(844) 815-9632

contracts

Buying a Home: Get to Know the Rent-to-Own Process

You share the American Dream and want to own a home but your savings are minimal and your credit is ailing after years of economic insecurity. There is a dream deferred option -- it's called rent-to-own and it allows people to work towards home ownership gradually. Renting to own is a little like moving in together or having a long engagement before marriage. It's a commitment but gradual. While state laws vary and individual contracts will have their own conditions, let's look at how rent-to-own agreements generally work. Renting To Own According to Investopedia, an advantage of rent-to-own contracts is that they allow a prospective home owner to move into the place they plan to purchase with an option to buy down the line, usually one to three years later. That means the prospective purchaser has time to save money for a substantial down payment or to repair an ailing credit score. But rent-to-own contracts involve more than just moving in, paying rent, and eventually deciding to purchase. The contract will lay out conditions for purchase and if these are not all met, the renter may never become an owner and can lose a lot of money. Option Payments Rent-to-own contracts usually involve an "option" payment, meaning the tenant is paying for the possibility of purchase, sometimes an obligation, sometimes a right to buy, depending on the deal terms. It's like a deposit on the purchase option, which may be forfeited if the proper conditions aren't met. Tenants also pay rent, a percentage of which can be credited toward the purchase of the home, depending on the deal terms. That may mean paying more for a place than the normal "going rate." If for whatever reason you do not exercise the option to buy, or the owner successfully denies the option, you risk losing money, and that can add up to a lot if you have been paying higher-than-average rent for a few years. Purchase Price In rent-to-own contracts a purchase price can be agreed upon at the time of signing or one term of the deal may be to designate a price when purchase occurs. Real estate market conditions fluctuate so it's hard to predict which would be a wiser choice and may depend on the location of the property. In some major cities, property is almost always hot. In many remote locations, it is usually not. There are lots of little wrinkles to consider when purchasing a home, particularly in this protracted way. Do not go it alone. Talk to a lawyer. Talk to a Lawyer If you're considering buying a home, whether rent-to-own or a straight property purchase, it is critical that you review contracts very carefully and understand all the conditions to which you are agreeing, so that you don't risk losing money you've invested. Get help. This is an important purchase. Related Resources: Find Real Estate Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Beginning a Home Search (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Checklist: Are You Ready to Buy a Home? (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Contingencies to Consider Before You Buy (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Why You Need a Lawyer When You Buy or Sell a House (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
continue reading

Who Pays for Stolen Packages?

A stolen package at Christmas time is a terrible thing. Whether it was a gift for your child, or something valuable sent from someone you care about -- you are going to be mad. And you are going to want some compensation. Can you look to the delivery company for a little payback?Whether a delivery company will reimburse you for a stolen or lost package depends on a number of different factors, most importantly your contract. Yes, when you send a package you enter into a contract. The terms of that deal govern the extent to which you can seek reimbursement for a delivery that never arrives. Factors That Matter Factors that will impact your ability to seek reimbursement include what delivery service you use, whether and how much the package was insured, and where it was stolen, among others. Packages stolen off a front porch are less likely to be reimbursed than those taken from a delivery truck. Terms of receipt are also very important, perhaps the most important contract term in this context. So let's take a look at what you can do to ensure that presents don't all get swiped from your doorstep. Require a Signature To ensure that you receive what you ordered and that your gifts reach the intended recipients, require a signature when packages are delivered. Requiring a signature makes proof of delivery to an appropriate party an element of your deal, or contract. When you do not require a signature, you are agreeing that the extent of your deal with the delivery company is that they get the package to a particular address. In other words, you are not requiring that the package reach a specified individual, or even that just any person at the address may accept the package. You are asking only that the package reach its destination and certifying that the company's responsibility ends with dropping the package at the door. If you require no signature, then it is also much easier for a package that actually disappeared en route to be classified as a package stolen later. So although it can be very convenient to order goods online and find them waiting in a pile on your porch, it's probably worth the effort to ensure that deliveries only occur when you are available to receive them. Related Resources: Criminal Consequences of Stealing Packages (FindLaw Blotter) US Code Section 1708: Theft or Receipt of Stolen Mail Generally (FindLaw) Shoppers, Beware Christmas Counterfeits (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

Iris Bennett obtained an NPA for Florida Defense Company

IAP Worldwide Services Inc, a Florida defense and government contractor was represented by Iris Bennett of Smith Pachter with her partner Joseph Covington relating to a criminal investigation surrounding the company’s involvement in a conspiracy to pay bribes to officials in Kuwait to secure a government contracts in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Bennett and her partner successfully negotiated a non-prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice for IAP this last June to resolve criminal charges against IAP.  Iris Bennett focuses her practice on investigations and white collar criminal matters. Before private practice she clerked for two federal judges and served as a federal public defender in the District of Columbia. The company agreed to pay a $7.1 million dollar penalty.  The agreement also called for continued cooperation by IAP and mandates that the company adopt a strict anti-corruption stance and create appropriate structures, systems and procedures to prevent corruption. The company will also regularly need to report to the Criminal Division regarding compliance. An ex-VP for the company, James Rama, was the only individual charged and he pled guilty to one charge of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). No other high level executives were individually charged which was a strong focus in the defense argument at sentencing that took place this last October when Rama was ultimately sentenced to a significant jail term.  Read about the sentencing here.  One has to wonder what the outcome would have been to this company and its more high level executives post Yates memo if they hadn’t resolved this case in June? The drama all began in 2004, when the Kuwaiti government rolled out a plan called the Kuwait Security Program (KSP), which was designed to help national agencies surveil using closed-circuit TV. The project would involve a two-phase roll out. First would come a feasibility test, then an installation period. The Kuwaiti Ministry of the Interior helped choose contractors and planned to collect substantially more revenue in the installation phase (Phase II) than in the feasibility test phase (Phase I).   However, Rama and IAP (who later admitted to these facts in the non-prosecution agreement) made a play to work on the first phase so they could secretly tweak the requirements for the second phase to favor IAP and thus give the company a competitive advantage when it came to bidding. They created a fake company (“Ramaco”) to try to win the Phase I business without disclosing conflict of interest and won that bid, which was worth $4 million. Rama and IAP then diverted approximately $1,783,688 of that money to a consultant to bribe Kuwaiti officials and then funneled money to IAP from Ramaco through different accounts and contacts. The resolution is certainly a job well done by Iris Bennett and her partner. Congrats! The post Iris Bennett obtained an NPA for Florida Defense Company appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
continue reading

Mary Chartier is Successfully Defending Clients in Lansing, Michigan

We are always looking for cases involving women defenders in the news. This week I was struck by the fact that Mary Chartier, a criminal defense attorney from Lansing, Michigan, had two stories featured this year – both recognized her for successfully defending clients. First, in early 2015 she represented a client at trial and obtained a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict for an attempted murder charge. The case involved a father accused of shooting the mother of his 2-year-old child during a child custody dispute. Chartier successfully convinced the jury that her client was acting in self-defense after that the mother had stabbed him with a knife. The client was acquitted of all counts. Later in 2015 Chartier won a reversal of a denial of a hearing on a motion for new trial for a funeral home director who had been convicted by a jury of embezzlement and RICO.  Before this issue, she successfully convinced the judge to throw out a number of counts because the wrong victim was identified in the pleadings. The case involved prepaid funeral plans, and the beneficiaries of the contracts were the victims not the funeral home owner. The case was sent back to the trial court to hold a hearing on the ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Chartier was named as one of Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s Women in the Law for 2013, and has been named as one of the top 25 women attorneys in the state. She is a founding partner of Alane Chartier, a woman-owned law firm.  It is always thrilling to see brave women hanging out their own shingle – but nothing gets me more than watching a fellow criminal lawyer who is obviously putting herself out there, and fighting with all she has for her clients. Now that’s what I call inspiring! The post Mary Chartier is Successfully Defending Clients in Lansing, Michigan appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
continue reading

Online Shopping: What’s Buried in the Fine Print?

When you're shopping online, do you actually read the fine print? If you don't, you're not alone, according to a new survey by FindLaw.com. A majority of online shoppers -- 54 percent -- say they either skim or ignore online user agreements, terms of service, or other legal fine print they encounter. On the other hand, 46 percent of shoppers say they read "most" or "every word" of such agreements. The survey results are nearly identical to a similar FindLaw survey in 2011 -- though since that time, the online shopping market has grown by 50 percent to $300 billion. This suggests many online shoppers may not really know what they're getting themselves into. What's In the Fine Print? So what's typically buried in the fine print that most online shoppers ignore? Here are a few common examples of what you might be missing: Arbitration clauses. If a dispute arises, online agreements often require users to pursue arbitration instead of a lawsuit. This may limit a consumer's ability to seek relief from the court system, as some arbitration rulings cannot be appealed. Refund and return policies. What happens if you're not satisfied with the purchase you made? The legal fine print may only offer store credit, or may impose a specific time frame for returns and refund requests. Ownership v. purchase of a license. E-book owners may be surprised to learn they're actually purchasing a license to read digital books; e-book licensees typically can't share or give away their e-books to relatives or friends. Are These Agreements Enforceable? Though many courts have upheld online agreements, regardless if the consumer has read them or not, one recent ruling suggests that not all types of online fine print will pass the test. A federal appeals court in August held that an online bookseller's customer agreement -- which was buried behind a link hidden on its website -- did not give consumers sufficient notice of the legal terms they were supposedly agreeing to. That made those terms unenforceable in the eyes of the court. To learn more about consumer rights, check out FindLaw's section on Consumer Protection. If you have questions about legal fine print, and especially if you're involved in an online shopping dispute, an experienced consumer protection lawyer can help you figure out your best course of action. Related Resources: Browse Consumer Protection Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) Rushing to Shop Online? Beware Legal Pitfalls (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Tips to Protect Yourself When Using Craigslist (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Contracts and Electronic Signatures (FindLaw)
continue reading

Ed. Dept. Wants ‘Borrower-Focused’ Student Loan Servicers

The U.S. Education Department made a student-friendly move on Friday, announcing it would renew focus in its contracts with student loan servicers on being "borrower-focused." Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell noted in an interview that the new student loan servicers would be put "on notice" that they have to be more consumer friendly, reports The Wall Street Journal. The new federal contracts even provide quarterly bonuses for servicers who have lower rates of borrower delinquency. What does this shift mean for America's student loan borrowers? Fighting Default With Better Loan Service Part of the reason for this shift in federal policy is the alarming increase in both student debt and default rates. According to New York Federal Reserve data (as reported by the WSJ), approximately one in four borrowers who have loans are "at least 90 days behind on student loan bills." Combine that with the fact that over half of Americans are still paying off their student loans, and you have a recipe for disaster. Trying to stem this tide of defaults, the Education Department has announced it has renegotiated contracts with major student loan servicers in order to incentivize working with borrowers to avoid default. According to a recent press release, these incentives include: Increasing the weight of borrower customer satisfaction in performance metrics for servicers; Payment structures which are tied to servicers' success in keeping borrowers in on-time repayment and avoiding default; and "Additional incentives" aligned with reducing payment delinquency across each servicer's portfolio. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan noted that borrowers "deserve high-quality support from their federal loan servicer[s]," and hopefully these changes will help provide better service. What Should Borrowers Do? The renegotiation of federal servicer contracts includes big names like Nelnet Servicing, LLC and Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. Even if you don't have either of these servicers, watch your inbox and check out your servicer's website to make sure you aren't missing out on an easy way to reduce your payments or avoid default. Related Resources: Feds Overhaul Servicing Contracts (Inside Higher Education) Legal How-To: Getting Student Loans Forgiven (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Strategies to Manage Your Student Loans (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Why Settling Student Loan Debt Is So Difficult (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

If You’re Injured at the Gym, Can You Sue?

Injuries at the gym are fairly common. Whether it's pulling a muscle from doing too many reps or slipping in the locker because an overflowing shower made the floor wet, you may be wondering if your gym membership allows you to recover damages. So can you sue your gym if you're injured on the premises? Here are a few factors to consider before you file a lawsuit: What Does Your Liability Waiver Say? Most gyms require members to sign some type of liability waiver before joining. It's very possible that heavy lifting or exercise will lead to injuries, so gym owners are rightfully protecting themselves from lawsuits by enforcing liability waivers. However, depending on the type of liability waiver found in your contract, you may still be able to sue if you're injured at the gym. Some common liability waivers found in gym contracts include: A total waiver of liability. This means that the gym is free of all liability for any injury that occurs there. However, these types of agreements can be held unenforceable in court if they're overly broad. A waiver for negligence. This prevents gym members from suing for injuries caused by the gym or its employees' own negligence (i.e., accidents). These waivers are usually enforceable in court. A waiver of liability for intentional acts. In general, it's unconscionable or against public policy for courts to enforce waivers for intentional or reckless conduct that injures someone. So depending on the type of liability waiver that's found in your gym contract, you may be able to sue if you get injured at the gym. For example, if a gym owner knew that a weight machine was broken and could collapse if someone uses it, but doesn't warn members or fix it, then it could be considered reckless behavior that warrants a lawsuit. Potential Premises Liability Claims Like all other businesses, gym owners have a duty to ensure that the facility is reasonably safe for members and anyone conducting business there. Under premises liability laws, gym owners are responsible for inspecting the facility for defects and potential dangers. Even the gym employees or owner didn't know about a dangerous condition, they may be liable if a proper inspection would've revealed it. So if you're injured at the gym, check your membership contract and consult a personal injury attorney in your area about your potential legal claims. Related Resources: Does Your Gym's Liability Waiver Mean Squat? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can I Sue to Cancel My Gym Membership? (FindLaw's Injured) Top 3 Secrets of Gym Membership Contracts (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Is Tough Mudder's Death Waiver Legal? (FindLaw's Injured)
continue reading

Is It Legal to Sign a Contract With a Minor?

Adults who enter into contracts with minors may be wondering if it's legal to do so. In general, minors don't have the legal capacity to enter into a contract unless a court approves the contract or a state's statute allows it. So when are contracts between minors and adults enforceable in court? Voidable Contracts To have a valid contract, all parties signing the contract must have the legal capacity to do so. This means that the person signing must have sufficient understanding that he's entering into a contract and the terms he's agreeing to. For most contracts, the general rule is that while it's not illegal to enter into a contract with a minor, the contract is voidable at the discretion of the minor. Voidable contracts are usually valid contracts and are binding unless the child cancels it. On the other hand, if the minor turns 18 and doesn't cancel the contract within a reasonable period of time, the contract could become binding and enforceable. Enforceable Contracts With Minors While most contracts with a minor are voidable, several states have statues that allow minors to sign and be bound by a contract with an adult. These contracts usually involve insurance policies or employment agreements. For example: In Texas, a minor who is over the age of 14 and who doesn't have a guardian for her estate can contract and acquire a life insurance policy that'll be legally binding. In New York, minors can lawfully sign a contract to perform services as an actor, dancer, musician or vocalist, which can then be approved by a court. If such approval is granted, then the minor can't later get out of contract by arguing that it was signed when she was underage. Similarly, California law enforces employment contracts signed by a minor if the child is providing artistic or creative services. Like New York, the contract must be approved by a court in order to be binding on the child. However, California requires that the employer agree to set aside 15 percent of the minor's gross earnings in a trust before the court will approve the contract. So while it may not be illegal to enter into a contract with a minor, it may not be wise to unless it's authorized by law. For more guidance on this issue, consult an experienced contracts lawyer near you. Related Resources: Contracts of Minors (National Paralegal College) Does Fracking Settlement's Gag Order Apply to Kids? (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Unenforceable Contract? 5 Common Errors (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Need Help Getting a Contract Reviewed? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading