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Arizona HOA Laws

Most Common Issues that Lead to HOA Litigation in Arizona

HOA litigation might not be as common as other types of business litigation, but claims against a homeowners association or planned community can be expensive and prolonged.  They can become a central focus for the board of directors and divisive for the community.  Our firm has represented hundreds of associations and planned communities in Arizona since our founding.  We put together an article on the most common issues that lead to HOA litigation in Arizona and what your association can do to avoid them.

Failure to Pay Assessments

The most common type of litigation is the collection of delinquent assessments.  When an owner purchases a property within an Arizona HOA, that owner becomes contractually obligated to pay the assessments when due. The assessments are also a lien on the property.  Each HOA should adopt a collections policy. If the owner does not pay, an association will usually send the case to a law firm like BLG to collect the unpaid assessments, and if necessary, file a lawsuit.

Violation Enforcement

The board of directors for an HOA is tasked with enforcing the association rules.  This generally includes the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) and bylaws.  Naturally, enforcing the rules with penalties and fines for violations can lead to disputes with members.  HOA litigation can arise from members that fail to accept penalties from the board and disputes about the validity of certain penalties.

Failure to Maintain Common Areas

There are many legitimate reasons that common areas in an association can create maintenance issues.  From a natural disaster to unexpected breakdowns, the board of directors can be caught off guard by serious maintenance challenges and these issues can quickly become a source of heated disputes with members in the community.  These maintenance issues can rise to HOA litigation if they are not resolved quickly and effectively.

Denying Member Requests

Denying member requests for their desired plans for their home and property creates the potential for legal disputes and HOA litigation.  It is also a necessary part of being on the board of directors for the association.  It is common for emotions to be heightened when a member feels their denied request was unjustified.  It is important for board members to understand this potential when reviewing member requests and be cognizant of this potential when crafting a denial for requests that violate governing rules.

Discrimination

Litigation related to discrimination is also common for HOAs and condo associations in Arizona.  All board members should be familiar with federal HOA laws that apply to their operations, like the and Fair Housing Act.  It is important to make sure your association has appropriate accommodations for any people with disabilities and stays vigilant against any discriminatory practices in leases, sales, and application of governing rules for the community.

Disputes Over Actions by Board of Directors

It is normal for members to take issue with some decision by the HOA board.  When these disputes over increased expenses or controversial decisions become contentious, they can lead to members suing the association to prevent these actions.  Many of these issues can be avoided by reviewing potentially controversial decisions with an Arizona HOA attorney.  They can make sure your actions are within the rights of the board of directors and follow state and federal laws.  This will not prevent every lawsuit, but it helps your board know they are following the appropriate process to make difficult decisions for the association.

HOA Election Issues

Close elections for the board of directors always have the potential for disputes.  Whether there are complaints about the election process or concerns from members about board members ability to do the job, these disputes can quickly escalate into time-consuming legal matters that are costly for the association.  Routine review of your association election process can give all members confidence in the process and discourage potential litigation.

HOA Pet Policies and Issues

Most people think of their pets as members of their family so it should not be a surprise that disputes with members over association pet policies can escalate into HOA litigation.  Many associations and planned communities assume their pet policy will be fine and they fail to make proactive efforts to get feedback from members on any potential issues or needs.  We put together an article on crafting an effective HOA pet policy in Arizona and how to make sure your association accommodates any support or service animals.

Tips to Avoid HOA Litigation in Arizona

Anyone can file a complaint in court against their association or planned community, but that does not mean it will be successful.  All HOAs need to have a plan in place to deal with contentious members and potential legal issues that arise.  While you cannot avoid all potential litigation, your association can take many proactive steps to protect the association as much as possible in the long term.  The simplest way to protect the association is routine review of your CC&Rs and bylaws with an experienced HOA law firm to make sure the governing rules are valid and enforceable.  As state and federal laws get updated, the governing rules might need changes.  Having experienced attorneys that specialize in representing associations also means you can leverage their expertise when potential problems arise.  Many common issues that lead to HOA litigation can be resolved appropriately before a lawsuit is filed.  Ignoring member issues or attempting to always squash small violations with excessive fines or penalties can cause the matter to escalate to litigation when it is not necessary. 

Get an Experienced HOA Attorney

Some associations and board members might feel that HOA litigation is something they will deal with when needed.  Proper planning and experienced legal representation can help your association avoid many matters rising to that level.  The Brown Law Group only represents Arizona homeowners associations and planned communities.  Our firm helps our clients keep their governing rules updated and enforceable.  We help associations keep operations as smooth and effective as possible, while addressing most potential legal matters before they become HOA litigation.  Contact our firm today at 602-952-6925 to schedule an initial consultation to review your HOA representation needs or make an appointment on our contact us page.

The Brown Law Group shares this article for informational purposes only, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Categories
Arizona HOA Laws

Can Your HOA Prohibit Short Term Rentals in Arizona?

As the popularity of short term rentals continues to grow, it is important for associations and planned communities to stay up to date on Arizona short term rental laws and how they apply to HOAs.  We put together this article as an update to our previous post on some of the most common questions we have received related to HOAs and short term rental laws in Arizona.

What tenant information can you request from a property landlord that you may suspect is renting their property?

A rental property in an Arizona HOA must comply with the requirements contained in the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). If rentals are permitted, tenants may only rent for the minimum period specified in the CC&R’s rental time period restrictions. An HOA can require the following information regarding the tenants: their names, contact information for any adults living in the unit, the time period of the lease (including the beginning and end dates), and the license plate numbers of the residents’ vehicles. In a 55+ community, the HOA can also require a government-issued identification with an image showing that tenant meets the age restriction requirements.

You discovered a property is being rented out. What information can you request about the tenant?

As a homeowners association in Arizona, you must follow specific rules and guidelines that protect the owner’s property values and shared community areas. HOAs are prohibited from requesting the following information from a landlord about its tenant:

  • Requiring a copy of the tenant rental application
  • Credit report
  • Lease agreement
  • Rental contract
  • Or any other personal information about any of the tenants residing on the property.

If your HOA does not have a template for tenant information requests, the board of directors should put together a simple breakdown of what details can and cannot be requested from the property owner regarding tenants. The Brown Law Group can assist with developing a standard template for the tenant information requests.

Can HOAs amend existing CC&Rs to restrict short term rentals in Arizona?

Arizona has taken a welcoming approach to short term rentals as a state that protects property rights and encourages tourism. The state, cities, and towns are forbidden from banning short-term rentals. Thus, short-term rentals are legal in any neighborhood within the state.

Any time period restriction must be in the CC&Rs. If your CC&Rs do not include a time period restriction and simply allow rentals, your HOA cannot prohibit short term rentals. To amend the CC&Rs to prohibit or restrict short term rentals, it is important to ensure that the amendment is carefully and thoughtfully drafted. It is important to have an attorney review the CC&Rs and draft the proposed language for the amendment to ensure that the amendment complies with Arizona law and will hold up to scrutiny if challenged.

Find an Experienced Arizona HOA Law Firm

If your HOA or planned community is dealing with issues related to short term rentals, it is important to work with an experienced Arizona HOA law firm. The Brown Law Group provides industry-leading general counsel for planned communities and condominiums of all types throughout Arizona. Our firm can assist with any issues related to short-term rentals in your association and help make sure that all policies and governing documents are following current state laws. Contact us today in our Phoenix office at 602-952-6925 or our Tucson office at 520-299-3377 to schedule an initial consultation. You can also make an appointment on our contact us page.

The Brown Law Group provided this article for informational purposes only, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Arizona HOA Laws

What are Federal HOA Laws and How Do They Impact Arizona HOAs?

Arizona has many state specific laws for planned communities and condominiums, but there are several overriding federal laws that apply to all HOAs.  All HOA board members and individual property owners should understand the federal HOA laws that apply to their association and how they impact operations in Arizona HOAs.

HOAs: Federal and State Laws

Homeowners associations in Arizona are governed by many state laws, including the Nonprofit Corporation Act, the Planned Community Act, and the Condominium Act.  There are also several federal laws which apply to Arizona HOAs. These federal laws are superior to state or local laws. That means, if the laws conflict, the federal law will take precedence. The federal laws will also take precedence over any confliction provision of the community’s governing document.

Federal Laws Governing the Operation of HOAs in Arizona

State authorities allow for the creation of associations and planned communities to ensure smooth running and maintenance of all the houses within that defined area. From maintenance to fee collection, the association is responsible for all governance and operation of that community detailed in the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs).  State laws include statutes that govern the HOA’s ability to file a lawsuit against an owner to collect delinquent HOA dues. For instance, if the homeowner owes more than $1200 to the HOA or the homeowner has not paid his or her dues in at least 12 months, the HOA can even pursue a lien foreclosure on the property.

Although HOAs do everything to make the area safe for homeowners, they might sometimes make unfair decisions. That’s why federal laws include a set of rules and restrictions that govern the operation of any HOAs in Arizona. Here are the main federal HOA laws all Arizona HOAs need to follow:

Arizona HOAs and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) impacts Arizona HOAs that have publicly accessible common areas and employees. The law was established in the 1990s to protect disabled people from discrimination at work, transportation, and public accommodations. The public accommodations include recreational areas, gyms, swimming pools, and other areas open to the general public. For any place to be considered a public accommodation, it must be accessible to the public, not just the HOA members. If the HOA is building a recreational spot or a pool in the area that is open to the general public, it must be built and maintained to ADA specifications for accessibility.  If the HOA’s amenities are not open to the general public, and only to its members and guests, the ADA will not apply.

Applying the Fair Housing Act as an HOA

The Fair Housing Act prevents discrimination in residential housing based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, familial status, or national origin. The law prohibits any HOA in Arizona from taking any action against a member based on their membership in a protected class.  Most people understand that overt discrimination is unacceptable and illegal.  However, there are many ways the Fair Housing Act can be violated unintentionally.  Issues most often arise when a disabled owner requests a reasonable accommodation to assist with a disability. It is important to forward all such requests to an Arizona HOA attorney to review the request. All HOA board members need to be familiar with the Fair Housing Act and generally aware of any potential violations related to discrimination.

What HOAs Need to Know about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Federal laws have established legal ways to collect debts. Association dues, assessments and other charges that homeowners owe to the HOA are considered valid and enforceable debts. HOAs are not considered debt collectors as long as the association collects the dues and assessment from their own members. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) does apply when an HOA utilizes an HOA law firm to collect those same debts. Attorneys and debt collectors appointed by the HOA must comply with the FDCPA while collecting dues from homeowners. These laws put restrictions on the language and collection techniques they can use when attempting to collect any debt for an HOA.

Freedom to Display the American Flag Act

The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act (FDAFA) is unique among the federal HOA laws because it speaks directly to associations and planned communities.  The 2005 Act made it illegal for any HOA to restrict the ability of residents and members of the community from displaying the American flag.  The FDAFA does allow reasonable restrictions on displaying the flag properly as defined by law and community rules on the time, place and manner that protects a substantial interest of the association members.

Benefits of Working with an Arizona HOA Law Firm

Arizona HOA board members need to understand the federal HOA laws and state HOA laws that govern the association.  Having a basic understanding of these federal laws and how they can impact your decisions helps guide board members, but any legal matter or issue with a member that delves into these laws should not be taken lightly.  Working with an Arizona HOA law firm that specializes in representing associations and planned communities means your association will know that your rules and regulations are in line with federal and state laws.  The Brown Law Group can help Arizona HOAs review any matters related to state and federal HOA laws.  Contact us today at 602-952-6925 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment for your association on our contact us page.

The Brown Law Group shares this article for informational purposes only and it does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Arizona HOA Laws

What Arizona HOAs Need to Know About HB2131 and Artificial Turf Laws in Planned Communities

It should come as no surprise to Arizona residents that the state needs to find ways to effectively conserve water.  This can be at odds with Arizona associations and planned communities that restricted members from replacing natural grass with artificial turf.  In response to some property owners that faced substantial fines from their HOA for installing artificial turf in their yard, Arizona passed HB2131 to establish laws that prevent HOAs from restricting members from replacing natural grass with artificial tur =if that HOA permits natural grass.  Here is what HOAs and members need to know about HB2131 and artificial turf laws in Arizona planned communities.

Debate on Water Usage and Artificial Turf in Arizona

The debate over appropriate measures for water conservation and sustainable growth in Arizona has been going on for decades.  However, the drought impacting the Southwest and some of the recent decisions regarding the Colorado river has made the issue more important than ever before.  For the first time ever in August 2021, the Bureau of Reclamation announced a water shortage at Lake Mead and mandatory water restrictions were put in place for Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.  The federal government agency’s plans to release less water this year has left Arizona cities and towns scrambling to find immediate ways to reduce water usage in their areas.

Natural grass lawns require a lot of water, especially in places as hot as the Phoenix valley.  Any areas where natural grass can be removed will cut down on water usage.  Installing artificial turf keeps the same aesthetic appeal without any need for water and maintenance.  One of the main problems is that artificial turf gets extremely hot during Arizona summers.  Recent studies have shown that artificial turf actually gets hotter than asphalt during the day so homeowners should not assume covering their whole yard in artificial grass is the perfect solution.

What is Arizona HB2131?

Governor Ducey signed HB2131 into law on March 30, 2022 to establish rules against banning artificial turf by associations and planned communities.  The bill faced substantial debate before being passed in the first Arizona legislative session of the year.  Here are the most important aspects of HB2131 for HOAs and association members to understand:

Planned communities in Arizona that allow natural grass on a member’s property cannot ban the installation or use of artificial turf on the property of any of its members. This new law does not apply to condominiums. 

Planned communities can adopt and enforce reasonable regulations regarding installation, aesthetics, and appearance of the artificial turf, as long as those rules do not prevent installing artificial turf the same way that natural grass is allowed by the community documents.

HB2131 affirms that planned communities can establish rules regarding the location on the property and the percentage of the property that can be covered with natural grass or artificial turf, as long as they are treated the same.

Planned communities can prohibit the installation of artificial turf in the following circumstances:

If the planned community has banned new installation of natural grass on member properties, it can also ban installation of artificial turf.  However, the HOA cannot deny a member from converting natural grass to artificial turf on their property.

If the area of the property is maintained or irrigated by the association in the governing documents, like a common area or front yard, the planned community can prohibit the installation of artificial turf.

For artificial turf, HOAs can require the following:

Remove and replace the artificial turf if it is not maintained according to the HOA’s maintenance standards.

Removal of the artificial turf that the member has already installed if that artificial turf creates any health or safety issues or hazards, especially if the member has not corrected the problem.

This law will not apply to any planned community with some unique vegetation or geologic characteristics that need preservation by the HOA. Those characteristics and features are enhanced, supported, or viably protected because of the natural landscaping materials that have continuously existed.

Handling Artificial Turf Laws as an Arizona HOA

When new laws pass that impact associations and planned communities specifically, it is advisable to review your covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) to make sure there are no rules that need to be updated.  If your community has debated how to handle landscaping issues like artificial turf or removal of natural grass, it is an important time to work with an HOA law firm to make sure your governing documents are not at odds with HB2131 and the new artificial turf laws in Arizona.  The Brown Law Group only represents associations and planned communities in Arizona.  Our experienced HOA attorneys can quickly review your governing documents and assess any required updates.  Contact us today at 602-952-6925 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment online here.

The Brown Law Group shares this article for informational purposes only and it does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Arizona HOA Board Members

What Templates Can Every Arizona HOA Utilize To Be More Effective?

Being a board member of an Arizona HOA involves lots of work. Plus it’s an unpaid volunteer position! Effectiveness is proactively addressing issues before they become problems and finding simple and methodical procedures that use existing assets and valuable templates to get the job done right.  There is always plenty of work for the Association to handle with sending out violation letters, planning agendas, distributing meeting minutes, vendor management, and community walk-throughs. The Association need not delegate duplicative work tasks to the Directors. Maintaining consistency and reducing project time is one of the main advantages of using HOA templates. While each community has to review their specific needs, there are a few templates every Arizona HOA should make sure they can utilize to make their job easier.

Add Efficiency and Clarity with an Arizona HOA Agenda and Arizona HOA Meeting Minutes Template

Clear communication with all members is one of the best ways to improve HOA operations and make your life easier as an HOA board member.  Get the most from your meetings by having a detailed HOA agenda template and an Arizona HOA meeting minutes template. Having these templates ready and pre-populated whenever possible will yield tremendous efficiency and significant time savings. Both the agenda and meeting minutes should follow a similar format. This will help ensure clear communication with your HOA members.

By doing a little bit of preplanning and properly developing a template for your Arizona HOA agenda, your association will be perceived as organized, informed, and genuinely in touch with the community’s needs. Additionally, it will let all members know where the meeting will take place and detail the key discussion points at that upcoming meeting.  A solid template makes it easier to update for all future meetings as early as possible, which naturally leads to better engagement from the community as a whole. The templates can eliminate the natural temptation to procrastinate because most of the details will be completed and set up for your association. Good meeting minutes start with a detailed agenda.

Here are some simple guidelines to ensure you get the most from an Arizona HOA meeting minute template:

Keep Records of Board Actions, Not All Conversations

  • Conversations such as “he said, she said” should be omitted from minutes.
  • The minutes must contain any votes (decisions) of the board.
  • Homeowners need to know that all meetings are structured and there will be an appropriate time for each topic.

Generally Keep Things Simple

  • Minutes are the official record of the HOA
  • During a lawsuit, minutes are discoverable.
  • Minutes should not include individual opinions.
  • A board meeting’s minutes should typically be less than two pages if done correctly.
  • Executive meeting minutes should be kept separately from open meeting minutes.

Arizona HOA Violation Letter Templates and Common Uses

All HOAs have unique expectations, but there are some common violations where an Arizona HOA violation letter template can be used effectively. Upon a breach, a manager or board member should have an Arizona HOA violation notice template prepared.  This makes it easy to send an HOA violation notice requesting the owner rectify the violation. Any Arizona HOA violation notice should contain the owner’s name, lot number, when the offense was noticed, who witnessed the offense, a deadline for compliance, the provision of the governing documents that was violated, and any additional details explaining the right to appear before the board. Contact information for the managers, board members, or association representatives should be included as well.

In most cases, if the violation has not been resolved by the compliance deadline, the next step will be to send a formal HOA violation letter explaining the fines that will be assessed to the owner. This letter must also provide an opportunity to be heard.

Here are some of the most common violations that could utilize an Arizona HOA violation letter template:

Guidelines for HOA Landscaping

Most associations will have clear rules about lawn maintenance, weeding, and unkempt exteriors to improve curb appeal throughout the community.  There are also many common reasons that homeowners might fall behind on their landscaping upkeep.  A simple violation notice template for landscaping issues to serve as a reminder of the rules and fines the member faces if the issues are not addressed is usually all that is needed to get the homeowner to correct the issue.

Vehicle Parking

Most Arizona HOAs have rules and regulations to limit the number and type of vehicles parked on the property, such as RVs, boats, and commercial vehicles.  It is also common for individual homeowners to simply forget about these rules.  This is a perfect example of a useful template violation letter that can be quickly prepared and sent out to any member in violation.

Trash Codes Not Followed

An HOA may prohibit certain items from being disposed of in community dumpsters or placing trash cans out before garbage collection.  This is a common violation and can be addressed effectively in most cases with a straightforward violation letter template.

Structures & Storage for the Exterior

HOAs can often limit or completely deny equipment or storage structures on community properties to maintain a neighborhood’s appearance. While there are a variety of ways that individual members might violate the rules around unapproved structures or storage, many of these issues can be properly addressed with a template violation letter detailing the violation and the deadline for compliance.

Pets

Arizona HOAs can establish rules on the types of pets, breeds and number of pets allowed on individual properties.  They must be aware of certain support animals that must be allowed by Arizona HOAs, but all other pet violations can be addressed in a template letter that references the specific bylaws on pet limitations.

Leasing and Subleasing

HOAs typically have guidelines about renting a home.  With the growing popularity of short term rentals in Arizona, HOA board members will want to understand the evolving laws in this particular area.  We posted a previous article on what Arizona HOAs need to know about short term rentals.  This area of violations likely requires a review of your community bylaws and state laws with an experienced Arizona HOA law firm, but you can prepare some notices so the whole community is aware of your rules and regulations.

From the start, most new board members quickly learn that a community association board demands their attention and effort. To make sure those efforts are productive and beneficial, you want to work with an Arizona law firm specializing in association representation that can help you develop HOA violation letter templates and understand when to use them. HOAs can also create templates for board meeting agendas and meeting minutes that will make it easier to communicate with the whole community and document the process.  The Brown Law Group only represents Arizona associations and planned communities. We can handle HOA general counsel needs, covenants enforcement, assessment collections, and any litigation that might arise. Contact us today at 602-952-6925 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment on our contact us page.

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Arizona HOA Board Members

How Arizona HOA Board Members Can Create and Maintain Effective Covenant Enforcement

Homeowners’ associations and board members have a central purpose of building and maintaining a community that members enjoy living in.  The main driving force of that structure of community is the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) that establish the rules that the members must follow. In most cases, the Board of Directors also has the authority to adopt additional rules, regulations, and policies. By purchasing a home in the community, all members are on notice of the rules, and agree to follow them. Board members have a responsibility to make sure these rules and regulations are clearly and fairly enforced.  An HOA that fails to enforce the covenants will quickly find a growing list of serious issues.  Any board that selectively enforces the rules, whether it’s regarding certain people or certain rules, will likely lose the confidence of members as well.  To help make sure your association is focused on the right things, we put together a guide on how Arizona HOA board members can create and maintain effective covenant enforcement.

How Can an Arizona HOA Enforce Rules?

For any HOA board to be effective they must understand how an Arizona HOA can enforce rules.  All associations should adopt an enforcement and fine policy that lays out the process for enforcement. There are some standard options and processes available to any HOA to address members that violate the rules:

  • Standard Warning Notices – Arizona HOAs are required to provide proper written notice of any violations to the member(s) in question. To simply and expedite this process, it is important to have some standard templates in place.  It is advisable to work with an HOA attorney on these warning templates and review individual infractions to make sure they are addressed correctly.  The enforcement and fine policy should allow deviation from the standard process when appropriate, for example severe violations.
  • Imposing A Penalty – If any association member violates the rules and guidelines stated in the governing documents, the board members should be prepared to issue fines for non-compliance after the appropriate opportunity to cure the violation has passed. Arizona law provides that fines must be reasonable. The enforcement and fines policy should include presumptive fines for run of the mill violations, but also provide factors for the board to evaluate when determining the fine for less standard violations. For members that continue to violate the rules, it might even be necessary to restrict their rights and community privileges, if allowed by the governing documents.

  • Help from an HOA Attorney– If penalties do not get a member to comply with the rules, the association might be forced to pursue legal action. The Brown Law Group offers an enforcement letter program that is very successful in getting owners to comply.

  • Contact Police – Board members can only take enforcement so far and should never put themselves at risk. If a violation escalates to illegal and/or dangerous acts, then it is always appropriate to report the matter to the police and allow the justice system to take the lead.  Some matters simply must be handled by the appropriate authorities to avoid escalation and unnecessary risk to any other members.  Criminal charges against a member can make the process of dealing with their violations easier as well.

More Effective Covenant Enforcement with an Arizona HOA Law Firm

It can be complicated and time-consuming to create enforceable covenants, clearly communicate those to community members, develop a process for addressing violations, and follow through with prompt enforcement actions against any violations.  One of the most effective ways to make sure your homeowners’ association is handling all the details of covenant enforcement correctly is to work with an HOA law firm that specializes in HOA representation.  The Brown Law Group only represents associations and planned communities in Arizona.  Our firm can assist with every detail of covenant enforcement. The Brown Law Group can assist with preparing an effective enforcement and fines policy. Contact us today at 602-952-6925 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment on our website here.

The Brown Law Group shares this article for informational purposes only and it does not create an attorney-client relationship.