Appeal from the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County; Sachse, J.
Brune, C. J., and Henderson, Prescott, Horney and Sybert, JJ. Prescott, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.
The trial court refused appellants' (defendants below) motion for a directed verdict; the jury rendered a verdict against them; and they appealed the judgment entered on that verdict.
The motion was based upon a claim that the plaintiff corporation, appellee here, did not hold a real estate broker's license and, therefore, it was not entitled to receive compensation as a real estate broker; and the parties agree that the case turns upon our determination as to whether said corporation did, or did not, have such a license at the time of the transactions here involved. See Code (1957), Article 56, Section 228, which prohibits recovery in cases of this nature "unless such person, copartnership, association or corporation was licensed hereunder * * *."
The pertinent facts are simple and not in dispute. They disclose that at the time of the transactions involved herein there were in existence two real estate broker's licenses, one having been issued by the Real Estate Commission of Maryland to "Wilson B. Jameson, Trading as Jameson-Ryan Realty, Inc.," and the other to "William E. Ryan, Trading as Jameson-Ryan Realty, Inc." Jameson and Ryan were both officers of the appellee-corporation, and neither held an individual broker's license in Maryland, unless the licenses just mentioned constituted individual, rather than corporate, ones. The facts further show that no license was ever issued in the sole name of "Jameson-Ryan Realty, Inc.," as it has been the consistent practice of the Real Estate Commission to issue real estate licenses to corporate brokers only in the form in which the licenses were here issued; namely to one, or more, individuals "trading as" such corporate broker.
The licensing of real estate brokers by the Real Estate Commission is controlled by Code (1957 & 1963 Cum. Supp.), Article 56, Sections 212 to 232, both inclusive. Pertinent parts of Sections 218 and 221 are set forth below.*fn1
The appellants contend that the Real Estate Commission simply failed to comply literally with the provisions of Section 218, and, since the terms thereof are unambiguous, the Commission's administrative practice in issuing corporate broker's licenses in the form described above was not controlling; hence, its action in issuing the licenses to Jameson and Ryan "trading as Jameson-Ryan Realty, Inc." was ineffective to constitute a corporate broker's license to the appellee, but merely constituted individual licenses to Jameson and Ryan. In support of this contention, they assert: "Similar statutes in New York and Pennsylvania have been held to require a real estate broker's
license issued to the corporation itself, as distinguished from the individuals involved," citing Kernan & Co. v. Smith, 210 N. Y. S. 131 (1925); Comm. v. Samuel W. Black Co., 72 A. 261 (Pa. 1909); and Comm. v. Trust Company, 60 A. 551 (Pa. 1905). Our reading of the cases, discloses no such holding.
In Kernan, the Court does not hold, nor even discuss, whether a corporate broker's license must be issued in the name of the corporation. The case holds that when a corporate broker's license has been issued, an individual officer authorized by such license to act for the corporation, may not act, under the license, as a broker in his own behalf. (Section 218 of our law explicitly so provides.) The Trust Company case held that a licensed corporate broker was not liable for a tax under a Pennsylvania statute as it was then framed; and the Black Co. case held that such a broker was subject to taxation under the statute, as amended.
The record does not disclose which of the two licenses mentioned above was first issued, but, in the view that we take of the case, this fact is immaterial; consequently, we assume that the Jameson "Trading as Jameson-Ryan Realty, Inc." one was first in point of time.
There is no provision in Maryland law which prescribes the precise form or wording of a broker's license, whether for an individual or a corporation. On the contrary Section 221 (c), supra, provides that the license certificate ...