James L. Goldsmith, Esquire
The Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS®' Legal HotLine celebrated a 16th Birthday in 2006. In the first year of operation, 1990, the HotLine attorneys answered fewer than 1,000 calls. By comparison, more than 6,000 calls were placed to the HotLine attorneys in 2006! The increase in calls from 2005 to 2006 was also significant, attributable in large measure to the expanded hours of operation. The HotLine is now available 4 hours a day, Monday through Friday.
The range of subjects discussed in HotLine calls is varied, though there are a handful of topics that cover most calls. They include questions regarding advertising content, team advertising, the advertising and payment of inducements to clients and customers, escrow disputes, procuring cause, the sale of stigmatized property (properties where there have been deaths or suicides), defects and environmental conditions, financing, use of forms and special clauses, and matters pertaining to the delivery of formation of contracts.
The HotLine attorneys have delivered no babies nor saved lives, though they have saved careers and provided many PAR members with appropriate guidance at difficult times. For example, consider this common dilemma. The parties to the Agreement of Sale become embroiled in a dispute over the means of repairing a "condition" revealed in the buyer's inspection report. When the transaction terminates, the seller faces significant consequences. Perhaps she is buying a new home and is counting on the proceeds of the sale of her home in order to finance her purchase. Regardless, her agent seeks to put the property on the market as soon as possible to mitigate whatever losses the seller will sustain as a result of the terminated contract.
All too frequently in these situations, the buyer threatens the filing of a lis pendens that has the effect of preventing a sale to any other buyer. The legal intricacies and procedures regarding the filing a lis pendens are understandably not well recognized by licensees, or for that matter, many lawyers. Walking the listing agent through the legalities of the lis pendens, as applied the facts of the transaction, usually paves the way for the relisting of the property, its sale, a commission paid, and a happy ending.
It is not as dramatic as delivering a baby or saving a life, but members who receive this kind of advice, and the answers to the myriad questions posed, are grateful for the opportunity to receive specialized legal advice as a benefit of being a member of the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS®.