Recent updates to the City of San Antonio website provide excellent information for small businesses:
As a small business owner, you may be finding that COVID-19 and its effects present unprecedented issues with contract compliance. In considering a party’s performance under a contract, there may be several clauses built into your agreements that might be invoked to assist your small business.
Consider having an insurance specialist review your insurance policies – Your agreement may require that you carry business interruption insurance or other coverages that may apply to the presence of COVID-19. Review your policy for language about communicable or infectious diseases, or conversely, exclusions related to virus-related losses. It is best, if possible, to have an independent third party review the policy, rather than your broker or insurance company.
Consider sitting back down at the table – You and the other party to the agreement may be able to discuss whether there are alternative means to perform contractual obligations. The other party may be amenable to adjust performance under the circumstances, including extended deadlines or partial performance of obligations.
Review your agreement for force majeure clauses. For more information, see a recent Law Blog from Aric J. Garza Law PLLC relating to such clauses. Note that contractual clauses can be interpreted differently, so it is important to discuss your situation with an attorney, whether you are seeking to enforce or excuse performance under your contract.
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On March 17, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott instructed the Texas Workforce Commission to waive the waiting week for Unemployment Benefits. In addition to waiving the waiting week, the Texas Workforce Commission is exercising its authority under the Governor’s declaration of a Statewide Disaster to waive Unemployment Insurance work search requirements effective immediately.
Those seeking to apply for Unemployment Benefits will need to submit an application.
You will need the following:
- Last employer’s business name and address
- First and last dates (month, day and year) you worked for your last employer
- Number of hours worked and pay rate if you worked this week (including Sunday)
- Information related to your normal wage
- Alien Registration Number (if not a U.S. citizen or national)
For Additional Services in San Antonio: https://www.workforcesolutionsalamo.org/
COVID-19 has brought about many horrible scenarios relating to public health and serious financial stress on our incredibly complicated financial system. But small businesses are confronting a specific issue–can COVID-19 excuse small businesses or individuals from their contractual obligations?
The answer depends on the language contained in the contract, local and state law (including Emergency Orders/Directives from governors and/or mayors), and the connection between COVID-19 and the parties’ ability to perform their contractual obligations.
Many contracts contain a “Force Majeure” clause or an “Acts of God” provision. These provisions apply when a contract cannot be performed due to causes which are outside the control of the parties and could not be avoided by exercise of due care. These clauses allocate risk between the parties when an unanticipated event makes performance impossible or impracticable for each party or both parties.
Also, the more specific the clause, the more limited application it has. Most clauses specify that they are only invoked when performance becomes impossible.
Courts generally require the party claiming force majeure to show that the event was not foreseeable and directly caused the failure to meet its contractual obligations. Thus, a pandemic resulting in mass closures of all restaurants, bars, schools and the like should not be a close call. This is not a normal risk of doing business.
Note that many contracts have specific requirements in order to trigger the “Force Majeure” clause or “Acts of God” provision–namely, notice to the other party.
Have a legal dispute in Texas valued at $10,000 or less? You might not need a lawyer. Consider a County Justice Court. Here’s how, courtesy of the State Bar of Texas and the Texas Young Lawyers Association
Have an old clunker? Consider donating it. Get a tax break AND a 2 night hotel stay voucher.
Many contracts (employment agreements, lease agreements, credit card agreements, warranty disputes, contractor agreements, service contracts, etc.) include an arbitration provision. They require that you arbitrate disputes instead of litigating them in Court. Know what arbitration is, how it works and what it means for your contract.
Financial hardships are stressful. Whether it is because of credit card debt, student loans, mortgages, or past-due service bills, harassing phone calls from debt collectors can add a considerable amount to your level of stress. Debt collector harassment has led to numerous personal bankruptcies, marital instabilities, loss of jobs, and invasions of privacy.
Although persistent attempts to collect from you is legal, debt collector harassment is illegal and will not be tolerated by the Federal Trade Commission. Most debt collectors realize this and are good about obeying the law. Sometimes, however, debt collectors may cross the line and engage in debt collector harassment. Fortunately, there are legal actions you can take to stop this harassment.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was created for the sole purpose of protecting consumers from debt collector harassment by prohibiting certain debt collector behavior. It prohibits debt collectors employed by third party collection agencies from engaging in any form of debt collector harassment, but the Act’s provisions do not cover collectors hired by the original creditors themselves.
Among other things, the FDCPA prohibits:
- Calling at unreasonable hours;
- Failing to cease communication upon request;
- Repeatedly and continuously calling;
- Communicating with consumers after they have filed bankruptcy;
- Communicating with consumers at their place of employment;
- Communicating with consumers represented by an attorney;
- Communicating with consumers after request for validation; and
- Misrepresenting or deceiving.
For more information, see this link: http://bankruptcy.findlaw.com/bankruptcy/more-bankruptcy-topics/bankruptcy_help_stop_debt_harassment.html
If you are thinking of suing a person or business when you’ve tried other ways to resolve a problem, you should always consider going to Small Claims Court before hiring a lawyer.
There is a limit to the amount ($10,000 in Texas) and the types of claims that you can bring. Also, a Small Claims Court can only award money damages (aside from evictions, it cannot force someone to perform, or issue an injunction prohibiting someone from doing something). But Small Claims Courts are informal, effective, and a lot less expensive than attorneys.
Ensure that your claim is LESS than $10,000 (if not, the case will be dismissed). Also, research the legal name and/or assumed name of a business to make sure that you are suing the right party.
The State Bar of Texas publishes an excellent pamphlet (PDF) on everything you need to know about handling a case in Small Claims Court. Here is the link:
I guess “Arbitrator Judy” and the “The People’s Arbitrations” didn’t sell with the corporate sponsors. Good Luck.
A financial power of attorney is a legal instrument that gives another person (called an attorney-in-fact) the authority to make personal and financial decisions on your behalf. A financial power of attorney can be as broad, or as specific as you want it to be. For example, a power of attorney can authorize someone to make banking, tax, litigation, and/or financial planning decisions on your behalf. A financial power of attorney does not, however, encompass medical decisions–a separate medical power of attorney is needed for that purpose.
You can make the financial power of attorney effective immediately after it is signed, or make it effective in the event of your incapacity (the inability to make decisions on your own behalf).
Although the State of Texas has promulgated a standard form to be used (see the link below), you should consult with an attorney when preparing a financial power of attorney to ensure that it accurately reflects your needs and wishes.