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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.

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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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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Do the Virginia Rules of Evidence change settlement negotiations and mediations?

April 23, 2020 on 2:16 pm | In Construction litigation, HOA litigation, Mediation, Real Estate Litigation | No Comments

Virginia’s new codified Rules of Evidence became effective on July 1, 2012. In an article in Virginia Lawyers Weekly, five of the rules were highlighted. One of those highlighted rules was Rule 2:408, “Compromise and Offers to Compromise.” The terms of this rule differ from the terms of the Federal Rule of Evidence 408, but those differences will not be explored in this post. Instead, this blog post will review Virginia Rule of Evidence 2:408, and its possible implications for settlement discussions and mediation.

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Rental Restrictions in HOAs permitted according to the Virginia Attorney General

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

In many HOAs, an issue arises when a homeowner purchases real estate as an investment property intending to lease the home or condo unit. In those situations, the homeowner becomes a “landlord” rather than a resident owner and the situation causes concerns for many homeowner and condominium owner associations. Many association documents contain restrictions on leasing property. In response to an inquiry, the Attorney General for Virginia has issued an official advisory opinion concerning the imposition of rental restrictions in common interest communities concluding that if the restriction is adopted correctly and for a legitimate purpose, the rental restriction is valid.

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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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Requests to Inspect and Copy Community Association or Company Records: Should it be this complicated?

April 23, 2020 on 2:16 pm | In Business Law, Business Planning, Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, Susan B. Tarley, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

A Virginia Beach jury found a condominium association liable for failing to permit unit owners an opportunity to inspect and copy association records. Not only must the condo board allow inspection and copying, they must pay for an audit of the association records and pay $50,000 for the unit owners’ attorneys’ fees.

These questions arise frequently. This blog post reviews the various Virginia statutes that address the right to inspect and copy records for companies, HOAs and condominium associations.

HOA Filing Information

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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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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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When might a Virginia business be liable for unemployment compensation?

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

In the Greater Williamsburg area, many small businesses face seasonal layoffs when the summer tourism season ends. For small businesses, these layoffs lead to questions regarding unemployment compensation. In this blog post, we will discuss the issue of when an employer can be liable for the unemployment compensation for a terminated employee.

 

Generally speaking, an employee terminated by you may be otherwise eligible for unemployment benefits, chargeable to your company if:

The basic qualifications for unemployment compensation are:

Once you have been determined to be the “employer” liable for unemployment compensation, you are responsible for all the benefits payable to that former employee. Unless extended benefits have been approved, the maximum benefit is 26 times the weekly benefits payable to the employee.

The weekly benefits are found in a table at Virginia Code § 60.1-602. This table is regularly updated, it tells you how much a person would receive per week in unemployment, based upon the amount they made when employed. For example, if a person made $6,300 in the prior twelve weeks when employed, he would receive $125 per week in unemployment, and a total of $3,250, if he were employed for the entire 26-week period.

The possibility of being liable for unemployment compensation worries many small business owners. Discuss the issue with your business attorney so that you can plan properly for your employment needs.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

 

jt photo 150x150 Using a company computer to email your attorney may be a bad idea

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Citizen’s Arrest – From Mayberry to Suffolk

April 23, 2020 on 2:16 pm | In General Interest, John Tarley | No Comments

I read a story in the Virginia-Pilot in which it described an incident of Citizen’s Arrest. In the story, a fire inspector, using a flashing blue light on his car, stopped a female driver. He claimed the driver had been swerving, and he stopped her because of his concern she may have been drinking.

A Suffolk, Virginia detective witnessed the incident. After consultation with fellow police officers, the police department urged the Commonwealth’s Attorney to press charges against the fire inspector for impersonating an officer.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney declined. He cited a Virginia case, Hudson v. Commonwealth, for the legal principle that private citizens have a common law right to make a “Citizen’s Arrest.”

I will not go into all of the other complicating legal issues relating to a Citizen’s Arrest, like what obligations does a person have to obey the citizen making the arrest, what force can the citizen use to make the arrest, etc. No, my purpose is more of humorous nature, because the incident reminded me of my childhood, watching Mayberry RFD. In this particular episode, Gomer Pyle shows the proper way to make a Citizen’s Arrest of Deputy Barney Fife:


Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

John Tarley

John Tarley

 

 

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