News, Events & Publications

The Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General Launches New Website

November 30, 2017 – The MA Attorney General’s Office of Maura Healey (AGO) has launched a new website with enhanced resources and information on legal topics for the state of Massachusetts. This redesigned website has easy-to-find legal information about many areas of law, including:

  • Consumer Law: includes information on lemon law, insurance claim denials, and unfair and deceptive business practices.
  • Civil Rights: includes legal information on disability, privacy, and discrimination rights.
  • Labor & Employment Law: includes information on employment discrimination, harassment and wage theft.
  • Real Estate Law: includes information on foreclosure and mortgage issues.

On the website there is also information for public records requests and press releases about new laws that have been passed.   Check out the new website here.

Residential Lead Paint Information

November 15, 2017 – The National Center for Disease Control recently lowered the threshold blood lead level of concern for children in half (from 10 micrograms per deciliter to 5 micrograms per deciliter). This reduced threshold increases the number of Massachusetts children recognized to be at risk of detrimental health effects due to lead exposure.

The greatest risk to childhood lead poisoning is lead-based paints which can be found in pre-1978 houses. Residual paint chips and dusts can cause irreparable harm to children under the age of six. And while highly toxic lead-based pain was banned in 1978, there remains an estimated 24 million housing units that have lead based-paint, particularly in Massachusetts where much of the housing stock is old.

Under state and federal law, property owners, and landlords may have to disclose the presence of lead paint, and tenants have various legal protections.

A consultation with a lawyer can help if you have concerns about lead paint, whether you are a property owner, a tenant, or have a child living in a home with lead paint.  The Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service can connect you with an experienced attorney today. Please contact us at 617-742-0625 or fill out an online request here.

Massachusetts Expands Free Civil Legal Aid For Victims of Crime (CLAVC)

November 6, 2017 – The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) has announced that it had received a two-year, $8 million grant from the Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA) to increase access to civil legal services for victims of violent and economic crimes in Massachusetts. The funding will increase access to services that provide assistance with child custody, immigration, healthcare, access to stable housing, and much more. Services will be free and accessible to children, elders, non-English speakers, and people with disabilities. Referrals will also be made to other legal agencies to meet each client’s individual and long-term safety needs.

To be eligible for pro bono legal services, you must be:

  • A victim or survivor of crime
  • You must have a civil (non-criminal) legal problem that is a result of that crime; and
  • You must live in Massachusetts, or the legal problem must be in Massachusetts.

If you or someone you know meet this criteria, you can connect with help through this link:  https://massclavc.org/find-legal-help/

If you have other legal needs, both civil and criminal, please contact the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 617-742-0625 or submit an online request form here today!  We refer to attorneys who offer a variety of fee structures, including Limited Assistance Representation, contingency fees when applicable, and reduced fees for those who qualify.

 

 

Child Support and Health Care Coverage

October 26, 2017 – A child support order can help pay for your child’s housing, health care, child care and education costs, as well as for food and clothing.

Specifically a child support order can provide your child with medical and dental insurance coverage as long as the parent paying child support has health insurance through an employer or organization, or can get health insurance at a reasonable cost that can cover the children. However, the judge can decide that the health insurance costs are unreasonable if it is a hardship for the parent already paying child support.  For more information about the in’s and out’s of child support, please click here to view information on MassLegalHelp, and online resource for legal information.  If you would like to speak with a lawyer, please contact the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 617-742-0625 or submit an online request form here today! We refer to attorneys who offer a variety of fee structures, including Limited Assistance Representation, and reduced fees for those who qualify.

Massachusetts Attorney General Releases Advisory to Universities on Rights of Immigrant Students on Campus

October 17, 2017 – The Office of the Attorney General recently provided the public with an advisory for Massachusetts Colleges and Universities regarding immigrant students. In the advisory, many suggestions to protect immigrant students are given for the Commonwealth’s private and public colleges and universities, also known as Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs). This advisory was intended to address only students that are undocumented or who have been granted temporary legal protection such as grantees of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This does not address international students on an F-1, J-1 or similar visas.

The advisory includes information about IHEs as sensitive locations. Sensitive locations are areas were immigration enforcement activities such as surveillance, interviews, searches, and arrests are generally prohibited absent special circumstances or prior approval. The advisory suggests that IHEs create a protocol to be used in the event of an immigration officer requesting access to a space on campus or to seek an interview with someone of the campus community. The Attorney General’s Office example protocol is:

  • First, ask the immigration officer for his or her name, identification number, and the name of the agency with which he or she is affiliated;
  • Second, ask the immigration officer for a copy of any warrant, subpoena, or court order he or she has;
  • Third, inform the immigration officer that you are not attempting to obstruct his or her actions, but you are not authorized to respond to the request and need to contact the appropriate campus person before you can provide access; and
  • Fourth, ask the immigration officer to wait outside while you contact your IHE’s campus police, legal counsel, or other appropriate point person.

In general, IHE’s cannot prohibit immigration officers from accessing public portions of campus, but may restrict them from accessing private spaces which include dorms, lecture halls while classes are in session, research labs, kitchens, locker rooms, and maintenance areas. Immigration officers can access these private areas without the consent of the IHE only if they have a judicial warrant.

Other suggestions from the Office of the Attorney General as to how to protect immigrant student’s information are to:

  • Review the information from students to ensure that no information about a student’s (or family member’s) immigration or citizenship status is available.
  • Limit the types of information they consider “directory” (name, contact info, address) by excluding info that may be released to citizenship or immigration such as birthplace or language spoken at home
  • Provide students with regular opportunity to opt out of the disclosure of student’s directory information and may provide this notice in easily accessible formats such as academic catalog or school website
  • Provide training to staff on privacy and confidentiality policies
  • Review existing contracts with immigration agencies regarding info sharing to ensure that immigration status info is shared only when required by a valid subpoena or court order

For the full advisory from the Office of the Attorney General please click here.

Changing a Child Support Order

October 6, 2017 – If circumstances have changed since you last entered into a child support order, you might be able to make changes to it.  A court can modify child support if one of 3 changes happens. (1) A parent’s income changed, (2) certain expenses for taking care of your child have changed, or (3) a parent’s health insurance choices have changed.

It does not matter if you receive or give child support – if either parent’s life has changed, you can ask the court to modify certain aspects of the order, such as:

  • The “weekly support amount” which is the amount you get from the child support  guidelines worksheet
  • Each parent’s share of routine medical and dental expense over $250 each year
  • Each parent’s share of unexpected medical and dental expenses
  • Each parent’s share of other child-related expenses (ex: educational expenses )
  • Which parent pays child support
  • Which parent provides health insurance
  • When the order will end

If you are a Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division customer, the Department of Revenue can assist you in requesting modifications for your child support order. In this case, you must contact the DOR before filing to ask them for the appropriate forms and mail them to this address:

Massachusetts Department of Revenue
Child Support Enforcement Division
P.O. Box 7057
Boston, MA 02204
Attention: Modification

For more information on how the DOR can help you with child support modification, click here.

Additional information about Child Support orders in general can be found here. If a legal issue arises and you would like to speak with a lawyer, please contact the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 617-742-0625 or submit an online request form here today!

Free DACA Renewal Clinics

September 19, 2017 – Greater Boston Legal Services’ Immigration Unit will be holding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Renewal Walk-in Clinics on Monday, September 25 and Monday, October 2 from 2:30-7PM for current DACA recipients whose employment cards expire prior to March 5, 2018. DACA recipients who fit into this category are encouraged to attend as renewal before October 5 should provide people with protection for the next two years. There are no legal fees associated with this clinic, but the DACA renewal form requires a $495 fee. For more information you can find GBLS at 197 Friend Street, Boston, or call them at 617-371-1234.

In addition, if you wish to hire an experienced attorney for assistance with an immigration problem, please contact the Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service by calling 617-742-0625 or filling out an online request form here.

 

Consumer Alert: How to Protect Yourself from the Equifax Data Breach

September 13, 2017 – Massachusetts’ Attorney General Maura Healey has launched an investigation into a major data breach at Equifax to determine whether the company used proper safeguards to protect consumer information. In July, hackers accessed confidential consumer information, such as Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates and driver’s license numbers. The data breach potentially affects 143 million consumers nationwide, with nearly three million Massachusetts residents at risk.

Equifax has set up a phone line – 866-447-7559 – as well as a website, for consumers may have questions about this breach or want to check the status of their information.  If you do not want to sign-up for free credit-checking and fraud protection through Equifax, here are some other ways you can protect your identity from hackers:

  1. Freeze your credit files to make it harder for hackers to open an account in your name.
  2. Check – and continue to check – your credit reports by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Keep a look out for accounts or activity you do not recognize.
  3. File your taxes early before scammers get the chance to. Try and respond to letters from the IRS right away and do not believe callers who threaten you will be arrested unless you pay taxes or debt.

If you believe you are the victim of identity theft and that your information may have been compromised, click here. More information on how to protect your identity can be found at https://www.identitytheft.gov/.

Important Rights to Know as a Massachusetts Tenant

September 1, 2017 – September 1st is the unofficial moving day for much of Boston and the surrounding areas. Students are coming back from summer break and nearly 75% of the area’s leases begin on September 1.  Every person moving into an apartment, whether they are a student or not should know their rights in regards their housing. Here are some important rights to keep in mind as you move into your new apartment this weekend.

  • Read the lease carefully to make sure that you understand the terms you are agreeing to. Do not agree to anything that is not written in the lease.
  • Make sure the lease says who is paying for utilities – Unless you agree in writing to paying for your utilities, it is the responsibility of the landlord to pay for it.
  • Get every promise from your landlord in writing – emails count!
  • Keep a signed copy of your lease – your landlord has 30 days to give you a copy.
  • You have the right to a receipt every time you give your landlord money.
  • If you pay a security deposit, you are entitled to a “statement of condition” that lists any problems with the unit at the time you move in. Even if you do not pay a security deposit, it is still important to take note of any damage at the time of move in so that you are not held responsible later.
  • If there is a problem with the condition of your unit, you should notify your landlord in writing about it. It is their responsibility to maintain and repair the conditions of your unit.
  • If the landlord refuses to make repairs, you have the right to a free inspection by a local health inspector.
  • It is illegal for the landlord to retaliate against you for asking for repairs or for calling health inspectors.

Additional information can be found at www.mass.gov/ago or by calling the Attorney General’s Office at 617-727-8400. They have also put together a tip sheet with more information.

 

Lemon Law: Your Car Might Be Covered

August 28, 2017 – The Massachusetts Lemon Law protects consumers from serious defects in their new vehicle. The law defines a lemon as “a new or leased motor vehicle that has a defect which substantially impairs the use, market value, or safety of the vehicle and which has not been repaired after a reasonable number of attempts.”  Here are some facts you should know about this consumer protection law:

  • You must be able to demonstrate specifically how the vehicle is substantially impaired by the defect.
  • Vehicles that are covered by the lemon law are any new car, motorcycle, van or truck bought in Massachusetts from a new-car dealer for personal purposes.
  • These vehicles are covered by the law for one year after its purchase or when the car reaches 15,000 miles, whichever comes first. The law also covers vehicles that were resold during the one-year period or 15,000 miles term-of protection. It also covers new vehicles leased after July 1, 1997.
  • The Lemon Law also gives manufacturers a chance to repair the vehicle up to 3 separate times.

It is very important to receive repair reports after each repair just in case legal action needs to be taken. This will establish a record of the manufacturer trying to fix the vehicle.

More information about the Lemon Law can be found at http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/consumer-rights-and-resources/autos/lemon-laws/new-leased-lemon-law.html.  If you would like to speak with a lawyer, please contact the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 617-742-0625 or submit an online request form here today!