Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Online Banking Security

Online banking is something that many of us rely on to track and maintain our finances and budgets. Although most banking and financial institutions have their own online security measures in place, it is important for you to have your own measures in place as well. It’s important to remember not to leave your computer open and accessible when you are logged into an online banking session. This makes your account information, available to everyone within sight of the computer screen.

Also, view your information in private. This is important because if someone can see over your shoulder to your computer screen then they can see your bank information. Another thing to remember is to not surf the internet when you are logged into a banking session. This is imperative. Most people do not understand that if you get a malware attack on your computer, through another webpage that your bank information will be open, accessible, and available for the malware, too. This is especially dangerous because with malware you often get flooded with ads and such as a way for you to not be able to stop the attack. So if you are logged into a banking session, or an online session with your credit card company or any other website that contains sensitive information about you, it is best to not open any other web pages until you have completed your banking/financial review session.  

Finally the number one way to protect your online banking information is to monitor your accounts daily. Create a pdf printout of each days transactions that way if something shows up on your account you can dispute it, or have more definitive information in terms of when the transaction hit your account. This is also beneficial for documenting when you received deposits, charges and withdrawals. When you do see unauthorized purchases or activity on your card it is important to report it as soon as possible to your financial institution.

The Legal Eagles Inc.

CA Tenant Rights Part 2- Security Deposit

People move homes and offices every day. Yet, many people do not receive their security deposits back from their previous landlords. Many do not understand how a security deposit is supposed to be handled and kept, for the duration of your stay in a home.

For a traditional home rental or lease your security deposit is often requested up front along with the first month’s payment and sometimes the last month’s payment. The security deposit is often used at the end of the tenancy for the landlord to cover unpaid rent, damage (beyond normal wear and tear) to the rental unit and excessive cleaning (if you leave the apartment less clean that when you moved in). In California the lease of rental deposit cannot be stated as being nonrefundable. At the end of your tenancy the landlord must pay back your security deposit, unless certain deductions are legally and appropriately taken from it.

The security deposit can be called any of the following: security deposit, last month’s rent, pet deposit, key deposit/fee or cleaning fee. Each of these things are considered to be a deposit and cannot be nonrefundable. Some landlords will charge an applicant screening fee which covers the cost of obtaining and verifying information about you. This fee is not does not qualify as payment toward a deposit. On the other hand a New Tenant processing fee is for providing application forms, listing the unit, screening and interviewing the prospective tenant and other similar purposes. This type of fee can be counted as part of a security deposit. Therefore, the fees paid for this can be refundable along with the rest of the security deposit.

There are limits on how much your landlord can charge you for a security deposit. For an unfurnished rental unit the landlord cannot request more than two times the amount of the rent, plus the first month’s rent. For example, if the rent is $1000 per month, the maximum deposit amount which could be deposit and last month’s rent is $2000. Therefore the maximum amount at the signing of the lease would be $3000 which would cover the first month’s rent, the last month’s rent and security deposit. For a furnished rental, the landlord can request three times the security deposit (In this situation if the rent is $1000, the total move in would be $4000). For a situation in which the tenant has a water bed the landlord can request up to three and a half times the rent as a deposit (In this situation if the rent is $1000, the total move in would be $4500).
 The landlord has 21 calendar days to return your deposit you after you move out, OR provide you with an itemized list of things that have been deducted from the security deposit. The amount or cost of each item must be stated and broken down and the receipts must be included. If there is a balance that is still due, the list and the remaining balance should be sent by the
landlord to the tenant by the 21st calendar day.

The Legal Eagles Inc.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sidewalk Repair May Become the Homeowners Responsibility

Images from the internet. Used under educational free use clause
It’s been all abuzz recently that the city of Los Angeles city panel may place the burden of sidewalk repairs on property owners. Up until 1974 this was a standard way of doing things, property owners were responsible to maintain the sidewalk. But in 1974 the city exempted property owners from that time and on, from being responsible to repair sidewalks damaged and cracked from overgrown tree roots. They did this to reap the benefits of federal funds available at that time to make the repairs. But, as many of us have seen in Los Angeles there are cracked, raised and broken sidewalks everywhere. This is quite a large amount of work and expense for the city to continue to fund. To many of us that have lived in Los Angeles for so long, it doesn’t seem like cracked and damaged sidewalks are a big deal. But they do become a big deal when people get hurt because they aren’t repaired or maintained. It also becomes an accessibility issue to people who have disabilities. So if this ordinance is passed and it becomes the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain the sidewalks there may be a lot of money that has to be doled out to fix these sidewalk situations. The current City Administrative officer is proposing a phase in period where sidewalks that are adjacent to single family homes that are damaged by tree roots still remain under the city’s responsibility until it’s repaired. But once the repairs are made, it will be the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain the sidewalk from then on. He is also proposing a sidewalk inspection program, where inspectors would evaluate then issue notices or citations to homeowners if the sidewalk is in need of repair. Business would not fare so well. Commercial properties would be in a “fix and release” program where property owners would have one year to fix the sidewalks before inspections are done and another year to do repairs if the city finds that the sidewalk needs repair.
This proposal is due in part to the city’s agreement to pay $1.4 billion, over 30 years as part of a legal settlement with disability advocates. This does not include the additional cost of repairing the sidewalks, which these advocates claim should have been a higher priority for the city. The city will now have to create a plan where they not only pay the payments on the $1.4 billion, but now have to repair sidewalks around city buildings, transportation access ways, medical facilities, commercial areas, places of employment and residential area.
So now that we know why the city is doing this we now have a few questions… What happens in situations where the sidewalk is damaged by earthquakes? Whose responsibility is it going to be if sidewalk repairs become the property owner’s responsibility? Also what happens if leakage from underground pipes and such is causing problems to the sidewalk, who is the responsible for that? (When you consider that most of the public waterworks pipes are more than 8 decades old it’s likely for this to happen) What happened to all the federal money that was received to do the sidewalk repairs? Also what happens when utility work and maintenance require excavating through a sidewalk who is responsible for that? What happens when the city streets suffer from flood damage? Will repairs to the sidewalk be covered by your flood insurance, the city, or something else?
These are all questions that we don’t see being asked, but it looks like it could fall in the grey zone which means that property owners need to be ready to pony up the money for sidewalk repairs. 

The Legal Eagles Inc.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Copyright Basics

Copyright laws can be different internationally verses U.S. copyright laws. This article only speaks to help people understand U.S. Copyright laws and identify possible means of assistance or guidance when filing a copyright. To begin, let’s first define what a copyright is according to the United States Copyright Office, “Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.” In other words, a copyright is attributed to an author of a particular work. The author does not need to publish the work to have the copyright status. The next most important thing to know is what exactly a copyright protects. 

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “Copyright, [is] a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, photos, drawings, choreographic works and architecture. But, the list is not limited to just these things. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.” Although these various works are protected by a copyright without an official filing, it is always better to file for an official copyright when possible. By doing this it registers the work with the federal government. This makes it official that the work was created by you. 

If you have questions about filing a copyright, give The Legal Eagles a call. We can work with you to help you file a copyright and protect what is rightfully yours. 

The Legal Eagles Inc.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

CA Tenant Rights Part 1- Credit Checks and Fees

People are renting apartments every day. Yet, many people do not know the rights they have during the rental process. Today, many landlords are charging excessive fees for credit check and background checks. Some are as high as $50 and are often stated as being nonrefundable. According to California Tenant Laws this is not allowable. Most renters, and some landlords do not realize this. Charging people a large sum of money and then not renting the apartment to them, could mean a lot of money being generated just to rent an apartment. Often times many landlords and rental companies pay significantly less to check your credit score than what they charge you up front. At the Legal Eagles, we advocate for people. We know this is wrong, and are here to set this information straight.

The Department of Consumer Affairs has outlined a guide for tenants and landlords called: California Tenants: A Guide to Residential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights and Responsibilities. This handbook outlines the rights and responsibilities for both tenants and landlords. In this handbook, one of the main things it outlines is credit checks. Landlords are allowed to run a credit check on applicants. Most landlords want to see your credit to see how good you are about paying your bills. Some may run a check to see if you have ever been evicted from another apartment. And some landlords may run a criminal background check as well. Some landlords and property management companies will work with tenant screening services which collect information on tenants then sell the information. The landlord or property management company is required to disclose what types of checks they are running. The landlord or rental management company must also disclose what they paid for the credit check fee and return to you, the applicant, the difference if you over paid for the fee. You, as the applicant, also have a right to a copy of the reports they pulled up on you, whether you are approved for the apartment or not. Many landlords and rental management companies will not disclose this information to the prospective renters. It is your responsibility as a prospective renter to outline all of this in the beginning even before giving the payment for the credit check. It is imperative to get this in writing so that if the
landlord or the rental management company does not honor their word then you have proof that they violated the agreement. It is important to know that as of 2012 the landlord or management company cannot charge more than $49.50. The landlord must give you a receipt to itemize their out-of-pocket expenses for obtaining the information about you. All of this and more is outlined in the above mentioned text from the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

The Legal Eagles is here to help tenants and landlords alike better understand their rights and responsibilities. If you have any issues regarding tenant rights and responsibilities please feel free to contact the Legal Eagles. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Business Disaster Recovery: Are You Ready?

Disasters tend to be one of two types: natural and human caused.  Do you know the types of disasters that are likely to threaten your business directly or indirectly?  Do you know what your insurance covers and does not cover?  Do you have a disaster recovery plan?

No place on Earth perfectly safe.  Every place can be systematically characterized using the Geographic Systems Model (GSM).  This can help you to identify the natural and human kinds of disasters unique to your business.  The GSM divides the world into 4 basic realms: Air, Land, Water, and Living Organisms.  Each one can be the origin of some kind of disaster.  The forces of nature are such that combinations are possible.  For example.  The realm of Air is the source of storms.  Storms can produce rain, snow, ice, hail, winds, and lightning.  These can all vary in duration and intensity.  Each poses a different kind of threat to your business.  Combined with Land, some sites are prone to flooding, flash flooding, landslides, mudslides or slope failure.  You should be aware of the seasons as well as the frequency and duration of these hazards.  The same hazards can affect your suppliers and vendors whose goods and services you depend on for your business.

After you have identified the type of disaster and its possible frequency, consider the range of impact to your business and its operations.  Here are some of the possible considerations:   

1. Physical Damage / Physical Security: The direct and indirect impacts to your business can result in varying degrees of damage to the building.  A major concern is your business records, especially accounts receivable and payable.  How often do you back up your data and where is the backup kept?  It may seem obvious that the backup should not be stored in the same facility.  If a fire burns out your office, having the data and the backup data in the office won’t help at all.  If the damage in less severe (e.g. broken windows or doors), how quickly can these be repaired or temporarily fixed to secure the premises?  And at what cost?  Who will do the work and how will you pay them?  These considerations should be in your disaster plan.  

2. Direct & Indirect Impacts: Direct impacts of a disaster pertain to your specific business facility.  This means the storm or fire affected your business.  An indirect impact would be a storm that disrupted one of your suppliers.  Without the goods or services you get from them, you cannot produce your goods / services to deliver to your customers.  Without supplies, your production declines.  So storms in other parts of the world can adversely affect your supply chains.  

3. Access Issues: Do you know the main and secondary routes to your business?  Can you and your workers get to your business to assess damage, clean up, and effect repairs to resume business?  What about access to your vendors / suppliers?  Can supplies be delivered and / or can orders be shipped out?  Do you have alternative work sites to resume operations?  What about alternative vendors and suppliers if your primaries are incapacitated by the disaster?  

4. Emergency Notifications: Do you have a way to notify you insurance company, customers, vendors, suppliers, etc. to inform them of you status?  When things are good, others may take your goods and services for granted.  When disaster strikes, they still have their business to run.  Their customers still expect to receive goods and services.  Their vendors, suppliers, and employees still expect to get paid.  If you are no longer operating, it is a good opportunity for your competitors to erode your customer base and erode your market share.  This can seriously reduce or eliminate your ability to recover.  

5. Financial Resilience: Anticipating the hazards, impacts, and costs are just ideas and words.  The reality of being able to pay for the clean-up and recovery can be painful.  If you don’t have financial reserves in place, you should at least have fast access to credit lines for this purpose.  In addition to repairs, you have your bills and employees to pay.  What will it cost to keep operations going under these circumstances?  Do you have a backup plan for telecommunications, data processing, and other critical business functions to get through the crisis?  If you use proprietary data processing software, do you have backup copies and computer equipment capable of running it?  And where is the data (and how up-to-date is it)?
The loss of your business data can expose you to financial risks that can ruin you.  1) Do you have updated Accounts Receivable data?  If not, you stand to lose valuable income needed to keep your business afloat.  2) What about your Accounts Payable?  Falling behind on your payments could result in collection action against you that multiply your liabilities. The Legal Eagles can help with all of these things. We know disaster relief is difficult. Our experienced business consultants are here to help guide you through the process of being prepared for situations that can impact your business. We can also help you after the fact when you need to take action against vendors or clients that didn’t keep their word. 

The Legal Eagles Inc.

Friday, December 12, 2014

8 Things to Know Before Engaging in an Office Romance

Before you do anything in terms of asking that hot girl or guy in your department out its pretty important for you to know several things about your company. Same thing goes for you ladies that want to ask that hunk over in sales out as well. Remember your job, career and reputation can all be severely in jeopardy just from engaging in a “simple” office romance.
1) Be sure to know what are your companies policy toward office flings and romances word for word. Some companies purposely write this policy to be vague.  When the time comes to reprimand someone for such acts they have more leeway. In some cases companies that find out about an office romance can move to fire one or both employees or they can transfer one or both employees.  So unless you’re willing to accept these potential consequences, you might want to think twice about your office fling. Remember, when in doubt, don’t.

2) It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new relationship. But make sure to keep that out of the office. While you are at work you are on company time. For this reason you should make sure to refrain from touching, kissing, or any other kinds of public displays of affection. This is especially important when you work in the same department. You’ll be thankful you’ve maintained your professionalism in the long run.

3) If you are engaging in an office romance it’s safe to assume that everyone in the office most likely knows. But, that doesn’t mean can you flaunt it and make a big deal of it. The more discreet you remain about your romance the more likely you will say out of the gossip circles. Believe me that’s the last place you want to be. Plus, lot of people really don’t like the office romance shenanigans. So even though their opinion doesn’t really matter to you, it can potentially count down the line. Be aware that most gossips never want to be confused with the facts.

4) Probably the number one thing to remember and do if you choose to engage in an office romance is to Let your Boss know. Do NOT just leave it for them find out through the grapevine or some random gossip session. Do the mature thing and let your superiors know so they can handle things appropriately on their end as well. This will not only solidify their respect for you, but it will also build a trusting relationship. But don’t forget the company policies.  Your boss may not have a choice in the matter and may have to enforce company policy.

5) Think ahead. What do you plan to do if your relationship doesn’t work out? By engaging in an office romance you could be potentially changing or sacrificing a lot of things you’ve planned for in terms of your career. This isn’t a decision you make lightly. If you aren’t willing to potentially make serious changes, then do not enter into this kind of relationship.

6) Be respectful to one another as well as to your co-workers. They don’t want to get caught up in your relationship, drama, subterfuge. Give people space to come to terms with your relationship status and how it affects them in the work place. You might think it’s nothing, but for them it could be very uncomfortable. Be mindful of the feelings of others.

7) Don’t mix your romance with a business trip. Keeping it professional means just that. Going on a business trip together could put you in a situation where you risk crossing the line between business and romance.

8) This is probably the most important: NO means NO. This is true whether you’re a man or woman. If the other person says no leave it at no. Be respectful of their choice to not engage in a romance with you. In this situation pushing the envelope is not only unprofessional, but creepy and potentially grounds for reprimand.

Here’s the bottom line.  Avoiding workplace romance is one way to dodge the many potential problems, pitfalls, and land mines to your career.

The Legal Eagles Inc.