Real Estate Law in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, real estate law is a very broad area of law governing anything that has to do with the ownership of land and buildings.
Real estate law can apply to many various facets of a personal and professional life. It can apply to anything from the purchase of a vacant lot, to renting prime downtown office space.
Pennsylvania real estate law can be very complicated, because it's really a collection of a lot of different areas of law. These areas of law include property rights, contracts, land use, and many others.
Having a good general knowledge of Pennsylvania real estate law can make a lot of transactions, such as purchasing a house or renting an apartment, much easier.
Pennsylvania is one of America's oldest states, being only the second state to join the Union. Formally known as The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the area was settled as early as the 1630's. With 253 members in its legislature, Pennsylvania has the second largest legislature in the nation. Pennsylvania is named after its founder, William Penn.
Education has always been a focal point of Pennsylvania life. The state is home to a large number of nationally recognized universities. Some of these have law schools associated with them, such as the law schools at Penn State University, Temple University, and the University of Pittsburgh. A significant number of Pennsylvania Supreme Court cases have also involved education, including Abington v. Shempp (1963) and Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971).
Pennsylvania's court system is called the "Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania". At the basic level are the Courts of Common Pleas, which are organized into 60 different judicial districts. Appeals are heard either at the Superior Court or at the Commonwealth Court. The Pennsylvania state Supreme Court also hears appeals and other matters of a more complex nature. There are also minor municipal courts with limited jurisdiction beneath the Courts of Common Pleas.
Pennsylvania lawyers are skilled at handling legal claims of all types. Lawyers in Pennsylvania participate in continuing legal education and various programs in order to refine their skills. An experienced Pennsylvania attorney can assist you with any legal disputes or inquiries you might have.
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Common Real Estate Issues in Pennsylvania
Financing: Most people in Pennsylvania probably can't afford to buy a house or a piece of land up front. Thus, most individuals and business use some form of financing to purchase real estate, normally a mortgage. A mortgage is a loan used to buy a piece of real estate, with the purchased real estate simultaneously securing the loan.
Disclosure: When a house or other structure is for sale, the seller has to tell prospective buyers about all physical defects of which the seller is aware, and which the buyer couldn't be reasonably expected to discover. However, if you are selling a house, you should probably just disclose every defect you're aware of. This will save you a great deal of potential liability. Even if your disclosure of a particular defect wasn't required (because the buyer could have easily discovered it), the buyer might still sue, and the cost of defending this lawsuit, even if you win, will be very high.
Warranty of Habitability: All rented residential properties have at least one general requirement: they must actually be fit for people to live in them. While the apartments they rent aren't required to be luxurious or pretty, landlords are absolutely obligated to ensure that their property meets some basic standards for human habitability. This applies whether the lease mentions it or not, and cannot be waived, under any circumstances. A dwelling will usually be found to be uninhabitable if it lacks running water, electricity, heating, or protection from the elements. There are many other ways that a dwelling could be uninhabitable, however.
Zoning Laws: Zoning laws state what can and cannot be built on a specific piece of property, usually based on the land's location within the town or city. Areas are normally zoned with the goal of ensuring that residential areas are not too close to industrial areas, among other things. If you have some kind of construction project planned on your property, you should make absolutely sure that it is in compliance with Pennsylvania zoning laws BEFORE you begin.
Do I Need a Pennsylvania Real Estate Lawyer?
The issues discussed above, as well as the many others that can affect real estate, can get very complicated. For that reason, it's probably a good idea to consult with a Pennsylvania real estate lawyer before undertaking any major real estate transaction.