Occupational Licensing

This Poconos Property Manager Helped My Family Keep Our Vacation Home—Until Pennsylvania Shut Her Down

Licensing laws are putting 61-year-old Sally Ladd out of work. Together, we're suing.


Institute for Justice

Arrowhead Lake is an idyllic little community in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. For my family, it's the perfect vacation spot. We swim and canoe at the lake, hike and pick berries, roast marshmallows, and dance at the summer bonfires held at the community's main pavilion. It feels like a much-needed break from the fast pace of modern life, and we always come home feeling renewed and refreshed. We love it so much that after a few years vacationing there as renters, we decided to buy a home in the community.

In order to swing this financially, we have to rent the place out when we are not there, like many vacation homeowners do. Initially, we were having trouble making that work. We even thought—to our great disappointment—that we might have to sell the house because the numbers were not adding up. That's when we found property manager Sally Ladd, who already managed a few other vacation rentals in Arrowhead Lake and came highly recommended by other owners. We met with and interviewed Sally and were tremendously impressed with her, so we hired her to manage our property.

Almost immediately, things turned around for us financially. Sally's background in digital marketing made her very skilled at advertising our property, and we started to get more rentals than we had before. Sally also had a great sense of what types of little improvements—some decorative touches here, a fresh coat of paint there—would make our property more attractive to renters. The place was finally paying for itself, and we couldn't have been happier.

Then, on February 24, 2017, my husband and I received the following email from Sally:

Dear Property Management Client,

It is with great regret that I must inform you that as of April 1, 2017, I will no longer be able to provide property management services for your vacation rental home.

In early January I was contacted by the State of Pennsylvania and informed that a complaint had been filed against my company for managing properties without a real estate license….I need to begin the process of deactivating your property listings on my accounts, dissolving my company and completing all rentals in progress.

It turns out that in Pennsylvania, anyone who wants to act as a property manager—even just for short-term vacation rentals—has to be a real estate broker licensed by the state. To get this license, Ladd would have to take 300 hours of approved instruction, pass two exams, and spend three years working as an apprentice under an already-licensed broker. Faced with these burdensome requirements, Ladd—who is 61 years old—felt she had no choice but to shut down her small business.

My husband and I were upset—things had been going so well! Given that I am not only a vacation homeowner but also someone active in the liberty movement, the wheels in my head started turning pretty quickly. During the summer between college and law school, I worked as an intern at the economic liberty litigation firm Institute for Justice, and this seemed like exactly the kind of case that might interest them. So after dashing off an email to a friend saying that Pennsylvania had "fucked with the wrong libertarian," I contacted the institute.

With their help, today Sally Ladd and I filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of State, seeking relief from the law—the Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act, 63 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 455.101—that made our mutually beneficial contract illegal. We are asking the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania to declare that this statute unconstitutionally burdens her right to earn an honest living, as well as my right to avail myself of her services.

I've always been a strong supporter of economic liberty. But even as someone who was well aware of the problems with these regulations on an intellectual level, it was still a shock to find myself hamstrung by one of them.

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  1. We are asking the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania to declare that this statute unconstitutionally burdens her right to earn an honest living, as well as my right to avail myself of her services.

    Good luck with that. This is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania we’re talking about here. I can’t remember the last time the governor, our piece of crap legislature or the courts went out of their way to do anything but screw small businesses in the state.

    1. They’re the Florida of the North.

      1. Ummm… No. Outside of some wonky labor licensing (which I think is anti immigrant and retiree in nature), Florida is objectively one of the most small business friendly states. Which is part of the reason why we have the second fastest growing economy of the 50 states. Texas being the first.

  2. So this becomes an issue when it bites YOU in the ass.
    Good Luck. I suspect that by the time the process has gone the full legal route, it will be moot due to Sally’s death from old age.
    Not all real estate investments turn out to be profitable.

    1. If you aren’t a victim then you have no case in a court of law.

      1. both ARE victims. One has lost her sole means of livelihood due to a ridiculous licensing law (designed to keep all property management servics in the hands and on the books of those who buy and sell real estate, something that does NOT happen in the property management/rental business) and the other a significant stream of revenue that offset much of the expense of owning that second piece of property.

        It would not surprise me if either that area of homes, or the State of Pennsylvania, would not allow a rental service such as Air BnB, for the same reason. Perhaps she should list it with them, and when the stupid state shuts AirBnB down, add them to the same lawsuit.

    2. So this becomes an issue when it bites YOU in the ass.

      It became an issue when she became aware of it. Are you really so oblivious that you think everyone knows more than you do, and therefore only acts on something when it personally affects them? Talk about low self-esteem!

      1. He’s talking about how lawsuits work. If I don’t like the curfew law for my kids, I can’t sue unless they were picked up as a violator. The problem with the comment above though is that she is a “victim”- she has lost income due to this law.

        1. I was replying to Longtobefree, not techgump. I understand standing.

  3. At 61 years old, I doubt that Sally still has any children at home. Some of those licensed real estate brokers might have children… WHY DO YOU HATE CHILDREN, SAMANTHA!!!

    1. I love children with fava beans and a nice chianti…

  4. This is funny. I mere 12 hours ago Reason had an article about 40 ways things are getting better.

    One of them was:
    “In the past decade, starting a business has become much easier.”

    1. It said “starting.” Not “keeping.”

      1. Yeah, pretty sad that keeping a business means starting over, which is made near impossible.

        1. My parents own a small apartment building. Every year the city makes it even more expensive to run. The latest scam was to hire some jokers to go an inspect the buildings for code violations, and then force the owners to pay for it. It will cost them I think $400/year. Based upon the number of units. Someone else they know is getting slapped with a $5000 bill. He’s got a lot more units. It never ends. It never fucking ends.

          1. Doesn’t the insurance company already do this? Not every year but you can’t get a new policy without an inspection.

            1. Does the insurance company hand out fines to be paid to the city? Yeah. Didn’t think so. My parents’ building is a hundred years old. It can’t stand up to a rigorous inspection by a petty tyrant. They’re probably going to have to sell the place. It’s getting too hard to break even.

              1. Meanwhile some fuck-tard in the local government is probably bitching and moaning, possibly at this very moment, about the lack of affordable housing.

          2. I hope your parents told their renters about how the politicians were responsible for the rent increase that would be coming along in the next renewal?


  5. So after dashing off an email to a friend saying that Pennsylvania had “fucked with the wrong libertarian,” I contacted the institute.


    Also, godspeed.

  6. Classic bootlegger and the Baptist. The Baptist is protecting the people from property managers who don’t have proper credentials, while the bootleggers with the certifications are laughing as their competition gets shut down.

  7. I don’t know how to feel about this until I know how hot all of the women involved are.

    1. The Libertarian gold standard of support.

  8. save Shawnee Mountain!

  9. I’ve always been a strong supporter of economic liberty. But even as someone who was well aware of the problems with these regulations on an intellectual level, it was still a shock to find myself hamstrung by one of them.

    And as long as you’ve done nothing wrong it’s perfectly safe to talk to the cops.

    See, here’s the thing about the regulatory state – most people think they’re like the business cops keeping you safe from evil-doing businesses. They don’t get that, like the cops, they’re not proactively keeping bad businesses from committing crimes against their customers, they only react after the fact when they get enough customer complaints. The rules and regulations that actually govern good business practices are like speed limit signs that don’t actually keep anybody from speeding, it just lets them know there are going to be consequences if they get caught. Businesses thinking about screwing over their customers aren’t deterred by the law, they’re deterred by the fact that you stop getting customers if you screw them over. You could do just as well monitoring Yelp reviews. Bad Yelp reviews keep customers from getting screwed over by bad businesses. And to the extent that there’s a shitload of rules and regulations that don’t actually govern good business practices, that’s rent-seeking on the part of government workers too lazy to get a real job and crony capitalists too lazy to compete by offering better products at better prices.

    1. Bad Yelp reviews keep customers from getting screwed over by bad businesses.

      Minor nit: bad Yelp reviews doesn’t necessarily mean that the business was bad. Remember that pizza place in Indiana (Memories Pizza, I think)? They got trashed on Yelp by hordes of SJWs after stating – purely hypothetically – that they wouldn’t cater a gay wedding. Or that dentist that shot that lion a couple of years ago. Same thing.

      When going against the proggie hive mind can get your business trashed on Yelp, relying on bad reviews as a gauge isn’t always the most reliable option. Although I agree with your overall point. I just think BBB ratings might be a bit more reliable.

  10. Samantha, Does Sally have legal basis to continue working as a property manager in PA during the lawsuit process?

  11. Good luck with that.

  12. But it’s for your own good Samantha! Ms. Ladd was managing your property without the proper license and training! Good grief lady, find a property manager with the proper credentials from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, not someone who’s merely recommended by other property owners who can help you make money.

    1. Nice sarc, there…. well done!!!

  13. Advertise on the internet…..airbnb…..etc. Hire a local neighbor to keep a set of keys, rules, and cleanup arrangements.Don’t let big brother contol your life!

  14. You go girl!
    This kind of competition limit imposed by numerous occupations is, for a good portion of them, completely ridiculous.
    They will give such excuses as “improves service”, “limits bad apples”, “knowledge required” all of which your rental example disproves.
    Most anybody would want to limit competition…..so that’s what they do…and lawyers are one of the worst since you have to be one to participate in the justice system. And there are more than enough horrible lawyers to disprove that one.

  15. Couldn’t Ladd just hire someone with a license?

    1. You know, like you don’t have to be a MD to run a medical clinic, you just hire them. Couldn’t Ms. Ladd run her mgmt. service the same way?

      1. A) She doesn’t have the margin to do that.
        B) It’s technically not allowed for this classification of work
        C) Both A and B
        D) None of the above

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  18. I don’t see much distinction between Airbnb and what Sally was doing. Albeit, Sally probably arranged for check-in, cleaning, repairs, etc. but if that’s the only real difference, I don’t understand why she has to have a real estate license. Wait! Could it be because those with New Jersey real estate licenses have a closed shop that’s difficult to break into. Not in New Jersey.

  19. Government – because we don’t trust you to be an adult without asking for permission, paying us and paying our cronies. These are the people that progressives wan’t to run your healthcare.

  20. Free market at work!

    (Just in case you missed the dumbass progressives while you were taking a break from Facebook)

  21. It’s business protectionism. Hair braiders .in many states are required to obtain cosmetology licenses. The problem is cosmetology schools don’t teach hair braiding. Monks in Texas were required to become licensed morticians with a place of business with fully equipt mortuary and funeral home in order to sell caskets. Tesla is prohibited from selling their vehicles direct to buyers in a number of states because they are not licensed auto dealers.
    The Institute for Justice, ij dot .org has been successfully fighting these unreasonable requirements for several years.

  22. Thanks to you and IJ. Fighting the government in court is more fun than sports, even for the spectators.

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