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.