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LEGAL TERMS

USUFRUCT

The right to use property -- or income from property -- that is owned by another.

EXCULPATORY CLAUSE

A provision in a lease that absolves the landlord from responsibility for all damages, injuries or losses occurring on the property, including those caused by t... (more...)
A provision in a lease that absolves the landlord from responsibility for all damages, injuries or losses occurring on the property, including those caused by the landlord's actions. Most states have laws that void exculpatory clauses in rental agreements, which means that a court will not enforce them.

COOLING-OFF RULE

A rule that allows you to cancel a contract within a specified time period (typically three days) after signing it. Federal cooling-off rules apply this three-d... (more...)
A rule that allows you to cancel a contract within a specified time period (typically three days) after signing it. Federal cooling-off rules apply this three-day grace period to sales made door-to-door and anywhere other than a seller's normal place of business, such as at a trade show. Another federal cooling-off rule lets you cancel a home improvement loan or second mortgage within three days of signing. Various states have cooling-off rules that sometimes apply even longer cancellation periods to specific types of sales, such as dancing lessons and timeshares.

DEMURRER

A request made to a court, asking it to dismiss a lawsuit on the grounds that no legal claim is asserted. For example, you might file a demurrer if your neighbo... (more...)
A request made to a court, asking it to dismiss a lawsuit on the grounds that no legal claim is asserted. For example, you might file a demurrer if your neighbor sued you for parking on the street in front of her house. Your parking habits may annoy your neighbor, but the curb is public property and parking there doesn't cause any harm recognized by the law. After a demurrer is filed, the judge holds a hearing at which both sides can make their arguments about the matter. The judge may dismiss all or part of the lawsuit, or may allow the party who filed the lawsuit to amend its complaint. In some states and in federal court, the term demurrer has been replaced by 'motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim' (called a '12(b)(6) motion' in federal court) or similar term.

VARIANCE

An exception to a zoning ordinance, usually granted by a local government. For example, if you own an oddly shaped lot that could not accommodate a home in acco... (more...)
An exception to a zoning ordinance, usually granted by a local government. For example, if you own an oddly shaped lot that could not accommodate a home in accordance with your city's setback requirement, you could apply at the appropriate office for a variance allowing you to build closer to a boundary line.

BREACH OF CONTRACT

A legal claim that one party failed to perform as required under a valid agreement with the other party. For example you might say, 'The roofer breached our con... (more...)
A legal claim that one party failed to perform as required under a valid agreement with the other party. For example you might say, 'The roofer breached our contract by using substandard supplies when he repaired my roof.'

MARITAL DEDUCTION

A deduction allowed by the federal estate tax laws for all property passed to a surviving spouse who is a U.S. citizen. This deduction (which really functions a... (more...)
A deduction allowed by the federal estate tax laws for all property passed to a surviving spouse who is a U.S. citizen. This deduction (which really functions as an exemption) allows anyone, even a billionaire, to pass his or her entire estate to a surviving spouse without any tax at all.

EMINENT DOMAIN

The power of the federal or state government to take private property for a public purpose, even if the property owner objects. The Fifth Amendment to the Unite... (more...)
The power of the federal or state government to take private property for a public purpose, even if the property owner objects. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution allows the government to take private property if the taking is for a public use and the owner is 'justly compensated' (usually, paid fair market value) for his or her loss. A public use is virtually anything that is sanctioned by a federal or state legislative body, but such uses may include roads, parks, reservoirs, schools, hospitals or other public buildings. Sometimes called condemnation, taking or expropriation.

FINDER'S FEE

A fee charged by real estate brokers and apartment-finding services in exchange for locating a rental property. These fees are permitted by law. Some landlords,... (more...)
A fee charged by real estate brokers and apartment-finding services in exchange for locating a rental property. These fees are permitted by law. Some landlords, however, charge finder's fees merely for renting a place. This type of charge is not legitimate and, in some areas, is specifically declared illegal.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

Auster v. Norwalk United Methodist Church

... Id. Although there was no written lease agreement between Salinas and the defendant, the Appellate Court likened the relationship between them to that of landlord and tenant, and observed that, according to its decision in Stokes v. Lyddy, 75 Conn.App. ...

19 PERRY ST. v. UNIONVILLE WATER

... contemplated in paragraph six, as "a more obvious example of a substantial reduction in water consumption is difficult to contemplate." Moreover, the trial court found no obligation imposed, either by statute, in case law or contractually, that the plaintiff, as landlord, had an ...

Sproviero v. JM Scott Associates, Inc.

... GRUENDEL, LAVINE and PELLEGRINO, Js. PELLEGRINO, J. The present case arises from a lease dispute between the tenant plaintiffs, Luciano Sproviero and Anthony Bernardo, and the landlord defendant, JM Scott Associates, Inc. ...