What Happens if You Get A Rule Violation Notice

Filed Under (Real Estate) on 22-12-2011

Every community association — condominium, planned developments with homeowner’s associations, and cooperative — has rules governing you and your guests’ behavior.  What happens if a committee or board says you have violated a rule?

1. Stay calm.  Be professional throughout this process no matter how board or committee members act. You’ll gain nothing by “going to war.”

2. Get it in writing. Ask for a written statement about the alleged violation that includes the specific rule violated, where that rule can be found, and when and where the violation occurred.

3. Read the rule as it appears in the documents. You’d be surprised how often associations try to enforce rules that aren’t on the books or that don’t say what the association thinks they say.

4. Check the facts. If the board or committee got its facts wrong, make your case in writing. For example, if they say you have a dog in violation of a “no pet rule,” state in writing that you do not own a dog at all.

5. Talk to an attorney. If you may have violated a rule, but the rule seems unfair, arbitrary, ambiguous, or isn’t consistently enforced, you may want to talk to an attorney. Challenging association rules usually requires special legal knowledge. For example, when the language of a rule is ambiguous, courts generally construe that rule against the party seeking to enforce it. You will likely need an attorney to convince the board or committee that its rule is unenforceable. Continue reading “What Happens if You Get A Rule Violation Notice” »

So Many Deeds. Which One Do I Choose? (Part I)

Filed Under (Colorado Deeds) on 20-12-2011

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The title to real property can be changed from one person to another by using a legal form called a deed. Different types of deeds provide the buyer and seller with different levels of protection against future title problems. But which Colorado deed is right for you—a quitclaim deed, a warranty deed, or a special type of deed for a specific transaction? A quitclaim deed may be all you need.

Just what does a quitclaim deed do?

A quitclaim deed (not “quick claim” or “quit claim”) is what it sounds like—a deed used to “quit” or end someone’s claim on the property. Quitclaim deeds are versatile and can be used to add or remove someone from the title, change ownership from joint tenants to tenants in common, or clear up problems with the title. Quitclaim deeds are frequently used for title transfers within a family.

A quitclaim deed is used to transfer a person’s interest in the property, but it doesn’t guarantee that the person who signs the deed actually has an interest in the property, nor does the deed specify how much of the property that person owns. Quitclaim deeds may be risky for the buyer, since these deeds provide no guarantee that the seller has good title or even that the seller owns the property. If a buyer uses a quitclaim deed and doesn’t do a title search, that buyer could wind up buying problems along with the property. Using a quitclaim deed means the buyer may have little recourse if problems arise after the sale. Continue reading “So Many Deeds. Which One Do I Choose? (Part I)” »

Save Money Using Limited Scope Representation

Filed Under (Bradford Publishing News & Updates) on 15-12-2011

If you’re like most Coloradans, you’ve never heard of limited scope representation.  A recent poll found that although about 54 percent of solo practitioners and 45 percent of lawyers in small firms offer unbundled services, over 70 percent of consumers don’t know what the term means.

Unbundled legal services (a.k.a. limited scope representation, limited representation and a la carte legal services) take place when a lawyer or firm offers discrete parts of full legal representation to clients for a per task or hourly fee.  This is in contrast to a typical full representation agreement where you retain your lawyer to perform all tasks related to your case, which typically include services such as appearing in court for hearings and trials.

Sometimes you and your lawyer divide the work between you. Other times, you might buy one or two services, such as drafting a brief or filling out certain legal forms. Fees for unbundled legal services can range from as low as $125 for a 30-minute consultation to $750 for a half-day deposition, to several hours of billable time as minimum retainer. By contrast, full service firms often charge retainers that amount to thousands of dollars from the start — and then escalate from there.

What’s new with unbundled services

While aspects of unbundling – such as document review or legal consultations – have been around for years, the whole concept has become more popular during the economic downturn.  People are looking to save money; lawyers are looking to retain or attract clients.

Judges and other court administrators support unbundled services because having a lawyer involved, if only partly, saves them time from having to explain how the legal system works to the growing number of pro se parties (those without legal representation). In other words, some legal counsel is much better than none.

Quick facts about unbundled services

1)    Colorado is among 41 states that have specific rules in statute that permit unbundled legal services.
2)    When you choose such services, you lose some degree of legal protection.
3)    Even in the simplest and most amicable of cases, an attorney in a limited representation situation can only represent one party, not both.
4)    It’s best to have an agreement in place with your attorney at the onset of your relationship defining or outlining the limited scope of representation.

When to choose unbundled services

Limited representation is not appropriate for all types of cases or all types of clients. Simple cases with little conflict and in which both parties know the issue(s) are best suited for unbundled legal services.

For example, a simple divorce is an ideal case for limited representation. If you and your spouse agree to divorce and have no children, or you easily agree on a child custody arrangement, a lawyer might simply help fill out some necessary forms such as a financial affidavit or a child support worksheet.  The rest is up to you.

Real Estate Record-Keeping for Colorado Landlords (Part II)

Filed Under (Leases and Landlord Tenant) on 08-12-2011

In an earlier post, we talked about why it is important for landlords to keep accurate records.  Using records, you can keep track of repairs and prepare for upcoming expenses.  You can defend against discrimination claims. And you can minimize your tax payments.  Of the four types of records landlords should keep, two are discussed here: individual property maintenance records and tenant correspondence.


Continue reading “Real Estate Record-Keeping for Colorado Landlords (Part II)” »

Powers of Attorney 101

Filed Under (Power of Attorney) on 08-12-2011

At Bradford Publishing, customers often ask us for general power of attorney forms when they really need durable power of attorney forms, or vice versa. Because powers of attorney can be confusing, we want to spell out a few perplexing terms and concepts.

What is a “durable” power of attorney?

Under traditional law, the power granted in a power of attorney ends when the principal is no longer able to act on his own. In other words, if the principal becomes incapacitated or incompetent, the power of attorney document is no longer effective. However, some people use a power of attorney to plan for the possibility of a disability. Therefore, the power of attorney has to specify that it will be effective even when the principal is disabled. When a power of attorney specifies that, the power of attorney is “durable”. In power of attorney forms that Bradford Publishing provides, the powers of attorney are durable unless the principal strikes out the statement that says: “This Power of Attorney shall not be affected by disability of the principal.” Continue reading “Powers of Attorney 101” »

Real Estate Record-Keeping for Colorado Landlords
(Part I)

Filed Under (Leases and Landlord Tenant) on 05-12-2011

Owning a rental property is like running a business.  Keeping accurate records is key to measuring return on investment. It’s also crucial as a means to keep track of repairs and to defend against discrimination claims. Here is the first of four types of records landlords need to keep: a record of showing and leasing an individual property.

Federal, state, and local laws bar discrimination

When it’s time to find a tenant, savvy landlords know to show and rent their properties fairly and without discrimination. This is because federal, state, and local laws prohibit certain discriminatory acts in the leasing process. For instance, the Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against tenants on the basis of race or color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, and disability.   This means you can’t advertise your property as “great for families” or decide you only want to rent to married couples.

What’s more, Colorado law prohibits discrimination against potential tenants on the basis of ancestry, creed, or marital status.  And local city and county ordinances may grant additional protections to potential tenants. For example the City of Boulder also prohibits discrimination based on: “race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender variance, genetic characteristics, marital status, religion, national origin, ancestry, pregnancy, parenthood, custody of a minor child, or mental or physical disability of the individual or such individual’s friends or associates. . . .”

But landlords can use objective, non-discriminatory tenant criteria

At the same time, landlords are allowed to develop some criteria for tenants. In other words, landlords can be selective based on objective non-discriminatory criteria.  In selecting tenants, you can consider their bankruptcy history and FICO scores, criminal history, job history, and/or income. 

The problem is, how do you prove you’re not discriminating against tenants while still maintaining some rental criteria?

Important records to keep

One possible approach is to write down your rental criteria before you list the property for rent. You could keep these criteria in a document in your computer and files. Then, once the property is listed, keep scrupulous records of:

•    who contacted you;
•    when they contacted you (in chronological order);
•    when you called potential renters back;
•    when a potential renter saw the property;
•    who filled out a rental application and when;
•    the results of any rental screening report;
•    and, if someone was rejected, why the tenant did not meet your rental criteria.

Keeping such records will allow you to prove that you are, indeed, not discriminating.  In the next post of this series, learn about three other kinds of records that are important to keep.

For more information, see the Landlord & Tenant Guide to Colorado Leases and Evictions, 5th Edition, by Victor M. Grimm, Esq. and Denise E. Grimm.

Five Questions to Ask Before Buying a Colorado Condominium

Filed Under (Real Estate) on 01-12-2011

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Right now, savvy buyers can find tremendous opportunities in the condominium market. But condos may come with hidden strings attached. Without doing your homework, you might find yourself paying far more in association dues than expected or suffering under onerous rules. Here are some questions to ask before making an offer:

1. Is it really a condominium? The form a community takes is important. There are three types of communities in Colorado: condominiums, cooperatives, and planned communities. It is not always apparent which is which. Distinguishing among them is important because each type of community brings unit owners different property rights. When you buy a condominium unit, you receive an ownership interest in the unit as well as an undivided interest in all the common elements. However, when you buy an interest in a cooperative, you own no real property. The association owns all the property, including all the units, and you get a right to occupy a designated unit.

Remember that just because units are attached does not mean that a project is a condominium. Attached townhomes could be developed as condominiums or a “planned community” governed by a homeowners association. A high-rise is probably a condominium, but could be a cooperative. Also, just because a salesperson refers to a development as a condominium does not mean that it is. There is only one way to tell if the project is a condominium: read the association’s governing documents. Colorado law requires declarations to state whether a community is a condominium, cooperative, or planned community. Continue reading “Five Questions to Ask Before Buying a Colorado Condominium” »