Monday, June 30, 2014

Copyright Infringement Risks When Building Custom Homes

Sometimes it's tempting to purchase a plot of land and build a custom home. However, understanding the risks associated can help you avoid costly mistakes. One risk particularly is called copyright infringement.  Brokers, keep this in mind as you work with clients who are buying to retrofit or develop real estate. 

Copyright infringement on architectural designs has recently been addressed by the Second Circuit United States Court of Appeals on June 5, 2014 in the case James E. Zalewski, Draftics, LTD. v. Cicero Builder Dev., Inc., et al.

Mr. Zalewski is an architect who licensed several builders to use his architectural designs. He claims that these builders infringed on his copyright by customizing his designs and building homes based on his designs without his consent.

Mr. Zalewski points to the vast similarities between his designs and the Defendants’ designs, arguing that these similarities prove that the Defendants knowingly took from his work and infringed on his copyright.
However, the Court explains that copying in itself is not grounds for copyright infringement. Mr. Zalewski must not only prove that his work is copyrighted and that it has been copied, but that it was wrongfully copied as well. The Court held in this case that the Defendants’ designs, although similar, did not wrongfully copy from Mr. Zalewski’s original designs. The designs were for a colonial home and colonial homes can only be arranged in so many ways.

Ruling in favor of the Defendant, Circuit Judge Wesley claimed, “Plaintiff can get no credit for putting a closet in every bedroom, a fireplace in the middle of an exterior wall, and kitchen counters against the kitchen walls. Furthermore, the overall footprint of the house and the size of the rooms are ‘design parameters’ dictated by consumer preferences and the lot the house will occupy, not the architect.”

Based upon this ruling, a builder can use general designs without having to hire an architect.

Nonetheless, builders should always consult with an attorney prior to using a design to ensure that no copyright infringement is occurring.

What You Need to Know About the HAMP Loan Modification Process

Before you apply for a loan modification, it is wise to understand and have realistic expectations about the process. The Home Affordable Modification Program, now in its fifth year, is the federal modification program that has, to date, successfully provided for over 1.3 million permanent loan modifications nationwide. Many homeowners, however, do not know the steps in the HAMP modification process and feel frustrated or upset if they receive a modification with terms that are not what they expected. What homeowners must realize is that a HAMP Tier 1 loan modification requires a 31% debt-to-income ratio and must be reviewed in a ‘waterfall’ process, meaning that the Lender must modify the loan by specific means in a specific order.

The waterfall process is as follows:

1. Capitalization: When the Lender adds unpaid interest and unpaid tax and insurance payments to the principal balance. Late fees may not be capitalized for HAMP modifications.

2. Interest rate reduction: When the Lender reduces the original interest rate of the loan. Oftentimes, the Lender reduces the interest rate to 2% for the first five years and then gradually increases the interest rate on the loan every year until it reaches the current market value.

3. Term extension: When the Lender extends the life of the loan. The cap on a term extension for HAMP is 480 months or 40 years.

4. Principal forbearance: When the Lender forbears a portion of the principal balance. This portion of the principal balance becomes a “balloon payment,” which must be paid in full at the loan’s maturity or when there is a transfer of the property. It does not accrue interest.

If the debt-to-income ratio is not 31% after the Lender capitalizes the loan, then the Lender must then try to reduce the interest rate and so on until it achieves the desired ratio. If the ratio is still not 31% after the Lender has gone through the entire waterfall process, then the homeowner will be deemed ineligible for HAMP Tier 1 and then will be reviewed for other loan modifications, if available.

Friday, June 27, 2014

New Foreclosure Prevention Program launched in New York State

Yesterday, the New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, announced the New York State Mortgage Assistance Program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. 

Long Island, with its beautiful, expensive real estate, was devastated by the economic crisis in 2008 and is still struggling to recover six years later. It currently has the highest rate of defaulted mortgage loans and some of the highest foreclosure rates in New York State. In order to speed up the recovery process, Mr. Schneiderman launched this program yesterday to help struggling homeowners borrow up to $40,000 to stave off foreclosure. This program will become effective in September and will be available to Long Island before the rest of New York State, using the money from the National Mortgage Settlement of 2013 to fund these loans.  Many homeowners have been denied for loan modifications in the past because they were unable to pay off their arrears or because there were liens against their property. These loans, which are interest-free and not due until the mortgage is paid off in full, will help struggling homeowners pay off the obstacles to their loan modification approval and allow them to keep their homes.

Andrew Lieb writes in Dan's Papers New Magazine Behind The Hedges - 6/27 Issue "10 Secrets To a Smooth Hamptons Real Estate Purchase"

Check out Andrew Lieb's latest article featured in Dan's Papers Behind the Hedges Magazine, 10 Secrets To A Smooth Hamptons Real Estate Purchase.

In this article Andrew navigates the legal and otherwise logistical waters of buying a home on the East End. 

Topics discussed include:
  • Affordability
  • Bonus Rights
  • Credit
  • Broker
  • Pre-Approval
  • Title Report
  • Survey
  • Rental Option
  • Date for Possession
  • Certificate of Occupancy
The magazine is out so you can pick up a copy all over the east end and Manhattan. 

Here is a link to the digital copy. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

National Grid's 811 Service

If you're thinking about landscaping your backyard, installing a wooden deck around your pool, or doing any other project that involves digging, remember to first call National Grid's 811 service. By calling this number, you confirm with National Grid that your digging will not interfere with power lines or pipe lines that are located close to the surface. 811 is a free service that helps keep you and your utilities safe and allows the area to enjoy its services uninterrupted.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bank of America is Under Scrutiny

Bank of America is under scrutiny by the United States Department of Justice for its unscrupulous financial practices. In order to prevent another economic collapse, the federal government believes that Bank of America, along with other large financial institutions, must be penalized for their actions.

Allegedly having handled shoddy and fraudulent loans, Bank of America is in negotiations to settle civil probes for 12 billion dollars. The amount of this settlement may go up, and if a deal is reached, at least $5 billion will go towards consumer relief by way of loan modifications with principal and monthly payment reductions and other forms of help for defaulted loans. This potential settlement, of course, is great news for the struggling homeowner and represents an enormous fine against the financial behemoth of Bank of America.

If a deal cannot be reached, the Justice Department will most likely proceed with a lawsuit against Bank of America for its fraudulent practices.

Please go here if you like to read more.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Wow - Most Expensive US Homes - Business Insider

A terrific read with great pictures - The 12 Most Expensive Homes For Sale In The US

Of the 12 mansions, 2 are in Long Island and 7 are in NYC with the remaining 3 being in CA.

Interestingly, most of the NYC homes are located in fabulous hotels.

If you have ever wondered what you could buy for $135M that you couldn't buy for $68M this article is for you.