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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.

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

What If?

These two words are the start of many questions by those who draft contracts, including agreements for the sale of real estate. Consider Paragraph 18 of the PAR standard agreement entitled Maintenance and Risk of Loss. This paragraph was borne of the following “what ifs?” What if the HVAC system or other systems fail after signing but before settlement? Read On

Attend Inspections

Who, if anyone, should attend home inspections has been a topic of debate for as long as home inspections have been a standard element in a residential transaction. Year ago when the topic came up at an NAR meeting of attorneys who represented state associations of Realtors, the room was divided, with roughly 50% saying that buyers should attend… Read On

Untimely Repairs

It happens. Sellers agree to make repairs suggested by a home inspection, but fail to complete the job timely. When this happens a buyer is faced, unfairly, with proceeding under a contingent plan (e.g., having repairs made post-settlement or taking cash in lieu of repair) or of delaying settlement. Usually there is little choice. The buyer is packed and ready to move or the mortgage commitment can’t be extended… Read On