News, Events & Publications

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.

Boston Move-In Day: Security Deposit and Last Month’s Rent

September 1, 2016 – September 1 is commonly referred to as Boston Move-In Day, as nearly 70% of all leases begin on 9/1. Over the next few weeks we will be posting about various rules tenants and landlords should know.  One of the most contested Landlord/Tenant issues surrounds rent and security deposits.

Legally, a landlord can only charge a new tenant for their first month’s rent, last month’s rent, a security deposit, and the cost of a new lock and key. Both the last month’s rent and security deposit must be less than or equal to the price of first month’s rent. A landlord cannot increase the price of a security deposit during your tenancy, even if the price of rent goes up.

Any fees charged by a landlord prior to move in other than first & last month’s rent, security deposit, and new lock and key are illegal. A landlord cannot charge pet fees, cleaning fees, application fees, fees for credit checks, etc.  If you have already paid these fees prior to moving in, the wisest course of action may be to ask for a detailed receipt for your payments. You can take the cost of these fees out of your future rent.

Also, your landlord is required by law to give you a written receipt for a security deposit or last month’s rent. You can print out the following receipt for your landlord to complete if they do not offer one. http://www.masslegalhelp.org/housing/legaltactics/security-deposit-receipts.pdf. Your landlord must also give you a second receipt with the name and location of the bank in which your security deposit is being stored, as well as the bank account number. Your money must be in a separate account that contains only your deposit. You may be entitled up to three times the amount of your deposit if your landlord does not comply with the security deposit law. Similarly, if you are not given a written receipt within 30 days of submitting your deposit, you are entitled to have your security deposit returned.

Finally, you are entitled to interest on your security deposit and last month’s rent. At the end of each year of tenancy, your landlord must give you a statement regarding the amount of interest you have accrued on that account.

Even when heeding these tips, legal disputes may still arise. 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.

 

Workers Comp: Your Rights as a Massachusetts Worker

August 17, 2016 – Workers compensation is a type of insurance that MA employers are required to purchase for their employees. This type of insurance will cover you if you are injured or become sick due to your job and miss five (5) days of work, or receive less pay due to the injury or illness.

From the time the work related injury/illness occurs, you have four (4) years to report it to your employer. Once you report the incident with your employer, they will need to file a claim with their workers comp insurance company, who will then have 14 days to both approve the claim and mail your first check, or deny the claim and notify you of the reasons why.

If your employer refuses to file your claim with their workers comp insurer, you should report the incident to the insurance company or contact the Division of Industrial Accidents (DIA) for help filing the claim and receiving information about what steps to take if your employer is not cooperative.

If the insurance company denies the claim, and you believe their decision to be incorrect, the DIA recommends you:

If you have filed a workers compensation claim that has been denied and need a lawyer, you can contact the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service to be connected with an attorney who can assist in resolving your claim issues. Call us today at 617-742-0625, or fill out our online request form to begin the referral process.

Quick Tips for Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor

August 4, 2016 – Whether it’s remodeling your kitchen, adding an extension, or making repairs, every homeowner dreams of their house’s potential for renovation.  However, when trying to make those dreams a reality, homeowners can face unfinished jobs, shoddy results, or even outright scams.

If you’re thinking of making some home improvements, consider these tips when hiring a contractor:

  • Ask for a complaint history. A quick call to the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation’s (OCABR) toll-free number, (617) 973-8787, can make sure your contractor doesn’t have a malicious history.
  • Sign a contract. Put together a detailed, written contract including a total cost that must be signed by both you and your contractor BEFORE construction begins. Check that the contractor’s name on the contract matches their name at the OCABR.
  • Protect your money. If you need a building permit, have the contractor get it. The Guaranty Fund of Massachusetts provides funding to resolve homeowner-contractor disputes, but getting a building permit yourself can make you ineligible for such funds.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Visit the OCABR website, http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/hic-consumers.html, or contact OCABR at (617) 973-8787 or (888) 283-3757 for toll-free assistance.

If you need legal assistance with a current contracting dispute, please do not hesitate to call our intake staff at (617) 742-0625. You can also request an attorney through our online request form.

Consulting With A Lawyer After A Car Accident

July 21, 2016 – Getting into a car accident can be a stressful experience, and many questions can arise after the fact. Will my insurance cover the damage to my vehicle? How can I afford my medical bills? What do I do next? A lawyer who deals with accident cases can help answer these questions, and represent you in various cases such as negotiating with other attorneys or insurance agents, handling personal injury lawsuits, or defending against criminal charges. You don’t need to handle the situation alone. Call us today to be connected with a lawyer for:

  • Criminal Defense;
  • Automobile Insurance Denials;
  • Lost Wages from Injuries;
  • Medical Bills resulting from the accident;
  • Personal Injury;
  • Property Damage;
  • Wrongful Death.

Time is of the essence with car accident cases, so if something happens consult an attorney right away. Call us at (617)-742-0625 or submit a request online to connect with us.

Outside the Box and Inside the Budget: Alternative Dispute Resolution Can Help You Save

June 30, 2016 – When the time comes to hire a lawyer, very few people are excited about the process. Going through a divorce, trying to administer a will, or resolving a business dispute can be emotionally and financially draining. Sometimes the people you are fighting against are family or friends.

Some people look for lawyers who are trained in Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR.  Attorneys who use ADR draw from mediation, negotiation, and conciliation to avoid extensive and expensive litigation in court.  ADR attorneys can help you mediate many kinds of legal situations, such as:

  • Business Disputes
  • Custody Issues
  • Divorce
  • Employment Matters
  • Real Estate Disputes
  • Wills and Trust Disputes

ADR can be less adversarial than typical court procedures, and can reduce the emotional toll on parties, while often being more cost effective than litigation.  The Boston Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service can recommend attorneys who use ADR in their practice.  For more information, please call us today at 617-742-0625 or fill out an online request form.