This is the final installment of a three-part series outlining the topics of discussion from our presentation to the Southern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, October 10.

Last week, Brandon Harter and I had the pleasure of presenting to a full house of Southern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce members at the Quarryville Library. Thank you to all who attended and we enjoyed a friendly competition and lively discussion of various ways that technology law impacts every small business in 2019.

If you were unable to attend or if you’d like a brief summary of what was discussed, here’s additional information on three of the discussion topics from the event:
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This is part two of a three-part series outlining the topics of discussion from our presentation to the Southern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, October 10.

Yesterday, Brandon Harter and I had the pleasure of presenting to a full house of Southern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce members at the Quarryville Library. Thank you to all who attended and we enjoyed a friendly competition and lively discussion of various ways that technology law impacts every small business in 2019.

If you were unable to attend or if you’d like a brief summary of what was discussed, here’s additional information on two of the discussion topics from yesterday’s event:
Continue Reading

This is part one of a three-part series outlining the topics of discussion from our presentation to the Southern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce.

This morning, Brandon Harter and I had the pleasure of presenting to a full house of Southern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce members at the Quarryville Library. Thank you to all who attended and we enjoyed a friendly competition and lively discussion of various ways that technology law impacts every small business in 2019.

If you were unable to attend or if you’d like a brief summary of what was discussed, here’s additional information on two of the discussion topics from this morning’s event:
Continue Reading

Advertising and other commercial activities happen in an instant on social media. Are you covering your bases legally when posting photos of individuals or groups on your company social media accounts?

State law governs when you can use a person’s name or likeness for commercial or advertising purposes – this is commonly referred to right of publicity or right of privacy depending on the context and legal status in the jurisdiction.

In Pennsylvania, there is a somewhat complicated legal framework comprised of both statutes and case law that governs right of privacy and right of publicity.
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Thank you to Chad Umble at LNP for another informative article regarding Pennsylvania liquor laws.  This one is concerning legislation pending in the PA House of Representatives that would impact the way that grocery stores and convenience stores could operate.

More specifically, the article highlights a bill currently being considered in the House’s Liquor Control Committee that would create a “customer convenience permit” which would enable those holding the permit to deny patrons the ability to consume alcohol on their premises, and also allow them more flexibility in terms of where they have to physically locate the beer and wine within their store.  It also proposes to remove some of the restrictions on how many ounces of alcohol can be purchased in any given transaction. As you might imagine, despite this being called a “customer convenience permit”, it is really a permit that was crafted solely by and for the grocery stores and convenience stores. As correctly pointed out in the article, Walmart is a major proponent of this bill and likely provided much, if not all, of the input on the bill as it was drafted.
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Are you thinking about investing in Pennsylvania real estate? If so, forming a Pennsylvania limited liability company (LLC) has numerous benefits that will save you time and money in the future.

Here are the top five reasons why the LLC has become the entity of choice for investment real estate ownership in Pennsylvania:

  1. Realty transfer tax implications and timing

If you plan on owning real estate in an LLC, timing is critical to avoid paying Pennsylvania’s realty transfer tax more than once. Realty transfer tax in Pennsylvania is 2% of the value of the real estate.

You should form the LLC prior to signing the agreement of sale, and the party entering into the agreement of sale should be the LLC, not one or more of the individuals’ names. The reason for this is that Pennsylvania’s realty transfer tax law provides that a taxable event includes an assignment of an agreement of sale, which would trigger transfer tax twice.

Further, if you buy the real estate in your individual name and later wish to transfer the property into an LLC that is owned by you, you would also be required to pay realty transfer tax on that transfer.

Creating an LLC from the outset would avoid paying more tax than you are legally required to pay under the above two common scenarios.

  1. Limited liability protection for owners of the LLC

The owners (known as members) of an LLC enjoy limited liability for the debts and obligations of the LLC and the negligent acts of other members. A member’s liability is limited to the amount of his or her investment in the LLC, and their personal assets would be protected in the event causing liability.
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One of the questions I am asked most frequently from condominium and homeowner Association boards (and managers) is whether the Association is liable for injuries that occur on the common elements? The answer that I always give is that an Association is only liable for an accident on the common areas if they knew of the problem and failed to take reasonable care to make the common area safe. The recent case of Hackett v. Indian King Residents Association reinforced this answer.

In this case, a resident of the Association slipped and fell on some branches on a common area sidewalk. The branches fell only hours before she slipped on them. It was dark when the resident fell, so she could not see the branches that caused the accident. 
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Last week, a new law was passed that allows municipalities to prohibit Video Gaming Terminals (VGT) in truck stops. If a municipality wants to opt out of allowing VGTs, it must pass a Resolution that prohibits VGTs before September 1, 2019. This new law reverses the 2017 gaming law that forced many municipalities to permit VGTs, provided certain conditions were met. This bill was sponsored by two Pennsylvania Senators from Lancaster County, Scott Martin and Ryan Aument.

In 2017, Pennsylvania amended its gaming laws to permit “mini casinos” and VGT arcades. The law gave different rights to counties depending on whether a casino was located in the county. If the county had a casino, the municipalities in that county could prohibit VGTs. If the county did not have a casino already, the municipalities could opt out of mini casinos, but were not allowed to prohibit VGT arcades in “truck stops.” A truck stop was given a very broad definition in this new gaming law. Practically, many convenience stores could be built or converted to meet this definition.
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Up until April 26, 2019, short-term vacation rentals (like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, etc.) were probably allowed in zoning districts where single family homes are permitted. In April, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided that a short-term vacation rentals are not permitted as a single family use.

What do municipalities do now?

First, we should review how the Courts got to this point. It is an interesting development. The first case (Marchenko) dealt with a homeowner who rented her home for less than 25% of the year. The second case (Shvekh) had homeowners who rented their home for about half the year. The third case (Slice of Life) has an owner who bought the property solely as an investment, and never lived there at all. The Commonwealth Court said the first was OK, and then the next two cases built on that decision. 
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Did you know that Pennsylvania law requires corporations and fictitious name registrations to “officially publish” advertisements in order to be effective? This requirement applies to domestic and foreign business corporations and nonprofit corporations, as well as fictitious names registered in Pennsylvania.

The advertising requirement is a nuance of entity formation that is often missed and could prove costly in the long run. For example, in the context of a corporation, failure to follow corporate formalities can be used as an argument to pierce the corporate veil, which could impose personal liability on the shareholders of the corporation.
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