AN ALARMING EVENT

24 Oct

MetroBoston Publication Date October 24, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

I received an email from a reader of this column that stunned me.

Her house, like many others that have a radon remediation system, uses a fan to draw and vent radon that enters the house back to the outside.  What happens if the fan stops working? In the reader’s case, the fan was in the attic and was plugged into an ordinary outlet.

When her fan stopped working radon levels in the house went from below the federal 4.0 safety standard to above 20.0 for several years. The 4.0 federal safety level, as readers of this column now know, isn’t all that safe (please see www.GeorgeintheMetro.com).

At a 20.0 level, the government predicts that 35 nonsmokers and 180 smokers out of a thousand will get lung cancer from radon. If you are genetically susceptible, or haven’t always lived in the best environment, you may be as vulnerable as smokers to radon.

The reader developed Stage IV lung cancer. Can it be attributed solely to radon? Perhaps not; but the radon certainly didn’t help and may have accelerated the problem.

She asked me to pass this along: get your vent fan hard-wired into the electrical system. Don’t just plug it into an outlet where a malfunction might not be noticed. © 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

 

Minimizing Stress in Buying a New Home

18 Oct

MetroBoston Publication Date October 17, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

The real estate market has heated up. While prices are not what they once were, prices are moving upwards with many properties selling over the asking price.

With pent up buyer demand comes stress, especially if you are selling your home and buying a new one.

Avoid the two most common mistakes that buyers make.

First, if you are selling and buying a new home don’t try to do both on the same day. Sell on one day and buy the next. There is too much that can go wrong to risk it all on the same day.

Second, don’t choose the busiest day of the week to close on your purchase.


What would happen if the deed doesn’t get recorded that day? You might not be able to move into your new home for several days. If the sellers were counting on the money to buy a new place to live on the same day, what will they do?


All this can be avoided: never choose a Friday, the last day of any month or the day before a holiday for your closing. These are the busiest real estate days. Why take a chance?


Everything happens very quickly in real estate. Take your time – and a deep breath. © 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

 

How to Get Your Security Deposit Back

9 Oct

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: October 09, 2012
Expanded content

By Attorney George Warshaw

Has it been more than 30 days since your tenancy ended?

If, like the vast majority of rentals, your tenancy ends on August 31st, then, under state law your landlord has until October 1st to return your security deposit.

While the law on security deposits is tricky, and you must consult a lawyer for your specific situation, here are some of the basics:

If a landlord, without right, fails to return a security deposit within 30 days after your tenancy ends (presuming you left on time), the landlord is typically liable for 3 times the amount that was not returned.

If a landlord attempts to deduct for damage to the apartment you must be sent a letter by October 1st (the 30 days period) listing the damage to the apartment and the repair costs together with any receipts.

The letter – and this is the key – must be signed by the landlord under the “penalties of perjury.” If the letter does not contain those magic words above the landlord’s signature, the landlord cannot deduct for damage to the apartment.

Can the landlord charge a move out fee or the cost to clean the apartment? You may be surprised by the answer.

WHAT CAN BE LEGALLY DEDUCTED?

The security deposit law, chapter 186, section 15B, is very clear. A landlord can deduct for unpaid rent, water (but only if it is separately metered and you legally agreed to pay it), increases in real estate taxes (but only if you agreed to pay any increase that occurs during your tenancy) and damage to the apartment for which you are responsible – that’s it!

Just because an apartment is damaged in the landlord’s view, it does not mean that the repair cost can be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit. The tenant has to be legally responsible for the damage.

WHAT CANNOT BE LEGALLY DEDUCTED?

The tenant is not responsible for reasonable wear and tear that occurs during the use of the apartment or conditions that existed at the initial rental of the premises.

Cleaning costs are not a repair and a landlord may not deduct the cost to clean an apartment from a security deposit.

Move-out fees cannot be deducted. Some condominium buildings charge the owner of a condo a move-in fee and a move-out fee. Landlords, quite naturally, try to pass that cost along to their tenants. Under the security deposit statute, a landlord can’t charge a move-in fee at the inception of the tenancy, and can’t deduct a move-out fee from the tenant’s security deposit.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE NOT RECEIVED YOUR DEPOSIT WITHIN 30 DAYS

It is a good idea before or shortly after moving to give your landlord a forwarding address where to return your security deposit. That will eliminate the excuse of “I didn’t know where to send it.”

If you have not received your security back within the 30-day period, you have several choices. You can certainly write to your landlord and request that it be sent immediately. That’s a nice and courteous thing to do. Courts appreciate it.

The law, however, does not require that you send your landlord a letter or wait more than 30 days from the end of your tenancy to take action.

  • You can file a small claims lawsuit and seek triple damages.
  • You can hire a lawyer to file a lawsuit on your behalf.

Many law firms, like ours, do not charge a tenant a fee for pursuing a security deposit claim. The law requires a landlord pay the tenant’s legal fees in a successful security deposit claim. A court then decides what a fair and proper fee is.

GETTING HELP OR ADVICE.

If you need answers to your security deposit questions or help in getting your security deposit back, email me at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com. We routinely represent tenants with security deposit problems and answer questions without charge. ©2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a Massachusetts attorney and the author of a legal text, Massachusetts Landlord-Tenant Law, Lexis Law Publishing, now in its second edition.

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Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship. Before making any legal decision, consult an attorney to see how the foregoing may apply to your particular circumstances.

RADON IN YOUR WATER

3 Oct

MetroBoston Publication Date October 3, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

 Last week I wrote about the dangers of radon in one’s home even at the so-called federal safety level. With 7 out of a thousand nonsmokers and 62 out of a thousand smokers predicted to get lung cancer at the federal safety level, it hardly seems like a safe level at all.

 Radon is not just limited to the air in one’s home. It’s in drinking water. While city or town water is treated and likely to disperse any radon within it, if you have well-water then you may have a serious problem.

 Radon in one’s water supply can cause stomach cancer when ingested if levels of radon are sufficiently high. Similarly, radon gas that is dispersed when one washes dishes or showers can cause lung cancer.

 Safety levels in water are measured differently than in air. That’s what confusing. Not all the states are consistent in what they view as a safe level or problem dose. Massachusetts believes that a level of 10,000 pCi/L is safe in water. New Hampshire believes that only 2,000 pCi/L is safe. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency thinks 300 pCi/L (yes, that’s right, 300) is the safe level.

 So if you have radon in your water supply, take action, and don’t necessary rely on what the government thinks is safe. © 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

DOES RADON SCARE YOU

26 Sep

MetroBoston, Publication Date September 25, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

If you own a home, or hope to in the future, you need to know about radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that emanates from rock formations below your home. It comes into the house through the foundation. It causes cancer. 21,000 people will die from it this year.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Radon can be remediated in the house by installing a relatively inexpensive fan and exhaust system, but people tend to take no action if levels meet the federal safety standard.

The federal radon standard considered “safe” is 4.0 picocuries per liter of air, expressed as 4.0 pCi/L. The federal standard, to me, is a disgrace.

According to the EPA, it is anticipated that out of 1,000 people exposed to radon, the following will likely develop lung cancer:

8.0 pCi/L…..15 nonsmokers or 120 smokers

4.0 pCi/L…….7 nonsmokers or 62 smokers

2.0 pCi/L…….4 nonsmokers or 32 smokers

1.3 pCi/L…….2 nonsmokers or 20 smokers

The risk is approximately 9x greater for smokers at the federal “safe level” of 4.0.

Some consider 7 cancer victims out of a thousand an acceptable number, I don’t; declaring 62 out of a thousand an acceptable number of cancer victims because they are smokers is unconscionable.

More on Radon next week © 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

Getting Ready for the New Economy

19 Sep

MetroBoston, Publication Date September 19, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

Anyone who reads the events of the day, follows the economic and political news and takes a moment to assess it all, may conclude that we are in the midst of a new economic model. That new economic model can be summed up in one word: Turmoil.      

Turmoil is “a state or condition of extreme confusion, agitation, or commotion.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary. That, I believe, fairly sums up our present and future economy and the state of mind of those who manage it.

The good news for real estate is that the Federal Reserve recognized the turmoil and in a desperation measure last week agreed to pour a great deal of money into the economy to bolster it. This will keep interest rates extremely low for a long period of time to come.

But as Fed Reserve Chairman Bernanke admitted, there is not much more they can do if this last round of Fed magic doesn’t work. Since Washington politicians have abandoned common sense in order to make the opposing party and themselves look bad, there are several things one should consider: carefully manage your personal finances, cut your expenses, get rid of debt, but take advantage of opportunities in real estate when you see them. There will still be many ahead.

That’s my plan.  © 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

 

Leo Julian, Marketing Maven of Newbury Street

13 Sep

MetroBoston, Publication Date September 12, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

Expanded Content

This week’s column is about a unique individual, Leo Julian.

Leo Julian is not a guy who makes a fortune every day; he’s not selling real estate and raking in big bucks. Leo manages a parking lot.

The lot is at the old Louis building on Newbury Street in Boston, corner of Berkeley. His customers look forward to seeing him every day and talking with him every day. Many, as did I, park there because of Leo.

He wears a different bowtie matching shirt combination every day. He must have hundreds. He’s fashionable and personable on a fashion street with high-end salons and big name clothes designers.

Leo connects with people and he knows how to connect with people. It comes naturally to him. He becomes part of your work-day family, part of your survival network, part of your morning coffee.

When VPNE first took over the lot about 2 years ago, I noticed this bowtie bound man out in the street every morning waiving his orange NASCAR-like flag directing traffic into the lot. While it wasn’t long before that became unnecessary as local business people got to know Leo, but he was still out on the street greeting, meeting and talking with people.

He directs customers and strangers to restaurants, bistros and anything in the area you need. He has water bowls out for the dogs – people stop and converse with him about their pets and everything else.

Leo understands that it’s a genuine personal connection that builds a business. That’s what other miss.

Many consider themselves slick marketers and sales persons. Most overrate their skills. They talk about “building relationships” but how would their customers answer this simple question:

Do you look forward to seeing or speaking with him/her every day?

We look forward to seeing Leo every day. Sadly, the lot is closing next week as the building is renovated for its new tenant. We’ll miss Leo, but never say “never.” Perhaps he’ll be back.

Moving On

5 Sep

MetroBoston, Publication Date September 05, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

It’s that time of year again. Moving trucks clog the streets as new tenants move into apartments and condos and old tenants move out.

Moving also triggers a rash of questions. Here are the short answers to the most common questions.

New Tenants. A landlord cannot charge more than a first month’s rent, last month’s rent, a month security deposit, and a reasonable key and lock deposit at the inception of your rental. A pet deposit is nothing more than a security deposit. It cannot be charged in addition to a full month’s security deposit. A move-in or move-out fee is also not permitted.

A landlord has 30 days to put a security deposit in a proper escrow account and give you proper notice of the details of the deposit. A landlord who fails to comply with key parts of the security deposit law forfeits the right to hold your deposit.

Vacating Tenants. A landlord has 30 days to return your security deposit. If the landlord deducts for damage to the apartment, the landlord must provide you with a letter, signed under the penalties of perjury, itemizing the damages and the costs of repair. The landlord must also provide you with receipts for any money paid for repairs.

Good luck on the move!  © 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

 

Bruiser’s Story

29 Aug

Bruiser & George

MetroBoston, Publication Date August 29, 2012
Expanded Story Content
By Attorney George Warshaw

I want to share with you the story of Bruiser. Bruiser is a sweet, gentle rescue dog that we got from Mississippi. He’s the good looking one in the photo.He was a 5 month old “practice dog” that was sent from a shelter to the Veterinary School at Mississippi State University. He didn’t have a long life ahead of him.

It’s not well known but pets are routinely sent by shelters to vet schools everywhere in the country for students to learn neutering and treatment/surgery of ailments and injuries. The problem is that once the pets have healed they are sent back to the shelters where they all too often have a very short life.

Bruiser was saved by a wonderful veterinary student from New Hampshire, Krista Gazzola, who helped start a rescue program at the school. The program, “Homeward Bound” (Google “homewardbound mississippi”), now sends 45-60 dogs a month to other states for placement. We happened to see a short segment about Krista on a New Hampshire TV station which prompted us to contact her.

We received several photos of dogs available for adoption. One photo showed a goofy looking 5 month old puppy with big ears, oversized head and an undersized body. He needed hip surgery to cure a problem on one of his hips. He had a wonderful smile and from appearances had a happy soul. Frankly, I didn’t think anyone would adopt a dog needing or having hip surgery, especially given the aftercare requried. We took him anyway, after the surgery, and were determined to bring him back to health.

We picked him up in New Hampshire at a horse farm. Bruiser was isolated from the others, due to his delicate condition, and was walking on only three legs when we met him. He also had a host of problems – giardia, mange and a yeast infection, to name a few. He was very thin and had lost a lot of fur. He looked at us from his confined area as if to say, “what kept you.” I think he was truly expecting someone to pick him up. He went right to our car, and hobbled up onto the seat on this three working legs.

He recovered beautifully. We cured all his ailments one by one. Running around the hills in New Hampshire strengthened his legs and hips. Bruiser is an easy boy. He comes when called and you don’t even know he’s around – he’s very quiet.

We sent away for one of those DNA tests and confirmed that he is primarily a mix of Shepherd and Newfoundland. He’s 60 pounds, skinny, with huge paws and and incredible furry tail that can dust your furniture.

He presently has two girlfriends in the Back Bay (from very good families) and adores his dog walker, Rose, who he refers to as his “personal assistant.” He’s now apprenticing to be a lawyer. He’s a fast learner and soon he’ll be writing this column!

© 2012 Bruiser

Beware Co-Signing A Loan

22 Aug

MetroBoston, Publication Date August 22, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

It’s a common occurrence. Your son, daughter, relative or friend is buying a house or condo and can’t qualify for the loan without help.

He or she asks, or you volunteer, to co-sign the loan. After all, you’ve got good credit and good income and you’re happy to help out.  Problem solved.

But is it a good idea?

Not usually.

When you co-sign a loan you sign on not merely to help; you place your income and more importantly your credit on the line. If the borrower fails to make a payment, it shows up on your credit report – and you become responsible for payments.

If you want to refinance your house or get a car loan, it’s a debt that shows up on your credit report. If you have too much credit outstanding, you may get declined for a loan or may have to pay a higher interest rate – just because you helped someone out.

Google the story of Sibylla Nash (“The Mistake that Plunged My Credit Score 200 Points”) who helped a friend. When the friend missed three payments, Ms. Nash’s credit was ruined – and she had to pay her friend’s mortgage!

So think twice (or three times) before you co-sign a loan – and speak with a lawyer before you do. 

More next week © 2012 George Warshaw

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

 

Is Social Security a Better Investment than Real Estate?

16 Aug

MetroBoston, Publication Date August 15, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

The Associated Press reported a story that many missed: “Since 2010, Social Security has been paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes.”

“The Social Security trustees project the [present $2.7 trillion dollar] surplus will be gone in 2033. Unless Congress acts, Social Security would only collect enough tax revenue each year to pay about 75 percent of benefits, triggering an automatic reduction . . . . The projected shortfall in 2033 is $623 billion, according to the trustees’ latest report. It reaches $1 trillion in 2045”.

If Congress does nothing – which it has been inclined to do (after all, THEIR benefits aren’t affected) – they will have to raise your retirement age, cut your benefits, or raise your taxes. Likely, all three.

Is your condo or three-family house a better revenue source than Social Security? Well, you’ve likely refinanced it to the lowest possible interest rate imaginable.  It will be paid in 30 years.

Which do you think will be a better source of future retirement income: what you already own and can rent or social security?

I’m betting on rental income.

So, if there is any way you can keep or acquire future income generating property, it may be a better bet than social security.

More next week © 2012 George Warshaw

George Warshaw is a real estate and estate planning attorney in Massachusetts. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts for individuals and families. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe

14 Aug

MetroBoston, Publication Date August 8, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

By now most of you know that there exists a secret society of people cloistered far underground, never seeing the light of day, walking hunched over from computer to computer yelling “see that 30 day late, gotcha now!”, who control your credit score and hence your destiny.

It’s bad enough that three competing credit reporting agencies put their own spin on your creditworthiness and some gnome then “scores” your credit like a Vegas Bookmaker, but now there’s a new referee in town who will have even more to say.

On July 10th, the credit scoring gnome “FICO” joined with CoreLogic (a data mining firm) to design a wholly new score specifically for mortgage lenders and borrowers. The FICO Mortgage Score Powered by CoreLogic is based on information provided by CoreLogic in a detailed report called the CoreScore Credit Report.

The report grabs information that Experian, TransUnion and Equifax don’t consider. CoreLogic has access to information about you that others don’t.

Pay your rent late or miss an alimony or support payment (how would they know?) and you could have a problem getting a loan. Supposedly if you dispute an inaccurate item on the CoreScore report, the disputed item won’t be held against you.

Let’s see how that works out!

 © 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

 

Starting At The Beginning

8 Aug

MetroBoston, Publication Date August 8, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

I received an email from a reader asking:

“If I want to buy a house what is the proper place to look for information and also a good price?”

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced buyer, the place to start is with a mortgage lender, unless you’re lucky enough not to need one.

Almost every seller wants to know if you have been “pre-approved” for a loan; in other words, that a bank has checked out your income and credit and all that is needed to give you a loan is an appraisal of the property, verification of the information provided and a few routine details.

The pre-approval letter will list a loan amount that you qualify for based on your income and credit.

With that in hand, choose the area where you want to live and start shopping online for properties that that fit your price range – but avoid registering online with a broker if you can (you may get more solicitations than you can handle). You can usually get property details elsewhere if you search around.

Ultimately, you’ll want to find a good buyer’s broker who works in that location. Ask your lender, your lawyer or others for a recommendation.

More next week © 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

 

It’s a Penalty. It’s a Tax. No, It’s a Penalty. Huh?

1 Aug

MetroBoston, Publication Date July 18, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

The legality of new federal health care law was upheld by the Supreme Court under the taxing authority of Congress.

Whether you view the law as imposing a penalty, as some claim, or a tax, as others claim, may depend on your political viewpoint, but when it comes to real estate it’s clearly a tax.

Beginning 2013, the new health care law imposes a tax on the sale of certain real estate to help pay for the new law. While the sales tax won’t hit everyone (technically it’s a tax on profits), it will hit many.

The good news. You will likely not have to pay a tax on the sale of your home if your adjusted gross income as an individual is under $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing jointly) or the profit from your sale was not enough to impose any capital gains tax.

The bad news. You may be subject to a 3.8% tax on any profit from the sale of a second home or rental property or, if you are a high income earner and are subject to capital gains taxes on the sale of your primary residence.

Check with your tax advisor to see if the new real estate tax applies to you. © 2012 George Warshaw

George Warshaw is a real estate and estate planning attorney in Massachusetts. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts for individuals and families. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

___________________________________________________________________

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship.

Is Your Condo Underinsured?

27 Jun

MetroBoston, Publication Date June 27, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

 

Even condos suffer fires. Lenders are now requiring “walls in” coverage for condos, but what does that mean?

Every condominium has a master fire and casualty insurance policy covering the bricks, mortar and common areas – but does the master policy cover the walls and cabinets inside each unit as well? Maybe.

There are three types of master condo policies: “all-in” (or all-inclusive), “single entity,” and “bare walls.”

“Take the apartment, turn it upside down and shake it,” one insurance agent told me. “If it doesn’t fall then it’s covered by the ‘all-in’ policy. This policy also covers any improvements made to the unit – new cabinets or renovations

The “single entity” master policy is the same as the “all-in” except that it doesn’t cover any improvements made since the condo was created.

“Bare walls” covers common areas only – and not any interior walls or the fixtures inside a unit.

Make sure your condominium documents require the right coverage – and that your agent is providing you with that coverage.

One last word on insurance. It’s sometimes worthwhile to get your personal unit owner’s policy from the same insurance carrier or agent that handles the building. You may be able to avoid finger-pointing by two different insurance companies in the event of a claim.

© 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

 

Do You Need A Lawyer to Buy A House?

18 Jun

MetroBoston, Publication Date June 18, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

If you are getting a mortgage the bank will hire an attorney to examine the title and conduct the closing. Do you really need to hire and pay for your own lawyer as well?

The role of the lender’s attorney is to implement the loan, not advise the buyer on legal matters or assist in the purchase and sale agreement.

If a title examination shows an easement giving someone the use of or the right to go across your property, as often occurs, the lender usually won’t care but the buyer might.

Or if an examination reveals a restriction on the color you can paint your house, the ability to add a deck, or a myriad of other common matters, the lender will likely not care.

Chances are you won’t even be told about any of a number of matters affecting the property. They’ll just be listed in a form that you might not even see at the closing.

Don’t count on the lender’s attorney to provide any advice if a problem arises. Their job is to collect the money, clear any liens, pay the seller, and get the lender’s papers signed.

So be a smart buyer: save the pennies on something else. Hire your own attorney and get personal legal advice.

©2012 George Warshaw

George Warshaw is a real estate and estate planning attorney in Massachusetts. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts for individuals and families. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

Improving Your Credit Score

14 Jun

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: June 13, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

If managing your finances in today’s economy isn’t hard enough, add the need to manage your credit score.

That thing called a “FICO Score” can cost or save you money. When mortgage lenders quote rates they generally presume a certain numerical level of a credit score. Drop below that level and the interest rate offered goes up. Drop too much below and you may not get a loan at any price.

To get a good score first make sure you pay your bills on time. I’ve recommended in past articles the virtue of putting all credit cards on an automatic monthly minimum payment taken directly from your bank account. You won’t miss a payment that way and you can always pay more.

Less well known is the balance you run on each credit card.

Let’s say you have two credit cards each with a $10,000 credit limit.  You owe nothing on one and $6,000 on the other. Your credit score might be better if each card had a $3,000 balance.

Scoring formulas look at how much of each card and all cards that you use.

Try to keep the amount owed well below 40% of the allowable credit on each card and below 40% of the total owed on all cards.

George Warshaw is a real estate and estate planning attorney in Massachusetts. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts for individuals and families. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

___________________________________________________________________

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship.

What’s Often Overlooked in a Home Inspection

6 Jun

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: June 6, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

A home inspection is a “must” for a person buying a home or a condo, even if (and sometimes especially if) the home or condo is brand new.

Too often home buyers bemoan after the purchase that the broker advised them that an inspection wasn’t needed because the home or condo was brand new. Just because a new home or newly renovated home or condo is new doesn’t mean the work was done right, or the appliances, plumbing or electricals were properly connected and functioning.

I love reviewing an inspection report that uses digital photographs with big red circles to pinpoint problems requiring repair. So much of time wasted in a purchase is spent trying to describe what needs to be done or arguing over whether the condition is a problem.

A photograph with a nice red circle indicating the problem often ends the discussion and simplifies getting a quote from a repair person.

Here’s my suggestion in interviewing an inspector: ask if the report will contain digital photographs of the problems encountered; or better yet, ask if you can review an existing report online to get a sense of the quality of the inspector’s work.

George Warshaw is a real estate and estate planning attorney in Massachusetts. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts for individuals and families. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

___________________________________________________________________

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship.

 

Mistakes Landlords Make in Renting

17 May

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: May 9, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

We’re closing in on the new rental season. Are you aware of these common mistakes that landlords often make in renting apartments?

  • Cleaning Deposits, Pet Deposits and Move-In Fees. A landlord, by law, cannot require a tenant pay at rental more than a first month’s rent, last month’s rent, a security deposit of one month’s rent, and a key and lock deposit. That’s it.

A pet deposit or cleaning deposit is nothing more than a security deposit under an assumed name. Some larger condos require a move-in fee. A landlord cannot legally transfer that cost or any other moving cost to the tenant.

  • Security Deposits. A landlord who takes a security deposit is required to give the tenant a written Statement of the Apartment’s Condition upon receiving the deposit or within ten days of the start of the tenancy.

The failure to timely provide the written Statement will later prevent a landlord from deducting any claimed damage to the apartment from the security deposit.

  • Defective Conditions. Nothing in the law permits a landlord to charge a reduced rent because the apartment is older or in a worn and tired condition. Every apartment at rental must be weathertight, provide adequate heat, be pest free and meet all Sanitary Code standards.

© 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

Landlord as “Lord of the Land”

17 May

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: May 16, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

Last week I explored a few basic mistakes that landlords tend to make. There is one more worth mentioning. It has to do with attitude and the approach to managing one’s real estate.

Some landlords take the word “landlord” literally to mean “lord of the land.” They act as if that they are doing the tenant a favor by renting the apartment to the tenant.

It’s easy to forget that the landlord-tenant relationship is a contractual relationship. The landlord contracts to deliver and maintain a code compliant apartment and the tenant agrees to pay the rent and act in a responsible manner.

Compliance with housing laws is not optional – and its failure heavily penalized. It’s also good business.

With rents again at high levels, landlords have the cash flow to upgrade their apartments, and upgraded apartments often result in higher desirability and higher rents.

The law presumes that whatever rent the landlord charges is for full sanitary code compliance. You can’t knock something off the rent because there are holes in the walls or drafty windows. It doesn’t work that way.

So my suggestion for landlords is simple, treat your tenant like a valued business customer. You’ll both be happier in the end.

© 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

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Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship.