Jewish World Review Sept. 24, 1999 /14 Tishrei, 5760
DEAR M.Z.: You might try your public library and see if they have a copy of my book "House Smart," written with my very close friend Nate Rosenhouse, an attorney. If they don't have it, it can be ordered by clicking at the link at the bottom of this article. This will give you a decent walk-through on how not to get burned. There are two specific things that I must mention: By all means have an attorney represent you from the beginning. I am not going to go through all of the reasons why you should have one, but trust me. Since you are buying an older home in the country, you probably have oil heat. If the oil tank is in the ground, I would insist upon it not only being inspected, but removed or filled according to the laws of your state. There is no statute of limitations on pollution. You will inherit the problem if it exists. In some cases, the company that does the inspection will fill the tank and give you a certificate absolving you from any further responsibility. It is a shame that we live on the edge of a lawsuit for anything we do, but that is the way our society is currently working, and one is especially vulnerable when pollution may be an issue.
DEAR BRUCE: I work for a company that does insurance adjusting, and I am one of the adjusters. I have been here for 6-1/2 years as an employee. Several weeks ago, the company circulated a memorandum stating that, as of that date, all of us were to be considered independent contractors. As a consequence, they would pay us more money, but our benefits would disappear and we would be responsible for all taxes. I have been very happy here, and I am good at what I do, but I am not at all certain that I want to become self-employed. -- T.N., Stanford, Conn.
DEAR T.N.: There are some 20 criteria the IRS uses to determine whether you are an independent contractor. I doubt seriously that you would pass this test. For example, if you have to be at work during regular hours set by your "employer," you are not an independent contractor. If the employer provides tools, supplies and office space, you are not an independent contractor. What your company is doing is trying to finesse the Social Security contribution, worker's compensation and premiums so that you will no longer be covered by workers comp and any other employment taxes that they would ordinarily have a responsibility to pay. Whether or not the difference they pay you will be enough of a compensation is something that you will have to determine. It seems to me that what they are doing is improper, and a quiet word to the IRS might calm things down.
DEAR BRUCE: I have owned my house for almost four years, and there was a fence that clearly delineated where my property ended and my neighbor's began. The fence was in poor condition, and rather than trying to repair it, I had it replaced with a chain link fence. The house next door then changed hands. The new owners came over to tell me that they were sorry, but my fence was almost two feet into their property. I told them about the older fence, and they replied that it made no difference. They had the home surveyed before they purchased it, and it's clear on their survey that my fence is encroaching on their property. A fence has been there since we moved in. My neighbors said that they don't want to be bad neighbors, but they are insisting that we move it to the "appropriate" place. Is there anything we can do to work this out? -- N.L. Mobile, Ala.
DEAR N.L.: If they want it moved, you are going to have to move it. That's the end of the story. You can approach them with the idea that they rent you the property for $1 a year, with you paying all of the legals. The idea behind this is that at no time in the future could you or a subsequent owner claim adverse possession and an interest in that property. A wise homeowner never puts up a boundary fence without first surveying to be certain that the improvement is properly placed. Some communities require that you set back 6 inches from the property line just to avoid disputes of this
09/21/99: Use the rule of 72s!