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Greensburg Area Law Blog

An HOA dispute can quickly become an expensive headache

Imagine finding your dream home and paying a lot of money to get settled, only to discover that a previously undisclosed issue made the property very difficult to live in. To make matters worse, the problem would be easily resolved if not for the stubborn inaction of the homeowner's association (HOA).

This has been the nightmare scenario for one Pennsylvania couple who purchased a beautiful, historic home in a Philadelphia neighborhood in August 2016. In a recent news article, the couple claims that an undisclosed noise problem has made it difficult to live in the home and practically impossible to go forward with their plans of having and raising children.

Too many on St. Paddy's Day can give you more than a hangover

First, there was Chicago and then came Boston and now Philadelphia rounds out the top three list for best St. Patricks's day celebrations. With 32 million Irish-Americans located stateside, the Irish in Ireland are outnumbered six fold. Around 39 percent of the population in Philly has claimed Irish heritage so it should come as no surprise that the town knows how to party. As the saying goes "it is all fun and games until someone gets hurt." During St. Paddy's Day that adage takes on a whole new meaning.

Impaired judgment

The other side to a theft charge

Facing an accusation for theft is no small issue; for those going through such an unfortunate situation, proving innocence can be an overwhelming task. Even if the theft was small, many Pennsylvania residents find themselves in a prolonged legal battle. 

A theft charge can leave a severe mark on one's record, thus affecting reputation, professional goals and overall wellbeing. There may be little sympathy for some threatened with these charges, but there also exist other explanations for a theft, as well as underlying issues that deserve attention. 

Pennsylvania's response to the opioid epidemic

With the opioid epidemic showing no signs of slowing down, lawmakers and state officials are increasingly shifting focus toward putting a halt to drug trafficking and keeping a keener eye on the types of drugs used in overdoses. However, recent news shows that Pennsylvania's recording of drug types in fatal overdoses is lacking. How effective are current efforts to combat illegal drug trafficking, and might the state see a change in the ways it tracks cases involving drugs and overdoses?

Earlier this week, Fox 43 reported on a recent indictment of a Scranton man on drug trafficking charges, in which the man had planned to distribute heroin, fentanyl and cocaine, and had delivered heroin and fentanyl on prior occasions. The Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Office Attorney General's Bureau of Narcotic Investigations were among the many teams working the case, and were part of a collective initiative to combat the widespread opioid epidemic. Although the Hazelton local still awaits his hearing, he could face up to 30 years' imprisonment, supervised release and fines. 

Lesser-known unexpected expenses

Contrary to popular belief, bankruptcy does not happen simply because of shopping addictions. Instead, countless Pennsylvania residents teeter on the brink of financial crises when unexpected expenses arise. Of course, student loan debt, unemployment and divorce are also to blame, but there are other, lesser-known events that can factor into the decision to file bankruptcy.

They are difficult to build up, and all too easy to exhaust. Savings accounts can be a comfort in dire times, yet as U.S. News speculates, they do not always prepare for every unexpected expense. Covering some of the less common ways Americans find themselves in financial debacles, U.S. Money states that sudden moves, major household repairs and unexpected travel tend to drain bank accounts suddenly. For example, when an employee's company decides to change locations, or when someone accepts a new job offer, the employers do not always cover moving expenses. Sudden plumbing problems are another common culprit; those with a high deductible could experience trouble making ends meet after a necessary repair. U.S. Money also notes that, while planning for accidents and family emergencies is not as enjoyable as, say, planning a vacation, unexpected travel can often be inevitable.   

How are drugs classified?

If you or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offense in Pennsylvania related to a controlled substance, there are many things you will want to know about as you or your friend get into the criminal defense process. One of the things to understand is that different drugs are rated differently by the government and that the particular rating associated with a substance may contribute to the actual charge a person may face.

As explained by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the delineation of drug ratings is outlined in The Controlled Substances, Drugs, Device, and Cosmetic Act. The ratings are referred to as schedules, of which there are five. The schedules are determined based on three factors. The first is the potential a substance has to be abused. The second is any recognized medical use for the substance. The third is the level of potential that a substance may contribute to dependency by a user.

BAC less than 0.08 percent? It may still be a DUI

Police in Pennsylvania have recently called upon lawmakers to update the state's DUI laws. The concern is that with medical marijuana becoming more prevalent, it could lead to more dangerous driving from people who believe they are all right because they have not drunk much alcohol. 

Breath tests are only designed to check for the presence of alcohol in a person's system. They cannot check for marijuana. Therefore, a person could have a BAC lower than 0.08 percent but still pose a danger. Even prescription medication combined with alcohol can lead to dangerous driving, and a person can face a DUI arrest if the police perform a blood test to discover such substances. In fact, there are a variety of circumstances where someone with a BAC lower than 0.08 percent will face arrest for DUI. 

Can you be the legal guardian of someone over 18?

When a person turns eighteen in Pennsylvania, they become legally responsible for themselves. However, there are some situations in which a person isn't mentally, physically, or emotionally capable of this. In these situations, you may wish to become their legal guardian instead. Schimizzi Law, LLC, can help you learn the ins and outs of petitioning for guardianship so that you can help your loved ones.

First of all, know that courts can award different types of guardianship. This can include partial or full guardianship, as well as temporary or permanent guardianship. What's awarded to you depends on the situation you and your loved one are in. For example, if your loved one is facing a lifelong issue that they will likely not recover from, you are more likely to get full guardianship. However, if it's expected that they will eventually be able to care for themselves, your guardianship maybe temporary or partial.

Bankruptcy Basics - Understanding Chapter 7

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is commonly referred to as the "liquidation chapter." Despite the name, most people who file are able to keep all of their assets and nothing is liquidated. Liquidation only occurs if an asset cannot be exempted in full. More on exemptions below.

All secured and unsecured debts must be disclosed on your bankruptcy schedules. This includes mortgages, vehicle loans, taxes, student loans, credit cards, medical bills, loans from family or friends and any other known or potential liability. Even debts that are nondischargeable must be listed.

A person is obligated to list all assets they own or have an interest in, such as real estate, motor vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, household contents and furnishings, personal clothing and jewelry. It is important to list all assets because federal criminal charges can be filed if a person intentionally omits or misrepresents any information.

Once all assets are listed, exemptions are then applied. In Pennsylvania, an individual has the option to use either the federal bankruptcy exemptions or state exemptions. For most people in Pennsylvania, the federal exemptions provide greater asset protection. There are multiple different categories of exemptions under federal law. The six most commonly used are:

· Personal residence/homestead - $23,675 (11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(1))

· Motor vehicle - $3,775 (11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(2))

· Household contents, furnishings, appliances and clothing - $12,625 (11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(3))

· Jewelry - $1,600 (11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(4))

· Tax exempt retirement accounts - fully exempt regardless of amount (11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(12))

· Wildcard - $1,250 plus up to $11,850 of the unused portion of the personal residence/homestead exemption (11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(5))

The wildcard exemption can be used on any asset.

Exemption Analysis

Assume a person has a home worth $100,000 and that there is a mortgage with a balance of $85,000. If the trustee sells the home for $100,000, there would be approximately $7,000 in sale costs (realtor commission, realty transfer tax, etc.). The mortgage would have to be paid in full, resulting in the trustee netting $8,000 at closing ($100,000 - $7,000 - $85,000). In this situation, the trustee would be unable to sell the home because the person could exempt the $8,000 of net equity using their personal residence exemption. Now, assume there is $50,000 owed on the mortgage. This would result in the trustee netting $43,000 at closing. In this situation, the trustee would sell the home because the maximum the person could exempt is $24,925 ($23,675 personal residence exemption and $1,250 wildcard exemption), leaving $18,075 of unexempt equity ($43,000 - $24,925). Upon sale of the house, the person would receive $24,925 and the remainder would be distributed to the unsecured creditors. This same analysis is used for all bankruptcy assets.

Credit repair after bankruptcy

Once a person in Pennsylvania has made the choice to file for bankruptcy and what type of plan is best for them, their concerns might turn to how they can move forward financially once the bankruptcy is over. This is logical as a fresh financial future is ultimately the point of filing for a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy when there are no remaining options for people to get out from under mounds of debt.

Nerd Wallet recommends that consumers coming out of bankruptcy make an effort to learn their credit scores and review all of their credit reports. Sometimes these reports actually have erroneous information that needs to be corrected. This should be done promptly. From there, people should make a point to track their credit regularly and monitor all activity. This will give them the chance to see how sometimes little things can make a big difference.

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