All too often new ideas get ahead of the law. Airbnb and VRBO are examples of just such a situation. Real estate lawyers are being inundated with calls from landlords who are receiving citations from their cities, fines from their homeowners’ association, and/or are receiving complaints from neighbors because their tenants have jumped on the Airbnb bandwagon to make some extra money. While municipal laws such as those enacted in San Francisco are emerging regarding short term rentals, the courts are starting to make rulings strictly prohibiting a tenant from making their apartment available as a short term rental.  Many of you may be reading this blog because you are wondering; “Is it legal for me to list my place on Airbnb?”For Rent Showing Layout Apartment And Plans

In Chen v. Kraft, a California appellate court found that using an apartment as a bed and breakfast or as a transient occupancy residential structure was a violation of zoning laws. Courts and cities throughout California have addressed this issue differently.  New laws are being enacted each month in different cities and counties throughout California.  With all of this confusion, you should consult a real estate attorney who specializes in landlord tenant issues to find out what you can and cannot do with respect to short-term rentals.

Problems Caused By Short Stay Rentals

While it may seem like a fine idea to rent a room or your entire home out for some extra cash, problems abound when people try to circumvent many of the regulations that hotels and inns must follow.  Companies such as VRBO and Airbnb do not provide legal support and often short term rentals violate local ordinances.  When people list their apartments or homes, they do not pay the tourism taxes that hotels do. Most landlords do not appreciate having their residential units turned into hotels yet they have been able to use the short-term rental concept as a means of circumventing local rent control laws by taking their unit off the market for long-term housing and then offering it to visitors and tourists. Continue reading

No matter where in Southern California you live, and no matter how long ago your home was built, remodeling and making improvements to your home is a generally a good idea. Whether you are knocking out a non-structural wall to create more space, or creating a backyard that is the envy of your neighbors, improving your home can be both exciting and stressful. The last thing that may cross your mind when you decide to improve your property is a mechanics’ lien or lawsuit, but the first call you make before you sign a home improvement contract should be to your real estate attorney who can help you determine whether the contract you are about to sign is legal and gives you the rights you need to protect yourself.Renovation

California regulates the construction industry through the Contractors State License Board which issues licenses to and disciplines contractors. In an effort to protect Californians, the law requires that a contract for home improvement must properly advise consumers of their rights under California law.

If your contractor does not have a valid license for the type of work being performed or does not have a written contract for you to sign, that is a red flag that indicates that you should not be doing business with that person or company. Your choice of contractor affects every other decision down the line, and a wrong decision to hire an unqualified or unlicensed contractor can prove very costly in the long run. Continue reading

I often get calls from clients who are looking for a real estate lawyer to put a lis pendens on someone’s real property. I then explain to them that they must file a lawsuit to do this and they are surprised. A lis pendens literally means a “Notice of Pending Action.” In other words, it is a notice to the world that there is a lawsuit regarding title to that real estate. A lis pendens is not a lien and it cannot stop someone from selling or getting a loan secured by real property, however, it usually does effectively deter others from buying, selling or borrowing money because it means the ownership rights to that property are in question.

637728_house_1.jpgA lis pendens is permitted in some types of lawsuits and actually required in other types of actions. It is required in lawsuits for Partition, Eminent Domain, Quiet Title, Claims to Escheted Property, Forefeiture Proceedings, and Actions to Declare a Building Uninhabitable. It is permitted in other types of cases where someone has a real property claim such as mechanic’s lien foreclosure lawsuits, divorces, suits to enforce easement rights, and suits to specifically enforce a real estate contract. It is critical, however, to consult a real estate litigation lawyer who is familiar with these laws because you may subject yourself to liability later for improperly filing a lis pendens.
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If you are served with legal papers it is important to determine what type of papers you received. Are you being sued or are you being called to court or a deposition as a witness. It is worth a call to a litigation attorney to help you determine what steps to take so that you do not find yourself embroiled in someone else’s lawsuit.

What Is a Subpoena?

Thumbnail image for dreamstimeextrasmall_26645051.jpgFirst you must determine if you have been served with a summons or a subpoena. If you have been served with a summons it means you are being sued. Click on this link to see an example of a summons. A subpoena is a document that requires the attendance of a witness or the production of documents at a deposition, trial or hearing. Subpoenas can be served on parties and non-parties to a lawsuit or criminal case. An example of a subpoena can be seen by clicking on this link.

Types of Subpoenas

There are two main categories of subpoenas: deposition subpoenas and trial subpoenas. A deposition subpoena requires attendance and/or the production of documents or other things at a deposition. A deposition subpoena is necessary to compel a non-party witness to appear and give testimony or produce documents at a deposition. Subpoenas are not required to compel someone who is a party to an action to appear.
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The time to prepare for a business lawsuit is before you have been sued or need to sue someone. Keep in mind that most business litigators charge by the hour so to the extent you can present your documents to your lawyer in a thorough organized manner, the more cost effectively your business attorney can represent you. Careful record keeping and document organization are the best ways to help your business litigation attorney. Here are some tips on how you can do this:

Chron.JPG Keep a Detailed Calendar. People do not realize how important it is to keep an accurate calendar of what they do and where they have been until they are embroiled in a lawsuit. A good calendar can prove where you have been and where you have not been. For example, in construction or breach of contract cases, it may be critical to prove how much work was performed and when it was performed. A good calendar entry which documents who you were with, what you did, when you did it, and where you were is invaluable to prove details you may not realize will be important at some time in the future. Similarly, in fraud actions a critical issue is sometimes what the plaintiff knew and when they discovered it. Cases will often turn on when certain information is conveyed by one party to another. A thorough record of meetings can also prove you were not around when information was provided because you can show you were somewhere else at the time. A good calendar can be in written form or on your computer; just make sure it is in a form that will not be lost or destroyed if it is needed. For purposes of determining statutes of limitations it is also critical to have a detailed and accurate calendaring system.
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Anyone who wants to buy a business needs to be cautious before signing an offer. It is critical to consult with a lawyer who is experienced in California business sales to guide you through the process. Very often the business purchase agreements presented by brokers to potential buyers are designed to protect the broker and not the parties to the agreement. By contrast, the California Association of Business Brokers has an excellent standard form that is a good starting point for negotiations.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for dreamstime_xs_25782843.jpgStructuring the Transaction. First you need to decide the structure of the agreement. Structuring the transaction is not an issue that should be determined by a business broker. You should consult with your tax advisor and attorney to determine how you are going to hold the company. Will you operate the business as an S-Corporation, a C-Corporation, a limited liability company or some other form? Are you buying an existing company or only the assets of the business? Each transaction is different and must be separately evaluated.
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Among the most popular questions we receive each week are those involving residential security deposits. We are often called upon by tenants and landlords to write letters clarifying their positions regarding the return or retention of a security deposit. These “lawyer letters” often help resolve the issue and, if not, are excellent exhibits our clients may use when they pursue their issue in small claims court.

House.jpgThis is the second and final installment of a two part blog dealing with security deposit laws as they relate to residential properties. This second blog deals with how disputes arise regarding security deposits at the end of a residential lease. Please keep in mind that this article only deals with residential security deposits and other laws apply to mobile homes, commercial properties, and boats.

The Inspection. Before the tenant moves out the landlord must notify the tenant in writing that the tenant has the option to request an initial inspection of the property and that the tenant may be present during the inspection. (Civil Code section 1950.5(f).) If requested, the landlord must inspect the property within a reasonable time, but no earlier than two weeks before the lease ends. The landlord must give at least 48 hour prior written notice of the date and time of the inspection. This inspection must be done before the tenant moves out and before the landlord’s final inspection. The purpose of the initial inspection is to allow the tenant to remedy any deficiencies so the tenant may avoid deductions from the security deposit. The tenant must be given the opportunity from the time of the inspection to the time the lease ends, to remedy any and all deficiencies. If, after notice to the tenant, the initial inspection is not requested, the landlord has no obligation to conduct one. It is a good idea for both the landlord and the tenant to write down the results of this inspection and to take plenty of photographs and video to back up their position.
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Each week we receive calls from landlords and tenants who need a real estate attorney to advise them regarding residential security deposits. Nearly every residential landlord requires that a tenant pay a security deposit before moving into a residential property. Even though security deposits are common place, it is surprising how many misconceptions both landlords and tenants have regarding California security deposit law. It is also important to understand that different laws apply regarding mobile homes, commercial properties, and boats. This is the first installment of a two part blog dealing only with laws that relate to residential properties. This part will deal with security deposit issues that arise at the beginning of a lease.

Thumbnail image for Money in Hand.jpgWhat Is Security? California Civil Code section 1950.5 defines “security” as any fee, payment, charge or deposit that is required by a landlord at the start of a tenancy for costs associated with the tenant that can be used to reimburse the landlord for any purpose (except for the application of a screening fee and consumer credit report prior to the time the lease is made.) No lease or agreement may ever categorize a “security” as nonrefundable.

How Much Can Be Charged For A Security Deposits? When a landlord requires a tenant to pay a security deposit, the amount of the security deposit cannot exceed the costs of two month’s rent if the residential property is unfurnished and three month’s rent if the residential property is furnished. There are some exceptions to this rule but they deal primarily with advance payments of rent when a lease is for more than six months. (Civil Code section 1950.5(c).) Just because a security deposit is given a different name such as “pet deposit” or “last month’s rent” does not change the fact that it is a security deposit and must comply with the limits provided by law.
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What is the standard of care for a veterinary pre-purchase examination? This question was asked recently in the March 2013 California case, Quigley v. McClellan. In Quigley the buyers hired the veterinarian who had been treating the horse for the past two years to conduct a pre-purchase examination. The buyer sued the veterinarian and his medical group for veterinary malpractice alleging that the veterinarian failed to disclose that he himself had treated the horse for lameness and had personal knowledge that the horse had been laid up for a six month period. The surprising outcome of this case hinged not on what the witnesses said but on the questions not asked by the Buyer’s attorney during the course of the trial. Thus, the question remains, Although this case does not discuss what the standard of care for the veterinarian should be, it does demonstrate why it is important to hire an experienced litigation lawyer who is familiar with equine law issues in these types of cases.

dreamstime_xs_23124352.jpgThe buyer’s expert testified at trial that, “the three critical parts of the prepurchase to me are identifying the problems . . . documenting them, and then explaining the relevance . . . to the potential buyer.” The expert then went on to testify as to how the horse’s problems were not, in his opinion, documented properly.
The jury found in favor of the buyer and returned a verdict of negligence against the veterinarian. The veterinarian appealed the verdict and the appellate court reversed it because the expert testified only as to his own opinion and did not establish for the jury the applicable “standard of care” in the community. While this case underscores the importance of hiring an experienced litigation attorney who knows how to ask the correct questions, it does not answer the question of what should go into a proper pre-purchase examination.
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Civil mediation in California (as opposed to mediation in family law or other cases) is a type of alternative dispute resolution that helps parties try to resolve their cases without having to face the time and expense of trial. Although many people have heard the term “mediation” they often do not know what to expect. There are a number of rules and procedures regarding mediation and understanding these procedures may help ease anxiety before mediation occurs.

13310195_s.jpgInitiating Mediation. Mediation may be initiated at any time. Sometimes the parties may agree to mediation prior to a lawsuit and other times mediation is scheduled after a complaint is filed. Mediation can be initiated by the court or the parties. The court may order mediation if it determines that the case is suitable and may be resolved before trial. The parties can initiate mediation by agreement, for example through a mandatory contract clause, or by a signed stipulation. If the parties agree to mediation by stipulation, the stipulation must be filed not later than 90 days before trial, unless the court permits otherwise.
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