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Volume 23, Number 29 - July 23, 2010
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In This Issue
Ten Tips On How To Be A Good Neighbor - And Avoid Lawsuits
(ARA) Treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated is wisdom that is thousands of years old. And it may be more important than ever in today’s litigious society where a growing number of Americans - nearly 80 percent - live side-by-side in urban and suburban areas, in many cases separated only by a wall. Between sharing driveways and fences to sharing the beautiful, or not-so-beautiful, sights and sounds of a neighborhood, conflict is bound to happen from time to time when people live next to one another. Excessive noise, pets off their leashes, unmaintained lawns, trespassing, an illegal home business - these represent just some of the most common complaints that can come up between neighbors. When complaints go unresolved, frustration turns into phone calls to the local police or into a lawsuit. Here are 10 tips from Findlaw.com, a leading online source of legal information, on how to avoid earning the scorn of your neighbors and being the subject of a lawsuit. avoiding conflicts down the road. 2. Start a neighborhood watch group. Join or form a neighborhood group to watch for unusual or illegal activity in your neighborhood, and to facilitate common ground among your neighbors. Currently, about 200,000 official neighborhood watch programs are registered throughout the United States. To see if your neighborhood has a watch
group, or to register a new group, visit www.usaonwatch.org.
3. Courtesy call. Open communication is an important part of home ownership, and can help prevent future problems with your neighbors. They are more likely to be supportive with your projects 1. Get to know your neighbors. Make time to get to if they know what’s going on ahead of time. If you know your neighbors. Learning the basics of why are planning a major landscape or remodeling they choose to live in your neighborhood, what project, let your neighbor know in advance. And they desire in a great neighborhood, what they if you’re going to have a party that could create do for a living, what they enjoy doing for fun, and some unexpected noise, don’t just tell your neigheven the names of their kids can pay dividends in bors about it, invite them. Page 5
4. Maintain your property. Think about the way your property affects your neighbors and imagine the view from their side of the street or fence. Many neighborhood associations and cities maintain covenants or have regulations about property maintenance, according to Findlaw.com. Not adhering to these standards can get you in hot water with more than just your neighbors. 5. Respect property lines. Check all local community laws before landscaping, adding a fence or tree, or launching a remodeling project, such as adding onto your home. If you’re building or landscaping near the property line, make sure you’re in compliance with local codes. If you share a property line, such as a shared driveway, work closely with your neighbor to find solutions that work for both of you. If necessary, consult a lawyer to draft an agreement on how to handle present and future actions with shared property. 6. Fences. Fences make for good neighbors, but make sure that before you build one, you follow local codes regulating the height, location, material used and appearance of a fence. A neighbor can only remove another’s fence if it poses a danger to those who interact with it. If it is a property-line fence, neighbors have equal share in the future of the fence and must agree in remodeling it. This also means that both neighbors are responsible for maintenance of the fence and need to split all
costs for the preservation. 7. Trees. The tree owner is responsible for the maintenance of the tree and any damage if the tree falls on a neighbor’s lawn or house. If a thunderstorm or other natural disaster forces a tree to cause damage, then the tree owner is no longer responsible. Neighbors are able to trim others’ tree branches; however, if they harm the tree, they could be sued for up to $2,500. 8. Keep pets in control. Pets are free to roam on their owner’s property if they have a fence set up, but if the animals escape and cause damage, it is the pet owner’s full responsibility. Most neighborhoods and parks have leash laws and require owners to clean up after their pets. Pet owners will also be responsible if their pet bites or harms another person. If a neighbor has too many pets, then they could be violating a zoning, health code or noise ordinance. 9. Don’t be a noisy neighbor. Loud noises aren’t only a nuisance, but also a potential health hazard. Exposure to sounds of 115 decibels for 15 minutes a day can cause hearing loss, according to the League of the Hard of Hearing. As a reference, a noisy restaurant is about 80 decibels and live rock music is 130 decibels. Almost every community prohibits excessive, unnecessary, and unreasonable noise (including excessive dog barking), and the police enforce these laws. Most noise ordinances designate “quiet hours” within their community. 10. Seek mediation. Filing a lawsuit should always be the last resort. Before you get there, speak with your neighbor about the problem. If it’s an issue that affects many neighbors, team up for more support. If that doesn’t work, seek mediation, which many cities and neighborhood councils now offer. Mediation can help neighbors address a problem and still preserve long-term relationships with your neighbor. If a legal issue arises between you and your neighbor, check Findlaw.com to learn about the law, to find more information on how to handle certain situations, and to find a lawyer in your area. Courtesy of ARAcontent
Overwhelmed By Debt? Know Your Options
(ARA) - If you find yourself in a financial hole you can’t get out of, it’s important to know you have options. Being in debt can cause people to continue to make payments that they can’t afford or can barely afford without much hope of ever eliminating the debt. If you find yourself in this position, there are a few routes you can pursue to free yourself from overwhelming debt. First, getting out of debt on your own should always be your first choice, if you can do it. The quickest way to save money and keep your credit intact is to pay off your balances as quickly as you are able. If you don’t think that option is open to you, it might be time to seek outside help. The Federal Trade Commission recommends looking at the following options and finding what might work for you. When you examine each of these possibilities, make sure the organization you are working with is legitimate. Always beware of hidden costs and make sure you know exactly what you will receive before you pay for these services. * Credit counseling: If you don’t think you can get your debt under control by yourself, credit counselors can help you develop a plan to get out of debt. * Debt management plan: Often offered through a credit counseling service, this allows the participant to make monthly deposits to the service, which in turn will pay your bills as worked out with your creditors. You will be required to make your monthly payments on time and you may be barred from applying for additional credit while on the plan. * Bankruptcy: This is usually considered the last resort, but it can allow you to have some of your debts forgiven completely. You may also be re-
quired to put your car, house or other assets toward repaying your debt. Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years and can make it difficult to secure any type of credit during that time. * Debt settlement programs: Often considered an alternative to bankruptcy, debt settlement, or debt negotiation programs, allow those with unsecured debt (debt not tied to an asset, like credit card debt or medical bills) to pay less than what they owe through negotiating with creditors.
“The goal of a debt negotiator is to obtain a debt settlement for you on the current debt amount you owe your creditor. For example you may owe one particular creditor $10,000, so the goal of the negotiator would be to have you end up paying back say $5,000,” says Steven Veator, senior program adviser of Core Financial Services, a Massachusetts-based debt settlement agency. Recently, much attention has been brought to flyby-night debt settlement agencies that often only cause participants to go into more debt. If you
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plan on enrolling in a debt settlement program, the United States Organizations for Bankruptcy Alternatives (USOBA), a professional organization for the debt settlement industry, recommends taking the following things into account before enrolling in a program: * Know in advance that your credit score will take a hit. Any debt settlement agency promising otherwise is probably not telling the truth. * Programs will often take two to three years to complete. If you can’t make the payments necessary to complete the program, don’t enroll because you will still be responsible for your debts in addition to any program fees. * Beware of hidden fees. Make sure all fees you will have to pay during the program are agreed upon before enrolling in the program, along with a payment schedule. The program will likely charge you beyond what you will be paying back to your creditors for their work, so make sure it is still a good option once these fees are included. * Debt settlement is a private industry, so any organization that speaks of a federal program for debt settlement is not telling the truth. * Don’t stand for pressure or silence. A legitimate agency should not pressure you to enroll and should allow you the time to make a decision. You should also be able to freely and easily communicate with the agency before enrolling and during the debt settlement process. Some programs require you to default on paying your creditors, so have a plan in place with your settlement agency on how to handle calls from creditors if this is the case. For more on debt settlement and answers to frequently asked questions, visit www. coredebt.com. Courtesy of ARAcontent Page 13
What To Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied
(ARA) - If your child is being bullied, she’s not alone. About 160,000 children in the United States miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students, according to the National Education Association. victim, the perpetrators and other students, who indirectly become distracted from their studies out of fear of becoming a bully’s next victim. Bullying has been cited as a factor in teen suicides as well as in a number of on-campus shooting massacres, including the infamous and tragic Columbine High School incident. Bullying is a serious problem that is growing worse, In that case, media reports suggested that both of the and is taking on new forms through the use of the shooters were victims of bullying. Internet and mobile phones, say educators. Some estimates say that 25 percent of American children Historically, bullying among school children has not experience direct or indirect bullying daily. been a topic of broad public concern. In fact, some adults may view bullying as a rite of passage for chilBroadly speaking, bullying can involve any number of dren and youth, as popularized on the big screen and behaviors, according to Findlaw.com, a leading online on TV programs. Because of events like Columbine, source of legal information, including sexual harass- attention to bullying among children has increased ment of another student, teasing, excluding a student, dramatically among school personnel, members of calling a student names, physically pushing or attack- the general public and policymakers. Today, according, threatening or hazing, spreading rumors, damag- ing to Findlaw.com, 43 states have some form of antiing or stealing belongings, or demanding money. bullying laws in place, complementing anti-bullying policies established at the local level by private and Cyber-bullying, a relatively new form of bullying, takes public school boards. place over the Internet through social media websites and forums, or through mobile devices. Many pre- Here are some additional tips from Findlaw.com on teens and teens prefer to communicate with one an- what to do if you suspect that your child is the victim other through texting on their mobile devices. Because of a bully: kids can share messages quickly with a large group of students, cyber-bullying can be especially effective Talk to your child. A lot of times your child will not want in spreading rumors about a student or harassing a to talk about being bullied because they perceive it as student through the sharing of photos. Because this embarrassing and humiliating. If you notice a change is a relatively new area of harassment, many school in your child’s behavior and attitudes, approach him districts are still trying to determine the reach of their first. Offer your support and let him know that action authority in off-campus cyber-bullying attacks. will be taken to improve the situation. Your child will most likely be feeling isolated at school and it’s imporBullying can have far-reaching consequences for the tant for him to know that he can confide in you. Document facts. Take pictures of any injuries and have your child give a detailed description of what happened. Write down the dates and times that these situations occurred and get statements from any other students, teachers or parents who may have observed the bullying. This information may be useful if police and school officials need to get involved to prove how long this has been going on and what the damage has been. Talk to teachers and the principal. Don’t wait. Immediately contact the school and alert school officials to the problems that your child is facing. Many schools Page 15
are adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward bullying. Alert other adults about this situation as well, including parents of other children and the bus driver. The more people who are aware of bullying, the more chances the act has of being stopped.
Put it in writing. In addition to talking directly to teachers and the school principal, put your concerns into Encourage others to speak up. If the same child is writing to the principal, the superintendent and school bullying other students, persuade parents to report it too. School officials are more likely to respond immediately if they see the problem is affecting several students.
board members. While many schools have adopted zero-tolerance policies, some school officials and teachers may not take seriously their own school’s bullying policies, or for that matter, state laws regarding bullying. Putting your concerns in writing sends a strong signal that you mean business.
Call the police. Many states require schools to report bullying incidents to the police, according to Findlaw.com. If your child has been the victim of a physical assault or repeated incidents of bullying, call the local authorities - especially if your school has not contacted local authorities. Talk with a lawyer. If your child has been physically or sexually harassed contact an attorney. Attorneys who specialize in personal injury litigation are probably best suited to represent you and your child. To learn about the law and what to do if your child is being bullied, visit Findlaw. com. Courtesy of ARAcontent
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*Finance offer subject to credit approval, applies to purchases of new Yamaha Motorcycles, ATVs & Scooters made on a Yamaha Installment Financing loan account from 7/1/10-9/30/10. Minimum contract length is 24 months and maximum length is 36 months. Minimum amount financed is $5,000. Fixed APR of 3.99%, 5.99%, 8.99%, or 14.99% will be assigned based on credit approval criteria. Monthly payments per $1,000 financed based on 36 month term are $29.52 at 3.99%, $30.42 at 5.99%, $31.80 at 8.99%, and $34.66 at 14.99%. **Customer Cash offer good on select 2010 (and prior year) models between 6/1/10-9/30/10. Offer good only in the U.S., excluding the state of Hawaii. Professional riders with advanced skills on closed course. Some models shown with optional accessories. Dress properly for your ride with a helmet, eye protection, gloves and boots. Do not drink and ride. It is illegal and dangerous. Yamaha and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation encourage you to ride safely and respect the environment. For further information regarding the MSF course, please call 1-800-446-9227. ATVs with engine sizes over 90cc are recommended for use only by riders age 16 years and older. Yamaha recommends that all ATV riders take an approved training course. For safety and training information, see your dealer or call the ATV Safety Institute at 1-800-887-2887. ATVs can be hazardous to operate. For your safety: Always avoid paved surfaces. Never ride on public roads. Always wear a helmet, eye protection and protective clothing; never carry passengers; never engage in stunt riding; riding and alcohol/drugs don’t mix; avoid excessive speed; and be particularly careful on difficult terrain. ©2010 Yamaha Motor Corp. U.S.A. All rights reserved. yamaha-motor.com
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