small claims court en-US 5 Lawsuit Mistakes You Can Avoid <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/5-lawsuit-mistakes-you-can-avoid" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="195" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>If you do business, it&rsquo;s likely at some point you&rsquo;re either going to sue or be sued. The bigger the potential payout, the greater the chance you&rsquo;ll get mired in costly, time-sucking litigation.</p> <p>Most business lawsuits are filed over monetary disputes, such as for services provided or goods sold. Add to that the number of frivolous lawsuits manufactured to extort settlement, and it pays to know when to defend against claims, when to countersue, and when to cut your losses without jeopardizing your business.</p> <p>While troubleshooting liability risks is not a cure-all, there are ways to make you a less attractive target for legal disputes. These include:</p> <ul> <li>Incorporate or form a limited liability company to shield personal assets. Also consider transferring personal assets to family members not involved in the business.</li> <li>Become well-versed in laws dealing with securities, accessibility, and intellectual property.</li> <li>Document partnership agreements, corporate bylaws, and vendor contracts. Contracts may disclaim legal liability and specify that the parties agree to arbitration, mediation, or another form of dispute resolution. Just be sure to have an attorney review the language. Many states have a statute of frauds, which nullifies contracts that are not in writing.</li> <li>Adhere to written employment policies, such as conducting proper background checks on new employees, confirming reprimands in writing, and adequately documenting terminations.</li> <li>Update insurance to include commercial liability and malpractice coverage. Some recommended limits are at least $1 million per occurrence and $3 million total liability.</li> <li>Respond quickly to resolve customer complaints and, when necessary, eliminate &ldquo;high-risk&rdquo; clients.</li> </ul> <p>All of that will go a long way toward reducing your risk. Unfortunately, it won't eliminate it. Here are things you should <strong>not</strong> do in case of lawsuit.</p> <p><strong>Don&rsquo;t Procrastinate</strong></p> <p>We know it&rsquo;s a distraction, but to avoid a judgment in default against you, you must respond within 14 days to a High Court or county court claim. The most successful lawsuits are when a mountain of evidence is on one side and the law is clear. Be diligent in maintaining all records, including electronic mail, associated with the case.</p> <p>Consult with a qualified business litigator (ideally, before getting served). Do not confuse this lawyer with the one who drafted your will or registered your business, says David Newdorf, a San Francisco-based business litigator and owner of Newdorf Legal. Many attorneys will not take a business suit on a contingency basis, so you and your lawyer should discuss in detail a budget of fees and expenses. That billable rate of $300 per hour can get compounded over years with trial delays, so don&rsquo;t be afraid to negotiate. A written engagement letter sets forth the scope of the lawyer&rsquo;s work and the associated fees. Remember that certain legal fees, but not all, are tax-deductible.</p> <p><strong>Don&rsquo;t Fly Solo on Complex Cases</strong></p> <p>With simple matters, when all that is needed is a tersely worded letter threatening litigation, it makes sense to go it alone. But when people breach contracts, infringe on copyrights, or are negligent, do-it-yourself litigation is not advisable.</p> <p><strong>Don&rsquo;t Rush to Trial</strong></p> <p>More than 90 percent of business lawsuits are resolved through mediation or negotiation, notes Newdorf in his article, <a target="_blank" href="">The Top Ten Business Litigation Mistakes</a>. Carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of both options. Since many small business disputes involve sums of less than $50,000, negotiating directly with your opponent may make financial sense, even if you have a stronger case, according to Newdorf. Meanwhile, trial preparation alone could take 18 to 24 months, siphoning business productivity. Further, a lawsuit could expose your company to unwanted publicity, along with drawing attention to proprietary information and other business records from taxing authorities and regulatory agencies. While the monetary limits are considerably lower, small claims court offers quick resolution without the pesky lawyers&rsquo; fees.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re planning to sue, first investigate the opposing party&rsquo;s financial health and realize that half of all suits filed involve a counterclaim, says Newdorf. Don&rsquo;t handicap your lawyer by failing to disclose all pertinent facts in the case, even the &ldquo;bad facts.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Don&rsquo;t Get Emotional</strong></p> <p>Pursuing a case on principle interferes with sound business judgment. Lawsuits are not for the faint-hearted. Don&rsquo;t take it personal. It's just business.</p> <h4>Don&rsquo;t Have Unrealistic Expectations</h4> <p>Once you&rsquo;re in a lawsuit for the long haul, it&rsquo;s difficult to bow out. &ldquo;The business world has a lifespan of days, weeks, and months,&rdquo; says Newdorf. &ldquo;Typically, litigation has a lifespan of years. It&rsquo;s not going to be a fast and easy way to solve your problem.&rdquo;<i><br /> </i></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Margie Fishman</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-5"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">250+ Tips for Small Business Owners</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Enjoy Lawsuit-free Music</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Learn How to Invest With These 5 Stock Market Games</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">20 Tips for Getting Your Security Deposit Back</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">This Is the One Skill You Need If You Want to Work for Yourself</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Small Business Resource Center arbitration lawsuit lawyers legal strategy risk small business small claims court Sat, 04 Jun 2011 19:47:36 +0000 Margie Fishman 550704 at 20 Tips for Getting Your Security Deposit Back <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/20-tips-for-getting-your-security-deposit-back" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="For rent" title="For rent" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Most of my landlords have been really great, but I did experience one rather unethical property manager who tried to bilk her tenants out of every dime they had.</p> <p>Before moving out of my North Seattle apartment, I cleaned from top to bottom, bleaching the mold that formed in the closets (it was there when I moved in, and I battled it monthly), relining the cupboards with that stick-on liner so they were clean and fresh-looking. My boyfriend helped me to repair a shelf that had completely collapsed in the closet. I never wear shoes in the house, so the carpet was spotless.</p> <p>When I left, I somehow managed to forget a bicycle tire on my balcony, a spare tire that I had been meaning to patch. The balcony was so moldy and terrifying that I rarely stepped out on to it, and simply forgot that the tire was there.</p> <p>I was charged $75 for its disposal. And that's ON TOP OF the non-refundable cleaning service.</p> <p>This wasn't exactly a swanky neighborhood in which tire disposal services run at a premium. We're talking about a musty apartment only one block from the area of town known as Crack Whore Row. And it was a BICYCLE tire, not a car tire complete with wheel and hubcap. I was pissed off that I forgot it, because I could have used it, but I didn't have the energy to fight the landlord over the charge. I wish I had, because it was completely bogus. But I didn't fight the charge, even though I now know I should have raised a stink over it.</p> <p>Here are the tips I've gathered for how to be a good renter and how to get your deposit back when you move out.</p> <h2>Before You Move In</h2> <p>1. Google the leasing company, landlord's name, property name, whatever. See if you are dealing with people who are on the up and up. Check the <a href="">Better Business Bureau''s online business listings</a> for the leasing company's name (ask the landlord if they have a relationship with the BBB). The landlord that charged me $75 to throw away a bicycle tire had an awful web reputation &mdash; had I known that, I might never have rented the place to begin with.</p> <h2>When You Move In</h2> <p>2. Read your lease carefully. Understand everything that is contained therein. Note that leases are not set in stone. You can actually make alterations to them &mdash; nothing ridiculous &mdash; but if you find something in the lease that you find unreasonable (like being required to give two month's notice when you plan to leave), you can alter it, cross it out, or make additions to it.</p> <p>3. Your landlord SHOULD give you a checklist of rooms and ask you to detail the condition of each one. If they don't, make one up yourself. Notice any damage that exists already (dings in wood, cupboards that don't close properly). This can be extremely tedious, so make an evening of it. Invite some friends over for a few bottles of wine (or beer) and walk around the apartment, critiquing the hell out of it.</p> <p>4. If you have a digital camera, take pictures of every room, every blemish.</p> <p>5. When you have gathered all of this info, written and photographic, do a walk-through with the landlord and make sure that they sign off on the list. Mail them print-outs of the photos and the room-by-room description (make sure to send the letter certified mail) and let them know that if they don't do the walk-through with you within two weeks of receiving the info, you will assume that they have signed off on your assessment.</p> <h2>While You Live There</h2> <p>6. For goodness sake, try to be clean. Get to stains before they set. If you have pets, clean the place constantly, get an air filter, open the windows, and clean up any mess as soon as you find it. Nothing is more terrifying for a landlord than walking into an apartment and seeing that your 13 cats have made the place damn near unlivable.</p> <p>7. If you have a problem with any part of the apartment, if something breaks from normal wear and tear, the landlord is obliged to pay for it. If they don't, and you opt to fix it yourself (I had to replace a broken toilet seat and the bathtub caulking), take a picture of the before and after, and add it to your notes, including the cost of replacing the item. Bill the landlord for the item ASAP. If the landlord tries to bilk you later, you have more evidence of what a responsible tenant you were.</p> <h2>When You Leave</h2> <p>8. Whether or not you clean the place really depends on if you already paid a non-refundable cleaning deposit. I have never lived anywhere that didn't require me to pay a cleaning deposit. So I'll clean up anything egregious, like the aforementioned caulking (I so hate caulking), but the rest of the place, I leave broom-clean. If you haven't already paid a non-refundable cleaning deposit, clean the heck out of the place.</p> <p>9. Do the whole picture thing again. Make sure that the landlord does a walk-through with you, and have them sign an agreement that you have left the apartment in fair condition. Don't feel like a jerk for doing this. You have the right to protect your money and yourself.</p> <p>10. Don't assume that a super-nice landlord equals a returned security deposit. Be wary of everyone, and don't let something slip just because you think the landlord really likes you.</p> <h2>If a Landlord Tries to Bilk You</h2> <p>11. If a landlord tries to hold on to your money, demand an itemized list of the withheld money. Scrutinize it for redundancy. For instance, a landlord can't charge you to clean a carpet and then replace a carpet.</p> <p>12. Also, when it comes to replacing things, you probably aren't responsible for the entire cost of replacement, unless whatever needs replacing is brand-new and you completely destroyed it. The useful life of carpeting is generally considered to be seven years. So, if the carpet was brand spanking new when you moved in, and you ruined it, you're liable for new carpet. On the other hand, if the carpet was five years old when you moved in and six years old when you moved out, you should only be liable for the amortized value of the carpet. Assuming you are responsible for damaging the carpet and it only had one year of useful life left, you should only be on the hook for about 15% of the replacement cost.</p> <p>Same goes with paint: was the the paint brand new when you moved in? If not, you shouldn't be paying the full cost of a new paint job.</p> <p>13. Let's say you get a bill from the landlord, and they are withholding most of your deposit for made-up charges. What do you do? Know your rights. Every state has different laws regarding just how much leeway both renters and landlords are given. Do check your state Attorney General web site to see what kind of protections are afforded to you.</p> <p>14. If you think that the charges are bogus, raise a (polite) fuss. A crooked landlord is going to hope that you simply roll over and let them take your money because so many people do just that. Let them know that you believe the charges to be bogus.</p> <p>15. Write your complaints down in the form of letters and send copies to an attorney, even if you don't plan to hire an attorney. Send them to your uncle the tax attorney, if you have to. I have a friend who works as an office manager in a law firm that I can send CC's to, if I need to. I address them to her, and she tears them up. Seeing a law firm's name is often enough to get people to back down, because no one wants to deal with a lawyer.</p> <p>16. Don't let the landlord make you feel petty. If they try say something like, &quot;It's only $100!&quot;, ask them why it's so important for them to take such a small sum away from you.</p> <p>17. Keep as much of the communication in writing as possible. Verbal agreements (and disagreements) simply don't offer enough proof.</p> <p>18. Be respectful in all of your communication. You might want to say &quot;You cheap, cheap bastard! I lived in this ratty hellhole for two years and never complained about the skanky-ass conditions!&quot; but you always come off better if you are polite and well-mannered. If you do have to go to small claims court, judges will look askance at written proof of your rudeness.</p> <p>19. If you do decide to take a landlord to small claims court, if only to fight what you see as injustice (and keep in mind that if you win, you might be able to get your court fees paid for), do let them know ahead of time. This might avoid the hassle of actually going to court. However, don't make empty threats. Be prepared to litigate if you threaten to do so.</p> <p>20. If you don't get your money back, do make sure to publicize your experience. Be reasonable, but if you truly believe that you were screwed over, let other people know. Use a site like CitySearch or Yelp to enter information about the property to warn other potential renters. Make sure that you don't exaggerate or do anything that could be construed as libel.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Andrea Karim</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-6"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">What can renters do if their landlords are in foreclosure?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">So You Want to be a Landlord? Part I</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">The Simple Way to Decide How Much Rent You Can Really Afford</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Self-Employed? Here&#039;s How to Get Your Apartment Application Approved</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">6 Ways to Apartment Hunt on Craigslist Without Getting Scammed</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Real Estate and Housing cleaning disposal landlord renter renter's rights renting security deposit small claims court tenant Sun, 15 Apr 2007 18:49:54 +0000 Andrea Karim 506 at