To Our Clients, Friends, Supporters and Their Families,
Please know that everyone at Kozyra & Hartz joins in sending their prayers and best wishes to all of those affected by Hurricane Sandy. We hope that you are all safe and that you are able to recover quickly from this catastrophic event. We, like many, experienced disruption in communicating due to electrical outages. We are back to work and stand ready to meet with existing and new clients who are in need of our diverse services. We know that many of you will be facing short and long term issues in the next weeks and months as to the hurricane’s impact and want to be there to help you. We have put together this webpage to assist in answering general questions and to provide guidance in addressing your legal problems. For specific issues, we suggest that you consult an attorney. Kozyra & Hartz is accepting appointments with free consultations during November and December 2012 for victims of Hurricane Sandy on subjects where we can be of help.
Many have sustained property damage from trees, the wind or water, all of which pose health and safety issues, as well as personal or business disruption and inconvenience. Sometimes these problems cause us to make larger, long term decisions for our property, like replacing the entire roof when there has been a leak or less serious damage. Kozyra & Hartz recommends that you proceed with caution. There is a desire to get everything back to normal as soon as possible. Be wary of anyone who just knocks on your door with an offer to fix your problem right away. We believe that for urgent problems that you arrange first for just those repairs. Longer term and larger projects can be contracted for after you have taken care of immediate problems. You can consider the contractor you used on the emergent repair work for a bigger project based on the first performance - or you may wish to use someone else. And you can pay for the smaller project as it is completed. We do not recommend that you provide any payment in advance except for a small deposit. Ask your contractor for references for similar work. Check the contractor out with the Division of Consumer Affairs at 973-504-6200. Get the agreement for the work to be done, small or large, in writing and make sure the agreement mentions all that has been promised and is expected. If a term is not written down, both parties are likely to be disappointed when it becomes an issue. Be sure to get and keep receipts for both insurance reimbursement and tax purposes. Make sure to ask to see the contractor’s license and current insurance certificates as well as any permit required to do the work. No one should start a project without making sure the contractor is properly and currently licensed, that there is liability and worker’s compensation insurance in place and that permits have been named. Cutting corners could create serious problems later.
Real Estate Sales and Purchases
Some will see the hurricane as presenting an opportunity to buy or sell real estate. Whether you buy or sell, Kozyra & Hartz believes it is advisable to consult with counsel especially as there may be storm related issues as to the property. Should you have an inspection of the property? Kozyra & Hartz recommends that you do and that you examine your report closely and assess any problems reported or areas that the inspection did not include. Should you buy or sell a property “as is”? What is the responsibility of the seller or the buyer for cleanup? Are there oil tank or other environmental issues? Are the utilities functioning? Issues prompted by the hurricane include flood insurance, riparian rights, damage from wind or water, mold infestation, recent repairs and the need for a certificate of occupancy, particularly where the property has been vacant or repairs made. Your contract should cover each of these issues clearly and should be reviewed and negotiated by your attorney to reflect your interests. Landlord Tenant/Leases If you have been displaced by the hurricane or your premises are not habitable by reason of damage, you may be eligible to stop paying your rent or allowed to move from the premises. Many of your legal rights will be determined by whether you are a residential or commercial tenant and what your lease says about issues like the hurricane.
Many of you will need to deal with the insurance claim process. You should report your damage or loss to real estate, personal property, including your motor vehicle or boat, and business interruption to the appropriate carrier as soon as possible. Take pictures of all damage and ask for an immediate inspection before undertaking work. If authorized by your insurance carrier, get a proposal for your repair and/or replacement in writing, and deliver it to your insurance carrier. Some insurers will provide recommended contractors. Always get receipts for the work that is done and paid for by you or which may be necessary to document your losses. If you believe you have a covered claim and your insurance carrier disagrees, contact us for guidance. Note: Generally speaking, your homeowner’s insurance covers your claim for damage done by a tree falling on your property, even if the tree was exclusively on your neighbor’s property. Employment Claims The hurricane is likely to affect many jobs on both a temporary and longer basis. For those facing a loss of employment in New Jersey, the following weblink will provide useful information about filing a claim: https://njsuccess.dol.state.nj.us/html/uimain.html. You should document your losses and apply as soon as possible for available benefits. Wills and Estates The unfortunate and unexpected loss of lives and injuries should prompt all of us to review the estate planning we have done. A current Will, Power of Attorney and Healthcare Directive are essential for all of us. Properly executed and planned, these documents are the cornerstone to having our wishes fulfilled and offer the opportunity for the smooth handling of our personal and financial affairs as well as possible tax savings.
Websites to Assist in Answering Questions
We have been compiling a list of useful websites for you to access and review as to your individual issues. These sites provide links to benefits and to getting answers to questions including benefits from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (“FEMA”). In some cases, you can make immediate application for benefits online. If you have a question and it is not answered by the website or a government representative, contact us for assistance. FEMA http://www.disasterassistance.gov/ http://www.disasterassistance.gov/static/content/en/Fact%20Sheets_Checklist_EN.pdf Unemployment http://njtoday.net/2012/11/02/disaster-unemployment-assistance-now-available-in-10-counties/ https://njsuccess.dol.state.nj.us/html/uimain.html State of New Jersey Hurricane Sites http://www.ready.nj.gov/ http://www.nj211.org/hurricane.cfm State of New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs njconsumeraffairs.gov Check back over the next weeks for any additions or supplements. Feel free to contact us with any questions or if you are in need of assistance. The Future Be assured that we are thinking of you and those close to you at this difficult time, and we hope for the safe and speedy recovery of our entire New Jersey community. We at Kozyra & Hartz are confident that all affected will take on and overcome the challenges of Hurricane Sandy and stand by ready to assist in any way we can. If we can be of help, please call us at 973-403-8344 or contact us via email. Our attorneys and staff will be available to talk or meet with you and answer your questions.
Barry A. Kozyra BarryKozyra@kozyrahartz.com
Judith A. Hartz JudithHartz@kozyrahartz.com
Raj Gadhok RajGadhok@kozyrahartz.com
Leonard A. Peduto, Jr. LeonardPeduto@kozyrahartz.com
Valerie A. Jules ValerieJules@kozyrahartz.com
Margret M. McBurney MargretMcBurney@kozyrahartz.com
Marcella Matos Wilson MarcellaWilson@kozyrahartz.com
Luther G. Jones, IV LutherJones@kozyrahartz.com
John E. Burgio JohnBurgio@kozyrahartz.com