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  • Oct 15, 2019Triple Play REALTOR® Convention & Trade Expo

    Norris McLaughlin is proud to have Raymond G. Lahoud, Chair of the firm’s Immigration Practice Group, present “What to Know About the EB-5 Real Estate Investor Visa Program” at Triple Play REALTOR® Convention & Trade Expo.

    Triple Play REALTOR® Convention & Trade Expo is tailored to meet the professional needs of serious real estate professionals in the tri-state area. Combining education, networking, and fun, this premiere event is a must-attend. Brought to you by the New Jersey, New York & Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS®.

    Course Description

    This program will provide an overview of the EB-5 program, including a background of the EB-5 program; entry into the program; legal, financial, and practical requirements; project vetting; investment structures; business plans; and examples of qualifying direct and regional center projects. Ray will also discuss the benefits and obligations that the EB-5 program offers local, regional, and state economies, as well as residential and commercial realtors and brokers, economic development professionals, real estate developers, and real estate investors.

    When: Wednesday, December 11, 2019

    9:00 – 11:00 a.m.

    Where: Atlantic City Convention Center

    1 Convention Boulevard
    Atlantic City, NJ 08401

    For more information and to register, please click here!

    Posted in: Events, Immigration, Raymond G. Lahoud, Real Estate & Finance | Tags: , ,

  • Sep 12, 2019Thinking of Renting Out Your House in Pennsylvania? Think Again

    By: Norris McLaughlin, P.A.

    Thinking about going into the web-based rental business in Pennsylvania (or trying to stop your neighbor from doing it)? Read this article first.

    Introduction

    A recent Supreme Court of Pennsylvania case, Slice of life, LLC vs. Hamilton Township Zoning Hearing Board, held that purely transient use of the property is not permitted in residential zoning districts restricted to “single housekeeping units.” In Slice of life, LLC, the property in question was governed by a 1985 Hamilton Township Zoning Ordinance permitting use for “single-family” dwellings and further defining single family as “a single housekeeping unit.” The owner of the property was an LLC whose sole member never lived at the property and purchased it entirely for use as a for-profit commercial enterprise. The property was advertised as a rental with a maximum stay of one week. The property’s use as a short-term rental resulted in noise complaints, instances of public urination, nudity, lewd conduct, bonfires, and fireworks. There were multiple police complaints related to the property. Eventually, a zoning officer issued an enforcement notice because of the property’s use for “transient tenancies.”

    Property owners generally have the right to enjoy their property limited only by things like zoning ordinances substantially related to the protection of public health, safety, morality, and welfare. Residential zoning districts are a historically acceptable way to promote the residential character, amenity, stability and safety of “family” oriented neighborhoods (e.g., quiet, desirable levels of density, residents engaged in the neighborhood and invested in maintaining the quality of the community). Slice of Life, LLC, explains that “single housekeeping unit” is a phrase commonly used to mean family within zoning ordinances that require occupants to both:  (i) behave functionally as a family unit, thereby cooking and living together, sharing access to the entire house, attending social functions together, etc., and (ii) remain for substantial periods, moving only for health or personal preference reasons.

    At the Commonwealth level, the court in Slice of Life, LLC, found that the person signing the short-term leases was a family for purposes of the ordinance, and any other persons staying at the property were guests of the family. Because “transient” was not used or defined in the ordinance, the court reasoned that where short-term rentals were not specifically prohibited, they were permitted, as ordinances needed to be interpreted to allow for the broadest possible use of the land. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania clarified that “web-based rentals of single-family homes to vacationers and other transient users for a few days at a time” is a purely transient use of the property that is not permitted where a zoning ordinance requires use as a “single-family dwelling.”

    Conclusion

    While Slice of life, LLC, dealt with an extreme set of facts, the holding in the case clearly indicates that “single-family dwelling” restrictions within zoning ordinances prohibit the use of property as short-term rental property investments. Had the tenants in question behaved in a more discreet manner, the use would have been no less transient in nature. If you seek to purchase property for the purpose of renting the premises for short-term stays, or you are concerned about the “transient tenancies” in your neighborhood, make sure to consult with a real estate attorney to determine the regulations your municipality has in place concerning the property in question.

    If you have any questions about this post or any other related matters, please email me at jlushis@norris-law.com

    Posted in: Real Estate & Finance |

  • Aug 22, 2019Pennsylvania Updates Legislation on Adverse Possession as of June 19, 2019

    By: John F. Lushis, Jr.

    Pennsylvania, like many states, has laws relating to adverse possession.

    What is adverse possession?

    Adverse possession is a method of acquiring title to real property by possession for a specified period under certain prescribed conditions. Historically, to acquire title by adverse possession in Pennsylvania, a party must have actual, continuous, exclusive, visible, notorious, and hostile possession of the property after a minimum of 21 years. While these words come across as heavily “legal” and perhaps complicated, these core elements of adverse possession are pretty straightforward.

    Actual possession occurs when a trespasser is on and using property owned by another. “Continuous” means that the trespasser is using the property without interruption for the 21-year period. If the property in question is sold, the adverse possessor can “tack” together the periods of different ownership to achieve the 21-year requirement.  A “hostile” use of the property occurs when the rights of the owner and the adverse possessor’s use are in conflict. If the owner gives permission to use his property, adverse possession cannot occur. To satisfy the visible and notorious requirement, the adverse possessor’s use of the owner’s property must be public. This allows an owner the opportunity to discover the adverse possessor’s use and take legal action, if necessary to end such use. For exclusive possession to occur, the adverse possessor must prevent or exclude others from using the owner’s property.

    What did Pennsylvania update?

    Pennsylvania has enacted legislation that became effective on June 19, 2019, which provides for a 10-year (as opposed to 21-year) time frame to obtain real property by adverse possession under certain circumstances. The legislation is designed to assist adverse possessors when a property has an “absentee” owner. Under this new law, the property must be a half-acre or less, be improved by a single-family dwelling, and identified as a separate lot in a recorded conveyance, on a subdivision plan or on an official map/municipal plan. The law does not apply to property that is part of a common interest ownership community (condominium, cooperative) or that is owned by a governmental entity.

    Under the new law, an adverse possessor may acquire title by filing a quiet title action against the record owner. The complaint, containing the legal description and notice of a one-year right to cure, must be served on the record owners, their heirs, successors, and assigns. This right to cure allows the defendant owners to file an action in ejectment against the plaintiff/adverse possessor within one year of the action. If no ejectment action is filed, the court may enter a judgment granting title to the entire property (not just a portion) to the plaintiff/occupant. The judgment, however, does not discharge, terminate, satisfy, or release any existing encumbrances on the title.

    If you have any questions about this post or any other related matters, please email me at jlushis@norris-law.com.

    Posted in: John F. Lushis, Jr., Real Estate & Finance |

  • Aug 01, 20195 Key Changes to the Pennsylvania Contractor and Subcontractor Payment Act

    By: John F. Lushis, Jr.

    Purchasers of real estate that desire to retain a contractor to construct improvements on the property know that timely payment of contractor and subcontractors is of critical importance. Pennsylvania has enacted significant changes to the Pennsylvania Contractor and Subcontractor Payment Act (“CASPA”) that affect all construction contracts entered into on or after October 9, 2018.

    Key Changes to CASPA

    1. The parties to a construction contract may not waive any provision of CASPA “by contract or other agreement.”
    2. CASPA as originally enacted provided that except as otherwise agreed by the parties, payment of a contractor’s invoices is due within 20 days. The amendments provide that if payment has not been made as provided in the construction contract, or if at least 30 calendar days have passed since the end of the billing period for which a payment has not been received by the contractor according to the terms of the construction contract, the contractor can provide written notice to the owner stating that payment has not been made. If at least 30 days pass subsequent to the contractor’s sending such notice and payment still has not been made, the contractor can provide 10 calendar days’ written notice of the contractor’s intent to suspend performance. If the construction contract sets forth a procedure that “exceeds” the foregoing procedure, the procedure set forth in the construction contract is unenforceable.
    3. The amendments include provisions relating to the owner’s authority to withhold payment. If an owner withholds payment for a deficiency item, the amount withheld must be reasonable, and the owner must notify the contractor of the deficiency item by a written explanation of the owner’s good faith reason within 14 calendar days of the date that the invoice is received. A failure to comply with this provision constitutes a waiver of the basis for the owner to withhold payment and necessitates payment to the contractor of the invoice in full.
    4. The amendments cover errors in documentation. As originally enacted, CASPA provided that if an invoice is filled out incorrectly or incompletely, the person who receives the incorrect invoice must give written notice to the person who sent the invoice within 10 working days of receipt of the notice. The amendments provide that after such written notice has been received by the person who sent the incorrect invoice, the person receiving the invoice is to pay the correct amount on the due date.
    5. The amendments also set forth changes relating to retainage. Upon reaching substantial completion of its scope of work, contractor or subcontractor may facilitate the release of retainage on their contracts before final completion by posting a maintenance bond with approved surety for 120% of the amount of retainage being held. The withholding of retainage for longer than 30 days after final acceptance of the work results in an owner’s, contractor’s, and subcontractor’s right to withhold payment.

    If you have any questions about this post or any other related matters, please email me at jlushis@norris-law.com.

    Posted in: John F. Lushis, Jr., Real Estate & Finance |

  • Jul 30, 2019Rebecca Price Appointed to Civic Theatre Board of Directors

    Rebecca J. Price, a Member of the law firm Norris McLaughlin, P.A., has been appointed to the Civic Theatre of Allentown Board of Directors for the 2019-2022 term.

    Civic Theatre of Allentown is a non-profit organization with 90 years of history in the Lehigh Valley dedicated to producing live theatre of high standards of artistic excellence, capitalizing on the physicality, presence, and immediacy of theatre as an art form and providing a creative outlet and training ground for local artists dedicated to the theatre as an avocation. For more information, please click here.

    “I am passionate about the arts and honored to be appointed to the Civic Theatre Board of Directors. I hope to assist in moving the Theatre’s mission forward,” said Price.

    Price, a resident of Orefield, is a member of the Litigation Practice Group. She also practices extensively on behalf of creditors in the bankruptcy courts for the Eastern and Middle Districts of Pennsylvania and in the District of New Jersey.

    As a commercial litigator, Price represents clients in all of the eastern counties of Pennsylvania, the Eastern and Middle Districts of Pennsylvania, and the District of New Jersey.  She handles a wide range of lawsuits, including complex commercial business litigation, landlord/ tenant matters, and contract disputes.  In her general litigation practice, she represents numerous insurance companies’ insureds in a wide spectrum of civil matters, and has represented clients in personal injury matters.

    Price represents local and out-of-state banks in bankruptcy, complex foreclosures, receiverships, and asset recovery matters, including negotiating deed in lieu transfers and confession of judgment for ejectment and money proceedings. She has completed the necessary training to perform work for Fannie Mae. Price has also defended clients in actions to open or strike judgments entered by confession.

    Often, she is engaged as local counsel by attorneys in foreign districts. Understanding the dynamic role that local counsel plays in assisting the client of the referring firm, Price has been successful in establishing many relationships with other firms.

    Proficient in handling multifaceted commercial collection matters on behalf of local and out-of-state businesses, Price gives seminars to assist businesses in adopting practices best suited for collecting outstanding accounts receivable. She has ample experience litigating collection matters and executing upon judgments obtained on behalf of her clients.

    Prior to joining the firm, Price served as clerk for the Lehigh County Department of Law as part of a Post Graduate Fellowship. During her clerkship, she served the county in land use and litigation matters.

    In addition to her work for the firm and in pursuit of her passion for advocating for children’s rights, Price serves as conflict-counsel for Lehigh County and has been appointed to serve as guardian ad litem to children in the county. Price earned her J.D. in 2007 from William and Mary School of Law, and her B.A., summa cum laude, from Ohio State University in 2004

    Posted in: Banking & Financial Services, Bankruptcy & Creditors' Rights, Litigation, News, Real Estate & Finance, Rebecca J. Price | Tags: ,

  • Jul 11, 2019Representations and Warranties: Key Factors in Real Estate Transactions

    By: John F. Lushis, Jr.

    A key aspect of commercial and industrial real estate transactions centers around the representations and warranties made by the seller, which can often be subject to extensive negotiation. Not surprisingly, a seller strives to limit the representations and warranties but factors such as the nature of the property (e.g., improved vs. unimproved), its historical use, and the involvement of a lender will impact the negotiation process.

    Key Factors to Consider

    1. The first factor is their extent. Typical representations and warranties cover the nature of the seller (e.g., limited liability company), the proper authorization of the transaction by the seller’s governing body, and a statement that the transaction will not violate any agreement to which the seller is a party. But buyers often want other representations and warranties, such as compliance with all applicable laws, the condition of the property (e.g., lead paint, asbestos, underground tanks, and the existence of any threatened litigation). Regardless of the extent of the warranties, a seller must be mindful of the duty to disclose material information about the property.
    2. The second concerns qualifiers. For example, a seller may seek to limit representation and warranty to the “best of seller’s knowledge.” But even these qualifiers must be carefully evaluated. For example, if a representation is made “to seller’s knowledge,” an immediate question is, whose knowledge? Everyone in the organization from the president on down, or only certain individuals?
    3. The third factor is the period of time the representations and warranties will survive the closing. The survival period is critical in the event a post-closing claim is made by the buyer for a breach of a representation and warranty.
    4. Lastly, if the purchase price is substantial, the buyer and the seller may wish to consider procuring representation and warranty insurance.

    The real estate attorneys at Norris McLaughlin have substantial experience with commercial real estate transactions and are prepared to assist you. If you have any questions about this post or any other related matters, please email me at jlushis@norris-law.com.

    Posted in: John F. Lushis, Jr., Real Estate & Finance |

  • Jun 20, 2019Who Should Consider a Co-Tenancy Agreement?

    By: John F. Lushis, Jr.

    A real estate transaction that may appear simple on the surface is the purchase of a residential dwelling by an unmarried couple who wish to live together in that dwelling. But purchasing a house together, even with the best of intentions, can sometimes be a recipe for trouble.

    Questions to Consider

    At the outset, questions such as whether the title will be taken in both names must be evaluated. This is significant because if the title is taken in both names and a mortgage lender is involved, the couple will both be required to sign the mortgage and, from the lender’s perspective, will both be liable for the monthly mortgage payments.

    Additionally, it will be necessary to answer questions such as who will pay what share of the house expenses including the mortgage payments, and how will decisions regarding major expenses (such as a new roof or a new heating system) be handled?

    Even more of a concern is what would happen if the couple purchases the house and move in together, but never marry, and eventually decide to part ways. Will the house be sold? Can one significant other buy out the other? How will the purchase price be determined? What if children are involved and they do not wish to attend a different school?

    If these questions are not addressed at the outset, addressing them later will be more difficult and most likely much costlier. Unlike married couples, unmarried couples do not have the advantage of divorce laws to help address these issues and run the very real risk of finding themselves stuck.

    The Solution

    One way for an unmarried couple to address these issues is through the use of a “co-tenancy agreement.” A carefully written co-tenancy agreement will allow answers to the questions described above and other questions the couple may have to be spelled out clearly so that if the unmarried couple decides to live together no longer, a roadmap will be available to them and legal counsel to address the consequences of their separation. This can serve to reduce expensive difficulties and potential court proceedings.

    The real estate attorneys at Norris McLaughlin have handled situations involving unmarried couples and are ready to assist you. We can explain in detail the legal aspects of a co-tenancy, answer your questions, address your concerns, and walk you through the negotiation of a mutually satisfactory co-tenancy agreement.

    If you have any questions about this post or any other related matters, please email me at jlushis@norris-law.com.

    Posted in: John F. Lushis, Jr., Real Estate & Finance |

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