Best of the Legal Hotline: Is It Legal?

James L. Goldsmith, Esquire

Q: We, your faithful HotLine crew, hear this question all the time: "Is that legal?" That's the truncated version. The whole question goes a little more like this, "I was talking to a salesperson from another office who told me that it is illegal in Pennsylvania to __________________. Is that true?" One of these "legalisms" (or "illegalisms") is that it is illegal to sell a home in Pennsylvania without a stove/range. WRONG. Another is that you cannot participate in a sale as a transaction licensee for a party unless the other party is also represented by a transaction licensee. WRONG. There are many others. And, there are legalisms bandied about that are actually correct every once in a while!

So what do you do when someone spouts one of these legalisms and you just don't believe it is so?

A: You are not alone when it comes to dealing with "experts" on the law. I hear these things too; some are credible and some are seemingly incredible. What I advise is what I do myself. I ask for a source. Is this law part of a state statute or a municipal ordinance that has a name? Can your "expert" provide you with a site for this law, or a document, treatise, book or anything else that exists in writing that might describe the law, if not quote it?

I caution against your being too transparent in challenging the credibility of your "expert." Rather, your sincere inquiry is merely your self-effacing way of deferring to the superior knowledge of your "expert" and a means by which you will educate yourself, hoping to elevate your own standards and knowledge to somewhere near that of this gratuitous know-it-all. Of course, one of the reasons for not immediately crushing this person with dripping sarcasm and incredulity is that he or she may be right!

My bet is that more times than not, your well-intended law-giver will have no meaningful response and may himself begin to doubt his previous pronouncement. Either way, before you write him or her off, you better talk to your friendly lawyer, your friends at the HotLine or do some research.