About Pennsylvania's Title 9, covering burial grounds (cemeteries)...
Pennsylvania's "Title 9"
There are three things which grab my attention with this law.
Number 1, from the law, is highlighted below:
§ 303. Periodic deposits.
Every cemetery company SHALL set aside annually and deposit into a PERMANENT LOT CARE FUND a sum equal to AT LEAST 15% of the gross amount of the funds arising from each of the following:
(1) The sale of lots in the cemetery of such cemetery company or a sum equal to at least $1 per square foot of each lot sold, whichever is greater.
(2) The construction cost of each crypt sold in a mausoleum of the cemetery company or $50 per crypt, whichever is greater.
(3) The construction cost of each niche sold in a columbarium of the cemetery company or $25 per niche, whichever is greater.
Number 2: Cemetery companies are required to register with the state.
§ 304. Registration and filing affidavit of compliance.
(a) Registration with State Real Estate Commission.--
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), every cemetery company shall have a CURRENT and VALID registration certificate issued by the State Real Estate Commission pursuant to the act of February 19, 1980 (P.L.15, No.9), known as the "Real Estate Licensing Act," before disposing of any lot in its cemetery or before carrying on any other cemetery business. The biennial fee for the registration certificate shall be $25.
(2) The provisions of paragraph (1) shall not apply to cemetery companies and cemeteries owned or controlled by a bona fide church or religious congregation or fraternal organization or by any association created by a bona fide church or religious congregation or fraternal organization.
Number 3: They need to disclose information about their permanent lot care fund to the government.
§ 308. Accounts of qualified trustee.
(a) Institutional trustee.--The qualified trustee, if an institutional trustee, shall file accounts in the court of common pleas of the county in which the cemetery, or any part thereof, is situate, which accounts shall be filed triennially and at such other times as the court may direct, and which accounts shall be audited, adjudicated and confirmed by the court upon such notice to the parties in interest as the court may determine.
(b) Cemetery company as trustee.--An incorporated cemetery company acting as a qualified trustee under section 309 (relating to incorporated cemetery company as qualified trustee) shall file:
(1) Accounts in the court of common pleas of the county in which the majority of the cemetery is situate and duplicates of such accounts with the State Real Estate Commission. The accounts shall be filed on or before January 31 of each odd-numbered year and at such other times as the court may direct. The accounts shall be audited, adjudicated and confirmed by the court upon notice to the commission and such other parties in interest as the court deems appropriate.
(2) Interim reports with the State Real Estate Commission. The interim report shall be filed on or before January 31 of each even-numbered year and shall be on a form approved by the commission. The interim report shall include a list of all contributions to the permanent lot care fund, a list of all withdrawals made from the fund and the number of lots deeded during the previous calendar year. The interim reports required under this paragraph shall be in addition to, and not in lieu of, the complete biennial account required under paragraph (1).
This information about the permanent lot care funds involving for-profit cemetery companies is DIFFICULT TO GET!
I went to my local courthouse in Delaware County and all I got was blank stares. They had no idea where this information could be found.
Cemetery companies are SUPPOSED to be setting aside that 15% and reporting about it, but in Delaware County the courthouse clerks know nothing about it.
Government oversight of Pennsylvania cemeteries is weak! It truly is a buyer beware type of situation.
And then there are the cemeteries associated with churches. How much they have set aside for perpetual care of their cemeteries is very much a mysterious thing, as it appears they have no legal requirement to report this information.
But other non-profit cemeteries are easier... They are required to file a Form 990 which gives insight into how much money they've got.
TIP: When considering a cemetery, look at how much ground is available for burial lot sales. Ask for how much they have set aside for perpetual care, and ask for proof that their representation is accurate.
Cemeteries that are running out of burial lots to sell are risky cemeteries, unless they can provide proof that enough perpetual care money for the entire cemetery has been set aside.