Safety for Documents

Artists in Business

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These articles were prepared for the February 7,

2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Landlords and Tenants Square Off for Eviction

The volatile area of eviction and foreclosure seems

burdened with more than its share of conflicting mandates. Verbal

confrontation might lead to a physical ones. Legislators and their

muscle, the police, therefore will do anything to avoid

lead-pipe-to-the

skull solutions and replace such confrontations with avenues less

violent.

Attorney Brian J. Mulligan insists that, if followed wisely,

New Jersey eviction laws are not a Byzantine unworkable labyrinth.

Mulligan will discuss the latest Supreme Court rulings and will unfold

eviction (and avoidance) strategies when he addresses an all day

workshop

of the National Business Institute on Thursday, February 8, at 8:30

a.m. at the Palmer Inn. Cost: $184. Call 609-989-5002.

Mulligan, 38, began as a tenant on the Isle of Manhattan later growing

up in north Jersey. A graduate of Temple University and Fordham Law

School, he has worked with Sterns & Weinroth in Trenton for the last

14 years. Mulligan and his partners handle the trials and tribulations

of several large-scale renting agencies for both residential and

commercial

properties. He has seen all the scams and knows all the foils.

Typically, Mulligan says, the entire eviction process runs swifter

and with less problem than thought. A tenant defaulting on only one

month’s rent entitles the landlord to file for a dispossess notice.

At this point the judge sets a short hearing date. There the landlord

merely testifies that the tenant hasn’t paid, and perhaps flops an

unpaid ledger before the court. "Usually, the tenant," says

Mulligan, "doesn’t have the money and won’t even show up at court.

Thus the Order to Dispossess is automatic."

The landlord then can serve the tenant with this notice. The notice

takes approximately two months to obtain, but once served, the tenant

has 10 days to vacate. If the tenant hides, the landlord simply turns

the Dispossess Order over to the county sheriff. "He very

effectively

will do your dirty work," says Mulligan.

But here’s where the tar gets sticky. On March 31 when the sheriff

finally shows up truncheon and Dispossess Order in hand, the tenant

can flash all, or in some cases even part of, January’s rent in his

face and the whole case fades away. All the notices, time, trips to

court for January’s rent don’s count. The landlord must begin efforts

totally anew to get February’s rent — which is already nearly

two months late!

"This chase can go on forever," says Mulligan. "Tenants

can feed in just enough money to keep the sheriff away and the

landlord

jumping to play catchup. The laws ever buy time for the tenants."

The tenant holds other arrows in his quiver which can stave off the

inevitable — some sensible, moral, and legal; some not.

First and best, if the tenant knows cash is going to flow

to a trickle this month, see the landlord before the due date .

"Usually, all I need is some glimmer of hope that this month is

not the start of an endless cycle," says Cliff Newcomer, president

of Bordentown’s Lincoln Management Company, an apartment house

management

firm. This, alas, is the most obvious and least tried method.

Sneak out at midnight . A greater favorite among

businesses,

this makes you liable for non-payment of rent with a plethora of

fines.

But your chance of being caught, as many tent-folding E-commerce firms

have learned, is not very high. "California," says Mulligan,

"is renowned for see-through buildings and unpaid landlords."

Counter-attack . If his apartment is uninhabitable due

to some major condition, the renter can sue the landlord for cash

awards. This is not a rent strike, which is illegal. Nor can the flaw

be minor. A loose railing or peeling paint won’t cut it. No heat,

utilities, huge leaks or a foot-deep river of cockroaches might work

for a residence. Businesses might add noise or inadequate parking.

(A new Jazzercize gym tenant next door to one’s office has been known

to work.)

"It never ceases to amaze me," smiles Mulligan, "how

building problems magically multiply when a tenant’s cash becomes

tight. We fought one tenant up in Bergen County who began suing his

landlord immediately after his contract with AT&T fell through. He

accused us of poor air quality, causing employee headaches, inadequate

heat, even poor kitchen facilities." But in the end Mulligan sued

for rent non-payment and won.

Mulligan and his client won because the landlords hold a not unworthy

arsenal on their side.

Record Keeping. The first and best tool: keep written

track not only of all meetings and conversations and the date your

tenant defaulted, but all those things you have done right — e.g.

each service call. Mulligan’s victory over the Bergen County renter

came when he was able to produce repair bills for each tenant

complaint.

The Lease. Standard leases hold few tenant loopholes,

whether for non-payment, destruction or improper (tenant-disturbing)

behavior. Yet it doesn’t hurt to review the lease, particularly for

the behavior clauses. Time and the law stand also firmly on your side,

even if public sympathies may not.

Verbal Warnings. The landlord at the door sends a mighty

chill through most tenants and sets them scrambling for cash. However,

pleads Mulligan, be very, very careful here. The law is not on your

side for anything more than a polite request. "In short,"

he says, "the landlord’s options for self-help in gaining his

rent are very limited." If you raise a hand, forcibly take office

furniture or turn off the heat, you can kiss your rent goodbye.

For commercial properties, the Order to Dispossess process works

roughly

the same. But Mulligan hastens to note that the commercial renter

should hope for much less judicial mercy. Settlements, while seldom

legally mandated, are frequent. Better some rent than none.

Condos entail a wealth of legal bindings and thus afford a wealth

of suits — most settled out of court. Typically, the condo owner

cannot and will not pay the fixed maintenance fee and the various

added improvement assessments. "It is worth the owner’s

while,"

says Mulligan, "to challenge such random assessments. Frequently

the top floor owners get charged for roof repair . . . the condo owner

owns only from the sheet rock in. She is not more or less responsible

for roof repair than the first floor resident."

Interestingly, the association can fine you $150 a day and more, but

they cannot evict an owner. It is, after all, yours; until of course

they put a lien on your dwelling.

Freedom of expression, the other source of condo association/owner

disputes is less likely to bend for the owner. You may want to put

up a clothesline, but, at the same time, you have, upon purchase,

granted your owners association the right to "make laws concerning

the esthetic environment."

Further, the state’s Department of Community Affairs has overseen

the association’s charter. Your odds of victory stretch as slim as

that clothesline.

Mulligan reiterates that the process of evicting a truly deadbeat

tenant, while potentially frustrating, remains not at all impossible.

And generally, Justice remains blinder than many popular rumors would

have us believe.

A tenant can be evicted in mid-winter. No law affords seasonal amnesty

once the sheriff has the Dispossess Order. Typically, if the weather

is so miserable that even his deputies grumble about going out, he

may afford the delinquent tenant an extra day. But when the hurricane

blows over, out they go.

Age, number of children, physical and fiscal impairments will not

prevent eviction. It may, Mulligan notes, "sway the judge in

working

out a settlement, but it will not dispense with the debt." The

judge may refer a tenant with these problems to the Welfare Department

and rent assistance may be given. (If you are a landlord, and if the

state takes over responsibility for the rent, this could be a good

thing. The rent checks come straight from the state every month.)

Finally, the New Jersey State Supreme Court is reviewing, subject

to comment, several amendments to current renter/landlord legislation.

If favorably reviewed, all future renter/landlord settlements would

demand a certificate of settlement. "Basically," Mulligan

says, "this would demand that each party’s lawyer demonstrate

how he earned his fee when the renter and landlord settle. This way

the loser, frequently stuck with the court costs, would not be subject

to an unfair price gouge."

Impressive: a law that gives equal benefit and protection to both

landlord and renter. Seems as if Justice, while blind, has a little

heart after all.

— Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Safety for Documents

There was a time when data storage meant finding that

one guy who had been with the company 50 years, and having him root

around in the basement until he emerged, dusty and triumphant, holding

the right file, but from the wrong year. Those dreaded words, "The

system? It’s all up here," accompanied by a tap of the forehead,

struck fear into many hearts back then. Marvin Parker, general

manager of DocuSafe in Robbinsville, says that data storage and

retrieval systems have come a long way since then. He will speak on

his company’s capabilities at the Princeton Council on Thursday,

February

8, at 8 a.m. at the Princeton Hyatt.

"It’s a lot more than just storage," Parker says. "Yes,

we are a commercial record archive data storage center. But our

standard

is that is we store, pick-up, and deliver. Our advanced computer

system

tracks every item’s history. We can tell you when an item was

originally

placed, when it was taken out, by which department of your company,

and when it was returned. We can issue you a tracking report. We’ve

done time studies that show we can find any document and hold it for

you in about six minutes. We can scan the barcodes of the shelving,

the items, and see that it’s Box 345, and go right to it."

DocuSafe, a division of the moving company Bohren’s, has been around

for 13 years. In addition to the site in Robbinsville, there is also

a facility in Florida. Its customers range from Fortune 100s to

individual

small businesses. Items come in a variety of forms: paper records,

microfilm, microfiche, VHS tapes, DLT (very high density) tapes, DAT

tapes, and optical disks.

In the Princeton area, quite a lot of business comes from the clinical

research organizations (CROs), and the pharmaceutical organizations.

"So much of their data truly is critical, for legal purposes,"

Parker explains. "If you put a drug on the market, you want to

know that you have the back-up information that supports all of the

research, and you want to be able to pull it out if there’s ever a

court case. The CROs can show what their tests shows, the studies.

And they can show that they are diligent by saying it’s in a fireproof

vault. Most of the CROs in the area use our vault. We also have a

lot of medical records. X-rays are being stored in the vault."

Parker offers these tips if you are looking to store your critical

data:

Look for a state-of-the art facility. "We built a

new 120,000 square foot building, just a little over a year ago. We

had the facility specifically designed for what we do. Most of our

competitors are using older, general all-purpose buildings. Ours is

designed just for record storage. It is designed to be seismically

solid — most people don’t realize that central New Jersey is

actually

a seismic zone 2. The shelving’s also seismically engineered, and

will meet fire codes everywhere in the United Sates. This is always

a concern after the 1997 Iron Mountain fire, which burned up a million

and a half boxes."

Make sure that your most critical data is safe. "We

use the only true fireproof vault on the market today — the

Firelock

Data security vault. The insulating core of the Firelock wall is filed

with the same material used in the heat-shielding tile on the NASA

space shuttle. It will not burn, and it is completely inert. It

contains

no moisture, so no moisture will enter the vault chamber if there

were a fire."

The traditional concrete vault is porous and contains water, he says,

so if there’s a fire, the moisture will wick to the interior as steam

at 212 degrees.

Parker’s fire suppression system uses FM 200 in contrast to other

gases that were unsafe to breathe and damaging to the environment.

"FM 200 is the same gas as is used in an asthma inhaler. It leaves

no residue to damage anything, and reacts chemically to the fire to

keep it from burning."

Determine the shelf-life of your materials. A DLT tape,

which is a high density storage medium, is said by the manufacturer

to last for five years before it begins to degrade. "If you store

that tape in our vault, which is temperature and humidity controlled

— always 30 percent humidity and 68 degrees — we will extend

that life to 15 years."

"Our vault is magnetically shielded as well. There is a

environmental

control panel: thermostat and a humidistat and a chart encoder that

charts temperature and humidity 24 hours a day, seven days a week,

52 weeks a year. Clients can pull those charts if they need to prove

that their materials are being kept properly — with the date

on the chart.

Look for a top-flight security system. Our facility is

manned and alarmed. We have outdoor perimeter cameras, and indoor

security cameras. Everyone signs in; no one gets in to the archive

without being accompanied. All access has to be authorized by

signature."

What’s to prevent an imposter from driving up with a truck and forging

a signature? "We must be notified in advance if you are coming

in personally, instead of having us deliver."

Two organizations offer information on the latest technology:

American National Standards Institute (ANSI) tells what the standards

are and does studies on the most modern storage systems. Both ARMA

(Association of Records Management Administrators) and PRISM

(Professional

Records and Information Services Management) fund such studies.

Parker, who has worked for DocuSafe for five years, admits that not

all the data stored in the archives is high-tech. "We have clients

who stored just one box — the original manuscript to the book

they have written. And until recently we had all the records of the

Pullman company. The whole company history back to the Civil War —

old leather bound hand-written ledgers. They are now in a museum.

But today, you have to do a whole lot more than just storage. You

need to do a lot of management. Once the clients understand our

capabilities,

they really use it."

— David McDonough

Top Of Page
Artists in Business

Artists fall into any number of subcategories. They

may be operatic tenors, banjo players, sculptors, poets specializing

in the epic form, dancers, or mimes. But whatever the specialty,

whatever

the talent, most artists have one thing in common. Most also are

entrepreneurs.

To succeed, most artists need to market their work, a thing that is

hardly distinct from themselves.

On the whole, however, artists hate the idea that they are in

business,

says Susan Schear, owner of Artisin, an Oradell, New

Jersey-based

business that teaches artists how to market themselves. Schear, along

with Pat Kettenring, director of Rutgers’ Business and the Arts

division, leads a series of seminars to help artists develop effective

business personas. Sponsored by Mercer County Community College and

held at the Urban Word Cafe in Trenton, "How to Market Yourself

and Your Art," the first of three seminars on the subject is

Saturday,

February 10, at 9 a.m. Cost: $10 for one session, $25 for all three.

Call 609-586-9446.

Schear, a graduate of Rutgers (Class of 1978), started her business

in 1995. A former account manager for Waterford Crystal, Schear had

many friends in the arts. "I realized every time I talked with

them I was helping," by passing along suggestions for marketing

that came from her corporate experience. "I realized there was

a need."

Artists, says Schear, find it difficult to focus on their work as

a business. "Their passion is to get the work out," she says.

And while marketing an ability to write a soaring musical score, or

to capture a sunset in watercolors, has much in common with selling

widgets, there are key differences.

Most would-be business owners go out and assess the market before

developing a product, Schear says, but an artist can’t think of the

market when she is creating. The work generally comes first, and the

marketing needs to follow. Schear gives this marketing advice to

artists:

Position yourself. One of Schear’s clients makes custom

designed clothes, often for brides and their bridesmaids. "She

told me she wants to use silk," Schear recounts. The artist likes

the feel and look of silk, but has had some pressure from clients

who want her to use polyester instead. "Part of how you will be

known is that you work in silk, not polyester," Shear says of

the advice she gave this client.

Establishing a persona is important for an artist, Schear says, and

may involve saying no to performing in a certain venue, selling for

too low a price, or taking on a project that does not feel right.

Set goals. Many artists say they want to be a success,

but "what does that mean?" Schear asks. It is important that

artists define what success means to them. It may be making enough

to work full time as an artist, or consistently selling pieces of

sculpture for $1,000, or playing Carnegie Hall. Whatever the goals,

it is important to write them down and to be specific.

Deal with rejection. The best way to overcome the

rejection

that inevitably comes to all artists, Schear says, is to think about

why a person buys — or does not buy — art. Most often, she

says, it is not personal. "They may not have the money," Shear

says of potential customers. "They may not have the background

to appreciate the art, it may the wrong color or size, they may not

like the frame." The number of reasons for a turndown are

infinite.

"Who is your competition?" is a question Schear asks artists.

While they most frequently cite other artists, she says, the truth

is that "Blockbuster Video is your competitor, the Super Bowl

is your competitor."

Figure out where your art fits. Artists who draw nudes

may never sell to the corporate market, Schear says. And artists who

play jazz may never find a warm reception at venues that cater to

18 year olds. Knowing which audiences will be most receptive to your

art is the key to marketing wisely. In doing this research, think

of the whole range of possible customers, Schear says, ticking off

"juried shows, restaurants, street fairs, colleges, public

schools,

studios, architects, very high end florists or salons." Even

doctors

offices could be possible targets. Those nudes that local corporations

reject could well find a home in doctors’ offices, Schear suggests.

Be professional. Marketing materials, from cover letter

through performance tape or portfolio, should be well thought out,

carefully crafted, and cohesive, Schear says. This advice applies

to websites, too. Artists who want to promote their work worldwide,

sell online, or offer galleries an easy way to see their art could

benefit from a website. Schear cautions, however, that websites need

to fit into an overall marketing plan, using the same style and logo

as other materials, and probably should be designed by a professional.

— Kathleen McGinn Spring


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