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December 2012 Archives

Speed Is Important If You're Sick, Have Assets and are Divorcing

Up until the time your divorce decree is finalized, your spouse can legally inherit a martial share of your estate if you die. For those who are older or ill, this can pose a problem for heirs. When an individual is in the process of divorce and dies before it's complete, the spouse inherits the marital share, even if a Will specifies it should go to others. A crafty husband or wife who knows that a spouse is very ill and may pass away before a divorce is consummated might attempt to delay the decree, in hopes of gaining estate assets. This is just one of the reasons why when you decide to divorce, it's generally advantageous to complete the process as expeditiously as possible. Needless to say, being acrimonious and getting involved in bitter litigation do not speed things along. If you want to divorce but are not well, and have something to leave to your kids or others, consult your lawyer about a strategy to get the process done and over with. 

When to Forward Mail to Your Attorney

One ploy unscrupulous landlords have used is suing for rent after the tenant moved out, claiming the apartment was never surrendered. Your first defense to this is carefully documenting the end of your tenancy and return of the premises to the landlord. If you suspect the landlord may attempt something like this, you can also have your lawyer follow up with additional correspondence to confirm your departure and surrender of the unit. This shows your landlord you are represented and can defend your rights, so he or she should think twice before starting a fight. The landlord shouldn't get away with collecting double rent if the unit has been leased to someone else. For this reason it's also a good idea to stay in touch with neighbors to learn if and when the apartment is re-rented.

Landlord Tricks With Walls

"First rent" is a principle of law that applies to certain legal rents and registrations after construction work qualifies renovated apartments as new units. For example, if the landlord changes walls in an apartment with the effect of increasing or decreasing it's overall size, the "first rent" provision may come into play.

Start a 7A Proceeding

If the conditions in your building are horrendous and the landlord has been egregiously negligent in addressing them, you may want to consider initiating a 7A proceeding. This is an action in which you ask the Court to remove control of the building from the landlord. A Court-appointed administrator is then assigned to make the necessary repairs and manage the property. You'll need to have at least one-third of the building's tenants participate in making the request. In this instance, it pays to organize a Tenants' Association, since if the conditions are extremely bad, you probably will be considering a rent strike as part of your legal strategy to enforce your rights. However, once a 7A administrator is appointed, tenants have to pay full rent - there aren't any rent reductions for bad conditions because all funds collected will be used for repairs. From a practical perspective, each building's situation needs to be individually evaluated to see whether it's best to pursue rent reductions and a court order forcing necessary repairs, or getting a 7A administrator involved. 

Protect Your Privacy

At times, landlords will send out forms to tenants asking for personal information. Unfortunately, sometimes supplying what appears to be harmless data that's being reasonably collected can be dangerous. Income, occupancy, and other data may be used against you. So be wary of revealing anything you aren't legally obliged to. If the landlord sends you questions, check with a Tenants' lawyer to be sure of your rights before you fill out and send in anything. While you are legally obligated to report certain information, there generally is no advantage in saying more than you absolutely have to.

Don't Admit to Back Rent Due Without Taking to a Lawyer First

What you say can and will be used against you. That's the rule to keep in mind whenever you're in court. In a landlord-tenant dispute, the most common bone of contention is back rent. Tenants often think they owe the full past due rent, when in reality there may be many factors and applicable defenses to paying the full amount, or even part of it. At the very least, negotiation might reduce what you owe, or give you extra time to pay. Negotiating for yourself successfully can be hard. Hiring a Tenants' lawyer to handle it for you may save money that you would otherwise have paid. Depending on the facts of your case, that can more than make up for the cost of representation.

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