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Planning Commission Powerpoint Presentation in Opposition to Z-22-2014 (Rezoning of 8029 and 8131 Creedmoor Road)

To Review the Surrounding Neighborhood Group’s Presentation Before the January 27, 2015 meeting of the City of Raleigh Planning Commission, please click on the following link to access the Powerpoint Presentation:

Planning Commission Powerpoint.1.27.2015

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ABA CFPB Attorney Title Agent Vetting Outline

ABA CFPB Attorney Title Agent Vetting Outline

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Planning Commission Powerpoint Presentation in Opposition to Z-22-2014 (Rezoning of 8029 and 8131 Creedmoor Road)

To Review the Surrounding Neighborhood Group’s Presentation Before the November 25, 2014 meeting of the City of Raleigh Planning Commission, please click on the following link to access the Powerpoint Presentation:

Planning Commission Powerpoint (Z-22-14)




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North Carolina Attorney General Puts Mortgage Fraudsters Out of Business!

Recent court orders bring to an end a long-running case against an elaborate scheme that deceived consumers into buying overpriced manufactured homes and agreeing to loans they couldn’t afford.

In the case against Phoenix Housing Group and W.R. Starkey Mortgage, nearly $4.3 million in refunds for consumers have been obtained and the companies worked with federal authorities who brought criminal charges against several individual defendants.





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The Music is Getting Louder; Can LegalZoom Hear it Yet?

In a Prior Post on this Blog, we noted how LegalZoom quickly settled a class action UPL lawsuit litigated in Missouri federal court after LegalZoom’s motion for summary judgment on the question of whether their “decision-tree” legal document preparation software enabled the company to illegally engage in the unauthorized practice of law in the “Show-me-State.”  The federal district court judge in Missouri concluded in her 31 page Order that, indeed, a reasonable jury or fact-finder could well conclude that the LegalZoom’s on-line document preparation service constituted the unauthorized practice of law which is prohibited by Missouri statutes.  That got LegalZoom’s attention.  Instead of proceeding to litigate further to find out what the jury or fact-finder might then conclude in the trial scheduled and which would have been held just 3 weeks later, LegalZoom chose to quickly settle, paid over $6 million dollars (including over $1 million in attorney fees), and agreed to alter the manner in which the company conducted business in Missouri thereafter.

Now, the “music” is starting to get much louder here in NC after the North Carolina Business Court’s recent decisions in two quite similar cases involving LegalZoom and another company named Lienguard, both of whom are each battling the same UPL issues in the same North Carolina Court, before the same NC Judge, using the same NC attorneys, in two very pitched and acrimonious battles with the North Carolina State Bar.  Can LegalZoom hear the music which sings loud and clear in the holding in the recent Order and Opinion in the Lienguard case, or is LegalZoom still tone deaf to the very real possibility that a large portion of their business model is illegal under the many UPL statutes across the country, including here in North Carolina?

Let’s set the table.  Lienguard is a commercial business based in Illinois that offers commercial lien document preparation services across the country, including in NC.  Lienguard maintains a website where those seeking to file a claim of lien can interact with Lienguard’s website to complete and prepare a claim of lien document created by Lienguard, and Lienguard “handles the rest.”  It is more complicated than that, and if you want the details, review the full text of the Opinion and Order in the Lienguard case.  But that is the basic gist.  In response, the NC State Bar filed a complaint against Lienguard alleging, basically, that the company’s on-line preparation of claim of lien documents for their customers in NC, which the Court concluded were “legal documents” within the meaning of that term as set forth in Chapter 84 of the NC General Statutes, constituted the unauthorized practice of law and that such business practices by Liengaurd were illegal and should be enjoined.  Thus, it is now illegal for Lienguard to provide or offer to provide (whether it be via an on-line or off-line service) legal document preparation services whereby Lienguard prepares or assists in the preparation of any claim of lien on behalf of a third party in North Carolina.

What does that mean for LegalZoom?  Well, we do not know for certain just yet.  The recent Order and Opinion in the LegalZoom case merely decided the parties’ preliminary joint motions for “judgment on the pleadings,” which is ordinarily a mechanism to dispose of meritless claims or defenses at very early stages of litigation.   The Business Court’s recent decision essentially punted the decision on the penultimate UPL issue down the road for a later stage of the litigation (a subsequent hearing on “summary judgment” for all you litigators out there).  The Business Court clearly indicated that it wants the parties to develop the case with more facts and information to inform its pending decision on the UPL question that is at the center of the LegalZoom case.

However, one has to think (which I would do if I were advising LegalZoom in this case), that if LegalZoom’s website assists NC consumers in the preparation of “legal documents” in a similar fashion to how Lienguard did with respect to the preparation of claims of lien, then it seems reasonable that the same or similar result may well be in store for LegalZoom (i.e., a declaratory judgment that all or part of their on-line legal document preparation services constitute UPL and an injunction to stop them from continuing to offer and engage in such illegal business practices here in NC).   Is a deed or a lease concerning real property a “legal document?”  Is a will?  Is a trust agreement?  What about documents which serve to legally separate and/or divorce two married individuals?  What about the legal formation of a non-person entity such as a corporation or a limited liability company?  Bankruptcy?  Trademark documents?  Power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney documents?  LegalZoom offers to prepare all of these legal documents (and they are “legal documents”) via their website using their “patented” “decision-tree software.”  To view a list of all of the legal documents which LegalZoom offers to prepare for a fee via its on-line document “decision-tree software” click HERE.

The holding in the Lienguard case has very serious implications for LegalZooom’s core business model here in NC.  LegalZoom, can you hear the music now?

Read the Business Court’s Order and Opinion in the Lienguard case.

Read the Business Court’s Order and Opinion in the LegalZoom case.



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Court Rules the Liengaurd is Engaged in UPL and Issues Injunction to Halt Illegal Business Practices

Click on the Blog Post from Safran Law Firm which includes links to an Order from the North Carolina Business Court declaring Lienguard’s business practices to violate UPL statutes in North Carolina and enjoining Lienguard from preparing or offering to prepare claims of lien for businesses or consumers in NC.

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Ben Kuhn Participates in Panel Discussion at National Settlement Service Conference

Ben Kuhn recently spoke and participated in a Panel discussion on “Compliance in Attorney Closing States” at the National Settlement Service Conference in Cleveland, Ohio.  Over 400 participants from all over the country attended the conference.  Ben discussed the effective attorney closing system in North Carolina including laws and regulations providing remedies against non-attorneys handling real estate closings in North Carolina.  Ben focused on compliance issues and interacted with conference participants who asked several questions on substantive issues.  We hope to have a video feed of this portion of the conference to post in the near future.

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Ben Kuhn to Lead Panel Discussion on Ethics and Consumer Protection at Upcoming 2013 Real Property Section Annual Meeting in Asheville, NC

Ben will be joined by Adam Foodman of Charlotte and Bob Ramseur of Raleigh in discussing efforts and work by the Real Property Section Council, for and on behalf of all 2,000+ member attorneys and our consumer-clients across the State and beyond, to ensure ethical practices in the provision of real estate closing services by attorneys and to prevent and regulate the unauthorized practice of law by persons and companies offering and providing legal services in violation of North Carolina law.  Click HERE to see the Brochure and to sign up to attend and enjoy a relaxing weekend in Asheville at the Real Property Section’s Annual Meeting.

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Home Owners Association’s Insurer is Reported to Have Paid Trayvon Martin’s Family at Least $1 Million to Settle Wrongful Death Claim

As reported in the news today, the HOA where Trayvon Martin was shot and killed has agreed to settle wrongful death claims by the Martin family for an amount reported to be $1 Million or more.  Click HERE to read story.

This story paints a very important picture that everyone considering buying a home subject to restrictive covenants and governed by an HOA should pay close attention to.  It is VERY important for prospective homeowners to think LONG and HARD about whether or not they should buy property governed by a Home Owners Association and the detailed Restrictive Covenants that will burden their property.  Can one really know or trust the people running the HOA who will ultimately make very real-life decisions that can seriously and permanently impact the neighborhood as a whole, as well as each person’s individual investment in their “little slice of the American Dream”?   I bet the folks who live in the community where Trayvon Martin was shot and killed wished they had never, ever purchased a home in that community.  Not just because of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, which is an undeniable tragedy for the Martin family and friends in and of itself, but due to the real impact it will undoubtedly have on their investement in each of their homes.

So what happens now?  Homeowners in this community who had absolutely nothing to do with this tragic death likely have to chip in their hard earned money, and/or pay SUBSTANTIAL increased insurance costs going forward in order to settle these claims against the HOA.  Of course, they are the HOA.

You think the HOA’s insurer who is paying this potential $1 Million claim will drop the HOA or non-renew after paying the policy limit?  You bet they will.

Will the HOA have to get insurance via a different carrier?  The covenants almost surely require it for the protection of all the owners.

You think the new premium by the new insurer will be comparable to what the HOA previously paid given the recent claims history of the HOA in the Trayvon Martin case?  No way!  You think annual HOA assessments will increase SUBSTANTIALLY to pay the increased and required insurance obligations in this community that all owners are required to pay?  Absolutely!

Might current owners want to sell their properties to get away from what could well become crushing financial obligations from increased insurance costs brought on by events with which they had no involvement whatsoever (except for an address in the same neighborhood)?  I would.

What about prospective purchasers in the market?  You think any realtors are going to highlight homes in that neighborhood knowing of the substantially increased costs associated with living in a community with abnormally high annual assessments because of poor claims history which require that insurers charge astronomical premiums?  Other nearby neighborhoods and HOAs will not have such problems and realtors will surely factor this into their calculations when representing home buyers.  Wouldn’t you?

What if you lived there and wanted to move and could not sell for these reasons?  Now are you glad to live in a community restricted by covenants and tied up in a community governed by an HOA that can make decisions that cost you real money and significantly impact your investment in real estate?

Like I said in the beginning of this article, think LONG and HARD about whether living in a planned community subject to restrictive covenants and governed by an HOA is a good choice for you.  It might not be.  The folks living in the community where Trayvon Martin was tragically shot and killed are learning a very painful lesson that living in a planned community governed by an HOA and restrictive covenants can end up not being all its cracked up to be.

The Kuhn Law Firm is experienced representing property owners in disputes with homeowners associations.  We have seen very serious problems go from bad to worse after the homeowners association board or management company gets involved (and sometimes their insurers) and they start making decisions which are not carefully thought through and harm owners.  I am certain the community where Trayvon Martin was tragically killed now wishes their homeowners association had NEVER asked George Zimmerman to serve on the community’s Neighborhood Watch Committee.  Can you imagine how painful that thought must be for the parents of Trayvon Martin?  Devastating!

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