News, Events & Publications

Free Wage Theft Legal Clinics

February 15, 2017 – The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is hosting free wage theft clinics in February and March. These clinics will help workers in Massachusetts get the wages and benefits they have earned. Lawyers, law students, and advocates will help workers learn their rights, draft demand letters, and prepare small claims court complaints.

More details about the upcoming clinics are below, and can also be found online here.

Where:

Suffolk Law School, First Floor Function Room
120 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02108 (near the Park Street MBTA station)

When:

  • Monday, February 27, 2017 from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM
  • Monday, March 27, 2017 from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Details:

  • Walk-ins are welcome at these clinics.
  • If you need an interpreter, please call (617) 963-2327 at least 1 week before the clinic you wish to attend.
  • If you have already filed a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division, please bring:
    • Your private right of action letter,
    • A copy of your complaint, and,
    • Any documents related to your case (i.e. pay stubs, time sheets, letters or emails from your employer)

In addition, if you wish to hire an experienced, qualified attorney for assistance with any workplace problem, please contact the Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service by calling (617) 742-0625 or filling out an online request form here. All of our attorneys are licensed, vetted, and have malpractice insurance.

Making Real Estate Transactions Run Smoothly

February 8, 2017 – Buying a home is a huge life decision and whether it’s your first property or not, having a qualified real estate broker and an attorney can make the process much more safe and simple.

The real estate market is extremely diverse and complicated, with different property classifications (i.e. residential, commercial), land use requirements, and regulations regarding what insurance is needed, mortgages, how much you’ll pay in taxes on the property, and what sort of forms and inspections you are responsible for.

Because of how complicated buying a home can be, working with a licensed real estate broker can make the transaction much smoother. Real estate agents are required to be licensed by the state and are regulated by the Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons. Along with this regulatory body come many laws and regulations that the brokers themselves need to follow that protect your rights as a consumer.

Many real estate attorneys are also licensed Real Estate brokers, and they can help to review contracts and mortgages you are presented, make sure the sellers are respecting your rights as a consumer, and inform you of the legal responsibilities that go along with purchasing a home, such as insurance and zoning requirements.

If you are considering purchasing a home and would like to speak to a qualified attorney well versed in real estate law, or if you’ve experienced a situation where you believe your rights were violated during a real estate transaction, call the Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (617) 742-0625 or fill out an online request form today.

Massachusetts Increases Minimum Wage to $11 per Hour

January 25, 2017 – On January 1st, 2017, the Massachusetts minimum wage officially rose from $10 per hour to $11 per hour thanks to a law passed in 2014. The law was designed to incrementally increase Massachusetts minimum wage by $1per hour per year, beginning with January 1st, 2015 when the minimum wage increased to $9 per hour, and ending January 1st, 2017. This year’s is the final increase mandated by that law, meaning that unless additional legislation is passed, the minimum wage will remain at $11 per hour and will not rise next year.

However, the law does have some exceptions. For example, tipped workers are only required to be paid $3.75 per hour, but only if their tips brings wage up to $11 per hour.

As the legislation is complicated and nested within a much larger regulatory environment, it can be difficult for employees to know when their rights as a worker are being violated. This is why the Office of Massachusetts Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division oversees Massachusetts wage and hour laws and helps workers understand their rights as well as investigate and prosecute employers that are treating their employees unfairly. You can contact the AG’s office by visiting their website or calling (617) 727-3465.

If you are concerned that your employer is not following the wage and hour laws and would like to speak to a lawyer, you can contact the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service to be connected with an attorney who can assist in resolving your employment issues. Call us today at 617-742-0625, or fill out our online request form to begin the referral process.

Winter Weather: Legal Responsibilities and Liability

January 11, 2017 – As winter weather hits the city, it’s important to remember that snow doesn’t just have the capacity to make your morning commute a nightmare or damage your property. Along with snow and ice, winter can bring some additional responsibilities for property owners, specifically regarding snow removal.

In the city of Boston and throughout most of Massachusetts, property owners are legally responsible for snow/ice removal not only on their own property, but on public sidewalks, walkways, and curb ramps adjacent to the property. Failure to clear these pathways can result in fines and even being held liable for injuries that occur on untended walkways. Failure to remove snow and ice from a sidewalk or other walkway can get property owners fined from $50-$200. These fines vary based on whether a building is commercial or residential, the square yardage of snow that was not removed, and every day that goes by without the snow being cleared counts as another fineable violation.

The fines and requirements for when/how snow removal must be carried out also vary by municipality. In Boston, property owners are required to clear walkways within 3 hours of snowfall, or 3 hours from sunrise if the snowfall occurred during the night. Because these regulations may be different based on where you live, it may help to check out http://www.mass.gov/portal/snow/  for all Massachusetts resources on snow and winter weather.

If you end up failing to clear snow and are fined, are held liable for an injury occurring on walkways you are responsible for, or are injured yourself on an unsafe walkway and need a qualified attorney, give us a call at 617-742-0625 or submit an online request.

Notarios: Avoiding Exploitation when Seeking Immigration Law Help

December 13, 2016 – Immigration laws within the United States are complex and navigating such laws usually requires help from a knowledgeable and qualified lawyer.  Unfortunately, some people who are not lawyers try to exploit immigrants seeking legal assistance by claiming they are licensed or certified to give legal help, but end up just taking people’s money.  They are often called notarios, escribanos, or notarios publicos, and they provide unqualified and illegal immigration law services.

Don’t let the name confuse you: notarios are not equivalent to public notaries within the United States.  Notarios are not authorized to provide legal assistance. Any advice or service provided by a notario is provided illegally and is usually incorrect. Notarios may also charge fees for immigration forms which can be found for free online. You should only take legal advice or help from a licensed attorney or an accredited representative (someone given special permission by the government to help people in immigration court).

To determine if someone is legally qualified to assist with an immigration law matter, ask to see their law license or accreditation.  If you are in Massachusetts, you can also verify their license online through the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers website. Go to massbbo.org, click “Attorney Lookup,” and enter the person’s first and last name.  Click “Find Them!” and, if the person has been admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth, their name and contact information will appear. The page will also display the person’s discipline record and state whether or not the person has legal liability insurance.

There are numerous resources available to ensure you find proper immigration law help:

  • For additional tips on notario spotting, you can view this video created by law students at the University of Pennsylvania titled “Notorious Notarios.”
  • To assist in your search for legal assistance, MassLegalHelp has a useful list of trustworthy immigration specialists within the state of Massachusetts who are qualified to help with immigration law matters. Some of these specialists may be able to provide help for free or at reduced costs.
  • MassLegalHelp has also written their own article on notario fraud.

Additionally, if you wish to hire an experienced and qualified immigration lawyer, please contact the Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service by calling (617) 742-0625 or filling out an online request form here. All of our attorneys are licensed, vetted and have malpractice insurance.

Make Sure You’re Covered this Winter

December 1, 2016 – As we approach the second winter since breaking the Massachusetts snowfall record, it’s important to make sure that your property is covered against potential damage due to snow and ice. This means not only making sure that your insurance is up to date, but also that you know what kind of damage your policy covers. From car insurance to homeowners and renters policies, safeguarding your possessions against the many dangers winter weather brings can help make sure you aren’t paying for a collapsed roof or a car destroyed by a snow plow out of your own pocket.

A great first step to take in making sure your property is protected is to read through your policy so you know what you’re covered for. Your policy is a legal agreement that you have signed, and the insurance company is responsible only for what is included in that agreement. You can request a full copy of your policy from your insurance company, as well as speak to your insurance agent (if you have one) to have them help you understand what you are covered for.

If you do end up needing to utilize your coverage after experiencing damage, you should contact your insurance company as soon as you can to make sure there aren’t any issues in having your claim covered. If you disagree with the insurance companies decision on whether or not to cover your damage, or disagree with the amount they will pay, you can file a complaint with the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, which will review your case and determine what the insurance company is responsible for. If you don’t receive a favorable determination from your complaint and are seeking legal representation, please call us today at 617-742-0625 or submit an online request, and the BBA can help put you in contact with an experienced and affordable attorney.

MA Attorney General Launches Special Hotline to Report Harassment & Hate Crimes

November 11, 2016 – The Office of Massachusetts Attorney General (AG) Maura Healy has announced the launch of a new hotline to report harassment and intimidation of minority groups. Protecting the civil rights of everyone in Massachusetts is an important responsibility of the AG’s Office.

Individuals can call the special hotline at 1-800-994-3228 or fill out a civil rights complaint form online if they witness or experience bias-motivated threats, harassment, or violence against racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women, immigrants, and lesbian, gay and transgender individuals. The hotline will be managed by lawyers and staff in the AG’s Office, and cases may be referred to local law enforcement officials or the AG’s Criminal Bureau. As always, residents who fear for their immediate safety should call 911.

For more information, please visit the AG’s website: http://www.mass.gov/ago/consumer-resources/your-rights/civil-rights/hate-crimes.html

Frog in Your Throat? Learn Your Sick Time Rights

October 26, 2016 – With the season change often comes cold and flu season, and sometimes you need to call in sick from work. If you are an employee within the state of Massachusetts, it’s important that you have a firm grasp on the various rights you have regarding sick time.

Every worker is entitled to sick time – this includes part-time and temporary workers too. By law, you earn 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours you work, and you can accumulate up to 40 hours of sick time annually. However, whether or not you are eligible for paid sick time is determined by how many employees are at your job. If there are 11 or more employees, your sick time must be paid.  If there are fewer than 11 workers, your sick time does not have to be paid. Regardless, you still have a right to earn 40 hours of sick time each year. The sick time you accumulate can start to be used 90 days after you start your job.

Employers cannot require that you work extra hours in order to make up for time lost due to sickness. Similarly, they cannot make you find a replacement for your position while you are out sick.

If your employer does not let you or a coworker use earned sick time, or your employer takes retaliatory action, you should get in contact with a lawyer as soon as possible. For a referral to an attorney, call us at (617) 742-0625, or fill out an online request form here. In some instances, you may be awarded up to 3 times the amount of sick time owed to you, as well as court costs and attorney’s fees.

Does Your Apartment Have Bad Conditions?

September 29, 2016 – Did you move into an apartment and realize that the conditions are so bad that you think it may be uninhabitable? In Massachusetts, all tenants have a right to a decent, safe, and sanitary place to live, so find out what you can do about it.

Under state law, the following must be provided by a landlord, and, if they are absent or in disrepair, must be provided within 24 hours of notice:

    • Provision of heat, hot and cold water, and electricity
    • kitchens and bathrooms that have sinks with running water
    • doors and windows that have locks
    • functioning toilets
    • electrical outlets in common areas
    • a functioning smoke detector

Similarly, the following must be provided by a landlord, and, if they are absent or in disrepair, must be provided within 5 days of notice:

    • A kitchen sink, stove, and oven in good working condition
    • A bathroom kitchen sink, tub, and shower in good working condition
    • An apartment free of insect, or rodent infestation
    • Proper venting of space or water heater

There are also other conditions that your apartment must meet. For a full list, please visit the link below. http://www.masslegalhelp.org/housing/legaltactics1/housingcode_checklist.pdf

If you’ve determined there is something in your apartment that violates the regulations, notify your landlord in writing immediately. If the repairs are not made, you have a few options.

  • Request an Inspection: Call your local town/city hall, and they will provide you an appointment with a housing inspector. If there are serious problems, such as lack of heat or water, tell them—by law, in such a case, the inspector must come within 24 hours.
  • Withhold rent: This is legal to do if your landlord is not properly maintaining your apartment in certain circumstances. However, it must be done carefully and you should always consult with a lawyer to find out if you can legally do so.

To connect with an experienced lawyer, please contact our Intake Specialists by calling 617-742-0625 or submitting a request online through this form.

Landlord/Tenant Series: What To Know about MA Rent Nonpayment Law

September 13, 2016 – Every tenant knows they have to pay rent, but not every tenant knows what happens if they don’t pay rent. Being aware of your rights can help avoid conflicts and court disputes.  Below are some tips that both landlords and tenants should be aware of when rent has not been paid.

  • Tip #1: Check the lease to see if there is a late payment penalty clause. If it does not, late fees cannot be imposed by a landlord if the rent is late. If there is a late payment penalty clause, a landlord still cannot collect a late payment penalty until the rent is 30 days late.
  • Tip #2: If you are a tenant with a lease, and are being evicted for nonpayment of rent, you can “cure” or resolve the nonpayment by paying the rent owed before the date stated on your eviction notice. Curing of nonpayment can be done even after the landlord has filed an eviction case with the court. A tenant has until the date court papers are due to cure the non-payment. Sometimes a landlord may agree to settle and decide not to proceed with the eviction if the back-rent is paid in full.
  • Tip #3: A landlord must give a tenant 30 days’ notice if they wish to evict them for repeated late payment of rent. If you are the tenant, and can show a reason why you are consistently are late on rent payments—such as receiving your monthly disability income on a date after the due date of your rent—you should explain this reason to your landlord and the judge. With this information, a judge may rule that your landlord should ask for your rent on a different date of the month rather than allowing the landlord to move forward with the eviction process.

Even when heeding these tips, legal disputes or eviction cases may still occur. For a referral to an attorney experienced in these matters, call the Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (617) 742-0625 or fill out an online request form today.