Navigating Common Legal Pitfalls: A Homeowner’s Guide to Avoiding Costly Mistakes

Homeownership is a significant milestone, but it comes with its own set of legal challenges that can create headaches if not properly managed. From title issues to contractor disputes, homeowners must be aware of the potential pitfalls to safeguard their investments and ensure smooth property ownership. Let’s delve into the most common legal issues homeowners face, and learn how an experienced attorney can help address them.

Title Issues

  • Unclear title: Inadequate title searches can lead to discovering liens, easements, or disputes over property boundaries.
  • Boundary Disputes: Issues with neighbors regarding the exact property lines can lead to legal battles.

Homeowners Association Rules

  • Violating HOA Covenants: Failing to adhere to HOA rules can result in fines, liens or legal action.
  • Unpaid HOA Fees: Non-payment of HOA fees can lead to penalties and potential foreclosure.

Zoning Laws and Permits

  • Unpermitted Work: Performing renovations or additions without the proper permits can result in fines and the need to undo the work.
  • Zoning Laws: Using the property in ways not allowed by local zoning laws can lead to enforcement actions.


  • Failure to Disclose: Not disclosing known issues, such as mold, water damage, or structural problems, when selling a home can lead to lawsuits.
  • False Disclosures: Providing inaccurate information about property condition can also lead to legal action from buyers.

Mortgage and Foreclosure Issues

  • Missed Payments: Falling behind on mortgage payments can lead to foreclosure.
  • Predatory Lending: Signing up for a mortgage with unfair terms can result in financial difficulties and legal challenges.

Tenant Issues (for rental properties)

  • Violating Tenant Rights: Not adhering to landlord-tenant laws, such as failing to return security deposits or provide habitable conditions, can result in lawsuits.
  • Eviction Procedures: Improperly handling evictions can lead to legal repercussions.

Environmental Regulations

  • Violation of Environmental Laws: Issues such as improper disposal of hazardous materials or not addressing asbestos or lead paint can lead to fines and legal action.

Property Taxes:

  • Non-Payment of Taxes: Failing to pay property taxes can result in liens and potential loss of the property.
  • Disputes Over Assessments: Challenging property tax assessments without proper legal grounding can lead to prolonged legal battles.

Insurance Issues

  • Insufficient Coverage: Not having adequate insurance can lead to significant out-of-pocket expenses in case of damage or liability.
  • Claim Denials: Disputes with insurance companies over coverage and claims can lead to litigation.

Contractor Disputes

  • Breaching Contracts: Issues with contractors regarding the quality of work, timelines, or payments can lead to legal disputes.
  • Mechanic’s Liens: Contractors or suppliers not paid for work done can place a lien on the property.


Being a homeowner is rewarding but requires diligence and awareness of potential legal issues. By proactively addressing those common challenges, homeowners can protect their property and avoid costly legal battles. Whether it’s ensuring a clear title, adhering to HOA rules, or obtaining the proper permits for renovations, taking the necessary steps to manage these legal matters will lead to a more secure and stress-free homeownership experience. If you encounter any of these issues, consulting with a legal professional can provide the guidance needed to navigate them effectively. Having an attorney in your back pocket can not only help you navigate any of these legal pitfalls, but keep you from encountering them in the first place. Reach out today to learn how.

Trademark FAQ

Protecting your brand is crucial for long-term success. One powerful tool in your arsenal is a trademark. Let’s delve into the key aspects of trademarks that will help you navigate the process.

 1. What is a Trademark?

At its core, a trademark is a source identifier. Logos, slogans, business names, sounds, or designs can serve as trademarks. When attached to a product or service, these identifiers enable consumers to associate them with the company that produces them.

2. When Should I think of Getting a Trademark?

The attorneys at Wagner, Falconer & Judd suggest trademarking early in your business journey, especially when deciding on a business name. Early consideration not only enhances your chances of protecting your brand but also minimizes the risk of infringing on someone else’s trademark rights.

3. How Long Does it Take to Get a Trademark?

The timeline for obtaining a trademark varies, influenced by the workload at the United States Trademark and Patent Office (USPTO). Currently, the USPTO estimates a timeline of 14-15 months from the application date to registration.

4. When Can I use the ® or TM symbols?

Us the TM symbol freely with any source identifier at any tie, and it may even assist your trademark application. The ® symbol is reserved for federally registered trademarks with the USPTO.

5. What are the Benefits of Registering a Trademark with the USPTO?

A registered trademark facilitates easier enforcement of your rights, protecting against scammers using similar domain names and offering advantages when working with online retailers like Amazon.

6. State Trademark vs. Federal Trademark

While a state trademark offers protection within a specific state, a federal trademark provides national coverage and generally stronger protections under federal law.

7. Where Do I Start?

Begin with a clearance search, exploring relevant federal and state databases to determine the availability of your desired trademark. Professional assistance, such as consulting with Wagner, Falconer & Judd, can streamline this process.

8. Do I have to Register a Trademark to Use it in Commerce?

No, registration is not mandatory before using a trademark in commerce. However, it’s advisable to register to strengthen your brand’s protection against infringement.

9. Do I Have to Offer the Product/Service Before Applying for the Trademark?

No-you can file on an Intent-to-Use basis. This allows you to reserve a trademark for six months after receiving a Notice of Allowance, with the option for up to five additional 6-month extensions.

10. Once Registered, What Does it Protect and for How Long?

A registered trademark protects the products in the listed classes of goods and services. After the initial registration, renewals are required every 10 years, with an additional filing after the first 5 years.

By taking proactive steps you can navigate the trademark landscape with confidence-and the attorneys at Wagner, Falconer & Judd are always standing by to support you on your journey. Reach out to one of our Intellectual Property attorneys today to learn more. 

Minnesota’s Earned Sick and Safe Time (ESST)-FAQs

The onslaught of new employment related laws in Minnesota has kept our phone lines pretty busy! Many of the new laws took effect January 1-but employers are still scrambling to determine how the law applies to them. So let’s address some of the common questions we’re getting:


What exactly IS earned sick and safe time?

ESST (Earned Sick and Safe Time) is paid leave employers must provide to employees in Minnesota that can be used for certain reasons, including when an employee is sick, to care for a sick family member or to seek assistance if an employee or their family member has experienced domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking. ESST must be paid at the same hourly rate an employee earns when they are working.

Who is eligible?

An employee is eligible for ESST if they:

  • work at least 80 hours in a year for an employer in MN
  • are not an independent contractor

Temporary and part-time employees are eligible for ESST.

How do you accrue and use ESST?

  • Employees can accrue at least one hour of ESST for every 30 hours worked, unless an employer front loads ESST hours as allowed by law.
  • ESST begins accruing on the first day of work and employees are allowed to use ESST as it accrues.
  • Employers must allow an employee to accrue at least 48 hours of ESST to the net year up to a maximum accrual of at least 80 ESST hours.
  • Employers can require documentation from employees with ESST used for more than three consecutive days.

What can you use ESST for?

ESST can be used for reasons that include:

  • The mental or physical illness, treatment or preventative care of an employee or their family member;
  • Absence due to domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking of an employee or their family member;
  • Closure of an employee’s workplace due to weather or public emergency or closure of their family member’s school or care facility due to weather or public emergency.

In 2024 consulting with an employment law attorney is not just a precautionary measure, it’s a strategic business decision to safeguard the interests of both employers and employees. As you navigate the complex and ever-changing laws, a proactive approach to legal compliance becomes paramount in fostering a workplace that values the well-being of its workforce.

Wagner, Falconer & Judd offers a number of ways to partner with us for all your business needs. Reach out to us today for a consultation, or visit our Support Services page to learn more about our offerings.


‘Tis the Season for Holiday Travel Stress and Disruptions

These tips are from a LegalShield blog-previously posted on 11.21.2022.

In anticipation of flight delays, cancellations, and all the challenges that go with holiday travel, 19% of respondents in a recent survey are feeling “extremely” stressed. This is understandable as those who traveled during the previous holiday season experienced the following:

  • 62% had a delayed flight
  • 34% reported a flight cancellation
  • 34% were on an overbooked flight
  • 29% missed a connecting flight due to a delay
  • 26% lost baggage
  • More than half (53%) were able to make it to their destination but arrived late
  • 78% said it took as long as five hours to resolve the flight issue

Despite all the challenges they face, one-third of the survey respondents still do not know their legal rights from the airlines when they experience travel issues. Knowing your legal rights when traveling can make all the difference in terms of saving time and reducing stress. 38% said their stress level would improve if they had a dedicated advocate that could assist in case of flight disruptions.

LegalShield offers dedicated, affordable advocates who can provide legal assistance during travel. Once you experience a flight disruption, LegalShield shares four things to remember this holiday season:

  1. Stay calm. It’s easy to be flustered or frustrated when experiencing a delayed or canceled flight. Keep up to date on information from the airline, as they should provide constant communication with travelers and provide alternative transportation options.
  2. Keep track of the details. Take screenshots of app/SMS communications, photos of boarding passes and other helpful information. Track airline policies so there is a record of the experience and record waiting time.
  3. Consider not accepting vouchers. Before accepting a voucher, understand the rules and ask questions. In some instances, accepting a voucher will disqualify the traveler from receiving monetary compensation for the disruption.
  4. Talk to a lawyer about your travel rights. A lawyer is a dedicated advocate to help a traveler understand travel laws and rights. Through LegalShield, a member can text or call in the mobile app.

“Although a fun and festive time of the year, the holidays can be very stressful for those coordinating travel arrangements. It’s a financial and time investment and oftentimes, there are flight challenges out of our control,” said Keri Norris, Chief Legal Officer at LegalShield. “LegalShield exists to help people navigate these issues and ensure they are legally equipped to handle anything.”

This LegalShield study was conducted on October 8, 2022. LegalShield surveyed 812 adults, 18 and older, who live in the United States. The sample was balanced by age and race, among other demographic variables, according to the U.S. Census.

Reviewing Your Receivables for 2023

Closing out the year can be a hectic time. Implementing some of these tips in to your process could help clear pesky receivables from your ledger before the end of the year and help you breeze through year-end close next year:

  • Perform a close calendar walkthrough with all the key parties involved.
  • Prepare a reconciliation for every account, even accounts with no activity.
  • Prepare activity roll-forwards for accounts receivable and bad debt reserve, fixed assets, intangible assets, goodwill balances, etc.
  • Review your Aged Accounts Receivable report, try and collect from clients with 30-60 day past due accounts. These are most likely to pay quickly.
  • Check in with clients that possess 60-90 day past due accounts and make sure they have received all your communications about their debt.
  • Review uncollectible accounts and write-offs. Identify what went wrong to improve your process moving forward.


If you would like to clean up your collection process for 2023-the experienced attorneys at Wagner, Falconer & Judd are only a phone call away.


Keeping You Informed: Minimum Wage Increases for 2023

Perhaps not our most intriguing information share to date, but still equally important. Come the New Year, do you know which of your business states will be due for a minimum wage increase? If you answered no, then you’re in luck—below is a compiled list of all the US states with planned minimum wage increases to have on your radar. If your state is not listed, then this year you have one less policy to update.


  • Alaska
    • Minimum wage increases to $10.85
  • Arizona
    • Flagstaff minimum wage increases to $16.80
    • Tucson minimum wage increases to $13.50
  • California
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $15.50
  • Colorado
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $13.65
    • Denver minimum wage increases to $17.29
  • Connecticut
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $15.00
  • Delaware
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $11.75
  • Illinois
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $13.00
    • Chicago minimum wage increases to $15.00 for employers of 4 to 20 employees
  • Maine
    • Statewide minimum wage expected to increase to $13.80 based on the anticipated Consumer Price Index adjustment
    • Portland minimum wage increases to $14.00
    • Rockland minimum wage increases to $14.00
  • Maryland
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $13.25 for employers of 15 or more employees and $12.80 for employers of 14 or fewer employees
    • Howard County minimum wage increases to $15.00 for large employers (15 or more) and $13.25 for small employers (14 or fewer)
  • Massachusetts
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $15.00
  • Minnesota
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $10.59 for large employers (annual gross sales of $500,000 or more) and $8.63 for small employers (annual gross sales of less than $500,000)
    • Minneapolis minimum wage increases to $15.19 for employers with 100 or more employees
    • St Paul minimum wage increases to $15.19 for macro employers (those with more than 10,000 employees)
  • Missouri
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $12.00
  • Montana
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $9.95
  • Nebraska
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $10.50
  • New Jersey
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $14.13 for most employers (those with 7 or more employees) and $12.93 for small (those with 6 or fewer employees) and seasonal employers
  • New Mexico
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $12.00
    • Albuquerque minimum wage increases to $12.50
    • Las Cruces adopts the statewide minimum wage as of January 1, 2023
  • Ohio
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $10.10 for employers generally and remains at the federal minimum wage ($7.25) for businesses grossing less than $372,000 annually.
  • Rhode Island
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $13.00
  • South Dakota
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $10.80
  • Virginia
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $12.00
  • Washington
    • Statewide minimum wage increases to $15.74
    • City of SeaTac minimum wage increases to $19.06
    • Seattle:
      • $18.69, for employers of 501 or more employees.
      • $16.50, for employers of 500 or fewer employees that contribute at least $2.19 an hour to the individual employee’s medical benefits and/or the employee earns at least $2.19 an hour in tips.
      • $18.69, for non-qualifying small employers.


There is a dedicated team at Wagner, Falconer & Judd that can help you simplify your HR needs. Check out our Support Services options to see if we are a fit for you! 

What is Mediation?

Mediation is when a neutral third party, called a mediator, works with each party in a lawsuit to reach a compromise before going to trial. The mediator will point out issues in the case or areas of weakness and the benefits of settling. Some of the benefits of settling include, less stress, fewer expenses, and a faster agreement. And unlike judge or jury decisions, settlements cannot be appealed, this allows you to achieve finality on the case so you can move on with your life.

Because of all these benefits, judges almost always order parties to mediate the case before going to trial. Even when a judge doesn’t order mediation, parties often agree to mediate to save the expense and stress of going to trial.

The attorneys at Wagner, Falconer & Judd are skilled at translating legalese for our clients, and are here to help you navigate the complex legal process. If you think you could benefit from our services, reach out today. Having a dedicated attorney on your side is always a good plan!