water, gas, and electricity.
  • Get energy counseling.

Requirements

You must meet these income guidelines to qualify. Income is for all members of the household.

Household size Maximum annual household income (1)
1 $30,600
2 $35,000
3 $39,350
4 $43,700
5 $47,200
6 $50,700
7 $54,200
8 $57,700

(1) Represents 50% of Area Median Income under HUD Section 8 annual income limits, effective April 1, 2018.

For households larger than 8, add approximately $3,500 per person. Income guidelines are subject to change.

How

To find your local NEC, visit the ECA’s website.

Service overview

Neighborhood conservation overlays (NCOs) and neighborhood commercial areas (NCAs) are sets of design standards. These standards help maintain an area’s look and feel. In neighborhoods with an NCO or NCA, building alterations or new construction trigger a review. The review considers details such as:

  • Building setbacks.
  • Cornice lines.
  • Landscape features.
  • Vehicle access.
  • Retail visibility.

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) staff performs reviews for building projects in all of the City’s NCOs. They also review projects within the Ridge Avenue NCA. All other NCA overlays are reviewed by the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I).

You can request a conceptual review in the planning stages of your project. You might also need an NCO/NCA review when you apply for a building permit.

When you apply for a building permit, L&I will tell you if your project needs an NCO/NCA review. To see the requirements of a specific overlay, please refer to the zoning code Section 14-503 for NCAs and Section 14-504 for NCOs.

Who

Applicants include:

  • Homeowners.
  • Developers.
  • Architects.

Community groups, including Registered Community Organizations (RCOs), help write the NCO guidelines. They often ask PCPC staff to inform them of decisions made on specific properties.

Where and when

The PCPC office is located at:

1515 Arch St.
13th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Office hours are Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost

There is no charge for a conceptual NCO/NCA review. When you apply for a building permit, the cost of an NCO/NCA review is included in its fee.

How

Submission materials may vary, depending on the NCO or NCA location and kind of construction intended.

NCO/NCA reviews can be conducted over the counter, without an appointment, with PCPC staff. For your review, you should bring:

  • Six printed copies of drawings that illustrate the proposed work. These drawings should include facade elevations. They should also include building wall sections, if applicable. These drawings should show significant dimensions and labels for materials, finishes, and colors.
  • A site plan that shows the structure in relationship to adjacent structures and the street, and curb cuts.
  • Plan and sectional drawings of all roof decks and building setbacks above the second floor.
  • Photographs of the existing building or site.
  • Photographs of the adjoining buildings on either side.
  • A sheet that describes material details. You should include photographs, along with the names of the manufacturers and products. Or, you might bring physical material samples.
  • Your building permit application.

After PCPC staff issues an approval, you can take the approved drawings and stamped building permit application to L&I.

Service overview

Building projects located on CMX-4 and CMX-5 lots have bulk and mass requirements. These rules safeguard the balance between open space and development in Center City.

Sky plane controls are one option for complying with the requirements. By limiting how much visible sky a building can block, this method protects light and viewsheds within dense street corridors. The sky plane requirements vary by street.

You can show your project’s compliance by undergoing a sky plane review. Alternatively, you can demonstrate compliance with bulk and height requirements by using open area controls, which limit the lot coverage of a building at various height intervals.

When you apply for a zoning permit, the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) will identify projects that may choose to use sky plane controls. Please note that sky plane is just one method to assemble bulk and mass of a tall building.

Who

Applicants include:

  • Developers.
  • Architects.
  • Engineers.
  • Expediters.

Where and when

The PCPC office is located at:

1515 Arch St.
13th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Office hours are Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost

When you apply for a zoning permit, the cost of a sky plane review is included in its fee.

How

Sky plane reviews can be conducted over the counter, without an appointment, with Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) staff.

At your review, you’ll need to present plans and other materials to prove that your project is in compliance. The major components include:

  • A zoning plan. This plan should include a table that shows compliance with blockage percentages at the regulated building height intervals.
  • Plotting sky plane diagrams for all relevant streets.
  • Your zoning permit application.

Refer to the PCPC regulations for complete submission requirements.

After PCPC staff issues an approval, you can take the approved drawings and stamped zoning permit application to L&I.

Service overview

Affordable housing zoning bonuses are for those who add affordable dwellings to their projects or pay money into a fund that supports affordable housing.

Developers apply for affordable housing zoning bonuses with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC). PCPC must approve the application. PCPC may also need to review building permit plans for compliance.

Who

Only developments in certain zoning districts are eligible for the affordable housing zoning bonus. See the application instructions for more details.

Requirements

You must have determined if you want to build the affordable units or pay the fee in lieu of building affordable units. You will also need to know the level of affordability you will be using.

To get building permits for the project, you will need to enter into legal agreements with the City.

A review of your affordable unit plan may be required before you get building permits.

Cost

There is no cost for the review of the application.

How

To apply for an affordable housing zoning bonus, you must complete the application form. Submit it via email to developmentservices@phila.gov. Include contact information for the person who is making the application. Someone will contact you directly.

Note that you may be asked to change information on your site plans to match that of the application.


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