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Can You Sue a Professor for Giving You an F? And More Free Legal Advice – Free Joe Friday 9/16/11

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On Tuesdays and Fridays, attorney Joe Escalante answers legal questions for free on the LegalZoom Facebook Page. Did you miss the last Free Joe? Don’t worry. We’ve got it all right here.

Naty: What do I do if my adjacent neighbors do not want to share on the cost to replace the 36 years old community fence that is falling down? The fence is the original fence between our houses and is on the property line. I have talked with them and have given them a copy of an estimate that I obtained from a licensed contractor. They refuse to pay for the proportional share. They said they will wait until the fence completely collapse so they could claim the damage with their homeowner’s insurance. I told them that my opinion is no insurance company will pay for the replacement of a 36 year old fence even if the fence fell during a storm or heavy winds, because it has already reached the end of it’s useful life due to normal wear and tear. Please tell me if my opinion is accurate, and please tell me how I could legally oblige them to do so.

Joe Escalante: Great question. You are probably right about the insurance issue. Here’s what you have to do: Make sure you write a formal demand letter with a copy of the attached estimate and tell them the estimate will expire soon so you need an answer and a check made out to the repairman by a certain deadliine. If the deadline passes with no action, you have to pay for the fence yourself and sue your neigbor’s ass raggedy in small claims court. By raggedy I mean suing for less then half of a small amount that qualifies for small claims.
However, this may not be worth the bad blood. If you can at all afford it, pay for it and avoid the fight. Neighbor disputes are the worst thing you can do to your quality of life.

Carolyn: Hello. I did not find out until I had an IV and the surgery was about to begin that my dr was not certified to perform my surgery, and another dr whom I had never met was going to “assist”. Now I have bills from 2 drs. Do I have any recourse?

Joe Escalante: Un-certified surgeons are a bum out. You should talk to the state medical board to find out if the Dr. did anything that you to report. As far as paying for both doctors, you generally only pay for things that you agree to pay for by some form of contract. Read what you signed. If you signed nothing, how was Tijuana?

Pepper: Can I sue my insurance company for not covering a claim for a water pipe that my plumber deems a “burst” and they claim it was leakage and seepage I should have fixed even though it was behind a tile wall. What chance do I have to dispute this?

Joe Escalante: You could, and you may win. However, it sounds like the kind of lawsuit that a lawyer would only take with a large retainer fee of 5 to 15,000 dollars. It would be worth a consultation with an attorney to get a better picture of your chances. The lawyer has to look at the policy language.

Suemay: Is there really a penalty for not doing a Formation Notice for an LLC? Can it be done at anytime?

Joe Escalante: Every state is different on this. Contact the Secretary of State in your domicile and get an answer from them. They usually answer the phone and are quite helpful.

Laura: Hi Joe! I live in CA and I rent a condo with an HOA. I recently had an issue with a security light being burned out in a common area behind my condo and tried to report the issue to the HOA. The HOA manager has told me I have no rights as a renter to report these issues. The owner of my condo lives hours away and could care less. Do I have any rights as a renter to report such safety issues in common areas?

Joe Escalante: Technically, the HOA could make an argument that you should be reporting that to your landlord and they report it to the HOA. The HOA is not a rental property management organization. However, that is not practical. If there was a rape or something that occurred in part because of bad lighting, and you had notified the HOA in writing about it they would have some liability.
Imagine the HOA president testifying in court about how they were informed about the dangerous situation but did nothing because it was brought to their attention by a renter.
A good HOA will treat renters the same as owners because they are asking the renters to comply with all the rules of living there, so it’s only fair.

Sabrina: Hi again, I was asking Tuesday about being able to sell tickets and merchandise legally for our independent movie we made. You said to get a business license. I have two questions from that: One, are business liscenses usually cheap/expensive? because we are quite a small company with no actual paid employees. Second, if we were to print that say like “have [this merchandise or ticket] for a donation of $2″ or something like that, would that be strictly speaking legal? I’ve seen student projects do this and they were all right.

Joe Escalante: I’m willing to bet that if you do all of this, no one will come down on you. Unless there is a fire or something. If something bad happens, you will have problems, and some of them will stem from being unlicensed. Call the city and ask them what the policy is. They might tell you impossible hurdles that you need to jump through. Then you decide whether you want to roll the dice. I would premiere the film at an establishment that already has a license and insurance and would appreciate the crowd your film will attract. Make it easy on yourself.

Missylynn: Hello Joe. My question is this. If you have recieved a letter from your D.A. that states a perpetrator has been charged with a crime, is that considered a true bill? Or is the true bill once the Grand Jury determines to fully charge the perp?

Joe Escalante: A true bill is from the grand jury, stating there is evidence to charge the perp with a crime. But remember, you can indict a ham sandwich. The standard is really low.

Rick: Hi Joe , hope all is well! I have a small home based business and wanted to know if would it be smart to have my pay check made payable to my company name ? and second is that legal?

Joe Escalante: You need a D.B.A. Or “doing business as.” Yes it’s legal but do it right: Follow the link below.

LegalZoom: Here you go, Rick:

Rick: Thanks joe and legal zoom , but a follow up question if i can . am already a corporation thanks to LegalZoom , but i also work at another company part time , can i have them issue me my paycheck to my corporation name? or do i still need a DBA?

Joe Escalante: You can have them issue checks to your corp, but make sure your bank can cash them. Also, make sure your tax lady knows what you’re up to.

Nicholas: where can a small business owner find a list of all possible tax deductions and limits?

Joe Escalante: This is what tax accountants spend their life’s work doing. The internet has not really replaced their value yet. The tax codes in this country are constantly changing. Do yourself a favor and get a good tax professional on your side. It’s very important. No short cuts.

Joe Escalante: Vrtreena: Question for Joe: Should I file for my licenses first or to dispense with the formalities and start the business first ( as a hobby to test the water before leaping in)?

Joe Escalante: A little of both. Don’t incorporate or form an LLC until you see you are making some money and have some advice from a tax professional. But certain things you should do right away like get a D.B.A. (see link below) so you can cash checks. And talk to a tax professional, and find out if you need a business license in your city. You probably do.

Tamanika: Can the income of a wife of non custodial parent be considered when calculating child support in the state of florida?

Joe Escalante: Almost never in any state.

Jake: Hey Joe!

I have a really simple question that i cant find an answer to anywhere else. i guess its because this is more of a question about the process of Law rather than the legality of an issue or something.

I’m trying to find out how many LLC’s/Wills/Trusts an average lawyer can be expected to write during their career.

I realize that different Lawyers specialize in different areas, and not every lawyer creates LLC’s/Wills/Trusts, so if the my question is not specific enough, how about as it pertains to lawyers specializing in these fields.

Thanks so much in advance!

P.S. I’m using this information for a class, so it doesn’t have to be PERFECT, just has to be in the right ballpark, any and all information/ assistance GREATLY APPRECIATED

Joe Escalante: These things take from 3 to 15 hours each for me to accomplish so do the math. If you got fast and were honest about billing, you would have no problem getting more than enough clients.

Mariecor: Can a student sue a professor for “ludicrous” rules—–like giving an F for not having a name on a paper that is sent via email even though the attachment file name has the student’s name on it? The student needed higher grades to keep a scholarship and to apply to graduate school later in the year, which was why the student deemed the F would be detrimental to the student and give the student anguish because of future higher education prospects…

Joe Escalante: Yes. You have provable and certain damages (arguably). It was caused by the F. If a judge or jury would agree that this was unreasonable, you win. However, this is the kind of case that would require you paying a large retainer of 10 to 25 thousand dollars to get a lawyer to start up. It’s the kind of case you should probably do yourself “pro se.”
Or sleep it off. This may be worse for your well being than being denied grad school.

Chris: Can a business have both a for profit and a non-profit division under the same LLC?

Joe Escalante: The recognition of Non Profit corporations varies from state to state. Talk to your tax professional to see if this is allowed in your state and whether it would be better for you just to start a separate entity. I say it’s cleaner just to start a whole new entity.

April: What is an appropriate price to pay for a bankruptcy? seems likeit is so expensive…

Joe Escalante: That would depend on a lot of things like whether it’s complicated or simple. How fancy is the lawyer? Does he have a boat? What school did he go to? You can do it yourself. Get some info from Nolo Press and see about that. People do it all the time.

Ernesto: When my sister in-law visited us here in the Philippines sometime in 1986, she registered my third son upon birth as her born-child since they
have no children at that time. After several years, she gave birth to her two sons and and became indifferent with her adopted child here in the

Now they are receiving their pensions in Hawaii and they are not sharing their adopted child who is now married with three children and having financial difficulty
in providing for his family. Can he claim for financial support since his birth certificate shows that he is their son and he is U.S. citizen.

Please advice.

Joe Escalante: In America, no adult is entitled to financial support from their adoptive parents or birth parents.

Michael: My wife and I are planning to divorce and we have a joint living trust through Should we keep the joint living trust and make changes to it for our individual needs and provent the spouse from get your inheritance or is it better for my interest to cancel the living trust all together and purchase a new individual living trust, POA and living will? If you are legal, they would want me to purchase a new one.
I will wait for your answer.

Joe Escalante: It would be easier to make a new one. Cleaner, and now you know how to do it so it will go faster. Just reviewing how you did the last one and starting over is valuable.

David: I’m in a condo association, and one of the other residents just had their condo foreclosed on and they owe about $1500 in association fees. The mortgage lender posted notices on the property yesterday and changed the locks. Is it too late to file a real estate lien?

Joe Escalante: I don’t think so. When you buy one of those properties at an auction, you’re usually responsible for paying any unpaid HOA fees. Whoever buys it should pay the fees.

LegalZoom: That’s it for Free Joe Friday! Have a great weekend and be sure to come join us next week for more free legal advice from Joe Escalante! (And in the meantime, catch Joe on the radio–you can get the schedule over on the Free Joe tab:

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September 20th, 2011 at 6:29 am