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North Carolina General Legal Blog

Bed bugs: a continuing problem in the U.S.

At the Triangle Law Group in North Carolina, we represent many clients involved in commercial or residential landlord/tenant disputes. Oftentimes residential disputes revolve around whether or to what extent a landlord fixed a problem with an appliance, water faucet, etc. Other times, the dispute goes to whether or not the landlord is living up to his or her obligation to keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition overall. One issue that can be a headache for both tenants and landlords is bed bugs.

If you have or suspect that you have bed bugs in your apartment or rental house, this falls under the heading of a fit and habitable residence. Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warms that the incidences of bed bug infestations are rising across the country.

How can I tell if there is a lien on a property?

Whether buying or selling a home in North Carolina, determining if there is a lien on the property is crucial. A lien is an unpaid debt that is associated with a property title and it can cause quite a few problems to new or existing owners. Realtor.com explains how to search for a lien, and what you can do if you discover one during your search.

Liens can be assessed against a property for all sorts of reasons. For instance, if the former owners failed to pay property taxes for the home, a tax lien could pose an issue. There are also judgment liens that may be assessed. These involve many different types of unpaid debt, such as outstanding credit card payments or money owed for child or spousal support. New construction can also be linked to a lien. This often occurs when contractors have not been paid for work that was performed.

What is housing discrimination in North Carolina?

All states have laws that prevent landlords from using discriminatory practices against tenants. According to the North Carolina Department of Administration, the state's Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, nationality, disability, skin color, family status, and sex. All types of properties and real estate transactions are covered by these laws. Along with landlords, people selling homes, developers, rental management companies, banks, and real estate agents are all required to comply with fair housing laws.

There are numerous situations that are considered housing discrimination. For instance, a tenant who's evicted because he or she has friends or relatives of another race visiting the residence can take legal action against the owner of the property. It's also not permissible for a landlord to have different standards for different tenants. As an example, a landlord can't require a background check for a black applicant if a white applicant would not be subject to the same scrutiny.

Do I really need an estate plan?

If you recently lost a parent who did not leave an estate plan, you may be considering exploring the options for yourself. Going through your parent's probate without a will or trust to guide you may have been a challenge, especially if you were one of several heirs to the estate.

Most upsetting may have been the time before your parent's death. If your loved one was incapacitated for any length of time, you may have struggled to gain authority to make critical decisions about medical care, financial issues and end-of-life choices. You may not want your own family to go through these hardships, but you still have questions about how an estate plan can help relieve these burdens.

What happens if a realtor breaks the contract?

When you work with a real estate company in North Carolina to sell your home, you usually expect this company to help you get a good deal on your house. Sometimes, though, the company you work with may breach the contract. In this situation, it is important for you to know what to do. 

Your real estate agent might break a contract in a number of ways. According to Homelight, your realtor is not supposed to share your private information with potential homebuyers. This person may be in breach of contract if he or she reveals your personal information to people interested in your home. Additionally, a real estate agent typically needs to tell you about all of the offers buyers make. This means that your real estate agent is in breach of contract if he or she does not tell you about all of the available offers, causing you to sell your home for less money. A realtor may also break the contract if he or she does not negotiate offers to find the best price for your house. 

How can I choose the right subcontractors?

Many of the issues you may have on a North Carolina construction site can stem from the subcontractors you hire. That is why it is so important to make good decisions when it comes to hiring people to work for you. You have to ensure they will do a good job, stay on schedule, stay on budget, and work well with you and others on the site.

Whirlwind Steel Buildings & Components suggest that you begin by getting referrals from other contractors. It is always nice to know that a subcontractor did a great job for someone else. You also can get firsthand information and learn more than you could if you just hire someone you run across on your own.

Landlord responsibilities regarding mold

Mild winters, temperate summers and a wide range of activities may make North Carolina the ideal place for you to live. Unfortunately, the high humidity that accompanies the balmy weather also creates a breeding ground for mold. Although often consisting of harmless forms of fungi, there are some molds that produce toxins capable of causing severe health issues if not addressed. At Triangle Law Group, we often represent clients whose toxic mold issues go uncorrected by their landlord.

Generally speaking, you are responsible for the problems related to your apartment. If there is mold growth as a result of spills or moisture that do not get cleaned, the issue is your responsibility. However, according to North Carolina law, landlords have the responsibility to keep the property "fit and habitable." While there is no specific mention of mold, state law requires that all buildings must meet applicable housing and building codes. Specific areas that landlords have responsibility includes the following:

  • Electrical and air conditioning
  • Sanitary building conditions
  • Repair and maintenance
  • Common area upkeep

How can I handle negotiations?

Whether you're in the drafting stage or working through disputes, negotiations are bound to play a role when it comes to contracts. Being able to negotiate is a very important skill, and for some people, this skill can be difficult to develop. Fortunately, Business Insider offers the following tips so you can be a better negotiator.

Be prepared

Read the fine print in that contractor contract

Hiring a contractor to make repairs or remodel your home is often a leap of faith. You may rely on the recommendations of friends and neighbors or search for positive reviews online, but ultimately, you have to decide on someone who offers high quality, fair pricing and a reasonable time frame. All these specifics should be in the contract you sign.

That contract contains much more information, however, and you would be wise to read it carefully, even take a few days to study it or present it to an attorney for review. In addition to the details about materials, labor and payment, there may be fine print containing clauses and contingencies that could make matters difficult for you.

Alternatives to construction-related litigation

As a North Carolina general contractor, getting new clients is an exciting experience. Starting a new project and doing the job well can boost your business' visibility. However, if it does not progress as planned, repercussions can be severe. The team at the Triangle Law Group has experience in assisting with complex construction disputes.

PlanRadar reports that there are several formal steps required before construction litigation begins that provide the opportunity to stay out of court. Party-to-party negotiation is the most common first step when disputes arise. Contracts typically have a negotiation clause, which means that the parties involved agree to attempt resolution of the issues before moving to bring in third-party assistance. In the event negotiation does not work, there are other steps to take that may enable you to avoid a trial.

  • Mediation uses an independent third party to help the parties reach a settlement.
  • Arbitration is often legally binding. It includes an independent third party, experienced in the construction industry. They render a decision after viewing all relevant documentation and facts concerning the issue.

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