Welcome to the Siegel Brill newsletter.
Knowing you and your businesses is our goal at Siegel Brill. There are always interesting things happening at our firm and people willing to share their knowledge; some of which just might benefit your business. We hope you enjoy our newsletter and getting to know us just a little better.
Court of Appeals Cites Siegel Brill Amicus Brief in Striking Down Sprinkler Rule
A Minnesota Appeals Court panel threw out a state fire sprinkler requirement for larger new homes, saying a state agency failed to present enough evidence to justify the rule.
The Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) rule, adopted in 2014, required all new two-family homes and single-family homes greater than 4,500 square feet to include fire sprinklers.
In discarding the rule, the three-judge panel unanimously questioned the home-size criteria. In addition to not adequately proving the necessity of the 4,500-square-foot requirement, the judges said the rule violated state law by not adequately looking into the cost to small businesses and cities of implementing the rule.
"We are mindful today that we are declaring a rule adopted by an administrative agency of the state invalid," the judges said. "We do not do so lightly, but rather thoughtfully and unanimously. Nevertheless, we are bound to apply the law."
Siegel Brill shareholders Mark Thieroff and Jim Yarosh filed an Amicus brief on behalf of their client Frank Kottschade, a Minnesota developer. The Court of Appeals cited the Amicus brief in its opinion. "I was very pleased that the Court carefully considered our brief," says Jim Yarosh. "Amicus briefs are not often cited in opinions, so the fact that the Court did so, demonstrated its impact on the decision. We are proud of our contribution."
The decision pleased the client as well. "The brief filed by Siegel Brill forcefully articulated industry concerns that were not directly addressed in the briefs submitted by the parties," says Mr. Kottschade. "The brief was very effective."
If You Own a Property With a Parking Lot, Take Steps to Ensure That it is ADA Compliant
Recently, owners of small shopping centers and commercial buildings in the Twin Cities and outstate Minnesota have been the target of lawsuits claiming that their properties violate the Americans with Disability Act, ADA's Accessibility Guidelines or the Minnesota Human Rights Act. "Property owners should be diligent about making sure that their parking lots conform to ADA Guidelines to avoid being sued," says shareholder Chris Penwell.
Minneapolis lawyer Paul Hansmeier and his firm Class Justice have filed more than 120 lawsuits in two years on behalf of a group of people with disabilities, claiming violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA's Accessibility Guidelines or the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Mr. Hansmeier and these lawsuits have been the subject of a number of TV and newspaper reports. Some property owners have complained that the violations are minor, but the dollar amount demanded by the plaintiffs is low enough that it is not worth litigating.
"I have been retained to defend some of the property owners sued by Mr. Hansmeier's clients," says Mr. Penwell. "The violations are usually easy to correct, such as parking spaces that are not quite wide enough or signage that isn't exactly to the ADA specifications. I hired a consultant to bring my clients' parking lots into compliance and I suggest that all owners of parking lots double check that they are in compliance. The cost of doing so is usually under $2,000 and is money well spent to avoid having a lawsuit brought against them."
If you are the owner of a property that includes a parking lot, and want help bringing it into compliance, call Chris Penwell at 612-337-6014 or CLICK HERE to send him an email.
Lesson Learned: Make Sure You Track and Monitor Your Company's Major Contracts
By Scott A. Weaver
For many years, I was the president of a local bank that was sold in 2015. As we prepared for the sale, we knew that we would need to identify all of our long term leases and contracts for potential buyers. Long term leases and contracts can be costly liabilities or valuable assets of a business. Buyers will scrutinize leases and contracts in the due diligence phase of any transaction and will adjust the purchase price based on the perceived cost or value of the leases and contracts.
I discovered that the more our organization grew, the more difficult it was to manage our leases and contracts. We found that our contracts were stored in different offices by different people in different departments. Ideally, there should have been one central location where all major contracts were stored and a central database of key terms. Instead, we spent a great deal of time looking for the facts we needed to create one master list.
Ongoing monitoring of leases and contracts isn't just a good idea if you are planning to sell your business. It can add to your bottom line in the ongoing operation of your business as well. Having a strong, central record system in place will enable you to have time to be proactive in seeking alternative vendors and negotiating the best price and term. It will also help avoid the surprise that a contract automatically renewed.
Here are just some examples of the types of contracts to review:
- Advertising/website commitments;
- Leases of both real estate and equipment;
- Telephone and communication systems leases and maintenance agreements;
- IT support contracts;
- Any consulting arrangements with vendors for outsourced services;
- Office equipment leases and service agreements.
Whether the database is used to prepare for a sale or to better manage your business, the database should include the following:
- Each lease and long term contract;
- The contact information for the other party;
- A description of the services covered by the contract;
- The term of the contract;
- The contract end date;
- Dates for any pricing adjustments;
- A description of any automatic renewal of the contract (with an earlier date identified to warn of a potential automatic renewal);
- Any termination rights in the contract; and
- A reminder date in advance of the termination date to allow for time to research new vendors and put contracts out to bid.
A complete, thorough database of leases and key contracts can save time and money for any small to mid-size business.
Although it takes effort, this tactic can be a big a money-saver, enabling you to take a critical look at your expenses and clean up redundancies, save on contract cancellation fees, shop services more competitively, and position lease renewals with the most favorable terms possible. It can also help avoid costly mistakes.
If a lease or key contract is complex, your lawyer will be able to assist in identifying the key terms and key dates that help in creating a complete, thorough database that will save your business time and money in the future.