Thrift McLemore Receives 2020 Martindale-Hubbell Platinum Client Champion Award

Thrift McLemore is to pleased to announce that we have received the 2020 Martindale-Hubbell Platinum Client Champion Award.  The 2020 Martindale-Hubbell Platinum Client Champion Award recognizes those attorneys and law firms who excel at service as affirmed by their clients.  Thank You!

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Launch Your Georgia Small Business in 2020 with an SBA Loan

New Year’s resolutions are in full swing this year with everyone trying to lose those ten pounds or get their financial house in order. For those of us with an entrepreneurial spirit, what better resolution could there be than diving in and finally taking our small business to the next level? No matter the industry, now is a great time to utilize the resources of the Small Business Administration, and be capitalized for your small business.

For many of us, getting started is often the hardest step. You may have a great business plan, but what if you do not have the cash right now to invest into a business for proper growth. Lucky for you, utilizing the Small Business Administration for a small business loan is easier than ever! Online lenders have made applying for these loans straightforward and painless.

The SBA partners with many traditional lenders to make capital available for small business owners under strict guidelines, so that you can take comfort in knowing the loans are federally regulated. Before applying, it is important to educate yourself with the ins and outs of these loans. The Small Business Administration provides abundant resources for this, and you can review them all here.

The most common type of loan offered by the SBA is the SBA 7(a) loan. It is popular because it can be used for almost any business purpose, with long repayment terms and low interest rates. Depending on your business, you can receive financing up to $5 million to be used for working capital, refinancing debt, or purchasing an existing business, real estate, or equipment. The interest rates carried on these loans vary from 7.5% to 10%.

The qualifications for these loans are also relatively easy to achieve. The applicant need have a 680 credit score, be prepared to commit a 10% to 20% down payment, and have some amount of collateral, although the loan need not be fully collateralized. The SBA, a department of the federal government, has a vested interest in successful small business owners, so the program is straight forward, and there are minimal catches.

Just because the process has been easy however, it would not be prudent to take a loan haphazardly. It is important to have a detailed plan designed for the success of your small business. The first step is understanding your funding needs and how you are going to use the money. You should think critically about the following three questions. Why do you need the money, how much do you need, and what level of debt payments can you afford? Understanding your business needs are critical to not only the loan, but also the long-term success of your business.

The next step is preparing your documentation. The lender that you choose will need to review the loan, and adequate preparation on your part will certainly expedite the process. The following documents are recommended when completing the application:

  • Three to twelve months of most recent bank statements
  • Two years of most recent tax filings
  • Letters of Incorporation from the Secretary of State
  • A Current Balance Sheet; and
  • A Current Income Statement on the business.

While the process is more straightforward than ever, should you find yourself overwhelmed, Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys are always here to help!  We pride ourselves on helping small business clients thrive. Thrift & McLemore counsels many small businesses in many facets of their operation. Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150 to discuss your small business needs today!

Homeowners Insurance Company Deny Your Claim in Georgia?

Your child’s love of toilet paper clogs your toilet and floods the house. A tree falls in a storm and crashes through your roof. Filing a homeowner’s insurance claim strikes fear into the heart of every homeowner. You have paid your premiums faithfully and you count on your insurance company to be there when you need it, yet many homeowners have nothing but bad experiences in dealing with Homeowners Insurance.

It is important to understand that when you file a claim, you are dealing with a business. It is in that insurance companies’ best interest to limit their financial outlay when it comes to insurance claims, even if their sole purpose is to pony up when you need them. Because of this, Homeowners Insurance disputes are common in Georgia because of the amount of money involved and the adverse objective of each side.

Many times, insurance companies will attempt to deny a claim on a technicality. When filing a claim in Georgia, it is important to ensure that there are no deficiencies in your coverage that would allow this to happen. To illustrate this point, some common denials from insurers involve past due or late premiums, while others deny on the basis that the claim was excluded on your policy. The insurer may claim that the damage was not a one-time occurrence, but instead happened gradually over an extended period. In similar circumstances, the insurer will blame you, stating that the home was not properly maintained, and this contributed to the loss.

Fortunately, for Georgia residents, there are administrative remedies available when this occurs and you are getting nowhere negotiating on your own. The Georgia Department of Insurance maintains a Consumer Services Division, whose resources you can find here. While they will not fight the claim on your behalf, they do seek to level the playing field and make sure that both sides engage fairly.

With this state resource, you can educate yourself on insurance laws, and set up arbitration should the need arise. While the Georgia Department of Insurance does not undertake fighting your claim for you, in some instances this can be just the nudge that the insurance company needs to pay fairly on a claim.

Unfortunately, many of these cases simply will not be resolved without professional help. Just because an insurance company denies your claim does not mean that you cannot receive a fair settlement, however. Talking to an attorney who is knowledgeable on the law and can hold insurance companies accountable can make a world of difference in this seemingly one-sided affair. In extreme cases, a lawsuit for bad faith failure to settle claim case can be filed, whereas if strict requirements are met, the insurance company can be forced to pay the claim, in addition to extra penalties.

Should you find yourself out of options, and needing the counsel of an attorney, Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys are standing by to review your claim.  Thrift & McLemore has fought numerous insurance cases and achieved positive outcomes for our clients countless times. Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150 to discuss your case today.

Builder or Contractor did a poor job? How to seek relief in Georgia (including Right to Repair Act)

Whether it is repairing the clogged toilet, or adding a new wing onto your home, any longstanding homeowner has at least some experience in dealing with a residential contractor. When you are looking for a contractor, many people speak to a few pros before deciding to hire one, hopeful that they made the best decision for price and quality.

Even if you vet the contractor thoroughly, things do not always go as expected. There can be problems with substandard work, higher costs, and unfinished work. There can be delays, problems with permits, and unexpected issues that cause you headaches.

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What happens when things go very wrong? How can a homeowner get the issues resolved? Can the homeowner attempt to address the issue with the contractor? What if the contractor doesn’t listen? Should the homeowner sue? Are there any other alternatives?

Contractor issues in new and existing property can surface in a number of ways. The homeowner may bring an action for failing to use proper materials, inadequate workmanship or performing work that is below industry standards. When a defect of this nature occurs, the homeowner can bring a claim for breach of construction contract. Below is a description of some of the relevant laws in Georgia affecting construction disputes.

Warranties. Georgia law requires that homebuilders and contractors provide a warranty to homeowners prior to construction. The warranty must be written and fully explain the damages to which it applies. The warranty should state how long it is in effect and the process of filing and responding to claims.  This applies to projects that are valued at more than $2500. Typically, a warranty issued by a contractor covers defective workmanship and faulty materials and will not apply to normal wear and tear resulting from use of the home. If the homeowner makes a claim as specified in the warranty and the builder fails to remedy the issue, then the homeowner can seek legal remedies.

Right to Repair Act. A homeowner who wants to file suit against a contractor must follow the requirements set forth in the Right to Repair Act. Under the statute, the homeowner must notify in writing each contractor who performed worked on the home at least 90 days before filing suit. If the construction defect resulted in injury or death, the notice requirement is waived. The contractor must reply in writing within 30 days after notice has been received. The contractor has the option to inspect the property and decide whether repairs are necessary. The contractor may determine that repairs are not necessary and provide a written explanation of his reasons. Alternatively, the contractor may simply refrain from visiting the premises and settle the claim through payment or making repairs. The homeowner can reject the offer to repair the premises, but must provide a written explanation for his decision.

Lawsuit. If actions fail to repair the damage under the Right to Repair Act, a lawsuit may be filed as a last resort. The homeowner may file a lawsuit in the event he declines the settlement offer, the contractor has not fixed the defect or the contractor has failed to respond to the notification. The amount of the damages and the complexity of issues will determine which court to ultimately file.

Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys are qualified in the State of Georgia to navigate contractor disputes on behalf of their clients.  Rest assured that you are in good hands with Thrift & McLemore as we have handled numerous construction cases, and achieved results for our clients countless times. Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150 to discuss how we can help you today!

Georgia Commercial Debt Collection: Attorney or Agency?

You have worked hard to build a thriving business and things are going great, but your margins just are not adding up.  Quick research yields that your business has a number of delinquent accounts on the books, and it is beginning to adversely affect your cash flow.  You make calls yourself, but just cannot seem to get these customers to pay, so now you look outward for help.  Your first major decision point is whether you hire a collection agency or a collections attorney.

With ever-increasing protections for debtors, the rules for creditors to collect debt have become stricter with more severe punishment for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, including monetary damages, attorney’s fees, and more.  No matter which party you ultimately choose, it is paramount that the collector operate on the right side of the law.  That said, both agencies and attorneys are operating under the same goal, which is to collect on the debt that you hired them to retrieve.  There do, however, exist differences in regards to how an agency attempts to collect a debt vs. efforts of an attorney.

Collection agencies will often take the same steps to collect as you did, using a multi-communications strategy to reach the debtor. This can include phone calls, letters and/or emails to retrieve what is owed you.  A collections agency can also file a credit report on your behalf.  The use of a third-party name can instill greater urgency within the debtor to pay and the collection agency has experience they can draw from to drive results.  An agency is a superior option when there is a large amount of accounts with a small delinquent balance to recover on.

A collection attorney could take similar steps and produce a different effect.  The largest difference in approach is that an attorney can also take a debtor to court on your behalf.  Retaining a Georgia collection attorney holds more weight and authority since it signifies that legal action may be imminent.  If court becomes necessary, a judgment in your favor opens up alternative methods to collect the money owed, such as wage garnishing, tax liens, and income collections that are not available through agency collection.

You may still not get the entire amount owed to you, but you now have other ways to recoup at least a portion of the funds.  Collection Attorneys are the clear choice when there is a large delinquent debt that would incur significant hardship on the creditor should the delinquency carry on.  This is because an attorney can pursue the matter beyond credit reporting and phone calls, compelling the payment of the debtor through the court system.

Hiring a law firm specializing in debt collection has many advantages.  Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys are qualified in the State of Georgia to collect debts on behalf of their clients.  We can save you time, money, and frustration because prior to any collection action, we evaluate the legal merit of your claim, including statutory and evidentiary review.  Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150 to discuss how we can help you and your organization today!

Defending a Mechanic’s Lien in Georgia

Hiring a contractor for a home remodel or repair can be at the same time a rewarding and troublesome experience.  On one hand, finally updating that kitchen that looks twenty years overdue is an exciting notion.  On the other, no two contractors are created equal, and often times it seems like most people make the wrong choice.

So what happens when a contractor does a subpar job on your home project, but still expects payment even though it may not be what you contracted for?  Negotiating with the contractor to complete to expectations is one option and negotiating the price down another, but what happens when the two sides simply do not see eye to eye?

All too often in these cases, the contractor files a Mechanic’s Lien on the homeowner’s property.  This legal mechanism offers the contractor a “security” in the home to compel payment by the homeowner.  The lien works to effectively cloud the title in the home, and the law requires that the lien be resolved before the homeowner transfers title of the property.

This legal mechanism works as intended when a contractor successfully delivers on a project for a homeowner and that homeowner simply is not willing to pay.  Other times however, innocent homeowners find themselves battling a lien when it was the contractor who did not meet the terms of the contract.

Although this is never something to look forward to, the filing of a lien does not automatically mean that you must pay the contractor what they demand.  Lien law in Georgia can be quite complicated, and often times these liens are not filed in a manner in which they attach to the property.  If you have recently become aware of a lien filed on your property, check to ensure that all of the following requirements have been satisfied through the filing of the lien:

  • The builder provided the homeowner a preliminary lien notice within a specified number of days of beginning work or delivering materials
  • The mechanics’ lien contained a minimum amount of detail about the debt (the amount, the scope of the services for which payment is due, the homeowner’s name and address, and so forth)
  • The lien was filed with the local county court or registrar of deeds within 90 days of the completion of work.

If these elements are not satisfied, then the lien is void.  If the lien filer did follow all of these steps, their work is still not done.  In order to perfect the lien, or have it fully attach to the property, the filer must commence suit within 365 days of filing the lien.  A failure to do so automatically voids the lien.  Let’s assume that the contractor satisfies all of these steps, now what?

When a contractor commences suit to perfect the lien, it operates similarly to any other lawsuit.  There is a complaint filed, and the defendant is allowed time to answer.  Then commences discovery and the actual hearing.  This presents both sides with another opportunity to settle the matter outside of court, however at this stage it is likely that both parties are entrenched in their position, and the contractor has paid considerable money in the enforcement of the lien by this stage.

By disputing the claim in the lien, you are effectively stating that what the contractor claims is not true.  Was the quality of workmanship subpar, were the materials not the same as agreed upon, or did the contractor not meet other material provisions of the contract?  It is advised that you retain all documentation pertaining to the contract and speak with a qualified attorney who can advocate on your behalf to protect your rights.

If you are experiencing a lien issue on your home and the contents of the lien are under dispute, give us a call!  Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys have many years’ experience in both filing and defending liens, and will fight to get you the recourse that you deserve.  Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150.

Suing for Latent Defects in a Home Purchase in Georgia

Purchasing a home may be one of the most rewarding, yet terrifying transactions that a consumer can make in their lifetime.  It is universally understood for many of us that it is the single largest purchase we will ever make.  A commitment this large can make even the most self-assured buyer uneasy. 

Obvious defects in a home are not as worrisome in this case, as cracked walls and non-working electricity are straightforward to diagnose.  Issues that are less obvious are the ones that keep the would be purchaser up late at night.  These issues are referred to as “latent defects”.  Latent defects are those problems with property that are not visible to the naked eye.  These issues can be wide ranging, like asbestos in older homes, corroded piping that leads to a plumbing leak, or carbon monoxide leaking into the home.

In Georgia, like many states, the seller is required to provide disclosures of all known defects, obvious or not.  The purpose is to inform the cautious buyer of any issues that they may incur, and to avoid purchasing a home with such defects that they will have to fix.  Of course, while this is the law, this is not always followed to the extent a purchaser would like.

What happens when you have bought a home, only to find that latent defects exist and the seller failed to inform you?  While it is an uphill battle, you certainly do have options.  While you cannot seek remedy from everyone involved, there are a select few parties you can seek recourse from:

The Seller – As mentioned above, the seller in Georgia is required to provide disclosures on the home.  This disclosure requires the seller to provide a list of defects on the home that they are aware of, but may not be obvious.  While a seller may later deny that they knew about this, patchwork on drywall found after purchase where a leak has formed is an obvious sign that the seller knew there was an issue.

The Sellers agent – similar to the seller, the agent must disclose when asked of any defects on the home, and while their duties are limited, depending on the circumstances they may be on the hook as well.

The home inspector – While Georgia does not require inspections on the purchase of a home, a prudent purchaser will always have one conducted.  The inspector is a trained individual, who is well versed in home construction and accordingly has a higher aptitude for uncovering these issues.  Depending on the issue, a home inspector may be liable for missing it in their inspection of the home.

So now, you have a latent defect, and there is a responsibility for the parties that have not been met, but do you have a case?  There are certain conditions that need to be met before you can proceed. 

Was the defect there before you bought the home?  General wear and tear on the home is not actionable if the loss merely occurs under your ownership, however if the condition was pre-existing then you should be ok to proceed.  Is it a non-obvious defect that was not disclosed, but a prior party was aware of?  In the example above, plumbing may not always be an obvious issue, but if you later find steps have been taken to repair and conceal, and you relied on the non-disclosure of those parties, this condition will have been met.  Finally, the harmed purchaser must prove damages.  Is there an actual cost of repair, or a decrease in the home’s value as a result of the defect?  This will be what your claim in a lawsuit amounts to.

There are a number of legal theories that you can bring against the responsible parties depending on the situation.  It is recommended to review your case with a qualified attorney beforehand to ensure you are bringing an action on the correct theory.  Some of these claims include failure to disclose, negligence, fraud, breach of contract, breach of warranty, and negligent misrepresentation.

If you have recently purchased a home and discover a latent defect, but are unsure of your options, give us a call!  Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys pride themselves on their expertise in the real estate law arena and will fight to get you the recourse that you deserve.  Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150.

Please join Thrift & McLemore at the National Automotive Finance Association’s 23rd Annual Non-Prime Auto Financing Conference

The National Automotive Finance Association’s 23rd Annual Non-Prime Auto Financing Conference will be held June 5 – June 7, 2019, at the Renaissance Dallas Plano Square.  This event is recognized as the premier non-prime auto financing conference. Program content is developed by the Association’s board and member companies, assuring relevant and timely topics. In addition to comprehensive programming developed for the auto financing community, this year’s program will again include sessions of general interest to all participants in the industry. Finance company and bank representatives at all organizational levels and auto dealer principals are encouraged to attend.

Statutory Close Corporations in Georgia – What are they good for anyway?

In creating a legal entity in Georgia, one would be understandably confused at the many possible variations in structure that are available to him or her. For validation, look no further than the numerous forms that a Corporation can take on. Many avoid a corporation because they feel that the formalities involved are too cumbersome, that this type of organization is reserved for the fortune 500 companies that trade daily on Wall Street. While part of this assumption is true, the other part is that many small businesses do not need avail themselves of the corporate form due to the perceived formalities that come with it.

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Enter the Statutory Close Corporation. Created pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 14-2-902, the Statutory Close Corporation is a corporation with fewer than 50 shareholders that includes a statement in its articles of incorporation that it elects to be a statutory close corporation. This corporate form introduces an element of “simplicity” that would benefit a smaller organization as compared to its fortune 500 counterparts.

By adopting the close corporate form, sole proprietors and partners who wish for the benefits and protections of a corporation can do so without all of the formality that comes with it. For example, a close corporation, at its election, can do away with the creation and maintenance of a Board of Directors. Many small organizations with ownership split among a select few will have no need for a formalized board, because they as owners are acting de facto in that capacity already. Additionally, with no uninterested shareholders to appease through quarterly meetings, there is no need to conduct an annual shareholders meeting and record meeting minutes, which come at a cost.

The close corporation also tends to streamline efficiencies and decision rights for the small operator. One of these efficiencies comes in the form of a simple “right of first refusal” requirement between shareholders. While a traditional corporate form is susceptible to proxy voting and corporate takeovers, when discord occurs within a close corporation, shareholders have the option to simply buy one another out. This can all vary when involving disparate ownership and limiting agreements, but holistically, this promotes business continuity within the corporation.

A Statutory Close Corporation is not the only option either, as there are competing corporate forms that provide similar benefits, such as the Limited Liability Company. It may seem that a corporation is an overly formal entity that has no place in small business, but it is possible to take advantage of the corporate form without the complexity and cost that comes along with it.

If you are looking into corporate formation in Georgia and find yourself intimidated by the many options available, reach out to us today! Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys can help you make an informed decision about the best corporate form for your new Georgia business. Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150.

Thrift & McLemore Receives 2019 Martindale-Hubbell Platinum Client Champion Award

Thrift & McLemore is to pleased to announce that we have received the 2019 Martindale-Hubbell Platinum Client Champion Award. The 2019 Martindale-Hubbell Platinum Client Champion Award recognizes those attorneys and law firms who excel at service as affirmed by their clients.  Thank You!

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