Law FAQ: I run a small landscape business. Do I need a contractor’s license?

Law FAQ: I run a small landscape business. Do I need a contractor’s license?

In Tennessee, The Board for Licensing Contractors enacts and enforces administrative rules pertaining to the licensing of various contractors operating within the state.  Typically most of us think of a contractor as being someone who builds or remodels a home, perhaps a roofer or brick mason.  But the Board has recently started enforcing certain provisions against smaller companies that until recently have been overlooked or otherwise ignored by the Board.

The most common type of business to get the attention of the Board is the small to mid-size landscape company.  Now, depending on various factors, even small companies that do nothing but cut grass in the summertime may need to obtain a contractor’s license from the Board.  Specifically, grass cutters need the “BC-29” license.  Failure to obtain the license can be costly.  Indeed, I have represented multiple landscape companies after they have been cited and fined by the Board for operating without the required license.  The fines imposed can be expensive – i.e. several thousand dollars.

If you operate a small business that you think may need to be licensed, contact our office.  We can assist you in determining whether or not you need a license and also help walk you through the process.

Law FAQ: What are the duties of landlords under Tennessee law?

Law FAQ: What are the duties of landlords under Tennessee law?

A frequent question that clients ask is what obligations does their landlord owe to them.  Tennessee has adopted an act referred to as URLTA (“Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act”) that is limited to certain counties in Tennessee, including Davidson and Shelby counties, and that only applies to residential leases.  While URLTA includes many detailed provisions, the most common problems stem from inadequate maintenance by landlords.

Under URLTA, a landlord must do the following:

  • Comply with requirements of applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety;
  • Make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition;
  • Keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition; and
  • In multi-unit complexes of four (4) or more units, provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences for the removal of ashes, garbage, rubbish and other waste from common points of collection.

Tenants should also note that URLTA allows the landlord and tenant to make a written agreement where the tenant agrees to perform specified repairs, maintenance tasks, alterations, and remodeling.  While such an agreement cannot be made by the landlord to escape the above obligations, it does allow the tenant to have a degree of control over how such maintenance is performed.

If your landlord fails to do any of the above, you should immediately give him/her written notice of the URLTA violation.  Depending on how your landlord responds, you should then consider contacting an attorney for legal guidance.  There are various remedies available to tenants when landlords fail to meet the above obligations.  Our firm handles a wide variety of such issues.  If you feel that your landlord has violated URLTA, please give us a call.

To read find out more about URLTA, its provisions can be found in T.C.A. § 66-28-101 et seq.

Law Talk: A Conservation Easement Can Save You Thousands in Taxes

Law Talk: A Conservation Easement Can Save You Thousands in Taxes

In 2010, Congress extended the enhanced tax deduction for Conservation Easement Donations (“CEDs”), but only for a limited time.  This provision is a real gem for anyone owning a piece of undeveloped land.  But you must act quickly.

CEDs allow landowners to create and grant a property easement to a land trust or other non-profit and deduct the value of the easement form their income taxes, all while maintaining full control and ownership of the property.  The amount of the deduction is determined by the decrease in value of the property from before the easement to after.

Example:   Farmer John owns 100 undeveloped acres near a growing town.   John decides to donate a conservation easement to ABC Land Trust.  The easement simply restricts John from developing the property into residential or commercial development, which he never intended to do anyway.  Essentially, John and his family and his heirs can still farm, hunt, fish, ride ATVs and otherwise enjoy the outdoors on the land as they had always planned.  Indeed, the great part is that John still owns and controls his land.  He can even still sell the land as encumbered by the easement.  He has only donated the right (and the value associated with the right) to development the land.

So what does John get for the donation?   He gets an income tax deduction equal to the value of the donation, which is determined by comparing the appraised value of the land with development rights vs. the appraised value of the land without the development rights.  For example, if his 100 acres of developable land was worth $1 million dollars, but the land – as restricted by the easement prohibiting future development – would be worth $100,000, then John would get a tax deduction of $900,000!

Moreover, the recent Congressional legislation allows individuals to spread out the value of the deduction for up to 15 years.

This is just an overview of CEDs.   Each situation is unique, and landowners should consider taking advantage of this amazing tax deduction.  While Congress may ultimately extend the time period to take advantage of this tax strategy, the legislation is currently expected to expire on December 31, 2011.

Patterson Bray — Law FAQ Series: Submit Your Legal Questions!

Patterson Bray — Law FAQ Series: Submit Your Legal Questions!

In thinking about how we might better serve our friends, clients, and prospective clients seeking reliable information on the web about Tennessee law, we decided to start a new series called Law FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).  Similarly, we will have periodic blog posts regarding current legal news or informative topics called Law Talk.

Using “Question & Answer” format, we will provide a 30-45 second shot of useful information a few times each week.  Sample topics may include personal injury, business law, construction law, commercial litigation, negligence, medical malpractice, technology, estate planning, auto accidents or car wrecks, insurance law, asset protection, civil rights, brain injury, wrongful death, hospital negligence, nursing home abuse, pharmacy error, workers’ compensation, probate, charitable planning, and trusts.  See a sample Law FAQ here.

We also want this series to be interactive, and so we invite you to submit questions or suggested topics by filling out the Contact Form here and including “Law FAQ” in the Subject/Inquiry box.  Please be assured that your privacy is paramount, so you can be confident that we will not include any names or any identifying details or information when posting about a particular question or topic.  Further, while we may not have the space to answer every specific question, we will do our best to cover in a general way any topics that are submitted.

We also welcome your thoughts and feedback in the Comments section below any of the posts on the blog.

We hope you will enjoy Law FAQ and Law Talk series.  You can easily follow the series by adding our blog address to your Google/RSS feeder, or you can follow along on Facebook by clicking here and then hitting the “Like” button.  You can also keep up with the series on Twitter by clicking here and then hitting the “Follow” button.

We hope you won’t necessarily need all of the information included in the Law FAQ series, but we hope that you will be able to pick up some interesting and valuable information along the way.

We’re also giving away free Patterson Bray t-shirts.  Click here to get one!

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Patterson Bray serves the communities of Memphis, Cordova, Bartlett, Germantown, Collierville, Millington, Southaven, Shelby County, Oakland, Tennessee, Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin and surrounding areas.

Memphis-Shelby County Schools — See the Judge’s Order for Yourself

Memphis-Shelby County Schools — See the Judge’s Order for Yourself

The Order issued by Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays in the local schools’ case has — with good reason — captured the attention of the public and the media alike during the past week.

We’ve all been subjected to countless media reports describing and analyzing the Order — What does it say?  What does it mean?  Who won?  Who lost?  What happens next?

I’ve read lots and lots of opinion.  What I haven’t seen, though, are many links in the media to the Order itself.

Mindful of that, I wanted to pass a copy of the document so that you can read the Order for yourself, make your own analysis, and draw your own conclusions.

Microsoft Word – FINAL Order Deciding Case – FINAL

Warning:  The Order is long (146 pages).  However, it is well organized and very well written — an easy read insofar as legal opinions go.

I’d be interested to know what you think.  I may offer some of my own observations after further reflection.

Patterson Quoted in Memphis Daily News on Court Clerk Positions

Patterson Quoted in Memphis Daily News on Court Clerk Positions

Attorney Chris Patterson was quoted in an article by Bill Dries today in the Memphis Daily News concerning former efforts by the Metro Charter Commission to consolidate and/or streamline the various elected court clerk positions in Shelby County.

“A lot of ideas were kicked around. But then we kind of quickly realized that we were fairly restricted on any proposed changes that could be made, even if there was some opportunity for some greater efficiency,” said Chris Patterson, who headed the group tasked with making recommendations on judicial offices. “Once the charter’s voted down, you never know if you really could have done it or not. Until you try to do it and somebody challenges it, you don’t know if it’s going to hold up. We tried to take the approach … to provide as much certainty as possible.”

The article comes in the wake of the suspension of General Sessions Court Clerk, Otis Jackson, in connection with allegations of improper fundraising.

5 Must-Read Google Search Tips (plus one)

5 Must-Read Google Search Tips (plus one)

Some helpful tips I found while reading the June 2011 edition of TRIAL Magazine:

  1. Search only on pages within a specific site:  type your search phrase and at the end include “site:[URL] ” and then insert the URL name to search only within particular site. 
  2. Excluded term searching: include a minus sign (“-“) before a word in a search string to exclude pages that contain that word.
  3. Package tracking info: type in your package tracking number. Google will determine the identity of the carrier and link you to the appropriate site.
  4. Search for words within URL: type “allinurl:______” to find actual site names that include a particular word.
  5. Get weather info:  type “weather: _______” while inserting the zip code to get current weather.

Plus one more:

Website linkage: type “link: _____” and insert a URL to see pages that contain a hyperlink to that site.