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REAL ESTATE LAW – KEEPING EVERYONE INFORMED

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REAL ESTATE LAW   KEEPING EVERYONE INFORMED  By: Jerry A. Casser, Esq. Published in “Broker-Agent Magazine” – April, 2008By: Jerry A. Casser, Esq.
Originally Published in “Broker-Agent Magazine” – April, 2008
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The primary responsibility of the real estate attorney is to keep everyone informed throughout the transaction. That includes the clients, the realtors (both of them), and the other attorney. The purchase of a home, especially the first, is one of the most important transactions that people will become involved in during the course of their lives. They will invest money, time, energy, emotions, and deserve to know what they can expect throughout the transaction, and most importantly, should know what is happening each step of the way.
I represent sellers and purchasers in real estate transactions, but the majority of my real estate practice involves the representation of purchasers, so that is what I will concentrate on in this discussion. My initial contact in a real estate transaction is usually the purchaser’s realtor. While my own clients do buy and sell homes, the bulk of my real estate practice is based upon referrals from realtors that I have become acquainted with during real estate transactions.
Normally, I receive a telephone call from a realtor asking if I would be willing to assist a prospective client with a real estate purchase. When I agree, the realtor then faxes to me a copy of the signed Contract along with contact information for his/her customers. After reading the Contract over carefully, I note the most important details and then call the new clients to introduce myself. I also give them a crash course on their anticipated purchase.
First, I provide all of my contact information, including telephone and fax numbers, cell number for evening and weekend calls and, most importantly, my email address for those late evening and weekend questions when my clients do not wish to disturb me with a telephone call.

Review Contract in Detail

We then go over the Contract in detail and I explain to them the types of changes that we should consider making during attorney review. We also discuss the timing of the deposit payments, the process of applying for a mortgage and obtaining a home inspection, the type and amount of insurance that will be required, the cash requirements for closing, and the time frame for each step of the transaction. In that way the purchasers can draw up a timeline for the entire transaction.
The next step is to draft the attorney review letter. What I try to do in order to move the transaction along in an expeditious manner is to fax or email the draft to my clients for review, questions and approval. Then I send it out to the sellers’ attorney by fax to expedite the review process and by regular mail, with a copy to both realtors so that they are kept in the loop and understand that the purchasers are moving forward to make the deal happen. More times than not, the review letter will be approved within hours (sometimes within the hour) and we can move on to the next step.

Home Inspectors

I choose not to recommend particular home inspectors, since that is an area that creates the most problems for the purchaser. Some inspectors are more thorough than others, but raise issues not normally dealt with in the give and take negotiations between the parties to the purchase and sale. Invariably, the purchasers will find out about additional items once the purchase has closed and they have moved in, and they begin looking at whom to place at fault for the failure to see something that may not have been mentioned in an inspection report. In any event, the realtors generally know who is considered to be good and reliable as an inspector and I leave the selection to my clients and the clients’ realtor.
I routinely ask for a copy of the Inspection Report to be emailed or faxed to me as soon as it is available, at which time I do a thorough review, prepare a preliminary list of what I deem to be items of concern and then suggest to my clients that they review the Report and make up their own list which I will cross-check against mine. I do this to make sure that my clients have not overlooked something that may be very important, and also try to make sure that they do not go overboard and kill a deal by asking for the moon.
When we have agreed on a repair list (or wish list), I fax or email it to my clients and their realtor for comments before sending it out, and again send it by fax and regular mail to the sellers’ attorney, as well as both realtors and my clients. In this way, there will be no miscommunication, and both realtors can then assist their respective customers in negotiating any issues that the attorneys cannot resolve themselves.
Since the realtor is more involved in the mortgage process than the attorney, I try to keep in touch with my clients’ realtor and my clients to see how we are progressing with the mortgage commitment. Once the commitment is issued, I share that information with the sellers’ attorney so that he can inform the sellers (relieving their anxiety) and the sellers’ realtor.
I then try to confirm a date and time for closing well enough in advance so that we should be able to avoid conflicts in the purchasers’ and the sellers’ schedules, as well as the sellers’ attorney’s schedule. That also allows the realtors to mark the closing on their calendars as well. We then try to determine as closely as possible what the purchasers’ cash needs will be, and advise the form of payment needed at closing. All that’s left is the closing which we try to make as pleasant as possible for all concerned so that our clients end up with that special house, we end up with satisfied clients, and both realtors love us enough to refer future business.


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Atlantic City Bus Management Rules

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In the Spring of 2017, as the result of numerous exchanged correspondence and consultations with Counsel for the SJTA, I was able to confirm that the Bus Management Rules had expired in late 2016 and were not re-enacted or replaced. [Note: The original enactment of the Bus Management Rules had a 7 year life, and additionally had a limited time period within which they could have been renewed for an additional 7 year period, which did not happen.]  Consequently, I advised on my Blog and to my many clients that travel to Atlantic City that there were no longer any requirements that Bus Operators purchase the Daily Permits or Fleet Medallions, no parking restrictions and no route restrictions into or out of Atlantic City.

Thereafter, SJTA published in the NJ Register a Notice of Proposed Rule Making by which they formally acknowledged that their Rules of Operation had expired on November 16, 2016 and they were proposing to adopt new Rules of Operation.

The “new” Rules of Operation leave it up to the individual bus operators going to Atlantic City to use whichever routes within the City and County that they choose; allow the operator to park in any legal lot or location; eliminate the requirement for Permits and Medallions; and eliminate the issuance of summonses by SJTA.


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NJ’s #1 Transportation Law Firm

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Our law firm is heavily involved in the management of the NJ bus industry. Not only do we represent individual bus and limousine companies, large and small, but over the past 30 years, our firm has served as Legal Counsel to the following Associations:

NJ Motorbus Association
NJ School Bus Association
Newark Airport Limousine Association
Atlantic City Bus Owner’s Association
Greater NJ Motorcoach Association

We know and understand your business. So if you need a Transportation Law Attorney to represent your company, or just to handle an individual matter such as filing an Application for Operating Authority or to represent you in a local Court for a violation of law, please call NJ’s #1 Transportation Law Firm – Jerry A. Casser, P.C.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com


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Getting a DOT Number

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I often get phone calls from new bus operators asking me if I can get them their DOT Number. What does that actually mean? First, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will issue a Certificate to you to operate Charter and Special Operations or Regular Route Service across state lines and issue an MC Number, which is a Registration Number that goes on your Insurance and also issue a DOT Number which goes on the side of your bus. States also issue “Numbers” through their DOT’s or PUC’s for operations entirely within their states.

Our law firm submits the Applications for you and does all of the work except getting insurance for you. We arrange for the BOC-3 which is the designation of Agents in each state. We also monitor the status of the filing and advise on any issue that arises so that you can be up and running as quickly as possible.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com


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Marketing Your Company – State Bus Associations

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One of the best marketing ideas for your bus company is to join a State Bus Association. I personally have been an active Member of two, BANY (Bus Association of New York) and GNJMA (Greater New Jersey Motorcoach Association) which succeeded ACBOA  (Atlantic City Bus Owners Association), for which I served as Legal Counsel for 25 or so years. These Associations employ lobbyists and keep their ears to the ground on all issues involving the bus industry in their states, and carry the weight that you, as an individual bus or bus company owner, cannot do, to influence legislation. Whether it a parking or a tax issue, the Associations can speak for a large group of operators and accomplish so much to benefit your business.

As an example, when I served as Counsel to GNJMA(Greater NJ Motorcoach Association), I was able to persuade the South Jersey Transportation Authority that their enabling legislation, which permitted SJTA to restrict routes of travel in Atlantic City, require daily fees for entering the City, and force operators to park at one high priced parking facility, was no longer valid, thereby opening up opportunities for buses to travel to AC less hampered by government intrusion.

If you regularly travel to NYC, join BANY (Bus Association of New York). If you regularly travel to AC, join GNJMA (Greater NJ Motorcoach Association). Neither is especially expensive and they both have a basketful of benefits for the price of a membership.  If you would like more information on either Association, please feel free to contact me.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com


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NJ MVC No Longer Seems To Be Issuing Operating Authority

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The NJ Motor Vehicle Commission, which has regulatory control over bus companies operating within the State of NJ, has apparently stopped issuing operating authority and is simply allowing bus companies to operate as they see fit. The Agency does not issue Charter Authority, directing applicants instead to the FMCSA, with its higher insurance requirements, and whenever possible doing the same with Regular Route Authority except in those instances where the Route has no relationship or nexus with interstate operations.

I have, however, been successfully obtaining Shuttle Bus or Van Authority for vans and minibuses serving temporary employment agencies, shuttling temps to their work locations when they have no other available transportation, but that’s it.

The MVC over the last decade has operated as a one man shop and under the Murphy Administration, further cost cutting is expected and complete elimination of regulatory oversight is to be expected.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com


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USDOT – Safety Compliance

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It’s amazing how many start-ups in the bus and limo industry have no idea of what is required for safety compliance. How many times have I heard someone say, I’m a rookie, no one told me? When the rookies come to see me, they have already been assessed monstrous penalties by USDOT and put out of service. So, if you are new to interstate passenger transportation, look for help and consult with your friends in the business who have been operating for years to see what you should be doing before it’s too late.

There are also a number of DOT Compliance companies out there who can set up your files, provide you with a checklist of what you need, i.e. Drivers’ applications, employment inquiries, CDL’s, Drivers’ Abstracts, Logs, etc. Or you can get a complete kit from J.J. Keller which tells you what is needed in the file.

However, when you’re late in the game to compliance, and find yourself behind the 8 ball and in imminent danger of a shut down, we can help.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. – Transportation Law Attorney (Fairfield, NJ)


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Schumer Needs a Transportation Law Attorney

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With all of the hubbub concerning the bus accident last week with the bus returning from the Connecticut casino to New York City, and much of it deserved, there are some glaring factual errors in Sen. Schumer’s presentation on all of the news outlets.

First, Schumer frequently misuses transportation terms because he does not know this area of the law and has no one to assist him, whether it is writing a speech, or crafting legislation to remedy the situation.

A tour bus describes a bus which operates charters and special operations, not on a regular basis and not between fixed termini.  The “Chinatown buses”, as they are called, provide regular route service on a fixed schedule between NYC and Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and Boston, for the most part.  They are regular route operators.  The same may be said for the transportation service provided to the casino hotels, if it is regular enough in its operations.

Each bus, regardless of the nature of its operations, is issued interstate operating authority by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)/US Department of Transportation (USDOT) and is inspected twice annually by the State Department of Transportation in the State in which the company is located.  Commercial Drivers’ Licenses are issued by the State Motor Vehicle Commission in the State in which the driver lives.  That State MVC sets the requirements for same.

It is fine to target certain types of buses, but if the truth be known, the City buses and the non-Asian buses would be found to have the same equipment defects which arise, not necessarily from faulty maintenance, but from excessive use.  In NJ, the State MVC/DOT targets the Hispanic minibuses, and ignores the State-owned NJ Transit.

In the past I have offered Transportation Law assistance to legislators, including, Sen. Menendez, who have chosen to do without my assistance.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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Selling your bus company?

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The DAK Group has announced the successful completion of the strategic sale of Kevah Konner, Inc., a provider of school bus transportation services, to Student Transportation of America, Inc.  The DAK Group served as exclusive investment banker and financial advisor to Kevah Konner, Inc., based in Pine Brook, New Jersey. The second-generation family business was founded in 1935 and serves public and private school districts across northern New Jersey.  Student Transportation, Inc., based in Wall, New Jersey, is the third-largest provider of school bus services in North America. Kevah Konner, Inc. is one of the school bus companies that I represent in NJ and sought my assistance in identifying prospective purchasers for the company.  I assisted with the regulatory and compliance aspects of the sale.  If you have a school bus, coach or tour company, we have the resources to assist you with a purchase, sale or merger.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. –  Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney – www.jcasser.com


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Bus Regulation: A Unique Legal Specialty

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Here is an article that I wrote a while back that will provide an interesting perspective on my specialty as a transportation attorney specializing in the bus industry, primarily in NJ and NY.

http://www.jcasser.com/published-articles.htm

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney) www.jcasser.com


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Bus Leases – Owner/Operators

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In New Jersey, we have a great many minibus or jitney van operators who operate a fleet of vehicles, some of which are owned by the company, and some of which are owned by independent owner operators.  The owner operators lease their buses to the company which maintains the operating certificates or bus routes, usually issued by the FMCSA, and the liability insurance. 

The owner operator pays a flat fee per day or week to operate, usually in the area of $135-$185/day.  The owner operator selects the route that he wishes to operate from among several authorized to the company, and sets his own hours, depending on how ambitious or hungry he is.  The owner operator keeps all passenger revenues, pays the tolls and parking fees, and his own fuel costs.

Here’s the catch. The State Regulatory Agency (in NJ, it is the NJ MVC, formerly the NJ DOT) has Regulations on what must be included in the Lease Agreement.  The Lease must have a fixed term, a beginning and an end, and it requires the owner operator to turn in his plates along with a Release from the company when he chooses to leave the company and this lease arrangement.  Some company operators are not as honest as you might think, and they draft Lease Agreements that do not allow the owner operator to terminate and voluntarily withdraw from the company.  This violates State law and may require the intervention of an attorney and the Courts, unless the State Agency chooses to monitor the arrangement as set forth in its own Regulations.

I am an attorney who has considerable experience in this area and can assist the owner operators who have become the unwitting pawns of the company owners.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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Municipal Regulation of Transportation

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Municipalities from time to time try to exert control over transportation operations conducted within or through their boundaries.  Unfortunately, they can only regulate taxi’s and limousines.  Buses are regulated by State and Federal agencies who issue approval for bus routes or charter operations.  Municipalities can regulate the location of bus stops only, and can regulate traffic over city streets, if reasonably required for safety, i.e. through residential areas.

States can regulate safety, through roadside and semi-annual inspections, and insurance, although Federal insurance requirements are substantially higher than State mandated limits.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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Pending – Discontinuance of Commuter Service

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The NJ State Legislature has proposed legislation that will require any bus company providing commuter bus service to provide all communities served with 45 days notice of the “intention” to file a Petition with the NJMVC to discontinue service. Present Regulations simply require the communities to be served with a copy of the “filed” Petition, giving 30 days notice of the request to discontinue service. Basically, the proposed legislation gives each community a minimum of 75 days notice, with a better opportunity to mobilize opposition, or possibly to negotiate a reduced level of service with the bus company. While the added notice period may be considered a hindrance to a proposed discontinuance, in actuality the NJMVC is not particularly receptive to any discontinuance of commuter service and does not usually act on the Petitions within the standard 30 day period. [Note: This Article was recently published by me in the GNJMA NEWSGRAM]

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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Bus Insurance – Cancelled

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Most bus company owners are unaware of the requirement of your local DOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that a cancellation of insurance by the insurance company requires 30 days advance notice to the Agency. The time is calculated from the date of receipt, not the date of mailing, so the insurance company must be very careful to properly calculate the notice period.

Why is this important? It isn’t important if you pay your insurance premiums when they are due and maintain your insurance coverage in good standing. However, things happen and let’s assume you fail to make a payment and receive notice of cancellation. It is important to note the date of mailing, the date of receipt, and the effective date of cancellation given to the Regulatory Agencies. More times than not, the insurance company has improperly calculated the cancellation date and not given the required notice.

Can the insurance company cure the error? Sure, by sending out a new 30 days notice.

If you are caught in the situation of receiving a cancellation notice, and the insurance company will not agree to reinstate coverage upon payment of the arrearage, check the date on the cancellation notice. Was 30 days given? If not, notify the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and your local DOT of the error. If this fails, get an attorney quickly who can get into Court on short notice for a restraining order to prevent the notice from becoming effective. Or, better yet, and possibly cheaper for you, contact an experienced Transportation Attorney who can persuade the insurance company to back off and reinstate your coverage upon payment of the arrearage.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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Temporary Employment Agencies

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New Jersey has a large number of temporary employment agencies that conduct business in most urban communities. These agencies place workers in employment situations such as warehouses which are located off the beaten path so that public transportation is usually not available.

Transportation is frequently made available through van and minibus operators who are licensed by the State of NJ Motor Vehicle Commission (formerly NJ DOT) to provide Regular Route (Under Contract) Bus or Van Service. The vehicles are inspected by the NJMVC and are required to maintain certain insurance requirements. That is all well and good for the legal operators, but there are bus and van operators who operate outside of the law and fail to obtain approval from the MVC and simply operate until discovered operating illegally.

The State of NJ has stepped in and adopted legislation, approved in January 2007, which requires the employment agencies to register with the State of NJ and imposes upon these agencies a requirement that they assure compliance by the bus and van operators that they use with the NJMVC Regulations under Title 48. Specifically, if the agency operates the transportation service, or recommends a particular transportation service, or refers the people to a particular transportation service, the agency must assure themselves and maintain records to assure that the transportation company is in full compliance with the Regulations.

Penalties are imposed against the agencies for non-compliance, and additionally, the agencies become jointly liable with the transportation company if any of the people transported are injured. Damages in such cases are trebled as the matter has been determined to fall within the purview of the Consumer Fraud Act.

For those agencies that turn a blind eye to what has been going on with regard to this transportation issue, the penalties can be especially serious.

 Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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