1. What type of legal services does Bakalar & Associates, P.A. provide?
Our Firm focuses its practice on community association law. We pride ourselves on being able to handle most legal matters that arise in the day-to-day operation of a community association. These services include, but are not limited to the collection of delinquent assessments through lien and foreclosure, covenant enforcement through, mediation, arbitration, initiation of litigation on behalf of the association, defense of litigation brought against the association, preparation of leases and rental agreement for association owned properties, developer turnovers to associations, governing document review and amendment, contract review, attendance at association meetings upon request and preparation of opinion letters as to the association’s legal rights, options and obligations. We have relationships with attorneys who handle personal injury and medical malpractice claims, construction defect litigation, forensic accounting as well as bankruptcy defense.
2. Does the Firm charge its clients an annual retainer fee?
NO! The Firm does not charge an annual retainer fee. We do require that a written agreement for representation be executed and the agreement establishes the Attorney-Client relationship. The agreement for representation is structured so that the Association may terminate the agreement at any time.
3. Does the Firm advance costs or attorney’s fees in collection matters?
YES! The Firm advances ALL costs associated with collection matters such as postal charges, title searches, name searches, recording charges, foreclosure filing fees, process service charges and publication charges. Under normal circumstances, attorney’s fees and costs are collected directly from the property owner(s). In a simple foreclosure case, costs can reach upwards of $800 to $1,000 per case and the firm advances all of the costs incurred in the pursuit of past due assessments.
Many law firms state they they advance costs, and in fact many do. However, they then bill the Association for the cost outlay. Many firms advance costs up to, but not including filing foreclosure (when it really starts to get expensive). Our firm advances ALL COSTS for the entire collection process, including foreclosure filing fees, process service charges etc… We do not then turn around and bill the Association as we attempt to collect from the delinquent property owner whose account is in collection.
4. Does the Firm provide “status reports” to its clients?
YES! The Firm provides status reports to the Association at no charge. In addition, the Association may obtain, sort and print the status reports via the Client Login section of our website through a secure password protected login. Status reports are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in real time. Each client is provided a unique username and password to access their status reports via our website. Reports are always up to date as our client web server is “in house” and our staff continually updates each client status report in real time meaning that there is no need for our office to perform daily or weekly updates.
The Firm believes that effective continual communication is paramount to an effective business relationship and by providing the Association access to the firm’s status reports, communication is enhanced and allows the client and or management company to be up to date on collection and legal issues being handles by the Firm.
5. What information does the status report contain?
Status reports contain a chronology of each and every file from the time the file was received to the time it is closed. The report is organized by an includes each owner / account name, client account number as well as property address for easy identification. The chronological history is easily viewed and read and the client is able to “sort” the report based on several different criteria.
6. Does the Firm allow and provide repayment agreements to allow property owners to pay their delinquent accounts?
Yes. With prior authorization of our clients, we prepare and monitor repayment agreements. Repayment agreements (a/k/a “payment plans”) generally do not exceed 6 months duration (unless otherwise approved by the Client or “suggested by the Court” in litigation related cases). The repayment agreements are all done in writing, signed by the property owner(s) and explain the ramifications of failing to comply with the terms of the written agreement. Further, the agreements cover the payment of prospective assessments which come due subsequent to the date of the agreement thereby facilitating continued payment by the owner directly to the Association of assessments as they come due.
7. How long does it take for the Firm to process a new matter once it is turned over?
The Firm generally commences proceeding on all accounts within forty eight (48) business hours after receipt. Clients are free to submit work requests via email, fax or mail. The firm provides its clients with a basic form used to submit accounts for collections but each client and/or management company is free to use whatever forms it has developed for transfer of files to our Firm for collection or for processing of legal issues
8. What type of software will I need to access the Firm’s status reports?
NONE!! All access is provided online through the users browser and does not require any special software or downloads.
9. What rates does the Firm charge its clients?
Our rates are market competitive and are fully outlined in our agreement for representation established with each client. Attorney’s fees vary in rate depending on the complexity of the matters being handled. Associations should keep in mind however that with respect to the attorneys fees charged on collection matters that all attorney’s fees and costs are billed to the delinquent property owner(s) and under most circumstances, are collected from the property owner(s).
10. If a Board member or property owner calls the office, will they be able to speak with an attorney or paralegal?
YES!. Our attorneys and staff pride themselves on a high level of client contact and take every step required to facilitate effective communication. Generally, when someone calls the office, either the attorney or a member of his or her team will personally handle the call and attempt to answer the caller’s questions. Our phones are answered by a bilingual receptionist who will identify the caller and route them to the proper person. Our Firm does not believe that calls should be answered by an automated attendant advising callers to submit all questions in writing. We believe that the most effective way to handle calls is as they come in, as many of the calls require just a simple answer to achieve the desired result.
11. How does the Firm disburse funds to its clients?
As payments come in, they are deposited into the Firm’s Trust Account. Once the funds have cleared, they are distributed according to governing statutes and disbursed to the Association. We DO NOT wait until the conclusion of a case to disburse funds to the our clients. Since Associations are not for profit, most Associations cannot afford to wait until the conclusion of a case to receive their funds and the timely disbursement of funds during the pendency of a case greatly helps an Association to maintain cash flow.
12. How does the Firm utilize technology to assist in the representation of its clients?
The Firm utilizes a customized office wide collection database, calendar program and legal research programs which allows for the efficient and accurate processing of accounts from start to finish. Additionally, each team member has their own email address within the Firm and frequently communicates both with clients, property managers and property owners using email including the transmittal of scanned documents (PDF files) to facilitate rapid resolutions to collection accounts, questions and issues raised either by delinquent property owners or by our clients . The Firm has made, and continues to make significant investment in technology and Law Firm based software to allow for us to provide the most cost effective and efficient leqal services to its clients.
13. Does the Firm accept Credit Card Payments?
YES, the Firm does accept credit card payments. Due to the current economy, many property owners find themselves short of cash but still have access to ample credit. Accordingly, the Firm accepts Visa, Mastercard and Discover cards as a courtesy to those property owners who wish to make payment via credit cards.
14. Does the Firm have a mechanism for property owners to make contact via the WWW and are there options for types of contact and for specific requests?
YES, via our website (www.assoc-law.com) those who need to contact the Firm can do so via our contact page. Similarly, property owners, title company representatives, attorneys representing property owners as well as mortgage holders can contact our office electronically to request payoff figures (estoppel letters), to request payment plans, to make payments via credit cards, to request that the Firm contact them as well as to submit 3rd party authorizations to release information.