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    The Greater Williamsburg area is an exciting place to live and work, especially because of the large number of entrepreneurs who have built businesses from the ground up. These entrepreneurs have taken their passion and made it their profession. Many of us want to take that step. Before you begin, you need to think of the type of business entity you want to form. Our attorneys have extensive business experience, from small one-person companies to publicly traded major corporations. Our attorneys are among the leaders in Virginia in the representation of Common Interest Communities. These communities are generally referred to as "homeowners associations," or "HOAs," and "condominium associations." In the greater Williamsburg area alone, we provide legal assistance to nearly 100 associations. Our attorneys have successfully prosecuted and defended a wide array of civil disputes involving community association covenant enforcement, commercial transactions, construction disputes, contracts, real estate matters, boundary line and easement disputes, employment matters, antitrust litigation, copyright violations, administrative proceedings, and estate issues. Real Estate law encompasses a wide variety of matters, and our attorneys have vast experience to assist you. Whether you need assistance with a commercial or residential closing, or you have questions relating to residential or commercial leasing, we provide experienced advice and counsel to our clients. Zoning law can be a complicated maze of statutes and ordinances. We have ample experience in successful applications for rezoning, variance, and special use permit requests. Finally, commercial and residential construction provide special challenges with respect to financing issues and the construction process. We serve as counsel to various financial institutions.

Arbitration instead of Court? Be careful what you ask for

April 23, 2020 on 2:03 pm | In Business Planning, Common Interest Community, John Tarley, Real Estate Strategies, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

Over the past 15 years or so, “arbitration” provisions have appeared with increasing frequency in a wide variety of contracts. For example, declarations of covenants and restrictions recorded for homeowners associations, construction contracts, employment contracts, and commercial leases all may contain arbitration clauses. Arbitration may be a good idea, but you should know what “arbitration” means before you agree to be bound by such a provision.

Many people confuse the terms “mediation” and “arbitration.” Mediation refers to a process whereby a third-party helps facilitate a negotiated settlement between two or more parties. A mediator does not make decisions, does not take evidence, and does not conduct hearings. Parties simply negotiate and the mediator helps foster those negotiations.

Conversely, arbitrations are conducted like regular trials, with a judge-like arbitrator (or arbitrators) making a final decision based upon the evidence presented, and hopefully the law of your jurisdiction. Appeals of an arbitrator’s decision are virtually nonexistent.

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Fictitious Name filings: Make sure you file properly for your business

April 23, 2020 on 2:02 pm | In Business Planning, General Interest, John Tarley, Merger & Acquisition | No Comments

Many businesses operate under a fictitious name, otherwise referred to as “doing business as” or “d/b/a.” There are many reasons for this use, but primarily, a company can use a catchy business name, like when a franchise opens a “T.G.I.F.” or “McDonalds,” but the company’s actual corporate name is not as exciting.

According to the Virginia Supreme Court, Virginia requires a company operating under a different name to file that name with the court and the State Corporation Commission “to prevent fraud and to compel an individual or a corporation to disclose the name of the real owner of the business, in order that the person or corporation may sue in or be sued by the proper name.”

Virginia statutes set forth the process for registering your fictitious name. For restaurants or other single location businesses, the process is pretty simple. First, you file a fictitious name certificate with the court clerk in the jurisdiction where your business is located. After the certificate is recorded, you file the certified copy with the State Corporation Commission.

Problems can arise for construction companies and other types of businesses who transact business in several localities. For those companies, you must file a fictitious name certificate in each county or city where you conduct business. We have had several matters in which these types of businesses failed to properly register their fictitious names in all the jurisdictions where they conduct business. For one thing, those entities cannot bring a lawsuit to collect monies due until they rectify that problem.

“Doing business as” is just another issue to consider when you set up your company. Make sure you fully advise your lawyer so all of your filings can be completed early, and correctly.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

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Watch out for email scams!

April 23, 2020 on 2:01 pm | In General Interest, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

Email and telephone frauds are proliferating through the attorney community, and have been redirected at other professionals. On the message board for the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, one of my attorney colleagues provided a story from one of his clients: “a consulting engineer who frequently testifies in litigation, was retained by a bonding company in Colorado regarding a dispute with a construction company in Pittsburgh. Luckily he smelled a rat when they announced that a disbursement would be run through his company account.”



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Mediation and Arbitration – There is a big difference

April 23, 2020 on 2:01 pm | In Business Planning, General Interest, HOA litigation, John Tarley, Real Estate Litigation, Real Estate Strategies, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

In conversations with clients, it seems that people misuse the terms “mediation” and “arbitration” more than most other legal terms. Although I do not have any empirical data, my educated guess is that many businesses and construction contractors (who did not depend upon advice given by an experienced business attorney) insert “arbitration” clauses into their contracts thinking that they mean “mediation.” Some transactions involving the sale of real estate include an arbitration clause. Countless times, clients involved in a potential lawsuit point to the “arbitration” clause, and are disheartened when I explain to them the arbitration process. Many thought they were avoiding the potential high costs of litigation. These terms are NOT interchangeable and in this blog post I will explain the basic differences between them.

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Oral Contracts are enforceable, but . . . .

April 23, 2020 on 2:01 pm | In Business Planning, Construction litigation, Real Estate Litigation, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

Many times, parties enter into informal loan agreements on a simple oral promise to “pay it back.”  Similarly, others will enter into oral agreements to perform residential construction projects, or other types of projects. When things do not go as expected and the promises are of a value worth litigating over (or one of the parties to the promise thinks they are) things can go swiftly downhill.

Williamsburg Virginia Business Lawyers


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7 reasons to consider amending your HOA’s governing documents

April 23, 2020 on 2:00 pm | In Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, Susan B. Tarley, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

In other posts we have discussed a homeowner association’s governing documents. Many communities were established 20-40 years ago with governing documents that worked well for the developer, and for the most part the community association. However, many of these governing documents are outdated.  Virginia and federal laws pertaining to community associations have changed substantially.  If your board of directors has not engaged in an audit of your communities governing documents in the past 5-7 years, it should.

What is an “audit” of our governing documents?

An “audit” of your documents is an in-depth review by your HOA’s board of directors in conjunction with your association attorney.  The Board reviews each document noting any sections that lack clarity, are no longer enforced, appear to not apply to your community, protect a long-gone developer, or do not provide the association with adequate remedies.  The Board prepares a list of concerns or issues facing the community, such as homes that are not being maintained, large amounts of delinquent assessments, or enforcement capabilities of the association.  The Board provides this information to the association attorney.

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Can an engineering firm limit its liability by contract?

March 17, 2020 on 4:09 pm | In Business Planning, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments


Maybe not, in certain circumstances. A Fairfax County judge has determined that an engineering firm cannot limit its liability by contract in a case involving a 2008 fee contract. The typical fee agreement for an engineering firm includes some form of “limitation of liability” in which the firm seeks to limit its liability “to the amount of fees paid” to the firm, whether the claim is for breach of contract or warranty, or for negligence. In the case of Dewberry & Davis, Inc. v. C3NS, Inc., the engineering services firm, Dewberry, filed a fee claim against C3NS. C3NS filed a counterclaim for breach of contract. Dewberry had a limitation of liability clause in its fee agreement. It sought summary judgment to prevent C3NS from claiming that the limitation of liability paragraph was void. The Court sided with C3NS.

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2013 Legislative Update for Virginia HOAs

May 7, 2013 on 7:46 am | In Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, Land Use Planning, Real Estate Litigation, Real Estate Strategies, Susan B. Tarley, Unit Owners Association, Weekly Tweets | No Comments

The Virginia Legislative Action Committee (“LAC”) had a busy 2013 legislative session. This is my third year on the LAC and each year brings new challenges. Our mission is to monitor and influence legislation affecting community associations. This year I served as the Chair of the LAC and we monitored over 30 bills and were active on over 10 of the bills. We were successful in getting some bills tabled, some modified, and some passed. All of the bills cited below are effective July 1, 2013 unless otherwise noted. If you have any questions on the impact of these changes for your community, please let us know.

Williamsburg HOA and Business Law Firm


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There still are no winners in Virginia’s Chinese Drywall Cases

June 26, 2012 on 8:00 am | In Construction litigation, John Tarley, Real Estate Litigation, Weekly Tweets | No Comments

Recent news articles reported that a Norfolk Circuit Court awarded default judgment to several homeowners against Taishan Gypsum Company, a Chinese drywall manufacturer. However, as with the other outcomes in Virginia, it is unlikely that homeowners or building supply companies will receive any benefits from this decision.


Chinese Drywall complete remedition



When the corrosive drywall issues first became public, concerns were raised about two possible issues: a) health effects; and b) property damage. To date, both the Centers for Disease Control and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) have found that “not enough information exists to determine the nature and magnitude of a potential health risk.” Furthermore, no deaths can be attributed to exposure to imported corrosive drywall. That is good news. Continue reading “There still are no winners in Virginia’s Chinese Drywall Cases”

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Chinese Drywall damages not covered by homeowners insurance

June 20, 2012 on 10:12 am | In John Tarley, Real Estate Strategies, State & Federal Litigation, Weekly Tweets | Comments Off on Chinese Drywall damages not covered by homeowners insurance

Although it’s only one case, and it probably will be appealed, a Virginia federal court judge determined that a homeowners insurance policy did not cover losses resulting from Chinese drywall. The case is TRAVCO Ins. Co. v. Ward. Frankly, the decision is not surprising, but it does provide another roadblock to homeowners looking for assistance in paying for drywall replacement. Nothing has happened thus far, including the award of a large default judgment against Chinese manufacturers of the drywall, that provides any immediate financial relief to those homeowners. Therefore, if you are in the market to buy a house, you need to take precautions when considering homes built between 2004 and 2007, the timeframe generally accepted as when the Chinese drywall was used prominently in new home construction. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and James City County Code Compliance has a wealth of information and reports regarding the ongoing investigation of Chinese Drywall.

UPDATE: The James City County Board of Equalization has reduced to $100 the home values of Chinese drywall victims. These legislative solutions will probably become the only source of financial relief for homeowners.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

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