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Legal Column

Mette Evans and Woodside, legal counsel for both the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® and the Greater Harrisburg Association of REALTORS®, provides a monthly column to our membership.

Once Again, It Depends!

It’s my mantra. I’ve uttered it hundreds of thousands of times, and mostly to REALTORS®. It is never wrong, but it may not be as helpful an answer as can be given. Whether an act is legal depends upon the specific setting, the facts and the reason one is asking. Let’s start with the reason one is asking… Read On

A Matter of Discrimination

An article that appeared in the New York Times in November cited study results showing housing discrimination by real estate licensees. Investigators posing as white buyers received different treatment than buyers of color and of other minority classifications. Among the allegations was steering. Licensees directed buyers to properties that, in the opinions of the licensees… Read On

Ordering Title Insurance

The last major change to the Standard Agreement of Sale for Real Estate (ASR) added the requirement that the buyer order a title report within so many days of execution of the agreement. The reaction to this change was all over the place, but most folks were calm. So the question is, nearly a year later… Read On

Did the Inspector Miss Something?

I have been saying it for nearly 40 years and it remains true: most law suits involving the sale of residential real property claim that the seller failed to disclose material defects. The seller is usually not the only defendant. The listing and selling licensees and the home inspector are frequently sued as well. The path to suit follows a familiar pattern… Read On

Dual Agency and the Escalation Issue

A broker recently called seeking an answer to what he thought was a dilemma created by an in-house transaction in which he was working with the seller and one of his sales agents with the buyer. Yes, that would be dual agency. Not only would this be dual agency, it would be dual agency without designated agency… Read On

Seller Disclosure

The disclosure of a home’s material defects didn’t begin with passage of the Real Estate Seller Disclosure Law (“RESDL”). Pennsylvania common law has long required that sellers disclose latent and material defects. The problem, prior to the use of the mandatory form required the RESDL was that sellers often overlooked problems. In the old days we elicited material defects by asking the seller… Read On

Independent Contractor Agreement

Real estate licensees can be transient. When a sales associate moves on, the broker will likely take one of three paths: 1) congratulate and thank the associate and release her listings and buyer agency contracts; 2) go berserk and escort the associate to the door; or 3) take a path somewhere in between. In general, I am inclined to believe that moves are to be expected and that sales associates will bring and take business and in the long run it all evens out… Read On

The Answer is Simple: It Depends

“It depends” is the right answer to most questions. Here the question is whether it is legal to give thank you gifts to people who refer buyers and sellers to real estate licensees. The reason I can’t give a straight answer to this simple question is because it lacks the details that accompany real life situations… Read On

Magisterial District Justices

The magisterial district courts are the small claims courts of Pennsylvania. The magisterial district justices (“MDJs”) are the small claims judges. It is within their jurisdiction to conduct preliminary hearings in criminal matters where the only issue is whether there is sufficient evidence to send the matter to the common pleas court for trial. Hopefully your interest in this article has nothing to do with the criminal functions of the court! Read On

How Long to Return Deposits?

As a broker holding a deposit, how long should it take you to return it pursuant to the terms of a release signed by both parties or when sufficient time has passed (the 180 days or whatever it has been reduced to) and not litigation/mediation has been initated? I am hearing complaints that listing brokers area taking “too long” to return deposits when buyers are the recipients… Read On