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Spencer A'Lee Wildig Stromberg

Spencer Stromberg’s Answers

198 total


  • Are WA state commercial landlords required to provide a disclosure form?

    I leased a building for a restaurant and the city says I need a new grease interceptor. The city also said the previous tenants were told this which means the landlord knew when he leased me the building, but says it's my responsibility to pay thi...

    Spencer’s Answer

    Unlike residential landlord/tenant law, there is very little regulation of the relationships between commercial landlords and tenants. There is no requirement that a commercial landlord disclose anything about the condition of the property to the tenant. However, the landlord does have an obligation to not make misrepresentations about the condition of the property.

    Generally speaking, unless there is a warranty or representation regarding the condition of the property in the lease, the landlord is not going to be liable to you for failing to disclose the condition with the grease trap. Most commercial leases put repair responsibilities on the tenant, so unless your lease is unusual, you are probably responsible for it.

    Also, the fact that the prior tenant was notified by the city doesn't necessarily mean the landlord knows about it. Regardless, though, without a misrepresentation about the grease trap by the landlord, the landlord is probably not liable.

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  • Setting Up A Trust To Sell Property After Death To Avoid Probate, A Will Etc.

    I had always [heard] that any changing of authorization to sell property, i.e. from a legal owner parent to an heir etc. HAS to go through the court process no matter how the process, a will, probate, an appointed administrator executor etc. to ch...

    Spencer’s Answer

    In addition to the good answers the other attorneys have already given, I would add:

    1. I can't tell from the question whether the owner of the property is living or deceased. If the owner is already deceased, it is too late to avoid probate unless the property has already been put into a trust, LLC, or other vehicle to avoid probate.

    2. If the primary interest is in avoiding probate the owner of the property can use a transfer on death deed ("TODD"). This is executed and recorded while the owner is living, and it essentially creates a right of survivorship interest in the grantee. If the owner changes his/her mind before death, the TODD can be revoked and/or replaced with another grantee designation. This does create a public record, but it requires no act to be taken after the death of the grantor to complete the transfer. Certain limitations apply to the TODD if the grantor is not the sole owner of the property.

    3. A trust would avoid probate and anything in the public record after the grantor's death as long as the grantor is not the trustee.

    4. An LLC would work to avoid any public records been required as to the transfer of the interest after the death of the current owner, but will not avoid the need for probate unless the LLC itself is held in a trust.

    Assuming the owner of the property is still alive and competent, a good estate planning attorney should be able to help sort through all of the options to try to achieve the stated goals.

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  • Does an heir have a right to request the personal representative named in his mother's will to refuse to serve?

    The will was executed 3 years ago when the will maker was in good health. There are other heirs. Do they have to agree that the personal representative should be replaced by the requesting heir?

    Spencer’s Answer

    I agree with Mr. Gates. I would also point out that the parties may enter into what's known in Washington as a TEDRA agreement ("Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act") with regard to this sort of issue. If the named PR is willing to step aside, and the other heirs are willing to agree on another PR stepping in, that can be handled through a TEDRA agreement within the probate. This answer is predicated on the assumption that the maker of the will is now deceased. If she is still alive, she could execute a new will or a codicil to the old will to appoint a different PR if she is still competent to do so.

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  • I need 2 witnesses to sign my Do It Your Self Will. Is this a service you provide and at what $ost?

    FYO. The will was done online using http://www.TotalLegal.com.

    Spencer’s Answer

    You will find that most lawyers are wary of helping out with DIY wills because of the potential for a claim that they should have reviewed the will. The CYA letter that most attorneys would want signed would take long enough to prepare that it doesn't end up being worth the small amount they could charge for the witness/notary service.

    Please note that you will also need a notary. I suggest that you check with your bank or credit union about the availability of a notary. FedEx Office (formerly Kinko's) frequently has notary services available, too.

    I suggest that you get a couple of friends or neighbors (not family members) to go there with you in exchange for a cup of coffee or a small gift card. You might also try seeking out a legal aid provider to see if they might be willing to help with execution of the will. Good luck.

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  • How do i get a lawer to stop sending garnishment i cant pay for, all there doing is about to get me fired

    i make minimum wage and have a full child support order for 25% of my income.

    Spencer’s Answer

    You cannot legally be fired for repeated garnishment attempts on the same debt in Washington State. The only way your employer can fire you over garnishments is if you have 3 or more garnishments for separate debts in a 12 month period. Here is the statute:

    No employer shall discharge an employee for the reason that a creditor of the employee has subjected or attempted to subject unpaid earnings of the employee to a writ of garnishment directed to the employer: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That this provision shall not apply if garnishments on three or more separate indebtednesses are served upon the employer within any period of twelve consecutive months.

    RCW 6.27.170

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  • Do I need a real estate attorney

    I recently was evicted with a three day notice from the police department. my house was in the foreclosure process that I was renting from. I was told by the police officer after he had given my friends who were helping me move the notice of the e...

    Spencer’s Answer

    An attorney experienced in Landlord/Tenant matters will be most able to help you with this. You may also be able to take advantage of some free or low cost legal assistance from a legal aid organization, and they frequently work with tenants. You might start with a call to the county bar association's referral line. Good luck.

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  • Married couple, starting a business which will operate in WA. Form entity in WA, NV, DE, WY? LLC vs. LCC sub-S vs. S-corp?

    We are a married couple starting a RE company which will operate in WA at first, then expand nationally. My spouse is also looking at registering as a GC to comply with WA anti-flipper rule. How should we structure our business (two separate entit...

    Spencer’s Answer

    Given that you are going to operate in Washington only at first, I suggest forming the LLC in Washington. The other states provide some greater privacy protection in terms of what information about the LLC's members or managers is available online, but a properly set up Washington LLC can achieve the same privacy if that is a concern. In my opinion, the protection provided by the LLC will not be materially different, particularly since you are Washington residents doing business in Washington, and any disputes, at least early on, will be determined by Washington courts. The only area where WA LLC's do not provide as much protection as NV LLC's, for example, is against creditors of individual members who go after that member's interest in the LLC. In NV, a charging order (i.e. an order to pay the member's distributions to the creditor) is the only remedy for the creditor. In WA, there is a new LLC act going into effect on January 1 that makes a charging order the sole remedy, too, but in WA the charging order is also a lien that the creditor can foreclose. This does not have an impact on the WA LLC's ability to protect its members from the LLC's debts, which is the same as any other LLC or corporation. Filing out of state and registering the foreign entity in Washington also adds a bit of expense and more opportunities for something to get fouled up with annual renewals. A lapse in the LLC's effective status is probably more likely to result in unanticipated liability to you than the charging order issue, since the charging order only comes into play where you already have a judgment against you, or in a personal bankruptcy.

    I'm not an expert on the tax structures of NV, DE and WY, but since they are all trying to attract out-of-state business formations, there are probably no state income taxes to be concerned about, but that should be verified before you decide to form the LLC in one of those jurisdictions. If you end up doing significant business out of state in the future, you can always form an LLC in one of those other jurisdictions and then merge the old and new LLCs.

    You mention LLC sub-S and S-corp in your question, so you may already know that an LLC can elect to be taxed as a partnership (likely to be a "disregarded entity" for a married couple), or chose corporate tax treatment. If corporate tax treatment is chosen, then the sub-S election can also be made. You could also form a corporation and make a sub-S election. Whether it makes sense for your entity to make a sub-S election is beyond the scope of this forum - you need tax advice specific to your situation. Since the LLC offers the same liability protection without the required corporate formalities, though, I do not recommend an S-corp, but an LLC electing to be taxed as an S-corp if that is appropriate for your tax circumstances.

    In terms of the 2-tier structure you ask about, I'm afraid more information is necessary. It sounds like the company will buy, renovate and sell houses. If so, I'm not sure what the benefit of a 2-tier structure would be, but more details may clarify that. You are correct, though, that if you are going to flip houses in Washington, there needs to be a GC involved. As I read the statute, the owner of the property needs to be a GC, since it states that any person or entity who "offer to sell their property" without first occupying or using it for 1 year after substantial completion or abandonment of improvements (I'm paraphrasing). Therefore, I think the LLC or corporation you use to acquire the property also needs to be the one licensed as a GC.

    You should contact an experienced business attorney to help you with getting everything set up. There are firms, like mine, that will do most or all of this kind of project on a fixed fee basis.

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  • Can a homeowners association ban livestock on land when the land was originally listed as horse property?

    We are trying to sell the place now. We had a horse and chickens on it so it has a chicken coop and horse shelter on the property that is 3.5 acres 2 miles from town. The realtor said it could decrease the value by $40,000 if there is a ban. The...

    Spencer’s Answer

    The correct answer to this question is going to depend on the specific terms of the covenants affecting the property. If the covenants prohibit livestock, then the wording of the original listing is not controlling. However, if one or more horses were kept on the property for a long time, the HOA may have waived its right to enforce that provision of the covenants. The amount of time that has passed since a horse was last kept on the property may also impact the question of enforceability of any covenants that would otherwise ban livestock. I suggest getting the covenants into the hands of an experienced real estate attorney right away to be sure your rights are looked to.

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  • Is it legal to kick out an 18 year old with health conditions?

    The health conditions in question are type 1 diabetes and ADD.

    Spencer’s Answer

    Like the previous answering attorney, I think your question does not provide enough information to give a good answer. If you are referring to being kicked out of a house or apartment, whether by his parents or by a landlord, I think the answer is that it is legal. To my knowledge, there is no provision in the law that exempts people with illnesses as you have described them from applicable real estate laws, including landlord-tenant laws. That being said, if the person doing the kicking out is a landlord, proper notice must be given. Furthermore, if the illnesses require some form of reasonable accommodation, the landlord must make that reasonable accommodation. However, "reasonable accommodation" does not mean the 18-year-old cannot be kicked out for non-payment of rent, destruction of property, disturbing other tenants, or other lease violations - again, after proper notice is given.

    If you need further help, you should add more details to your question.

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  • Do I need a real estate attorney?

    There is an "L" shaped piece of property owned by our next door neighbor. The smaller section of the L shape is right behind our house. We have removed debris, planted grass, planted raspberries and apple trees. We have been mowing it and maint...

    Spencer’s Answer

    Mr. Schellhammer has correctly summarized the law of adverse possession in Washington. The period is 10 years. You should definitely speak to an experienced real estate attorney right away. You may have adversely possessed the property, but you may have trouble with the "hostile" element. That is, planting grass, trees and raspberry vines may not be enough to have put the owner on notice that you were using the property to his detriment. This is where a consultation with an experienced attorney will help you decide what course of action to take. Good luck

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