Author Archives: Jorge Pereira, Esq.

About Jorge Pereira, Esq.

I was born in Portugal and raised in Bethlehem after immigrating with his family to the Lehigh Valley at the age of 2. I attended Rutgers University, New Brunswick graduating with B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Psychology. After graduating with honors from Rutgers University, I attended Rutgers-Newark Law School. While at Rutgers-Newark Law School, I was part of Appellate Moot Court, Urban Legal Clinic and the Animal Rights Clinic. Upon graduating Rutgers-Newark Law School Law, I initially practiced at a small boutique law firm in Newark, New Jersey but always maintained a desire to return to his home in the Lehigh Valley. I spent the last eighteen years working in civil litigation and personal injury law firms in the Lehigh Valley. For the last sixteen years, I has worked at an Allentown law firm, The Law of Business, P.C. f/k/a Douglas M. Marinos & Associates, P.C. focusing on business divorce, corporate law, creditor’s rights and general civil litigation. I am a member of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey bars and admitted to practice in the United States District Court of Pennsylvania for the Eastern District and the United States District Court of New Jersey. I have litigated cases throughout the Courts of Common Pleas of Eastern Pennsylvania from Susquehanna County to Philadelphia County and represented both debtors and creditors in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern and Middle District of Pennsylvania. As counsel for Sovereign Bank, I wrote the appellate brief in the precedent setting decision in the matter of Sovereign Bank v. Schwab, 414 F.3d 450 (3rd Cir. 2005). I am an avid cigar smoker and a founding member, board member and former officer of the Lehigh Valley Cigar Club, a non-profit social club with over 200 members dedicated to protecting and promoting the enjoyment of cigar smoking in the Lehigh Valley.I played Rugby for ten years on the men’s team of the Lehigh Valley Rugby Football Club, becoming a captain of the men’s team, and President of the club. I own a commercial building in the historical district of Main Street, Bethlehem where my business partner and I own a hair salon, Hair Studio Main.

HAVE YOU BEEN SUED BY A COMPANY YOU NEVER HEARD OF FOR MONEY YOU BORROWED FROM SOMEONE ELSE?

The average consumer does not realize that the delinquent debt industry is a trillion dollar a year business. Everybody has borrowed money to buy a house, buy a car, for school loans or over charged credit cards. A large number of these loans will end up in default. These troubled loans have a market. There are very large debt buyers who purchase millions of dollars of delinquent debt for pennies on the dollar. The debt buyers purchase the delinquent accounts at a substantial discount and then come after consumers for the full balance. The debt buyers purchase large volume of delinquent accounts often purchasing tens of thousands of accounts at a time. The purchases are often made electronically with only the data being stored and transferred. Hard copy documents such as the original loan agreement often are lost or were never transferred from the original creditor to the debt buyer. A problem for the debt buyers arises when the consumer challenges the claim and the debt buyer can not prove that the consumer entered into the original loan agreement.

Debt buyers do not want their right to collect on obligation challenged by consumers. Debt buyers purchase delinquent debt in large volume aware that many of the accounts will be uncollectable. Debt buyers make a business decision to try and collect as high of a percentage of the delinquent debt accounts as possible. Typically, debt buyers hire debt collectors and/or debt collection attorneys to collect the delinquent debt. The debt collectors or debt collection attorneys will be assigned a large number of accounts for consumers in the area where the debt collectors or attorneys practice. They are paid a percentage of each account they are able to collect on, approximately 15% to 20% percent of whatever they manage to collect on each account. Remember, debt buyers have purchased the delinquent debt accounts for pennies on the dollars so any money they recover is usually profit. If the debt buyers average 50% collection of the delinquent debt on 10% to 20% of the accounts they have purchased but fail to collect on 80% to 90% of the delinquent accounts purchased, the debt buyers will still make a profit. It is in the best interest of debt buyers and the debt collectors to get the money from the consumers as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Any challenge to the claim by the consumer wastes time and costs money which ultimately reduces profit.

For this reason, debt buyers do not want to start a law suit unless they are forced to. It is much more cost affective to send a demand letter threatening legal action in attempt to get the consumer to agree to pay back the debt. This creates an opportunity to negotiate with the debt buyers to reduce the amount of the obligation or to pay it back over time. The debt buyers are more than willing to work out a repayment plan because they have purchased these accounts for pennies on the dollar. For some that is a reasonable option. Hard times may have led to the original default and now when the consumer is in a better position they wish repay their loan or credit obligation.

What many consumers don’t realize is that in this computer electronic transfer age, may of these debt buyers never received the original loan documents and can not prove the original debt or that they actual own the right to collect on the debt. Recently, a New York Times article discussed this problem with regards to privately held student loans.  In summary, the article discusses how debt buyers who own at least 5 billion in troubled private student loans could not prove they had a right to collect. As a result, many consumers where seeing thousand of dollars of their student loans wiped out because the loans were uncollectable.

Credit card debt is very difficult to prove for third party buyers of debt in Pennsylvania. In 2011, the Pennsylvania Superior Court decided the case of Commonwealth Financial Sytems, Inc. v. Larry Smith, No 3455 EDA 2009. In that matter, Mr. Smith obtained a Citibank credit card in 1989 and proceeded to use it for the next thirteen years. By July 2004, Mr. Smith’s account was delinquent account and was sold to Commonwealth who filed suit in March 2006 seeking $5,435.93, plus interest at 23.99% per annum, plus attorney fees at a rate of 20%, and costs. Commonwealth failed to attach many of the original documents and those that were attached the Court found were inadmissible hearsay and did not qualify under the business record exception of the hearsay rule. The question of whether computerized files of an original creditor were admissible as the business records of a successor debt buyer was one of first impression in Pennsylvania. Without the original creditor testifying, the debt buyer could not establish the trustworthiness of the documents, the chain of title, and/or whether an original contract existed.

Any consumer who receives a letter from a debt buyer needs to understand that while a debt buyer may claim it has the right to collect the delinquent debt, they still have the burden of proving that right in court.

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The Supreme Court’s decision in Midland Funding, LLC v. Johnson places too much reliance on Bankruptcy Trustees.

In a previous blog, I was asked to write a blog on the recent May 15, 2017 United States Supreme Court decision in Midland Funding, LLC v. Johnson, docket no. 16-348. In a 5-3 vote the Supreme Court reversed a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit holding that the filing of a time barred proof of claim in a bankruptcy matter was a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). In a majority opinion written by Justice Breyer, the Supreme Court held that the filing of a proof of claim that is obviously time barred is not a false, deceptive, misleading unfair or unconscionable debt-collection practice within the meaning of the FDCPA.

The Supreme Court stated that “Congress intended [when it adopted the Bankruptcy Code] to adopt the broadest available definition of ‘claim.’” Therefore, while a claim may be unenforceable because it is time barred or stale, it is still a “claim” under the Bankruptcy Code. The Court further stated that the Bankruptcy code does not say that an ‘unenforceable’ claim is not a ‘claim.’”

The Court further wrote that whether a claim is stale or unenforceable due to the expiration of the limitations period is an affirmative defense to be raised by a debtor. The claim while unenforceable still remains a claim which debtor may raise an affirmative defense to.

The Court’s holding I believe minimizes the appearance of debt validation that a filed a proof of claim may have on the least sophisticated consumer. The FDCPA requires any conduct by a creditor be viewed from the perspective of the least sophisticated consumer. In other words, a court’s standard of review is whether an unsophisticated, uninformed, naïve, trusting, possession below average intelligence consumer would find the filing of a time barred proof of claim in bankruptcy matter misleading or deceptive. Blum v. Fisher & Fisher P.C., 961 F. Supp. 1218 (N.D. I.ll. 1997).

The Court addressed this by stating that in “determin[ing] whether a statement is misleading normally requires consideration of the legal sophistication of its audience” and that the “audience in [consumer] bankruptcy cases includes a trustee … likely to understand [the importance of objecting to an untimely claim].”

In other words, because the matter is in bankruptcy and subject to the review of a trustee, the debtor is receiving the benefit of his/her knowledge and therefore can not be mislead as easily.

The problem with that is a trustee will be reviewing claims only within the context of the bankruptcy matter. Unsecured debts are likely to be discharged and the Trustee may pay little attention to the proof of claim. While unlikely, there is a risk that unsophisticated debtor will believe that the acceptance of time barred proof of claim has rendered the claim valid and subject to collection when the debtor is no longer in bankruptcy. The risk is greater should a debtor’s bankruptcy petition be dismissed without debtor receiving a discharge of his debts.

The Supreme Court acknowledge that several lower courts have found it improper to enforce stale claims directly, largely based on the view that “a consumer might unwittingly repay a time-barred debt.” Justice Breyer suggested that because the consumer initiates the bankruptcy proceeding, the consumer is not likely to pay a stale claim just to avoid going to court. Justice Breyer also pointed out again that the “knowledgeable trustee” is a likely source of objections protecting the consumer.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, responded with a dissenting opinion. Justice Sotomayor’s dissent was focused on the large market for consumer debt (“trillions of dollars”), and the third party buyers of debt who buy long-stale “debts for pennies on the dollar.”

Having represented many of those same debt buyers, I am all too familiar with their practices. Third party debt buyers purchase debt on a large scale and then forward hundreds of claims to debt collectors and attorneys. The debt collectors/attorneys are looking to collect on the debt with as little effort as possible and hope a debtor will pay the debt after receiving an initial demand. Under the FDCPA, attorneys are considered debt collectors may be prosecuted for violations. Because of this, attorneys usually will normally not take any action on stale claims. However, given the volume of claims, mistakes occur and attorneys may make demands on time barred claims which debtors may assume are valid and pay.

Similarly Justice Sotomayor recognize that the claims have monetary value only because of the possibility the trustee will forget to object to them. As Sotomayor noted in her dissent, the trustees’ trade association filed an amicus brief in support of the debtor, explaining the impractical burden of interposing objections to the flood of stale claims appearing in consumer bankruptcies in recent years.

Third party buyers of debt factor in to their costs the risks of stale claims being acted on by their debt collectors and attorneys. They know they may be sued under the FDCPA but because of the volume of debt they accept the risk.

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Protection Consumers Have Under Federal and State Law From Creditors and Debt Collectors.

If you have defaulted on your credit card obligations or other debts, you have likely been subjected to calls and letters and from debt collectors, attorneys, and/or creditors threatening legal action if you don’t pay. What many may not realize is that as a debtor you are afforded protection from unfair debt collection practices under federal and state law.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) is a federal consumer protection statute that prohibits harassing abusive, deceptive, and/or unfair debt collection practices by debt collectors at any point in the debt collection process, including during pleadings and post judgment conduct. See 15 U.S. Code §1692. The FDCPA protects all consumers from debt collectors attempting to collect debt arising out of a transaction in which the money, property, insurance, or services which are the subject of the transaction are primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, whether or not such obligation has been reduced to judgment. See 15 U.S. Code §1692a.

A debt collector includes any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another. While creditors are not included in the definition of a debt collector unless the creditor attempts to collect their own debt by using a name that indicates a third party is trying to collect the debt, attorneys are included in the definition of a debt collector under the FDCPA and are subject to a federal law suit should they violate the terms of the FDCPA.

Generally speaking, a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt: 1) at any unusual time or place or a time or place known or which should be known to be inconvenient to the consumer (generally, only between the hours of 8:00 a. m and 9:00 p.m.); 2) contact a consumer if represented by an attorney; 3) contact consumer at the consumer’s place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication. See 15 U.S. Code §1692c

Additionally, a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than the consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector.

A debt collector can not leave a message on an operator, answering machine or third party that indicates that call concerns the collection of a debt. Under the FDCPA, only calls that reach the consumer at home between the hours of 8:00 a. m and 9:00 p.m., that inform the consumer by name who is calling, and the reason for the call are permitted.

Additionally, all calls as well as other communications must also include the required warning and disclosure that the call is to gather information for purposes of debt collection. 15 U.S. Code §1692e(11) requires that debt collectors in all initial written communication to consumers, and if the initial communication is oral, to advise that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose.

Under 15 U.S. Code §1692g, each debt collector must offer an initial debt validation statement for the debtor in the first communication with debtor, whether orally or in writing, including in a complaint if it is the first communication with the debtor. Under the statute, specific language is required and any failure to use that specific language as well as provide the name of the creditor and the amount of debt is a violation of the FDCPA.

Under 15 U.S. Code §1692d, a debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt, including, but not limited to: 1) the use or threat of use of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person; 2) the use of obscene or profane language or language the natural consequence of which is to abuse the hearer or reader; and 3) causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.

Under 15 U.S. Code §1692e, a debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt, including, but not limited to: 1) the false representation of the character, amount, or legal status of any debt; 2) the false representation or implication that any individual is an attorney or that any communication is from an attorney; 3) the threat to take any action that cannot legally be taken or that is not intended to be taken.

Under 15 U.S. Code §1692f, a debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt, including, but not limited to the collection of any amount (including any interest, fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation) unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law.

The FDCPA provide that a consumer may recover in a civil law suit actual damages, statutory damages of $1,000.00 and costs of the action together with reasonable attorney’s fees. The FDCPA is a fee shifting statute allowing the consumer to recover his attorney’s fees in a law suit for violation of the FDCPA. Finally, all suits must be commenced within one year of the violation.

Pennsylvania’s Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (“FCEUA”) is Pennsylvania’s analogue to the FDCPA and essentially mirrors the FDCPA in its prohibitions. See 73 P.S.§ 2270.1 et seq, However, the FCEUA applies to creditors and debt collectors alike and allows for law suits against the actual creditors as well as the debt collectors unlike the FDCPA. The FCEUA does not allow for lawsuits against attorneys collecting debts for other parties.

A debt collector’s violation of any provision of the FDCPA constitutes a violation of the FCEUA. See 73 P.S. §2270.4. Under the FECUA, 73 P.S. §2270.5, if a creditor engages in an unfair or deceptive debt collection act or practice under this act, it shall constitute a violation of The Unfair Trade Practices And Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”).  73 P.S. §201-1 et. seq.  The UTPCPL allows a consumer to recover actual damages, as a result of his use methods, act or practice declared unlawful under the FCEUA, statutory damages, treble the actual damages (at the court’s discretion), together with costs and reasonable attorney fees. See. 73 P.S. §201.9-2. All actions under the FCEUA must be commenced within two years.

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Pennsylvania’s “Ride on Red” law.

On July 20, 2016, Governor Wolf approved legislation that would allow motorists to proceed with caution through a red light if the vehicle presence is not detected by the signal’s detection system and fails to change to green. Act 101, more commonly know as the “ride on red” law gives anyone on the road the option to go through red lights as long as they use commons sense and caution. The law became effective on September 20, 2016.

Act 101 was introduced by Representative Stephen Bloom (R – Cumberland County) as an amendment to Title 75 (Vehicles) to create a solution for a common issue faced by motorcycle and pedalcycle riders. The intent was to allow drivers of motorcycles and pedalcycles stuck at a standstill because traffic control signals that utilize a vehicle detection system are not always able to detect motorcycles and pedacycles due to their smaller size. As a result, those cycle drivers would be forced to wait until a larger vehicle arrived and was detected by the traffic control device. Impatient riders would tire of the wait and unlawfully proceed through the intersection.

Representative Bloom’s original proposal was to allow the driver of a motorcycle or pedalcycle to proceed through the intersection only after exercising due care as provided by law. If the vehicle detection system failed to recognize the vehicle and the rider had come to a full and complete stop, the rider would make sure it was safe to continue, and proceed with caution through the intersection.

The amendment to §3112 of the motor vehicle code states, in pertinent part, if a traffic-control signal is out of operation or is not functioning properly, including, but not limited to, a signal that uses inductive loop sensors or other automated technology to detect the presence of vehicles that fails to detect a vehicle, vehicular traffic facing a Red or completely unlighted signal shall stop in the same manner as at a stop sign, and the right to proceed shall be subject to the rules applicable after making a stop at a stop sign as provided in section 3323 (relating to stop signs and yield signs).

The law does not state how long a driver should wait before assuming the light is not operating and proceed through the malfunctioning or unresponsive stop signal. Theoretically, a driver is allowed to treat the malfunctioning or unresponsive stop signal as a stop sign and the driver may use his judgment to proceed through the intersection with caution.

The problem is not every driver has the same level of patience or judgment and some may see the law as a “free pass” to go through the light. Moreover, the law does not differentiate rural areas from more congested urban areas of the state. Drivers may now argue the red light was taking too long to change and proceed through a busy intersection under the assumption it was malfunctioning. In busier traffic areas, it may create the potential for more traffic violations as well as more accidents. Impatient drivers may elect chose to go through an intersection with a properly functioning traffic signal risking their lives as well as the lives of unsuspecting oncoming drivers powerless to avoid collisions.

According to the National Coalition for Safer Roads, more than 3.7 million drivers in the United States ran a red light in 2014. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says 709 people were killed and an estimated 126,000 were injured in crashes that involved red light running that same year.

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Pennsylvania Announces the First Phase of Permit Applications for Grower/Processors and Dispensaries.

Yesterday, Secretary of Health, Dr. Karen Murphy of the Pennsylvania Department of Health (“DOH”) announced that applications for medical marijuana grower/processors and dispensaries will be available at the Pennsylvania DOH’s website, www.health.pa.gov, beginning January 17, 2017. Permit applications will be accepted from February 20, 2017 until March 20, 2017.

In less than a year, Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act (“MMA”) has gone from enactment to the first phase of implementation. Pursuant to chapter 6 of the MMA, Section 601 authorizes grower/processors and dispensaries as the only entities authorized to receive a permit and operate as a medical marijuana organizations and grow, process or dispenses medical marijuana.

Section 602(a) of the MMA generally requires all applications to include:

1. Verification of all principals, operators, financial backers or employees of a medical marijuana grower/processor or dispensary.
2. A description of responsibilities as a principal, operator, financial backer or employee.
3. Any release necessary to obtain information from governmental agencies, employers and other organizations.
4. A criminal history record check.
5. Details relating to a similar license, permit or other authorization obtained in another jurisdiction, including any suspensions, revocations or discipline in that jurisdiction.
6. A description of the business activities in which it intends to engage as a medical marijuana organization.
7. A statement that the applicant: (i) Is of good moral character; (ii) Possesses the ability to obtain in an expeditious manner the right to use sufficient land, buildings and other premises and equipment to properly carry on the activity described in the application and any proposed location for a facility; (iii) Is able to maintain effective security and control to prevent diversion, abuse and other illegal conduct relating to medical marijuana; and (iv) Is able to comply with all applicable Commonwealth laws and regulations relating to the activities in which it intends to engage under this act.
8. The name, residential address and title of each financial backer and principal of the applicant. Each individual, or lawful representative of a legal entity, shall submit an affidavit with the application setting forth: (i) Any position of management or ownership during the preceding 10 years of a controlling interest in any other business, located inside or outside this Commonwealth, manufacturing or distributing controlled substances; and (ii) Whether the person or business has been convicted of a criminal offense graded higher than a summary offense or has had a permit relating to medical marijuana suspended or revoked in any administrative or judicial proceeding, and
9. Any other information the department may require.

Section 607 of the MMA sets forth the following fees and requirements to obtain a permit.

For a grower/processor:  1) An initial nonrefundable application fee of $10,000 must be paid; 2) A permit fee of $200,000 is required at the time of application. (The fee shall be returned if the permit is not granted); and 3)  A grower/processor must have at least $2,000,000 in capital, $500,000 of which must be on deposit with a financial institution.

For a dispensary: 1) An initial nonrefundable application fee of $5,000 must be paid: 2  A permit fee of $30,000 for each location must be paid. (The fee shall be returned if the application is not granted); and 3) A dispensary must have at least $150,000 in capital, which must be on deposit with a financial institution.

In October and November, the DOH drafted and published general regulations as well as specific regulations for both grower/processors and dispensaries. The regulations can be found at 28 PA. Code CHS 1141, 1151, and 1161.

Pursuant to 28 PA. Code §1141.23, no more than 25 permits will be issued for grower/processors and only one grower/processor permit per applicant. Additionally, no more than 50 dispensary permits will be issued and no more than five dispensary permits to one person. A dispensary permit may be used at no more than three locations.

28 PA. Code §1141.28 states the DOH shall publish in the Pennsylvania Bulletin notice of the initial permit application availability and the timeframe which they will be accepted. Only the form of application provided on the DOH’s website may be used and it must be submitted electronically.

Secretary Murphy further announced that this was the first phase of the program and that initially up to 12 permits will be issued for grower/processors and up to 27 permits will be issued for dispensaries, across Pennsylvania’s six medical marijuana regions. Secretary Murphy stated that “the decision for which counties will be issued permits in this first phase was determined by using the department’s medical data, as well as comments from more than 5,000 patients and nearly 900 potential grower/processors and dispensary applicants.” For further information on how many permits will be issued per each region please read the blog at http://cannabisindustrylawgroup.com/index.php/2016/12/21/pa-department-of-health-outlines-phase-i-of-medical-marijuana-program/

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Concerns on both sides when drafting a commercial lease for a medical marijuana business.

In the upcoming year, medical marijuana businesses will be applying for permits to conduct business in Pennsylvania as either a grower/processor or a dispensary. In my previous blog, I commented on how it may be significantly more costly to rent property for a medical marijuana business than a non-marijuana business as result of the risks landlords may face.

Because of the risks associated with leasing to medical marijuana business, it is in the best interests of both the landlord and potential medical marijuana tenants to tailor a commercial lease to address some of those risks.

From a landlord’s perspective, there are specific concerns which should be addressed in a commercial lease.

1. Use of the Premises. Pennsylvania will issue permits for both grower/processors and dispensaries. Any lease should designate what state lawful purpose the premises will be used for.

2. Indemnification. The business of growing, cultivating, and selling marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substance Act. A landlord should include in any commercial lease an indemnification clause requiring the tenant to defend and indemnify the landlord from any federal action against the tenant, including forfeiture.

3. Early termination. A landlord should seek to include an early termination provision in the lease which allows the landlord to terminate the lease should: 1) the tenant fail to comply with any state or local law; 2) the commencement of any action against the tenant; 3) entry of a judgment against the tenant; 4) seizure by any government authority, and 5) any event that cause the closure of the building.

4. Improvements. The MMA has specific requirements for any property housing medical marijuana businesses, including access and security requirements. Any potential lease should require the tenant to comply with all state and local regulations and ordinances, secure any all licenses, at the tenants own expenses, and require the tenant to remove, at its own expenses, any improvements and modifications made by tenant.

5. Utilities. Utility expenses for a medical marijuana business are likely to be very high, especially for a grower/processor. A landlord should require a tenant to reimburse landlord and/or pay directly if possible any all utilities that out of the ordinary and excessive.

6. Access. Under the MMA, there are very strict rules as to who may have access and enter into a medical marijuana business. The right of a landlord to enter the premises must be clearly outlined and comply with state law.

7. Environmental, debris and waste. Under the MMA, there are very strict procedures for storage and removal of marijuana waste which any lease will have to incorporate. Additional, any grower/processor will have to store, use, and dispose of materials which are subject to environmental regulation including pesticides and fertilizers. Any commercial lease will require compliance with all environmental laws and regulations.

From a tenant’s perspective, a tenant should address in a commercial lease the following.

1. Term. With the federal government’s position towards marijuana unclear and the state’s position on marijuana evolving, a tenant may not wish to lock into 5 – 10 year lease terms with multiple automatic renewals. Shorter 2- 3 year terms and less automatic renewal periods may be more practical.

2. Permits. Medical marijuana businesses will be granted permits from the state after application and compliance with all state regulations. Any commercial lease should require a landlord to reasonably cooperate with tenant in complying with all regulations in the application process and not to take any action which could negatively affect the tenants application for a permit, operation and renewal of the permit.

3. Occupancy and commencement. Any potential medical marijuana business will have to present an operating plan and a lease to obtain a permit from the state.  The problem is there is no guaranty that a permit will be granted by the state. A tent should look to include an out clause or contingency clause to allow the tenant to terminate the lease should tenant not be granted a permit. The tenant should also look to include a rent abatement provision pending approval of the tenant’s application for a permit.

4. Dispute resolution. Typically commercial leases will have a confession of judgment clauses and specify where the dispute will be heard and under what laws a dispute will be decided. A tenant will have to be careful and tailor any confession of judgment clause so it  is not triggered by a violation of federal law and/or violation of the CSA. Additionally, a tenant may want all disputes to be submitted to private arbitration and have Pennsylvania state law govern due to the federal illegal status of marijuana.

Both landlord and tenant will need to make sure there are medical marijuana related outs drafted into the commercial lease to protect from federal prosecution. Additionally, any lease should incorporate a waiver by both parties acknowledging that neither will use against the other marijuana’s illegal status under federal law as a claim or defense to any dispute arising under the lease.

When drafting a lease, both landlord and tenant will have to carefully navigate federal, state, and local statutes and ordinances.  The aforementioned are just some concerns which should be considered by both landlord and tenant in drafting a medical marijuana lease.

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Failure to Clean Your Car Of Snow Could Cost You.

Whether you are dreaming of a White Christmas or not do not forget to clean your car windows of snow and ice this winter. Not only is it a smart idea for safety purposes but it is also the law in Pennsylvania.

Title 75 § 4524. Windshield obstructions and wipers, states:

(a) Obstruction on front windshield.–No person shall drive any motor vehicle with any sign, poster or other nontransparent material upon the front windshield which materially obstructs, obscures or impairs the driver’s clear view of the highway or any intersecting highway except an inspection certificate, sticker identification sign on a mass transit vehicle or other officially required sticker and no person shall drive any motor vehicle with any ice or snow on the front windshield which materially obstructs, obscures or impairs the driver’s clear view of the highway or any intersecting highway.

(b) Obstruction on side and rear windows.–No person shall drive a motor vehicle with any sign, poster or other nontransparent material, including ice or snow, upon the side wings or side or rear windows of the vehicle which materially obstructs, obscures or impairs the driver’s clear view of the highway or any intersecting highway. The placement of a registration permit upon the side or rear window of a vehicle shall not be considered a material obstruction.

In short, 75 §4524 requires all motor vehicle operators to remove all ice and snow and any other material from the windshield, side windows, and rear windows which prevents the operator from having a clear and unobstructed view of the road at all times.

While a violation of §4524 is only a summary offense subject to a $25 fine, the citation amount will likely exceed $100.00 after administrative fees and court costs are added in. That’s a lot to pay when an ice scrapper can be purchased for $5 to $10 and the windows cleared in 10 minutes.

Worse case scenario is that ice and snow dislodge from your car while moving and causes an accident, injury, or death. Under Title 75 §3720, the operator of a vehicle who failed to remove snow or ice from his vehicle could be subject to a fine of no less than $200.00 and no more than $1,000.00.

§ 3720. Snow and ice dislodged or falling from moving vehicle, states:

When snow or ice is dislodged or falls from a moving vehicle and strikes another vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious bodily injury, the operator of the vehicle from which the snow or ice is dislodged or falls shall be subject to a fine of not less than $200 nor more than $1,000 for each offense.

With snow and icy weather approaching, remember to take 10 minutes and clean your car before driving. Have a safe and Merry Christmas.

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