Appeal from the Order of the State Real Estate Commission in case of In the Matter of the Suspension or Revocation of Real Estate Brokers License No. 22301, issued to Ronald J. Rinck, No. 1909.
Alan I. Baskin, with him Baskin, Mendelsohn & Leisawitz, and, of counsel, Mervin A. Heller, Jr., for appellant.
Donald J. Murphy, Deputy Attorney General, with him William J. Wheeler, Jr., Assistant Attorney General, and Robert P. Kane, Attorney General, for appellee.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer and Rogers, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Kramer.
[ 24 Pa. Commw. Page 387]
This is an appeal by Ronald J. Rinck from an order of the State Real Estate Commission dated April 23, 1975, suspending Rinck's real estate broker's license for a period of six months. Rinck raises several issues but we need only consider whether the procedure followed by the Commission violated Rinck's due process rights. We hold that it did and reverse.
[ 24 Pa. Commw. Page 388]
During March of 1971 Rinck listed for sale a farm which included, among other things, a farmhouse owned by Paul Kramer. The listing was advertised in a local newspaper, and Mr. and Mrs. Sodoy T. Steigerwald called Rinck to make inquiry concerning "the location of the farm." The Steigerwalds, unaccompanied by Rinck, made a visit to the farm and Mrs. Steigerwald made an inspection of the interior of the building, noting that at least one fireplace extended into one of the rooms. The Commission found that the Steigerwalds asked Rinck at or about the time the formal sales agreement was signed whether the fireplaces extended into the rooms and Rinck confessed no knowledge on the subject. After a phone call to Kramer, Rinck informed the Steigerwalds that the fireplaces did not extend into the rooms. A sales agreement was executed, but the Steigerwalds thereafter unsuccessfully attempted to void the contract; and later signed an agreement with all of the other parties involved releasing all parties from "all legal liability" in consideration of the hand money ($7500) paid by them to Rinck as liquidated damages. The sales agreement was dated March 22, 1971, and the agreement to rescind is undated.
On July 6, 1971, Mr. Steigerwald filed a "sworn statement of complaint" on a Commission form in which, inter alia, he alleged a misrepresentation by Rinck concerning the location of the fireplaces. On September 30, 1971, the Commission sent a letter to Rinck advising him that an "informal hearing" would be held on the matter on October 26, 1971. The letter refers to the hearing in several different terms, e.g., "informal hearing"; "scheduled hearing"; and "hearing". Rinck was also advised to bring evidence, and that he could be represented by counsel. The hearing was held and both Stiegerwald and Rinck presented testimony and evidence. On November 17, 1971, Steigerwald was sent the following letter, copies of which were also sent to Rinck and his attorney:
[ 24 Pa. Commw. Page 389]
"This is to advise you that the State Real Estate Commission has reviewed the complete file in the above captioned matter.
"As a result of its review, the Commission was unable to find that the broker committed any intentional or willful violation of the provisions of the Real Estate Brokers' License Act which would warrant the Commission taking disciplinary action against the broker.
"The Commission has therefore dismissed the Complaint against the broker and is marking its file in the above ...