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Monday, August 26, 2013

Boston Landlords: Only Days Remain to Comply With New "Rental Inspection and Registration" Ordinance

Beginning August 31, 2013, landlords all over the City of Boston must register their rental units with the Inspectional Services Department, and comply with a mandated inspection and registration schedule.

Previously, most rental units in Boston were inspected only in the event of a housing complaint or in the midst of a tenant-landlord dispute over housing or safety conditions.  Under the recently-approved ordinance, every private rental unit in Boston must be registered by August 31, 2013.  The program was to begin August 1, but landlords will now have until Aug. 31, 2013, in order to come into compliance with the ordinance, after city officials decided to extend the deadline, according to the Boston Inspectional Services Department.

City of Boston Code Ordinance CBC 9-1.3 will require all private rental units to be registered on an annual basis and inspections will be conducted for non-exempt units on a 5-year cycle starting January 2014.  Relatively few rental units will qualify as "exempt" under the new law, but publicly-owned properties and owner-occupied residences with fewer than six units will be exempt.

Boston landlords should assume that they are non-exempt from the new law and act accordingly.  Non-compliant landlords will be subject to a fine of $300.00 per month, and will be assessed 1 point in a new "chronic offender" point system.

The full text of the new Rental Inspection Program is available for download and viewing.  The City has issued an outline of Homeowner Landlord Responsibilities as well as a page on Rental Inspection Program Frequently Asked Questions.  Homeowner landlords can register online, by mail, or in person at Inspectional Services Department, 1010 Massachusetts Avenue, 5th Floor, Boston, Massachusetts, 20118.

According to a recent article on Boston.com, only about 20% of the total estimated rental units in Boston have registered for the program.

Since the registration period began on May 1, only about 26,150 units have been registered with the city, said department spokeswoman Lisa Timberlake. That represents less than 20 percent of the estimated 140,000 total units that are required to register.

Landlords who fail to register will be subject to fines and other action from the city, officials said.

But, the city will likely use discretion in deciding whether to discipline landlords, according to Brian Swett, Boston’s Chief of Environment and Energy.

“We’ll have to make an assessment as we get closer to Aug. 31,” he said. “If there are folks who are willfully not registering their properties that’s different from someone who hasn’t been informed about this yet by our outreach.”

“We did anticipate that this would take some time,” added Swett. “To start from zero and get to as close to 140,000 as we can – that’s going to take some time. We never thought we’d be at 100 percent right away.”

He said that registrations have picked up significantly in recent weeks as word about the new program and its deadlines continues to spread.

About the Firm.  Vaughn-Martel Law represents both landlords and tenants throughout Massachusetts in landlord compliance, tenancy creation, eviction, and housing dispute resolution and litigation. If you have a question about the new ordinance, compliance, and the rights and obligations landlords or tenants in Massachusetts, we invite you to contact us.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

New Rules Will Simplify Certain Uncontested Family Court Matters

This summer, the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court announced changes to Rule 412 of the Supplemental Rules of the Probate and Family Court.  These changes went into effect on August 1, 2013.  The changes to Rule 412 allow parties to jointly request modification of a judgment or order of the Probate and Family Court where:

  1. the parties are in agreement;
  2. the agreement is in writing; and
  3. all other requirements of the Rules are met.

Following this procedure - and assuming that the parties' file is otherwise in order - will allow the parties to be granted a modification without having to appear in court.

Previously, Rule 412 addressed only child support judgment modifications, and if the parties were in agreement regarding a modification of child support, they were required to file a joint petition for modification of child support.  The parties would not be required to appear in court.

Rule 412 has now been expanded to allow parties to modify temporary orders in addition to final judgments, and to modify judgments or orders other than child support using this procedure as well.  These changes will allow the courts to handle more cases administratively and help to alleviate backed up clerk’s offices in the probate and family courts throughout the state.

If you are interested in modifying a judgment or order of the Probate and Family Court with the assent of the other party, contact a local family law attorney to learn about your options and the newly simplified procedure.

A complete copy of Massachusetts Supplemental Probate and Family Court Rule 412: Uncontested Actions to Modify a Judgment or Order can be read in the link provided.

About the Firm.  Vaughn-Martel Law represents parents and children throughout Massachusetts in divorce, child custody, modifications, co-parenting, and all aspects of family creation and family law.  If you have a question about your specific parenting plan, marital settlement agreement, or court order, or wish to speak to an attorney about effectively parenting with a former spouse or partner, we invite you to contact us.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Federal Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program: What You Need to Know!

child on a planeWHAT IS THE CHILDREN'S PASSPORT ISSUANCE ALERT PROGRAM, OR "PASSPORT LOOKOUT SYSTEM"?

The Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program ("CPIAP") is administered by the State Department and allows parents to register their U.S. citizen children under the age of 18 in the Department’s Passport Lookout System.  If a passport application is submitted for a child who is registered in CPIAP, the Department contacts and alerts a parent or parents that there are possible plans for international travel with the minor child at issue.  The alert system gives all United States passport agencies as well as United States embassies and consulates abroad an alert if a parent or guardian registers an objection to the issuance of a passport for his or her child.

WHO MAY BENEFIT FROM THE PROGRAM?

If you are a parent that is divorced from your child(ren)’s other parent, a parent that is separated from your child(ren)’s other parent, or a parent who is concerned that your spouse may attempt to take your child(ren) out of the country without your knowledge, the State Department’s CPIAP "Passport Lookout System" may be an invaluable resource for you.  CPIAP provides information to a parent or court when a passport application is submitted on behalf of a registered child.

HOW TO REGISTER THE CHILD.

In order to avail the benefits of the CPIAP, the child must be a U.S. Citizen under the age of 18 and must be registered by filing a written request with the State Department.  It is not necessary for a parent to have any specific custodial rights to the child in order to fill out the request.  The Passport Lookout System Child Registration Form can be downloaded on the State Department’s website at http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/80112.pdf.

Besides a child’s parent or guardian, this form may also be filed on behalf of a child by law enforcement, a court, or someone acting on behalf of a parent.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF REGISTRATION?

The CPIAP’s mission is to prevent international parental child abduction.  If a child is registered, all U.S. passport agencies and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad are given an alert on the registered child’s name.  If a passport application is submitted for a child who is registered in the CPIAP, the Department contacts the parent or parents of the child, giving the parent advance warning of the possibility the other parent is planning on traveling internationally with the child.

If the child you seek to register already has a passport, the program will notify you if Passport Services receives an application for renewal of the passport. The Department may not revoke a passport that has already been issued to the child.

WHAT HAPPENS IF A PARENT ATTEMPTS TO OBTAIN OR RENEW A PASSPORT FOR THE REGISTERED CHILD?

After receiving notice of the passport request from the CPIAP, the parent will have about 30 days to consent or object to issuance or renewal of the passport for the child.  If the parent who applied for the passport for the child can demonstrate that he or she has sole authority to apply for the passport (for example, by providing a court order indicating he or she has sole custody of the child or a court order specifically authorizing the applicant parent to travel with the child) then the passport may be issued at any time after application regardless of obtaining consent from the other parent.

About the Firm.  Vaughn-Martel Law represents parents and children throughout Massachusetts in divorce, child custody, modifications, co-parenting, and all aspects of family creation and family law.  If you have a question about your specific parenting plan, marital settlement agreement, or court order, or wish to speak to an attorney about effectively parenting with a former spouse or partner, we invite you to contact us.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Social Security Benefits and DOMA: Know Your Rights, Protect Your Benefits

IRSAs we all know, the Defense of Marriage Act disqualifies same-sex married couples from the innumerable federal benefits of marriage, including social security benefits.  Two federal lawsuits are challenging the legality of DOMA, one of which is presently before the United States Supreme Court.

Boston-based GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders) has created a comprehensive resource for same-sex couples outlining the additional benefits that same-sex couples and their children would otherwise be entitled to in the absence of DOMA.  As GLAD's publication, "Social Security Benefits And the Defense of Marriage Act: Can I Do Anything Now to Preserve My Rights? YES", explains:

In the Social Security context, DOMA means that a person married to someone of the same sex cannot claim the Social Security benefits that might be due to a spouse, including:

• the spousal retirement benefit;
• the spousal disability benefit;
• the lump-sum death benefit; and
• the survivor benefit.

DOMA also can limit a child’s access to Social Security benefits. For example, when a married working parent dies, DOMA means that a child of the marriage may be denied benefits unless the worker is that child’s birth or adoptive parent or the family lives in a State where the child could inherit from that parent under the State’s intestacy law (this should include all States that permit same-sex couples to marry and Washington, D.C. as well as States that recognize marriages of same-sex couples from other states).

Download the Publication:  GLAD Social Security Benefits and DOMA

GLAD's publication also describes what same-sex couples can do now in order to preserve their access to social security benefits in the event that DOMA is either repealed or deemed unconstitutional, as many expect that it will be.  In some instances, the law mandates that an applicant apply for social security benefits within a specific time frame, for example within 2 years of the death of a spouse.  Under some circumstances, GLAD explains, it may make sense in certain circumstances to apply for benefits now - expecting your claim to be denied - in order to preserve important rights of appeal in the event that DOMA is overturned.

If you are in a position to access benefits under social security, and you believe that your right to benefits may be impacted by DOMA, reach out to your legal and tax professional.  GLAD encourages individuals to reach out to them with questions on their InfoLine: (800) 455-GLAD.

Vaughn-Martel Law also invites concerned individuals to contact our own Emily Towne McNeil to discuss your estate planning, including social security benefits to which you believe you may be entitled or how to preserve them in the event of a repeal of DOMA.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Vaughn-Martel Law Welcomes 2012 Summer Law Clerk Luke V. Bradley

We are pleased to announce the addition of Luke V. Bradley, who joins Vaughn-Martel as a 2012 summer law clerk.  Luke has completed his first year of law school at New England Law | Boston, where he made the Dean’s List.  Luke participates in the New England Law | Boston’s Student Ambassador Program assisting prospective students determine the right school for them.  Luke also volunteers for the New England Law | Boston Mentor Program, helping new students adjust to the demands of law school.

Before joining Vaughn-Martel Law, Luke interned with the Norwalk Public Defenders Office, aiding legal counsel for criminal defendants who could not afford private counsel.  Luke also clerked for the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights, supporting the Senior Mediator in addressing employment and housing discrimination in Washington, DC.

Luke is a native of Reading, Massachusetts, and graduated from Sacred Heart University with a B.S. in Criminal Justice.  During his free time, Luke enjoys music, literature, and spending time at the Boston Rock Gym.

All of us at Vaughn-Martel Law wish departing law clerk and recent law school graduate, Scott Clark, the best of luck on his bar exam and what will certainly be a bright legal career.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tax Alert: Same-Sex Couples Should Demand Federal Adoption Credit

As individuals and families throughout the country begin to prepare and file tax returns for 2011, tax experts seem to agree that same-sex couples with children may be ignoring a significant tax benefit -- the federal adoption credit.


Read more . . .


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vaughn-Martel Law's Jessica M. Walsh Invited to Sit on Human Rights & Sex Trafficking Film Forum Committee

Attorney Jessica Walsh has been invited to sit on the Boston Initiative to Advance Human Rights’ (BITAHR) 2012 Human Rights & Sex Trafficking Film Forum Committee.  BITAHR launched Human Rights and Sex Trafficking: A Film Forum in 2010 to explore the use of film as an effective way to raise awareness and trigger action in combating commercial sexual exploitation of girls and women.  The Forum considers the role of film in advancing women’s human rights and the many governmental and non-governmental organizations' efforts to combat sex trafficking.  Jessica is honored to have the opportunity to be part of such a vital cause.  For more information on BITAHR, and the 2012 Human Rights & Sex Trafficking Film Forum (to be held in January, 2012), please visit http://bitahr.org/index.html.  To read more about Vaughn-Martel Law, or about Attorney Walsh, visit www.vaughnmartel.com.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Vaughn-Martel Law Introduces "ClientConnect" Online Client Case Management Portal

We are pleased to introduce an exciting new way for clients to view important case documents, court notices and filings, and billing information in their case at any time from any computer.  We are offering the service absolutely free of charge to all our clients.

Now, clients can send secure communications, share documents, and review and pay bills with a credit card on-line, all from their own personalized case management portal.  “ClientConnect” allows our clients to have real time access to their own case files and invoices, and all information is safeguarded using SSL encryption to ensure the privacy and security of attorney-client communications.

Visit vaughnmartel.wordpress.com to read more and explore our blog!

 




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