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 Pennsylvania’s Commercial Real Estate Broker Lien Law

By David M. Tkacik, Esq.

Pennsylvania has a Commercial Real Estate Broker Lien Act (CREBLA) that allows real estate brokers to file a lien against certain real property in order to protect their interests in real estate commissions.  The law can be found at 68 P.S. 1051-1063.  The law is very limited and can only be used in certain situations. 

First, the lien must be filed by the broker, not the agent, since all commissions are technically paid to the broker.  Second, the real estate at issue must be “Commercial Real Estate” as defined by the statute.  The CREBLA defines as Commercial Real Estate any real estate other than: (1) real estate containing one to four residential units; and (2) real estate that is zoned for agricultural purposes and that is not subject to an agreement of sale contingent upon the rezoning  of all or any portion of the real estate to provide for nonagricultural uses.  Thus, a duplex, triplex, or fourplex is not considered “Commercial Real Estate” for the purposes of the CREBLA, and no such liens may be filed against those properties.

Next, the Broker must have a written agreement providing for compensation under a listing agreement with the seller or a written agreement with a buyer or tenant.  The Broker or their agent must have actually provided the services in the agreement that resulted in the procurement of a buyer who makes an offer that is actually signed by the owner or the owner’s agent. 

Written notice of the intent to file a lien must be given to the owner and the prospective buyer at least three days prior to the date of conveyance by registered or certified mail.  This may prove to be difficult where the Broker does not know who the prospective Buyer is; however the law makes no exception.  

A Notice of Lien must be filed with the prothonotary (in Allegheny County, it is called the “Department of Court Records”) prior to the actual conveyance or transfer of property in the case of a written agreement with the seller.  In the case of buyer representation, the law allows for the Notice of Lien to be filed within 90 days after the purchase; however, apparently the Broker must still have given the notice of intent to file the lien at least three days prior to the conveyance.  The Notice of Lien must be in all cases mailed to the owner by certified mail.

If you are a commercial real estate broker or agent with questions about the Commercial Real Estate Broker Lien Act feel free to contact our office.  The above is intended to be a general summary of the CREBLA, and is not legal advice.  Please call Tkacik Law Office at 412-414-9644 or email to review your specific situation before taking any action.