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We have a proven track record of success. Whether you need an experienced, aggressive lawyer to fight hard for you in court, a creative advocate to negotiate contracts and assist in small business matters and real estate transactions, or you need an experienced lawyer to help keep an eye on the big picture, we give you the leverage you need. In today’s competitive business and real estate environment you need an edge. We offer free initial phone consultations so you can determine if we’re the right law firm for you.

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We are a top rated, highly skilled and experienced team of transaction and litigation attorneys. We practice primarily in the areas of real estate, business, construction, and related matters. We are a Denver, Colorado based law firm.

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    Office Location:

    Denver Tech Center
    8480 E. Orchard Road
    Suite 5000
    Greenwood Village, CO 80111
    Phone: (303) 740-8494
    Fax: (303) 740-8495

     I-25 and Orchard Road

     

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    Friday
    Jan222016

    Why Hire a Small Firm? Big Law Costs About 60% More and is Less Responsive.

    According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, lawyers at big "white shoe" law firms are not more responsive to clients, the quality is not better on high stakes matters, and "big law" costs approximately 60% more than its smaller firm counterparts.

    The authors surveyed the General Counsel at major companies like Lenovo, Vanguard, Shell, Google, NIKE, Walgreens, Dell, eBay, RBC, Panasonic, Nestle, Progressive, Starwood, Intel, and Deutsche Bank, to find out who they use as outside counsel and why.  The results are not surprising.  74% said they would rather use a lawyer at a "non-pedigreed" firm for high stakes matters.  57% said that lawyers at the big firms are less responsive than other firms.

    On top of all that, there's the cost.  The Top Big Law firms charge an average of 30% more than mid-sized firms.   "Factoring in lower hourly rates as well as the greater efficiency most clients say the other firms deliver, we are likely talking about an overall cost premium in the 60+% range."

    Hourly rates of law firms are not well publicized and oftentimes clients have no idea what reasonable hourly rates are for the type of work being performed.

    Click HERE to see the Harvard Business Review Article.

     

     

    Friday
    Jan222016

    Variances Under the Denver Zoning Code

    In 2010, when Denver replaced its 54 year old zoning regulations with the Denver Zoning Code (“Code”), two of the principle goals were simplifying the existing regulations and encouraging development.  While the 1,000+ page Code has not been perfect, the general reaction to the Code from developers and property owners has been positive.  However, while generally successful, in some areas the Code’s zoning appears illogical and inhibits gentrification and development.  The Code addresses these zoning issues through the “variance” procedure.

    A variance is an administrative exception to land use regulations, including zoning.  In Denver a governmental body called the Board of Adjustment for Zoning Appeals (“Board”) reviews all variance requests.  The Board may grant a variance for several reasons, but the most common justification is where enforcement of the Code will result in “unnecessary hardship” to a property owner. Code § 12.4.7.1.  If a property owner thinks he or she may face an “unnecessary hardship” as a result of the Code, they can request a variance.

    Either the owner of the subject property or the owner’s authorized agent may initiate an application for a variance. Code § 12.4.7.3.  Following notice and a public hearing, the Board approves, approves with conditions, or denies the variance request based on whether the applicant has met the requirements of “unnecessary hardship.” Code § 12.4.7.5.A.

     

    One of the elements of unnecessary hardship is “compatibility with existing neighborhood.” To meet this requirement, an applicant must successfully argue that, while the property could be developed in conformity with the provisions of the Code, the proposed variance will result in a building form that is more compatible, in terms of building height, siting, and design elements, with the “existing neighborhood” in which the subject property is located. Code § 12.4.7.6.C.1.  In general, the “existing neighborhood” means the same block of the same street. Code § 12.4.7.6.C.2.

    If the Board finds that “unnecessary hardship” exists, and grants a variance, construction on the property must begin within 3 years of the date the variance is granted and conclude within 5 years of the date the variance is granted.

    Below is a case study of an area where variances are necessary in order to encourage development, avoid “unnecessary hardship,” and maintain uniformity within neighborhoods.  The area in question is located two blocks east of the intersection of Broadway and Yale.  The dark yellow shaded area on the east side of Sherman, between Yale and Vassar (“East Side”), is zoned “U-TU-B” or “Urban – Two Unit.”  This zoning designation allows for the construction of duplexes on each lot.   However, the tan area on the west side of Sherman, between Yale and Vassar (“West Side”), is zoned “U-SU” or “Urban – Single Unit.”  This zoning designation only allows for the construction of single family residences on each lot.  As you can see from the parcel map, both the West and East Sides contain several duplexes, most built prior to the new Code.

    The problem with the area shown below is the lots that have not yet been re-developed.  Property owners who own lots on the East Side are allowed to construct duplexes on those lots, increasing the value of the lots and further gentrifying the area.  However, the Code prevents property owners across the street on the West Side from constructing duplexes.  It does not make economic sense for buyers to purchase property in this area for the purpose of demolishing the property and building a single family home.  For re-development to occur, owners must be able to construct duplexes.   As a result, this area, specifically the West Side, is an ideal case study in the importance of variances.

    There seems to be no doubt that both the East and West Sides of Sherman should have been zoned for duplexes.  The East Side, which is directly across the street from the West Side, is zoned for duplexes, and will soon consist of all duplexes.  There are also several West Side duplexes, built prior to the adoption of the Code.  West Side property owners have a strong argument for a variance based upon the fact that the Code inflicts an “unnecessary hardship” and alters the form of the “existing neighborhood.”  Ultimately, the Code is designed the encourage development and achieve the highest possible value for each property in Denver.  The Code, as currently drafted, does not achieve these ends in this area, specifically on the West Side.  However, property owners, through a variance, can obtain the result that the Code failed to achieve.

     

     

    If you own property you are wishing to sell or develop, or have general questions about the Denver Zoning Code or the variance process, please contact Gelman & Norberg, LLC, at (303) 740-8494.

    Friday
    Jan222016

    The Seller's Real Estate Agent Didn't Tell Me About Defects With the Property, Does a Real Estate Agent Have to Tell Me About Defects?

    Answer: Yes, the seller’s real estate agent must disclose to you any adverse material facts actually known by the agent.

    In general, there are three different types of real estate relationships that can be established – a buyer’s agent, a seller’s agent, or a transaction-broker.

    Anytime you hire a broker to act on your behalf, the broker that you hire has a duty to disclose to you any adverse material facts that are actually known by the broker.

    On top of that, even if they are not your agent and are not working for you, the other side's agent has a duty to tell you about all adverse material facts that they actually know about.

    For example, if you were the buyer, the seller's agent has a duty to tell you about adverse material facts that they actually know about.  This is true even though you did not hire the seller’s real estate agent, and the agent does not represent you.  These adverse material facts may include such things as facts that relate to defects or issues with the title, the physical condition of the property, any material defects in the property, and any environmental hazards which may affect the property.

    For example, in a case decided by the Colorado Court of Appeals, the buyer alleged that the seller, who was a real estate agent, and the real estate agency, failed to disclose to the buyer that there was substantial hidden damage to the house’s foundation, and in fact, affirmatively represented that there was no damage to the foundation.  Baumgarten v. Coppage, 15 P.3d 304 (Colo.App. 2000).  Even though the seller and the seller’s real estate agent were not hired by the buyers, the court allowed the buyers to pursue a claim for damages against the seller and the seller’s real estate agent.  The claims were based on the plaintiff’s allegations that the seller and his agent failed to disclose to the buyers that there was a  defect that the seller knew about and failed to disclose.

    Have a question or comment? You can post by clicking on “Post a comment,” below.

    Friday
    Jan222016

    Is it OK for a Colorado Real Estate Agent to Refund a Commission?

    A refund, commonly referred to as a rebate, is an agreement between a client and a real estate broker where the real estate broker agrees to give back a portion of the real estate commission to the client after closing.

    Many states prohibit a real estate broker from refunding a commission on the basis that it may be an improper kick-back outside of closing or might be improperly used to fund the transaction.

    Colorado allows real estate agents to refund commissions to their clients.  It does not matter if the client is the buyer or the seller.  The Colorado Real Estate Commission's Position is as follows:

    In a listing contract, the broker is principal party to the contract and the consideration offered is the brokerage services. The broker may add to this consideration the payment of money to the property owner in order to secure the listing. This is not a violation of the License Law.

    Also, in a particular real estate transaction, the broker may pay a portion of commission to the unlicensed seller. This is merely a reduction in the amount of the earned commission and does not violate the License Law.

    Payment to the unlicensed purchaser is often referred to as “rebating” and the intention to pay money to the purchaser is sometimes advertised and promoted as a sales inducement. The payment to the purchaser in itself is not a violation of the License Law because the broker is licensed to negotiate and the purchaser may negotiate on their own account. . . .

    Gratuitous gifts to a purchaser subsequent to closing and not promised or offered as an inducement to buy would also be allowed.... 

    Several other states expressly prohibit rebating of commissions.  For a listing, click here:  http://www.justice.gov/atr/public/real_estate/states.html

    Have a question or a comment?  You can post it by clicking on the "post" below.

    Friday
    Jan222016

    Denver Zoning Districts and Denver Zoning Code

    In June of 2010, the City of Denver adopted a new zoning code. The new code replaced Denver’s existing code, which, after 53 years of patchwork changes, had become complicated, inconsistent, and unwieldy.

    The new code is focused on “form-based” rather than “use-based” zoning. “Form-based” codes reflect a relatively new theory of urban planning and attempt to maintain uniformity within districts or neighborhoods, as opposed to “use-based” codes which strive for uniformity in use (i.e. residential, commercial, industrial) but do not focus on the individual characteristics of neighborhoods.

    The new code divides Denver into several different zoning districts. Each district is identified by a series of letters. The first letter designates the “type” of neighborhood, for example “S” for suburban or “U” for urban. The second pair of letters designate the permissible building form within the neighborhood, for example “SU” for single family homes or “TU” for duplexes. The final number designates either the minimum zone lot size (for single family homes or duplexes) or the maximum building height (for all other building forms).

    The result of the new naming convention is generally uniformity and ease of use for those persons who are familiar with the code and utter bewilderment for everyone else. For example, unless a person is familiar with the code, it is difficult to comprehend the difference between areas zoned “U-TU-B” “U-SU-B1” “E-SU-D” and “U-RH-2.5.”

    While the new naming convention is initially difficult to comprehend, the difference between zoning districts can be crucial, especially for those persons considering purchasing and selling a home for the purpose of remodeling or “scraping.” The difference between “U-SU-B” “U-SU-B1” and “U-TU-B” can be the difference between re-developing a single family home, a single family home with a “carriage house” or “mother-in-law’s” apartment, or duplex on an existing lot. Adding to the confusion is the fact that different sides of the same street often have different zoning districts, especially in the urban zoned neighborhoods.

    If you are considering buying or selling property in Denver it is critical that you understand the new zoning code, both in your current neighborhood (if you are a seller) or any potential new neighborhood (if you are a buyer).

    If you are considering re-developing a piece of property in Denver, it is also vital that you understand the new code, as several areas have been “down zoned” meaning property previously zoned for a triplex or duplex is now zoned for a duplex or a single family home. However, the “down zoning” of some property does not mean that re-development or “scraping” is impossible in Denver – if you know the code.

    Gelman & Norberg has dedicated time to understanding the new code and will explain the new code so that you can make an informed selling, purchasing, or development decision.

    Contact Gelman & Norberg, LLC at (303) 740-8494 or firm@gelmannorberg.com with any questions.