Lancaster Law Blog

Lancaster Law Blog

Lancaster's Legal Link

Do You Want FHA Approval for Your Condominium?

Posted in Real Estate

There are all kinds of acronyms floating around when talking about mortgage programs for condominium associations:  FHA, VA, FMNA, FHLMC, FDMC, etc.  Community associations may benefit from learning about these programs, especially FHA.

What is FHA? 

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is a part of the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  One of the goals of the FHA is to promote affordable housing for all.  FHA is not a lender.  Rather, it guarantees mortgages on homes.  Lenders who give mortgages to purchase units are protected if the mortgages go bad.   A community association may become “FHA approved,” which means the community is placed on a list of approved communities. Continue Reading

12-Packs Available Earlier Than Anticipated

Posted in Business Law, Legal Tidbits

Earlier this month, the PLCB made headlines when they issued a ruling indicating that beer distributors could now sell 12-packs of beer.  In the wake of that decision, many beer distributors and breweries were scrambling to make changes to their packaging systems in order to comply with the PLCB’s ruling.  On Wednesday, the PLCB further expanded that ruling and indicated that distributors can break up cases of beer in order to sell them as 12-packs.  This is a significant reversal of their decision earlier this month and paves the way for 12-packs of beer to be immediately available in nearly all distributors.

The next question will be how distributors use this opportunity to market 12-packs, and whether consumers are interested in purchasing them at a distributor.

Aaron Zeamer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Business Law and Liquor License matters.

As a Small Business Owner Do You Know the Laws that Apply to Your Business?

Posted in Business Law, Legal Tidbits, Taxation, Uncategorized

In the early stages of starting a business, entrepreneurs often face many problems, most of which require time and money to evaluate and resolve. That being said, there are certain investments a business owner can make that will save a lot of time and money in the long run – one of which is evaluating what laws are applicable to the business and how to best comply with such laws.

Failure to comply with applicable laws can lead to fines, penalties, corporate liability and even personal liability, depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. Noncompliance isn’t the only issue to think through – the interaction between these laws and the potential impacts on your business are also important considerations.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what laws apply to a particular business.  In this blog post I attempt to give you a framework to begin to evaluate what laws may apply to your business. Of course, this list is not intended to be exhaustive or a replacement for consulting an experienced business attorney, but I hope that you will find it to be helpful.

Local Laws

Local laws, commonly referred to as ordinances, may be applicable to your business depending on what city, town or municipality it is located in. Ordinances may require certain licenses, permits and real estate requirements. For example, the City of Lancaster recently approved an ordinance which requires businesses with locations within the city limits to register by filling out a form and paying a business registration fee of $35.00. Ordinances can typically be found on a local website or by contacting the municipal office.

State Laws and Regulations

State laws are enacted by the state legislature and may apply to your business by virtue of being organized under the laws of a particular state, or if your business meets certain statutory criteria, such as having a physical location in the state, marketing or conducting other business operations within a state. State laws often point to regulatory bodies to develop specific regulations which further interpret and perhaps enforcement of the laws in a particular area. An example of such a regulatory agency would be the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which issues regulations interpreting the Pennsylvania Liquor Code. The Bureau of Liquor Control and Enforcement within the Pennsylvania State Police then enforces the Liquor Code and PLCB regulations.  Continue Reading

Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP announces that Aaron S. Marines has joined the firm

Posted in Outside the Law

Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP is pleased to announce Aaron S. Marines has joined the firm’s expanding business and real estate practice group. Aaron has served clients in Lancaster and surrounding communities for more than 15 years in private practice and will continue to provide personal service to business owners, builders, developers, condominium and homeowners’ associations, property managers and other professionals.

Residential and commercial developers rely on Aaron’s years of experience working with zoning and land development and the creation of condominiums, planned communities or homeowners’ associations.  Aaron has worked to create complex projects such as mixed residential communities, mixed residential and commercial properties, leasehold condominiums and condominium conversions. His experience working with numerous projects from the planning stage to completion and beyond gives Aaron a unique perspective that is invaluable to his clients.  Aaron also represents numerous condominium and homeowners’ associations, assisting with matters ranging from complex document preparation and revision to collections.  He regularly counsels association boards and property managers on a broad range of issues and works with them to plan properly for the future.

Prior to attending law school, Aaron graduated from Penn State with a degree in Chemical Engineering.  He worked in chemical plants as an environmental engineer for several years.  His engineering background serves him well in his legal practice and also enables him to analyze environmental issues and work with engineers and governmental officials in an efficient and thorough manner.

Aaron also works with the firm’s banking and finance group providing counsel with regard to commercial and residential finance and development work, general commercial loan documentation and loan restructuring.

Aaron is active in the community and currently serves as President of the Hempfield Association for Midget Sports.  He is a member of the Pennsylvania and Lancaster Bar Associations, Community Associations Institute and is an approved instructor for the Lancaster County Association of Realtors.

12-Packs May Now Be Available At Beer Distributors

Posted in Business Law

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, through its counsel, issued an advisory opinion this afternoon appearing to clear the way to allow beer distributors to sell 12-packs of beer.  This ruling is completely separate from any of the recent modernization or privatization movements which have been discussed by the governor and the legislature.

The opinion closely scrutinizes the language of the Liquor Code and the regulations which define what can be sold by or to distributors.  Distributors in Pennsylvania may sell malt or brewed beverages which are in a “case” or they must be in “original containers” of at least 128 ounces.  Until now, the PLCB was never asked to clarify what constitutes an “original container”.  In its advisory opinion, the PLCB takes the position that an original container could include a 12-pack of beer, provided that the 12-pack is how the manufacturer of the alcohol originally packaged it.

This opinion sets the stage for breweries and other manufacturers to package their product in 12-packs which could now be sold through a distributor.  I would expect to see that local breweries will quickly start to alter their packaging so that they can provide to distributors “original containers” of 12-packs and we have seen that most large manufacturers such as Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors already package and sell their product in 12-packs.  They may have to alter slightly the manner in which they ship and sell these 12-packs, but it appears that we will soon see even the national brands in 12-packs on the shelves of our local beer distributors.

This ruling also may have an interesting impact on the modernization and privatization discussions that continue to occur in Pennsylvania.  Distributors have expressed significant concern that allowing grocery stores to sell alcohol unfairly competes with their business.  This ruling, however, appears to give the distributors some ability to now compete with these grocery stores and sell smaller quantities of alcohol in the form of a 12-pack.  Whether this opinion helps to move the modernization/privatization movement remains to be seen.

Aaron Zeamer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Business Law and Liquor License matters.

Is Co-Parenting Possible?

Posted in Custody, Divorce, Family Law

This headline recently caught my attention Co-Parenting Win: I Lived With my Stepson’s Mother.  The article, fashioned in the form of a letter to the mother of the author’s stepson, chronicles the evolution of the relationship between Mother, Father, and Father’s Wife.  It is a quick, worthwhile read that demonstrates it really is possible to move past the emotional baggage of a breakup to form a new, different kind of relationship that allows everyone to be actively involved in a child’s life.

The article doesn’t assume that everyone can or should co-parent like this.  In many cases, this type of situation would not work.  But, in a world of custody battles that can sometimes turn ugly, it’s great to see a positive story that reminds us of the unique possibilities for relationships between parents and step-parents.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Family Law.

Pennsylvania Liquor Updates

Posted in Business Law, Legal Tidbits

There has been a significant amount of liquor license topics which have garnered media attention recently, especially in the Lancaster area.  Last Monday, the Beer Café in the Weis Markets in Ephrata opened.  Also throughout the week, there was daily coverage of the Liquor Privatization Bill which was debated and passed in the House of Representatives.  There was also coverage of a hearing before the House Gaming Oversight Committee where it was pointed out how costly and burdensome the Applications are for tavern gaming licenses. It was also pointed out that a mere 38 tavern gaming licenses were issued in the state.  When the tavern gaming license was introduced in 2013, the Legislature anticipated that it would generate in excess of $100 million dollars of revenue for the state.  Needless to say, they have fallen woefully short of that projection.  Continue Reading

Facebook’s New Legacy Contact

Posted in Estate Planning, Legal Tidbits

You may have read our blog posts about Death in the Digital Age and Emailing after Death.  Facebook has certainly established a reputation for making changes, sometimes in response to user concerns.  This issue is no exception and Facebook has decided to join the digital death bandwagon.  It has added a new feature which allows you to designate what they are calling a “legacy contact” to manage your account posthumously.

Don’t panic about allowing someone access to all of your private messages or the ability to post as you.  The legacy contact you designate will only have limited access to your account for things like updating your profile picture or responding to new friend requests.  Or, if you don’t want your Facebook page to live on after you, there is an option to delete your account entirely.  While this all may sound rather morbid, as technology becomes more and more integrated into our regular daily activities, planning ahead for what happens to those accounts is important.  If you do not choose between a legacy contact and deleting your account, Facebook will simply freeze your account if they discover you have died.  However, this new option allows you to control what happens to your account.

If you have chosen to designate a legacy contact, you should inform them just as you would inform your designated agent named on your Power of Attorney and the Executor or Executrix named in your will.  Also, be sure to discuss your wishes for the account.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Estate Planning.

Beer Delivery to Your Home – Are We There Yet?

Posted in Business Law, Legal Tidbits

I’ve gotten a number of inquiries from clients recently about whether the law has changed allowing them to deliver alcohol to customers if they hold a valid liquor license.  This topic originated through a legal opinion issued by the Chief Counsel’s Office and as a result of a question by a licensee. The opinion generated some media coverage which has, in turn, created a lot of questions in the liquor sales industry.

There are still some questions as to how the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board will handle this, there are some parameters which have been outlined which could allow a bar restaurant to begin delivering alcohol to its customers.  It is important to keep in mind that if you choose to pursue this for your business, you should clearly understand and follow the guidelines in place.  Continue Reading