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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.

Attorneys’ Fee Provision in a Contract is Rejected as “Unconscionable”

April 23, 2020 on 2:16 pm | In Business Law, Common Interest Community, Construction litigation, Employment law, General Interest, HOA, John Tarley, Unit Owners Association | Comments Off on Attorneys’ Fee Provision in a Contract is Rejected as “Unconscionable”

Introduction

As we have previously written, Virginia generally follows the “American Rule” in requests for an award of attorneys’ fees in litigation cases. Jurisdictions that follow the American Rule require each side to pay their own attorneys’ fees, unless a party can point to a statute or contract provision that allows fee-shifting.

In a recent unpublished order, the Virginia Supreme Court struck a contractual fee-shifting provision. This blog post reviews that decision.

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It’s time for your Small Business to audit its Corporate Documents

April 23, 2020 on 2:16 pm | In Business Planning, John Tarley | No Comments

Many of our New Year’s Resolutions address our personal health, but owners of small businesses should also resolve to address your corporate health. Small businesses operate with great attention to the product or service the company provides, but little energy is left to review the infrastructure of the company. Issues such as shareholder agreements, key person insurance, disability insurance, annual meetings and other corporate necessities are given short shrift because of the attention we pay to running the business.

Williamsburg Virginia Business Lawyers

Business Agreements

This blog post provides a few suggestions to help you overcome a problem unique to small businesses: spending too much time working in your business rather than working on your business.  Continue reading “It’s time for your Small Business to audit its Corporate Documents”

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Update for Limited Liability Companies: What happens to Membership Interest when a Member Dies?

April 23, 2020 on 2:16 pm | In Business Law, Business Planning, John Tarley | No Comments

We blogged about the Virginia Supreme Court case of Ott v. Monroe. In that case, the Court ruled that when a father, in his will, assigned his majority interest in a limited liability company to his daughter, he only assigned a profit interest, not a control interest. Consequently, his daughter did not have the authority to “run” the company, absent the consent of the remaining LLC members.

In its 2013 session, the General Assembly modified the relevant LLC statutes in an attempt to overturn the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision. This blog post examines the new statute, and how it may impact your limited liability company.

Business Deal
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Benefits of HOAs Part 2: How is Covenant Enforcement Good for Owners?

April 23, 2020 on 2:16 pm | In Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, Jason Howell, John Tarley, Real Estate Litigation, Susan B. Tarley, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

The enforcement of covenants, conditions, and restrictions (“CC&R’s”) is among the most criticized of the duties performed by the Board of Directors of community associations, but is also the most important responsibility. CC&R’s govern many activities in a community including house designs, parking regulations, maintenance and repair of the common areas, and collection of assessments. Sensational “Gotcha” type news stories highlight enforcement practices of some associations, which contribute to a false perception that associations in general lack common sense. However, studies repeatedly show that the overwhelming majority of people  living in neighborhoods governed by HOAs believe that the rules in their communities benefit them.

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3 tips for safe emailing with your attorney

April 23, 2020 on 2:16 pm | In Business Planning, Common Interest Community, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

Obviously the use of email has changed many aspects of our world, including the practice of law. As with all new technology, we sometimes learn hard lessons. The attorney-client privilege is the foundation of effective communication between counsel and clients. Only a client can waive that privilege. Although email has far more positives than negatives, to protect attorney-client communications, use these three tips.

Williamsburg Virginia Business Lawyers

Attorney-Client Privilege

 

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Attorneys’ Fees and Litigation – When fees get awarded to the “Prevailing Party”

April 23, 2020 on 2:16 pm | In Common Interest Community, Construction litigation, HOA, HOA litigation, John Tarley, Mediation, Real Estate Litigation, State & Federal Litigation, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

In litigation matters involving common interest communities (otherwise known as homeowners associations (“HOAs”) or condominium owners associations (“condo associations”)), the issue of awarding attorneys’ fees for prevailing parties ultimately arises. Generally, the HOA’s Governing Documents or the condo association’s Condominium Instruments contain such a provision. Otherwise, attorneys’ fees may be recoverable by statute for HOAs and condo associations.

These attorney fee-shifting provisions, either by contract or statute, are contrary to the typical “American Rule” cases in which each side pays their own attorneys’ fees. Because litigation has become so expensive to pursue, whether to award attorneys’ fees, and the amount of any award, has become separate litigation on its own at the conclusion of cases.

In the recent case of Dewberry & Davis, Inc. v. C3NS, Inc., the Virginia Supreme Court was faced with the issue of “whether the circuit court erred in applying an attorneys’ fees provision of a contract.” We had previously blogged about this case, because in the underlying contract between the parties, Dewberry & Davis, an engineering company, had limited its liability for damages. The trial court had determined the limitation of liability clause was void, pointing to a recent change to Virginia Code § 54.1-411that permitted an engineering company to include a limitation of liability clause. Because the contract predated the code change, the court determined that those changes “demonstrate that the General Assembly fully intended to alter the statute’s intent.”

The case continued to trial, and eventually, upon appeal, to the Virginia Supreme Court. This blog post explains that Supreme Court decision relating to the award of attorneys’ fees.

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HOA Litigation: Is it avoidable?

April 23, 2020 on 2:16 pm | In Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, John Tarley, Mediation, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

We have written previously on the costs—both in time and money—for homeowners and condominium associations to litigate cases. On one hand, boards of directors have a fiduciary duty to uphold the governing documents of associations, but on the other, the board must investigate alternatives to the divisive nature of litigation.

As it turns out, sometimes there is no alternative because a homeowner can sue an HOA, forcing the association to defend. But what efforts can or should a homeowners or condo association take to avoid the consequences of litigation?

A series of recent Virginia cases highlights the consequences associations can face in litigation cases. This blog posts provides a brief summary of those cases and some cautionary advice.

Williamsburg Virginia Business and HOA Lawyers

Board of Directors Meeting

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Virginia’s New Noncompete Statute effective July 1

April 23, 2020 on 2:16 pm | In Business Law, Business Planning, Employment law, General Interest, John Tarley | Comments Off on Virginia’s New Noncompete Statute effective July 1

Virginia became one of the latest states to pass legislation limiting the use of employee noncompete agreements. Beginning July 1, 2020, certain noncompete agreements are prohibited by statute. This blog post examines that new statute and what it means for employers and employees.

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Can an engineering firm limit its liability by contract?

April 23, 2020 on 2:16 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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You obtained a PPP Loan? Here are some answers to questions you may have on spending the funds

April 23, 2020 on 2:16 pm | In Business Law, Business Planning, John Tarley | Comments Off on You obtained a PPP Loan? Here are some answers to questions you may have on spending the funds

With the COVid-19 Pandemic, amongst the financial packages available to small businesses is the Payroll Protection Program (“PPP”). Small businesses must make themselves aware of the benefits of these loans. This blog post assumes you were able to obtain a PPP loan, and provides you with basic information you need to know, if you want your PPP loan to be forgiven (essentially converting the loan to a grant).

Please note that what follows is NOT legal or tax advice. These are simply my observations and notes based upon information I have gathered through an analysis of the CARES Act, an analysis of proposed regulations governing the PPP, and my attendance at numerous webinars given by tax and banking experts explaining the PPP.

YOU SHOULD CONTACT YOUR TAX ADVISOR AND BANK FOR PERSONALIZED INFORMATION FOR YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES. The purpose of this blog post is to provide you basic information that you can use to educate yourself about the PPP loans, so you can use that knowledge to ask more informed questions of your financial professionals.

First, if you were funded with a PPP loan, the period of time for calculating possible forgiveness of the loan is 8 weeks from the time you were funded. Therefore, if you were funded on April 20, 2020, your allowable expenses can only be calculated for the 8 weeks after that date.

Second, as the name suggests, the PPP is primarily to be used for payroll. At this point, it appears as though your business must spend at least 75% of the PPP funds on payroll in order to qualify as fully forgiven. Be advised that no employee (or owner) can be paid from the PPP loans at an amount greater than $100,000 per year, pro-rated over the 8-week period.

What constitutes “payroll?” Here are the current general guidelines, but there are more specifics that go beyond the scope of this blog post, so your particular situation may vary:

  • Draws or distributions to owners;
  • Payroll to full-time equivalent employees (payments made to independent contractors reported on a 1099 are not considered “payroll” because ICs are not “employees” and will not be calculated in your payroll). Also, the payment of state and local income tax on employee compensation counts in the “payroll” category;
  • Payment for group health-care benefits, including insurance premiums; and
  • Employee retirement benefits.

Third, besides payroll, you can use the PPP loan to pay your business’ lease or mortgage payments. Again, the 8 week period applies, and prepayment of future rent or mortgage probably will be disallowed in calculating the “forgiven” portion of your PPP loan expenditures.

Fourth, you can use the PPP loan proceeds to pay your business’ utilities expenses, as well as interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before you obtained the PPP loan.

As you can see, the PPP loan can work for sole-proprietors, as well as small businesses with multiple shareholders/members. You are an employee of your small business, along with any other employees you may have.

Finally, so long as you follow the guidelines, your PPP loan will be forgiven if the proceeds are used for the program’s intended purposes (see above) over a period of time no more than 8 weeks from when your loan was funded. The bank where you obtained your PPP loan will make the determination of forgiveness, based upon your documentation and your expenditures. For any amount of the loan used that does not meet the PPP loan criteria, that amount will NOT be forgiven.

As a reminder, nothing in this blog post should be considered legal advice or tax advice, but instead is a very basic overview of how to spend your PPP loan proceeds. Contact your tax or financial advisers for your particular situation. But in any case, document every PPP expenditure you make to support your case to have the entire PPP loan forgiven.

At the end of the day, we know many of our small businesses cannot afford to seek out legal advice at this time, but it is vitally important that if we are to survive the financial crisis arising out of this novel Coronavirus pandemic, and we have to be willing to help each other out. As information is made available, we will keep you updated as best we can. Stay safe!

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