Amid COVID-19, Are Real Estate Matters Moving Forward?

As COVID-19 unleashed a health crisis on an international scale, an economic crisis has also occurred and has impacted every single Californian/American. While COVID-19’s stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements are still in place in Southern California, questions concerning legal matters have continued well through March, April, and May, 2020. These are some of the most frequently asked questions:

Question: Are estate real estate matters moving forward?

Answer: Yes, the real estate industry managed to quickly adjust to new guidelines and measures in order to avoid interruptions. Here are a few issues and matters that have come across our desks the last few months:

  • My landlord is not providing much financial relief during COVID-19. I have lost my job and wasn’t able to pay rent the last two months and is now threatening eviction. Can he do that? What can I do?
  • I’m in the process of buying a house but was presented with a new Coronavirus CAR form. Are you familiar with that? Can you help explain?
  • I need my contract reviewed. My landlord is amending the lease amid COVID-19 and is adding new protections and releases from liability. Do I have to sign this agreement amendment?
  • I’m selling a property and the buyers want an extension to the escrow process as there have been delays in having them sell their house. Can you help navigate the process?
  • I’m acting as a trustee in a trust administration amid COVID-19 and need to sell a house. Is this a good time to sell?
  • I’m buying an investment commercial property and need help with the buying process as well as help establishing an upcoming landlord-tenant relationship with my prospective tenants. Can you help?
  • Our organization is receiving a property from a non-profit organization.  They are out of state. Can you help  us with the process?
  • A friend of mine and I purchased a property together a few years ago. Now we want to go our separate ways, but I want to keep the property. Can you help?
  • My spouse lost their job and I don’t think we can continue with our mortgage responsibilities. Can you help us with some options?
  • I’m looking to protect myself when purchasing a new investment property. Can you help?
  • I currently own seven different investment properties. With stay-at-home orders, we are concerned a tenant will have habitability issues. We’ll need some guidance. Can you help?
  • Our HOA has imposed new regulations amid COVID-19 which I believe are excessive and are not really necessary in light of COVID-19. What can be done?
  • With stay-at-home measures in place, our condominium has experienced more people at home and thus more use of utilities. Those utilities are impacting my home and causing damage. Whose responsibility is it to repair?
  • My homeowner’s association has called me in to an HOA hearing via Zoom. Is that legal? Can I delay my appearance? What are my options?

Clearly these are paraphrased but this is a brief, incomplete list of the legal inquiries that have come through this law firm amid COVID-19. Some have experienced urgent real estate law needs amid COVID-19 while others needed general guidance for months-long processes.  If you need help with real estate law matters, call in and let’s determine how this office can help.

Selling Arts & Crafts Depicting Famous Faces & Characters. Can You Do It?

With Comic-Con International 2016 right around the corner (July 20-24 including preview night) in San Diego, I am sharing a question that comes up quite often in my practice in Business and Intellectual Property Law. The question, often involving famous comic characters and celebrities, goes something like this –

Q: I created an art piece for my grandson that contains a famous cartoon character on it. Can I sell these to others since I made them? I am interested in selling them online in marketplaces like eBay and Etsy for profit.

The question also involves artwork and crafts including celebrities, sports athletes, and other famous characters. Without knowing it, the asking party just asked a very complicated question as this simple inquiry triggers various area of the law including:

  • copyright law
  • business law
  • first amendment rights (under certain circumstances)
  • privacy laws (under certain circumstances)
  • publicity rights (under certain circumstances)
  • cyberspace laws
  • and more

This simple question requires plenty of legal analysis to fully provide an answer and a recommendation. However, for the sake of brevity, it is generally unlawful to use the image of a famous cartoon character to generate your own products for commercial sale. But let’s consider things further.

Let’s assume that the drawing is such a success with your grandson that you decide you’re going to use it for use with your online store in a well-known marketplace and will also use it for marketing purposes for your business. Upon using the image for commercial purposes, you’re exposing yourself to liability for unlawfully using a person’s liking or a person’s copyrighted work without permission. If you make 1 single sale in a private setting, you open yourself for exposure. However, from a practical perspective, it’s very unlikely that the Marvel brand or large company will pursue a claim. On the other hand, if you wind up being the next big thing on the market thanks to the you should expect a lawsuit for damages. Other things to consider are how you’re using the work, whether you transformed the image in any way, and many other factors.

If you have a similar question like the one above you should speak with an intellectual property attorney before proceeding to fully analyze your question and determine whether to move forward with your plans. Factors analyzed include:

  • what image are you using?
  • is the work protected y copyright registration?
  • did you ask for permission from the creator?
  • if the work involves a person, does the person know about your use?
  • where did you get your image from?
  • did you copy the image or transform it in any way?
  • what are you using it for?
  • are you engaging in private sales or commercial sales?
  • other questions depending upon your circumstances

Note that this type of question is complex and requires serious factual analysis.