A Way to Always Get Legal Aid When Needed without Retaining a Firm

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Landlord Advice in Rent Control Markets

Introduction

In America, rent control laws were first introduced during World Wars I and II as a response to shortages and economic pressure. Today they are either leftover laws from these time periods or have been reintroduced by a state according to need. The most important point to remember is that rent control laws can vary widely from state to state, and from county to county. Even cities in the same county can have different laws due to various demands in markets and local demographics. So, you should conduct an inquiry as to the details of your city’s control laws. This article provides basic background information on residential rent control.

Basic Background

Rent control laws are set by a local board which determines the price ceiling for rent rates. The board determines the rates by considering various factors including cost of living, average rent prices in the area, and the type of rental unit. For example, some local boards apply rent control laws that are specific only to a certain type of building, such as large complexes or multi-floored apartments. As you can see, these factors will all vary from region to region.

Generally, rent control laws require a landlord to fix the rental price while the tenant is under a lease. This means that so long as the tenant is under the lease, the landlord cannot raise the rent. Or, they can only raise rent by a certain annual limit designated by the local board. Only when the unit becomes vacant can the landlord raise the rent in anticipation of a new lease with a new tenant. Some laws prohibit raising rent even if the unit is vacant. Those laws can also limit the landlord’s ability to evict a tenant, especially without just cause.

Basically, rent control means that the landlord can set the initial rent amount, but cannot raise the rent or is severely limited in the amount they can raise the rent.

The effect of controlling rent is that the longer the tenant stays in the unit, the rental payment becomes relatively less compared to the average rates in the surrounding area. So, the laws tend to favor the tenant, and most landlords dislike rent control. Instead of stabilizing rent rates, rent control laws can sometimes create pockets of disproportionate rates within a community. Those control laws can also have the unintended effect of limiting the amount of available housing in a city, since housing contractors can be hesitant to build in cities with it.

Consequently, many landlords are critical of those laws, although they must be abided by. Failure to adhere to the practices can result in legal sanctions for the landlord.

Vacancy Decontrol- What happens when the unit becomes vacant

A legal phrase that frequently comes up during rental rate control discussions is the term “vacancy decontrol”. Vacancy decontrol refers to ordinances regulating rent prices once a unit becomes vacant. As described above, most landlords will want to raise the rent after a lease is completed and the unit becomes vacant. Vacancy decontrol laws regulate whether the landlord can raise rent, and if so, by how much.

Usually when formulating vacancy decontrol rates the local board considers such factors as the tenant’s income and the previous rental rate. Ordinances that do not include vacancy decontrol provisions are known as “strong rent control” laws. Be sure to check for vacancy decontrol regulations when making a inquiry in your area.

Rent Control Preemption- Prohibiting It

In response to an endless barrage of complaints by both landlords and tenants, several states have adopted legislation that prevents local municipalities from imposing control laws. Legislative acts that prevent those laws are known as the Rent Control Preemption acts.

The term “preemption” means that the state’s decision to prohibit rent control overrides the local government’s authority to impose such laws. This means that if your state has adopted Rent Control Preemption, then it’s not allowed by law in your state.

Again, different states adopt preemption acts in various ways- some states adopt in whole while others adopt only part of the act. Usually the state will implement a preemption provision that has the following language:

“A local governmental unit shall not enact, maintain, or enforce an ordinance that would have the effect of controlling the amount of rent charged for leasing residential or commercial property.”

Even if the state has not preempted rent control, some states do make it very difficult for tenants to qualify for it. For example, in New York a tenant only qualifies if they have lived in their unit since 1971. This basically allows a greater number of landlords to raise rent according to their needs. Check to see if your state has preempted rent control (see the following lists below).

Laws By Region: States That Allow vs. States Preempting

Currently, only five states allow controlling rent. In contrast, several of the 50 states have adopted some form of preemption, and a handful of states neither enforce nor preempt the laws.

States that do allow rent control are:

  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • New York

States that have adopted preemption (do not allow) are:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

States that neither enforce nor preempt are:

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • West Virginia

Rent control by city or county is largely dependent on the demographics of the city. A main factor in determining it by city is the turnover rate between new tenants. Cities wherein tenants leave or change residences very quickly are favored targets for those ordinances. Examples of such places are college towns like Berkeley, California or metropolitan areas like New York or Los Angeles. Unlike suburban or rural areas where there are less tenants coming and going, heavily populated cities tend to strictly enforce those laws.

In Mobile Home Parks

Another aspect of rent control laws has to do with mobile home parks. Out of all residential arrangements, mobile home communities are probably the most regulated under control laws. This is because most mobile home owners own their mobile home units but rent the land on which it is situated. Mobile homes are also very costly to move and lose value when they are moved. Thus, in some areas rent control focuses mainly on mobile homes. For example, California has only 13 laws but over 100 laws regulating mobile homes.

Recap: What to consider if you are a landlord

To recap, landlords should be able to answer the following questions regarding rent control and their residential unit:

  • Is my residential unit subject to local control laws?
  • If there are local control laws, do they include vacancy decontrol provisions?
  • Does the state I live in preempt rent control?

Being able to answer these basic questions can go a long way in dealing with tenants and rent prices. Responsibilities increase when you are a landlord, and one of the most important responsibilities is charging reasonable rent. If you wish to learn more about landlord rights and laws in your specific area, inquire at your local municipal government, or contact LegalMatch.com for information on how to obtain a lawyer.

Ken LaMance is the Corporate Counsel at LegalMatch in San Francisco, California. Find the RIGHT Lawyer NOW using our online matching service. LegalMatch is fast, free, and confidential. LegalMatch is America’s original attorney/client matching service and is not a referral service. When a consumer presents their issue to LegalMatch, our system matches the consumer’s case to LegalMatch lawyers in their city or county based on the specifics of the consumer’s case, lawyer’s location, and area of legal practice. LegalMatch also offers a number of useful resources like an online law library, tips, law blog, and forums on nearly every topic.

Advocating Your Wrongful Termination Claim

The labor sector plays a vital role in our country’s economic stability and sustainable progress.

This is how every citizen should think of it. It is therefore fundamental that both the government and the business entrepreneurs alike must provide a sturdy and effective plan and rules to safeguard their rights against illegal employment termination practices.

These past years, the labor sector is facing serious hurdles that caused them to feel insecure of their jobs. A number of company policies and even law provisions are designed to favor business owners – giving them the authority to terminate their employees anytime and for any reason.

This problem is even more severed by the workers’ lack of sufficient knowledge about their rights provided for under the existing Labor Laws.

In legal terms, unfair termination does not necessarily point out a “wrongful” employment practice. Many considerations should first be look upon in these instances before a “wrongfully terminated employee” may push through with his case in court.

Thus, it is important that the employees have at least reviewed the Federal and State Labor Law provisions to better understand their rights as employees.

Most of the states in the U.S. implement “At Will Employment” policy. This means that an employee is given a free will to vacate his job anytime, for any cause. Yet, the employers may also terminate him for no reason at all.

Furthermore, any worker who has been employed in a company not over than five years and who has not yet signed a contract can be categorized under the said policy as the California Laws provide.

Any wrongfully treated employee is entitled by the law to file a lawsuit and demand suitable damages. Even though it is the privilege of an employer to fire his workers without cause in an “at will employment” policy, the employees also have their rights to demand remedies if their employers abused this privilege in any way. Absolute freedom is forbidden under this employment principle.

A wrongfully terminated employee may acquire these remedies and reimbursements if ever he would win his case with the help of his credible legal advocate:

  • Lost wages
  • Unclaimed benefits
  • Payment for emotional distress
  • Punitive damages
  • Job reinstatement
  • Promotion
  • Attorney’s fees

Wrongful termination statutes, therefore, have so many intricate provisions that necessitate an unfairly terminated worker to seek the aid of a professional legal defender. It will definitely helpful for him to be guided accordingly by a competent wrongful termination claim lawyer so that he may have a stronger case against his unruly employer.

An experienced wrongful termination claim lawyer with a notable background in handling employees’ cases can definitely bring a legal hurdle into a justified solution. Whether bringing a lawsuit directly to the court or engage into an out of court settlement, a qualified labor lawyer can lead an employee’s wrongful termination claim to a success.

Rainier used to work in a publishing company as a writer and eventually became an associate editor. He dealt in writing instructional materials for secondary and tertiary students. His passion in writing inspired him to read a lot and subsequently enabled him to gain more knowledge and skills.

Wisconsin Contract Law

As a business owner, you probably enter into contractual relationships every day. Many of you deal with written contracts on a fairly regular basis. However, do you understand the basic concepts of contract law and what makes a legally binding contract? Do you know what to look for when reviewing contracts prepared by the other party, or your own attorney that make it a legally binding contract?

Under Wisconsin contract law, legally binding contracts, whether oral or written, require three basic components: offer, acceptance, and consideration. An “offer” requires that one party offers to provide something of value to another party, which is then “accepted” by that other party. “Consideration” is what the two parties are obligated to exchange with each other as part of the contract. Consideration must be something of value, and the consideration must be mutual, i.e. both sides must provide something of value under the contract. For example, an agreement whereby a party agrees to pay you $1,000.00, without receiving anything in exchange, is by definition not a contract.

Typically, consideration takes the form of money paid in exchange for the provision of goods or services. This holds true for multi-million dollar transactions between international conglomerates, and when you take your car in for repairs by a mechanic. One corporation agrees to pay millions of dollars for another corporation to develop specific software or some other product, and you pay your mechanic to replace your spark plugs. In either case, there is an offer, acceptance, and consideration, and therefore an enforceable and legally binding contract. Keep in mind, however, that legally binding contracts may require consideration other than money, for example when two parties agree to exchange parcels of real estate.

Under Wisconsin contract law, all contracts also come with an implied duty of “good faith and fair dealing” on the part of both parties to the contract. While this is admittedly a rather broad phrase, in essence it means that, once an agreement has been reached, both parties have an obligation to make reasonable efforts to fulfill their respective obligations, and to avoid taking actions that would hinder the performance of the contract.

Parties to contracts have the right to enforce them in courts of law. Generally, the remedies for breach of contract take one of two forms, either specific performance or monetary damages. Specific performance is an equitable remedy most often awarded in cases involving real estate transactions, and consists of the Court ordering the breaching party to fulfill its obligations, i.e. “specifically perform” the contract.

In most cases, the remedy for breach of contract is money damages, usually in the form of “consequential” damages. Consequential damages are those damages that flow naturally from one party’s breach of a contract, and can include the cost to replace a product that was never delivered, the cost to repair a defective product, and any resulting lost profits. However, consequential damages must be “reasonably foreseeable” at the time the contract was created in order to be recoverable.

With certain exceptions, oral contracts may be just as valid and legally binding as a written contract. As an attorney, I recommend that whenever possible, contractual obligations be set forth in a written document signed by both parties. As a general rule, courts are required to look only at the written contract itself to interpret the parties’ obligations, unless there is some ambiguity in the contract. In the absence of a written agreement, or when an ambiguity exists in a written contract, the court may look to extrinsic evidence, including the testimony of the parties, to determine their intent. In other words, the judge or the jury will be determining the fate of the parties, as opposed to the parties themselves. Therefore, written contracts that clearly define the obligations of the parties are almost always preferable to oral contracts.

I will close with a suggestion. Never ignore the “boilerplate” language that you often find at the end of contracts. While these provisions may seem like an afterthought added by the attorneys to make the contract longer, they are often of vital importance, specifying among other things where written notices (for example, terminating the contract) must be sent under the contract, to where a lawsuit must be filed and what jurisdiction’s laws will govern the contract. While it is important to review the detailed provisions of the contract, it can be just as important to understand the “standard” provisions at the end of the contract.

Online Law Firm Marketing

Law is a profession ripe with tradition. This profession is one of the few self-regulating professions and is governed by a myriad of professional rules, ethical opinions, and applicable common law. It is well-known that, historically, the law itself has slothfully adjusted to incorporate technological advances within its parameters. This is true regarding the ethical rules of professional conduct. Yet, as more and more legal professionals are now turning to the internet to market their practice through legal websites, blogs, and other social media outlets, there will become an increased need for further regulation regarding ethical advertising on the internet.

The American Bar Association (“ABA”) has draft model ethical rules for states to adopt and lawyers to follow. Today, these rules are called the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (the “Rules”) and were adopted by the ABA’s House of Delegates in 1983. These Rules were modified from the Model Code of Professional Responsibility. Additionally, the precursor to both was actually the 1908 Canons or Professional Ethics.

As noted, the Rules are not actually binding on an attorney until their state has either adopted them or some other related professional rules. Presently, all states except for California have adopted the ABA’s Rules at least in part. Most of the states have adopted the ABA’s Rules in full with slight modifications or additions to them. Other states, like New York, have adopted the ABA’s Rules but included somewhat substantial modifications.

The Rules and each state’s compilations do include provisions related to advertising and solicitation. Depending on the state, the distinction between each of these terms could be minimal or significant. Generally, “advertising” refers to any public or private communication made by or on behalf of a lawyer or law firm about the services available for the primary purpose of which is for retention of the lawyer or law firm’s services. In contrast, “solicitation” is a form of advertising, but more specifically is initiated by or for the lawyer or law firm and is directed to or targeted at a specific group of persons, family or friends, or legal representatives for the primary purpose of which is also for retention of the lawyer or law firm’s services.

Even though the Rules do address advertising and solicitation to the internet, they are unsurprisingly lacking. These gaps are somewhat filled by ethical opinions or case law. But this generally means that an attorney has already gone through the litigation process and, unfortunately, likely been subjected to discipline.

However, the Rules do provide a fairly strong foundation for an attorney or law firm read over. Even if your state’s professional rules do not adequately present internet marketing provisions, you may still consult the ABA’s Rules for guidance.

Within the Rules, the primary place to look is Rule 7. This rule pertains to “Information About Legal Services” and houses the majority of the applicable rules to internet marketing for attorneys. Duly note, that there still will be other provisions scattered throughout the Rules which apply to marketing. This is just the most applicable concentration of provisions an attorney should consult first before looking for those ancillary sections elsewhere.

Rule 7.1 is the first and more overarching provision an attorney should be concerned with. This section is entitled “Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services” and prohibits a lawyer from making “false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A “false or misleading” communication is further defined in the rule and Comments as one that “contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.” Most pertinently, Comment 1 expressly states that Rule 7.1 does apply to a lawyer or law firm’s website, blog, or other advertising because it states that this provision “governs all communications about a lawyer’s services, including advertising permitted by Rule 7.2.”

Under Rule 7.2, which is entitled broadly as “Advertising,” allows attorneys to advertise “through written, recorded, or electronic communication.” Comment 3 confirms that “electronic media, such as the Internet, can be an important source of information about legal services.” Thus, this only solidifies the fact that 7.2 and, therefore 7.1, apply to internet legal marketing.

In addition, Comment 2 for Rule 7.2 provides further information regarding what can actually be included in these advertisements; for our purposes, websites and blogs. It permits the following: Information concerning a lawyer’s name or law firm, address, and telephone number; the kinds of services the lawyer will undertake; the basis on which the lawyer’s fees are determined, including pricing for specific services and payment or credit arrangements; a lawyer’s foreign language ability; name of references; and a catch-all for all other information that might invite the attention of those seeking legal assistance.

However, there is a caveat! First, your state may actually have additional requirements. For instance, New York only permits foreign language ability if “fluent” and not just as for a general ability. Therefore, you might be complying with the persuasive ABA Rule, but in violation with the mandatory state rule (in this case, New York). Second, this Comment is also misleading. Sub(c) under Rule 7.2 actually requires that a communication–such as an advertisement which we now know includes an attorney or law firm’s website–to contain the name and office address of at least one lawyer of the firm or the actual firm itself.

Rule 7.3 is entitled “Direct Contact with Prospective Clients” and deals more so with solicitation–as opposed to advertising–to prospective clients. But, if the attorney or law firm has a mailing list or sends out a newsletter via e-mail, this rule can also be applicable to past clients are well! The rule prohibits in-person and live telephone calls to prospective clients, which includes “real-time electronic contact[s],” that involving advertising an attorney’s services in hopes or retention. Further, this rule requires that every e-mail sent must include “Advertising Material” at the beginning and end of the transmission. Moreover, this rule provides an exception for family, close friends, or past clients,

That is, unless another exception applies. Rule 7.3 still prohibits a lawyer from sending, for example an e-mail newsletter, to another person if that person has either 1) “made it known” they do not want to be solicited or if the communication 2) contains “coercion, duress or harassment.” Meaning, if a past client tells you they want to be unsubscribed from an e-mail mailing list, and you fail to do so, you will be in violation of this rule just as much as if you directly communicated with a prospective client!

Additionally, you may be able to extrapolate this rule to other aspects of social media. There is a seasonable argument that an attorney who directly sends a Facebook Friend message or “Friend Request” to the prospective client hoping for them to “Like” the attorney’s professional page might constitute a violation of this rule. Even if it does not generally violate this rule, if the prospective client rejects the first request and the attorney sends a second “Friend Request,” is the attorney now in violation of this rule? Arguably it would appear so!

Finally, the last rule that really applies directly to internet marketing such as attorney websites and blogs is Rule 7.5; “Firm Names and Letterheads.” Even though it does not appear that this rule applies, looking at the Comments clearly shows that it does. Specifically, Comment 1 directly remarks that firm names include website addresses. Further, it refers back to Rule 7.1 and reminds us that website addresses cannot be false or misleading. In effect, this means that an attorney or law firm cannot make their domain name “http://www.WinEveryTime.com” or something of that effect.

Yet, the Comments do permit trade names in a website address such as the example “Springfield Legal Clinic.” But duly note, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that state legislation may prohibit the use of trade names in professional practices if they deem fit. So this is another state-specific area for the attorney or law firm to review.

In conclusion, even though law has typically lagged behind in adopting such advancements like technology, there are still ample provisions in the ABA Rules to guide an attorney or law firm to comply with internet marketing. More and more legal professions will branch out on the internet, which will create a greater need for more ethical regulation. Yet for now, with the ABA Rules as a guidepost, a profession should understand their obligations in creating, managing, and promotion their legal practice on the internet through websites and blogs.

Interested in marketing your law practice on the internet? One of the best ways to do this is by using a legal blog to expand your net presence to attract new clients. However, practicing law is demanding and the time required to thoroughly and constantly update your blog is not enough.