Legal Document Preparer Certification

Legal Document Preparer Certification

If you would like to enter the legal field, but do not want to be an attorney, one possibility is to become a certified legal document preparer. Being a certified legal document preparer can provide opportunities for you to help others and learn about various aspects of the legal world.

To become a certified legal document preparer in Arizona, you must be certified and keep current on legal practices each year. For example, a certified legal document preparer must attend a minimum of ten hours of approved continuing education annually, between the period of May 1st and April 30th of the following year. You must also complete a total of no less than twenty hours of continuing education on or before April 30th of every odd-numbered year.

These continuing education requirements do not apply to certified legal document preparer business entities, however.

According to the AZcourts.gov website, here is the process for becoming receiving certification as a legal document preparer:

  1. Check the Arizona Code of Judicial Administration, specifically section § 7-208(E) for eligibility requirements to ensure that you are eligible for certification.  Read the Arizona Code for Judicial Administration rules ACJA § 7-208
  2. You must first sit for and pass the examination. To download the exam schedule and registration form for the Legal Document Preparer (LDP) Knowledge Examination click in this link.  Please note that all fees are non-refundable, so be sure to schedule your exam on a day that you can attend as scheduled. There is a study guide that corresponds to the current examination being administered. Please see the link below. The Supreme Court does not provide any preparatory classes or training for the exam or the Legal Document Preparer Program in general.
  3. After the Exam; Test results will be mailed to the address you provided to Division staff within 2-4 weeks.
    1. If you passed: An application for initial certification and a fingerprint card will be included if you have successfully passed the exam.
    2. If you did not pass, you may send a written request to retake the exam to LDP@courts.az.gov and further instructions will be provided.
  4. Fill out the Initial Certification Application as instructed.  Be sure to include the required picture and fingerprints for the background check. If any further information is needed, Division staff will be in contact with you. Please note that any deficient information or documentation will prolong the application process.
  5. After the Application: Once the application process is complete, Division staff will present your application during the next scheduled Legal Document Preparer Board meeting for a decision. The decisions made during the Board meeting will be mailed to any and all applicants on the agenda unless the applicant is deferred due to deficient information.

    Allow 2-4 months to process applications.
Homeowners Association Problems: Dealing with an Overbearing HOA

Homeowners Association Problems: Dealing with an Overbearing HOA

Are you dealing with Homeowners Association problems? If so, you need to know the following:

  1. The HOAs Rights
  2. Your Homeowners Rights
  3. Arizona Laws governing Homeowners associations
  4. How to replace an overbearing HOA
  5. Getting Legal Advice to Deal with an HOA

HOA Rights

Homeowners Associations have the right to govern some community rules. However, there are state and federal laws restricting what they can do.

HOA’s Have the Right To:

  1. Set reasonable rules that comply with local and federal law
  2. Impose financial penalties for non-compliance
  3. Collect unpaid fees
  4. File lawsuits against defaulting owners
  5. Enforce the governing documents

More importantly, homeowners have certain rights. It’s important to know your rights when dealing with an overbearing HOA.

Homeowners Rights

As an owner, you have the right to:

  1. Have free access to your own property
  2. Fair treatment (non-discrimination)
  3. Call for the enforcement of the governing documents
  4. Review the HOA’s Records. Including annual budgets; meeting minutes; vendor contracts; tax returns; membership lists; and financial statements.
  5. Be a part of hiring or calling for a competent, responsive, transparent and, accountable HOA board.
  6. Be a part of community governance, by volunteering, attending and speaking at meetings. Or by joining or being elected to the board.
  7. Appeal decisions of the HOA when provided with notice of an alleged violation.
  8. Modify your property for access for people with disabilities. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  9. Display the American Flag on your property.

These two lists are not all-inclusive. Homeowners and HOA’s may have other rights granted to them by law.

 

Arizona Laws governing homeowners associations

You should learn what the laws are governing the conduct of associations.

If you review the statutes found online, starting at A.R.S. §33-1801. yYou will probably see statutes and regulations that your association is violating.

Some of the highlights of these statutes are:

  1. Late Fees. The maximum late fee that an association can charge is $15.00 or ten percent (10%) of the amount due, whichever is greater.

  2. Property Transfer Fee. The maximum total amount that the association can charge related to the transfer of the property is $400.00. This amount can only be charged upon the successful closing of an escrow. Therefore, a property transferred without the employment of an escrow company is not subject to the transfer fee. (Note: if there are pre-paid or back-owed regular HOA dues to be paid at closing, those amounts are usually not covered by this limit.)

  3. Notice of Violation. Upon written request, within ten (10) business days from the date of a notice of violation, the association must provide the homeowner with certain information.

    This includes:

    1. the specific provision of the CC&Rs that are alleged to have been violated
    2. the first and last name of the person that reported the violation.

  4. Partial Payments. An HOA cannot refuse to accept a partial payment of the amounts owed to the association.

    The association must apply all payments to the member’s account. This must be done in the following order:

    1. Unpaid assessments
    2. Late fees
    3. Costs of collection
    4. Attorneys’ fees and costs.

The homeowner may also direct a payment to be applied to a certain specified item.

real estate lawyer
 

Replacing an Unreasonable Management Company

As a homeowner, you can lobby for the replacement of the current management company. If the company is overbearing, hiring a more reasonable one may help.

Licensing of HOA Management Companies

Unfortunately, there are no licensing requirements for HOA property managagers.

This means that anyone can start a property management company for HOAs regardless of experience. And, as with any profession, some management companies are better than others.

Many times it is the property management company that is the one that is overbearing. Terminating the property management company may improve the culture of the community.

HOA Board Members

Usually, individual homeowners who serve on community boards are hard-working and well-meaning volunteers. They’re genuinely trying to create, maintain or re-create a great community for all homeowners.

Occasionally, problems are caused by an individual or group of board member who are out of line.

Resolving Issues with an HOA

Whether the problem is the management company or the Board members themselves, the solution is a long-term project, not a short-term fix.

Replacing the management company takes time and you might need to be a member of the HOA Board to make this happen. At a minimum, you’ll need a group of homeowners willing to support the effort to replace the management company. HOAManagement.com has a list of companies by state.

Replacing individual HOA Board members also takes time. This is because you’ll need to launch your effort when there’s an open Board seat up for election. You’ll also need to find a candidate willing to run and serve.

Getting Legal Advice for Dealing with an HOA

Would you like more advice or advice personalized for your situation? We offer creative fee arrangements, including some types of flat fee billing.

We also offer some types of “pay-as-you-go” or “unbundled legal services.”

Learn more about those here, and then give us a call.

We’ll be happy to speak with you about handling your homeowners association problems.

For more information on homeowner’s association email or give us a call.

10 Common Litigation Mistakes Self-Represented Litigants Make

10 Common Litigation Mistakes Self-Represented Litigants Make

The importance of having a litigation attorney advising you cannot be stressed enough. We understand that there may be financial reasons that cause people to consider representing themselves in court.  However, because of the intricacies of the law and the rules litigants must follow, minor mistakes in self-representation can end up costing more than hiring a qualified and experienced attorney.

The Top 10 Mistakes Made in Self-Representation

With the above aside, if you decide to provide your own representation in court, please consider this list of the 10 most common litigation mistakes made by self-represented individuals.

10. Relying On the Internet

While there is a lot of useful information available on the Internet, there is also a lot of incorrect information. Even websites for the courts, at times, contain out of date; and therefore, inaccurate information.

Additionally, the Internet cannot teach a person how to handle a matter that generally takes years of experience to fully understand. The Internet will provide basic information. However, the advice and coaching of an experienced attorney is truly necessary for an unrepresented party to properly handle a lawsuit.

Have you been involved in a case that was lost because of a simple litigation mistake? If so feel free to comment below.

9. Failing to Respond to Requests for Admissions

Requests for admissions are questions served on the opposing party that asks the opposing party to admit or deny certain facts. Generally, the facts that the opposing side are asked to admit are critical to the case. The failure to respond to the requests for admissions within the required time results in the admissions being deemed admitted. This can be extremely damaging to a party’s case or defense.

8. Pursuing Red Herrings

Most court cases can be broken down into a few critical issues. However, there may have been a number of issues or disputes that occurred between opposing parties to a lawsuit prior to the lawsuit being filed. These prior disputes or issues may have little to nothing to do with the lawsuit. And, the court will have little interest in hearing about them.

A party who has little experience with lawsuits and appearing in court may believe it is necessary to go into the details of these issues or disputes. In reality, addressing these items only hurts their case because it draws attention away from the critical issues. It also hurts the party’s credibility when they finally get around to addressing the critical issues.

7. Making Decisions Based Upon Emotion

Litigation can be an emotional process. People do not think as clearly when emotions are high. This leads to poor decision making. These poor decisions can be seen in deciding whether to take a settlement offer. It can also be seen in the work performed, motions filed, and evidence presented to the court.

The most successful parties in litigation are not always the ones who have the best case. Instead, it is generally the party who uses a cost-benefit analysis to make decisions during the course of the litigation. By making a cost-benefit analysis the party can decide what work should be performed, what motions should be filed when to settle the case, and what needs to be presented to the court.

6. Failing to Make Proper Disclosures

The disclosure rules require each party to disclose the legal basis for their claim or defense, the names of all witnesses and a list of documents that will be presented. The disclosures must be updated as new witnesses and documents are revealed. If documents and witnesses are not timely disclosed, they may not be used at trial.

Proper disclosure also means Bates labeling and organizing the documents so that it is clear to the court and the other side that documents to be presented at trial or a hearing have been disclosed. Bates labeling refers to the placing of a sequential number scheme somewhere on each and every document. Then each time a new document is disclosed it should be accompanied by a disclosure statement that lists the document and the corresponding number.

The other side may object at trial to the introduction of a document on the basis that it has not been disclosed. There should be no difficulty in proving that it has been disclosed if it is Bates labeled and reflected on a disclosure statement. If either of these items is missing, it may be difficult to show that it has been disclosed and the court may preclude the document from being used.

5. Failing to Properly Respond to Dispositive Motions

The two most common dispositive motions are motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment. Both of these motions seek a partial or full resolution of the issues in the case. A motion to dismiss is generally based solely upon the law. A proper response will give a legal basis for the denial of the motion.

A motion for summary judgment is generally based upon facts and law. A motion for summary judgment must be accompanied by a separate statement of facts. If facts set forth in a separate statement of facts are not properly controverted, they will be deemed admitted. Having the facts deemed admitted can be very damaging to a party’s claims or defense.

4. Not Being Fully Prepared to Present Their Case

Preparing for a trial is no simple task. Exhibits must be identified, marked and organized so that they are easy to locate and present. Opening statements, direct examinations, cross examinations and closing argument must be outlined.

Finally, each side needs to be prepared to present and argue any outstanding legal issues. Not putting in the time to prepare and “winging it” will not work. Even if a person has a strong case, they may very well lose at trial if the presentation is lacking.

3. Failing to Update Their Contact Information with the Court and the Opposing Side

Every party to a lawsuit is responsible for keeping their contact information current with the court and opposing counsel. However, parties sometimes move and fail to update their contact information with the court. Important documents may be filed with the court and mailed to the party at their address of record. However, if the address is not current, the party may not receive the documents.

This may result in that party not timely responding to the documents. The court will generally not accept the fact that the party failed to update their contact information as a defense for failing to timely respond to discovery or motions.

2. Not Fully Knowing the Law that Applies to Their Case

Legal research can be complicated. The key to legal research is knowing where to look and what to look for. The law that applies to a particular case is generally found in statutes, regulations and published cases.

Arizona Revised Statutes and the Arizona Administrative Code can be found on the internet at Arizona Revised Statutes and Public Services, Table of Contents, respectively.

Case law can be found in online databases that generally have a cost associated with them. It can also be found at a law library. Case law research at the law library will generally require the assistance of a librarian as there is a three step process to finding relevant case law.

There is also a wealth of case law and relevant application available on the web, often in blogs like this one from law firms.  However, it is vital to make sure that when you research case law, you keep in mind that the information you find on the internet may 1) not be accurate, 2) not be applicable in your jurisdiction, and 3) not up-to-date.

In order for a party to represent themselves without the assistance of an attorney, they will need to know how to perform the necessary legal research to locate the law that applies to their case.

1. Failing to Sign the Answer

This is probably the single most common, yet easiest mistake to avoid.  An answer to a complaint must be signed by each and every defendant or by their attorney. It is not uncommon for a married couple to assume that one spouse can properly sign the answer. This is not true. If only one spouse signs the answer, then a default judgment may be entered against the other spouse’s sole and separate property.

This mistake is also commonly made when a corporation or llc is a defendant in the superior court. A corporation and llc may not represent itself in the superior court. This means it must hire an attorney who must sign the answer. If an owner and employee signs and files the answer on behalf of an entity in superior court, a default judgment may be entered against the entity.