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by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 21, 2014 at 2:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. I saw one of those real estate TV shows the other day where the buyers were allowed to live in the house for several days before they completed the purchase. It was a great way to test drive the house if you will. Is it possible to arrange this on a purchase in the Arlington area?

A. Technically, it is possible to occupy a property before closing in Northern Virginia. In fact, there is even a standard form for such an event, called the Purchaser’s Pre-Settlement Occupancy Agreement. I can understand why a “test drive” sounds like a good idea to a purchaser, but pre-settlement occupancy is not for that purpose and it is rarely agreed to by sellers.

Sellers and listing agents recognize that it is standard practice for purchasers to request various inspections as part of the buying process. They have gotten used to the risk of pulling their listing from the active real estate market so purchasers can proceed with processing of their loan and inspections. But, it’s unlikely that they are going to agree to someone moving in before the sale is complete to make sure they still want the home.

Less than 1 percent of home purchase contracts in Northern Virginia include a pre-settlement occupancy agreement. The ones that do, usually entail a purchaser who was going to be homeless due to a delayed closing. It was not in place to further test the home. When I’ve represented a seller in these situations, we made sure that all contingencies had been removed and that we were holding a substantial deposit. We also had a level of comfort from the professional manner that the purchaser and her agent had conducted themselves throughout the transaction up to this point.

I truly don’t believe that most sellers are trying to hide anything. Many have been living happily in their respective homes for years without noticing any imperfections. I think the fear more stems from not knowing the buyer and what may trigger their nerves. Maybe there is a creak when the wind blows that makes the buyer afraid that the house is haunted. Next thing you know, they are lawyering up to get out of the contract instead of investigating what the actual issue is.

There are also a number of scams out there where a “purchaser” will occupy a property and then use legal roadblocks to stay in the property without paying for it. Obviously, this is a mess that every seller wants to avoid.

A few minor notes about the standard pre occupancy agreement:

  1. An “occupancy deposit” is often required in addition to the earnest money deposit.
  2. It does not provide the occupant with the ability to alter the property before closing. In other words, this is not your opportunity to get a jump start on painting or renovations.
  3. The purchaser usually pays a per-day rate to the seller for the time the property is occupied prior to closing.
  4. The purchaser is required to maintain adequate insurance covering personal property and liability during the occupancy period.
  5. The purchaser is required to transfer and pay for utilities during the occupancy period.

In summary… although pre settlement occupancy is possible, it will have to be a pretty special situation for most sellers to agree to it. I recommend that you take all the time you need deciding whether the home is right for you before entering a contract. Don’t be afraid to schedule multiple visits. You’ll also want to talk to your Realtor about the various inspections you should consider in lieu of a test drive.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 20, 2014 at 1:30 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

Don’t we all love Halloween? It is so much fun, but we need to be careful for our cats.

Some candy can be toxic to cats. How can something so wonderful be dangerous? Chocolate, especially the darker types, is toxic to cats. Chocolate has caffeine and theobromine. When ingested, these two ingredients can lead to various medical complications and may even prove fatal for your cat.

The artificial sweetener xylitol, which is used in gums and several candies, is also toxic to cats. The ingestion of xylitol primarily affects insulin release throughout the body. Xylitol causes the release of insulin from the pancreas into circulation leading to a rapid decrease of blood glucose levels. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can occur within 30 to 60 minutes of xylitol ingestion. This hypoglycemia can lead to liver toxicity, liver damage, and ultimately liver failure. Xylitol is perfectly safe for people, but because of different metabolisms, it can be fatal for dogs and cats.

So be careful to not let candy be lying around or fall out of your trick or treat bag. Click here for a link to the ASPCA hotline.

Some cats love to play with and then eat dangling decorations.  Just make sure the decorations are out of reach. Vomiting is the most common symptom of the ingestion of foreign bodies.  We want to be sure you do not spend the holiday in the emergency room. Although we are more likely to think of this during the winter holidays, there are those of us who go all out for Halloween too. Come by our office if you’d like to see our feline friendly decorations.

If you have outdoor cats, you may want to consider limiting their outdoor time during this period. This is especially true for black cats. Unfortunately, not everyone loves cats as much as we do.

You may want to consider a Feliway plug-in during the holidays. Lots of strange people coming to your door may frighten your cat and put them in seclusion.  Feliway is a synthetic pheromone that can help calm kitties nerves. There are other anti-anxiety options including over the counter products such as anxitane.  There are also a couple of prescription diets that can reduce anxiety. Royal Canin has a diet called Calm, and Hill’s has c/d stress.

Finally, if you dress your cat up for Halloween, please send us your photos to office@novacatclinic.com. We would love to put them on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

You may want to ask your cat about their costume, though. Not all of them are very excited about dressing up.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by Ethan Rothstein — October 20, 2014 at 12:00 pm 815 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders and funders. The Ground Floor is Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Cards from the Cards Against Urbanity party gameIf there’s a game that seems tailor-made for Arlington, it’s a take on a boozy card game that encourages thinking about smart growth and urban planning.

That’s the premise behind “Cards Against Urbanity,” a spinoff of the popular Cards Against Humanity party game that replaces the original’s mix of raunchy and offensive questions and answers with tongue-in-cheek  cards about living in a city. Cards include questions like “My city’s latest economic plan is _____” with answers like “Sexy firefighter fundraisers.”

Cards Against Urbanity is a Kickstarter idea, with a deadline: the only time people can buy the game is by donating to the Kickstarter, which closes at 10:19 p.m. A $30 pledge gets the funder the 234-card game, and a pledge of $65 also includes a Cards Against Urbanity T-shirt.

Cards Against Urbanity’s cards are the same size and materials as the original to allow for crossover and mixing and matching with the original game and its expansion packs. According to the game’s creators, there won’t be any chances to buy the game after 10:19 tonight.

The game’s creators are all planners, architects and economic development professionals with D.C. ties. The idea was started by Lisa Nisenson, an urban planner and co-founder of crowdsourced urban design solutions startup GreaterPlaces, and Sarah Lewis, of the urban planning think tank DoTank DC. The two and a group of urban planners and architects were at a planning conference, Nisenson said, playing Cards Against Humanity when someone suggested “it’d be fun to have a city version” of the game.

A month later, neither Lewis nor Nisenson could get the idea out of their head, so they decided to make the game. They asked permission from Cards Against Humanity, which allowed the team to develop the idea, as long as they agreed “not to make any money off of it,” Nisenson said.

“What we’re asking for is just to cover the cost of the game and the Kickstarter,” Nisenson said.

She, Lewis and their five co-creators guessed how many of their friends would buy the game and priced the Kickstarter goal accordingly. They figured 250 people would buy it, so they set the goal at $7,500. With a little more than 10 hours to go, the campaign has 753 backers and has raised $26,393.

Initially, the game creators thought only other planners, architects and economic development workers would have interest in the game, but the response — which has been across the spectrum and global — has changed her tune.

Cards Against Urbanity co-creator Lisa Nisenson“Our big takeaway from this is that if you make planning fun,” Nisenson said, “there is an audience that is really hungry for it.”

As they were developing the game, Nisenson and Lewis were giving some cards a test drive at “a rooftop happy hour” in Arlington when other customers approached them, asked to play, and offered their own suggestions for cards, like an answer card that says simply “Lead Paint. YOLO.”

“Everyone was immediately into it,” Lewis said. “They asked to join us and play a couple rounds. It validated our initial thoughts that this was something people would want to play and enjoy.”

Nisenson said that even though Arlington is viewed nationally as a model for inclusive city planning and urban design, there is still a huge opportunity to engage people who are invested in the community but, for whatever reason, haven’t previously been involved in the process.

“Cities are hot,” Nisenson said. “People want to know how to get involved and they don’t know where to start.”

by Nick Anderson — October 17, 2014 at 2:30 pm 438 0

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

Before we get into it today, some notes:

Homebrew Update: My Brooklyn Brew Shop Everyday IPA has been in bottles carbonating for just over a week now. Bottling wasn’t so bad, but I don’t know how much I’d enjoy doing it on a regular basis with larger batches of beer. They’ll be going into my fridge next Thursday night for consumption starting Friday — if I stay patient. If not, well, you’ll be getting a report on the results sooner than anticipated. Either way, I’m already plotting a Porter or Stout brew next.

Articles of note: The increasingly must-read Craft Brewing Business has a great piece up about distribution contracts. CBB’s Candace Moon lays out the intricacies, fine print, and pitfalls of the legalese involved in the alcohol industry in a way that is accessible without being dumbed-down.

Also, check out Esquire picking up on Dann Paquette of Pretty Things going H.A.M. (look it up, kids) on “pay to play” practices in Boston. Paquette started calling out breweries, distributors, and bars/restaurants for engaging in illegal payments/gifting in exchange for securing tap lines, and revived an ages-old, extremely contentious running argument in the process. If you’re a Beer Advocate member, there’s a refreshingly reasonable and open forum thread on the topic that makes for great reading.

Onto the topic this week: The truth is, this is my second pass at this week’s column. Earlier in the week I’d been reading everything from the stuff I linked above, along with a great piece by Craig Gravina at DrinkDrank that addressed some of the concerns being raised about quality control in new breweries; whether drinking “local” would actually harm the growing beer industry.

I’ve been seeing some of the planned releases and strategies from so-called Big Craft breweries for 2015; taken as a whole, I just rambled about reconciling the business aspect of beer with the very passion we have for it as fans. What came out was, frankly, depressing; no one here wants to read about me being a sad panda.

I wanted to get to the heart of what I was trying to say — get to the point. Then a couple funny things happened: I tried a couple standout beers, and a lot of media outlets started talking about beer. First up was the New York Times Editorial Board itself, weighing in with concerns over the potential AB/InBev and SABMiller merger that’s been on again/off again for years now. Then chef David Chang took an oddly emphatic swing at what he derisively terms “fancy beer” in GQ, and something in my brain went “pop.”

I stopped being able to be “outraged” or whatever it is I’m supposed to feel when my hobby (and my profession) is being “attacked.” Looking at it one way, Chang pulls off an impressive troll job, judging by the online reaction to the column. Beyond that, however, is the fact that this is simply one man’s opinion: Chang isn’t limiting the beer options in his restaurants; you’ll find offerings like Stillwater Stateside Saison, Left Hand Good Juju, Fritz Briem Berlinerweisse, and Rodenbach — he’s even done a collaboration beer with Evil Twin. The guy’s just expressing a preference; the only issue I’d take is with the “neckbeard” and “hipster” cracks, which just strike me as unnecessarily antagonistic, but then again, it gets the clicks. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 16, 2014 at 2:15 pm 395 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

At some point during your rental search, you’ll likely hear a reference to Fair Housing. But what do Fair Housing regulations really mean?

The Rule – The Federal Fair Housing Law prohibits “housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status (families with children under age 18).” In addition to the Federal law, the state of Virginia also includes those over the age of 55 as a protected class.

The Meaning – As long as you meet the income, credit, employment and background requirements for a particular property, the landlord cannot turn you down for an apartment rental. In addition to renting a property, a property manager, landlord or real estate agent cannot refuse to show you a property you qualify for or are interested in based on any assumptions they have regarding a protected class.

For Renters – As a renter, especially when you are new to the area, you likely have a lot of questions about neighborhoods and building demographics. Understand that the real estate or leasing agent, by law, cannot answer specific questions regarding area demographics or safety. They can recommend sources for you to do your own research, but always take Internet commentary with a grain of salt. Everyone has different opinions. You might find it helpful to observe people in the neighborhood and building during different times of the day. This can give you a good idea of the breakdown, and help you determine if a particular place meets your needs.

For Landlords – First and foremost, be sure your qualifications are clear to renters. Put the qualifications in your advertising, and email them to prospective renters. If you turn down an offer from a renter, you want to be crystal clear the reason is based on one of your qualifications not being met. For example: they do not meet your financial standards, or they haven’t been employed long enough. Whatever the reason, be sure you let them know up front your exact expectations. Keeping in mind, many people moving to the area are first-time renters, with their first jobs out of school, so be clear on whether or not you will accept co-signers to help bridge the gap for those with minimal rental and credit histories. Landlords, if you are listing your place without the help of an agent, be aware of Fair Housing when advertising your property. Comments such as, “great for roommates” or “will only consider singles” in your ads is unacceptable.

Overall, Fair Housing is meant to protect renters and buyers from discrimination. It can be frustrating when you aren’t familiar with an area, because you can’t get a straight answer. Just know that those working to help you aren’t trying to be difficult, they are normally trying to follow the rules to treat everyone equally.

Virginia Fair Housing Office

Phone: 804-367-8530 or 888-551-3247

Email: FairHousing@dpor.virginia.gov

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 16, 2014 at 8:00 am 984 0

Walk to Westover Village from this thoughtfully expanded, renovated center hall Colonial in the popular Tara neighborhood.

The home’s main level offers a living room with fireplace, adjoining den, formal dining room, powder room, large kitchen with cream cabinets, stainless steel appliances, breakfast bar and pantry. Walls of windows brighten the breakfast room which flows into the family room with doors to the deck and level rear yard.

Upstairs there are four bedrooms, two bathrooms, linen closet and pull down stairs to the huge floored attic. A delightful feature is the deck off the master bedroom.

The lower level offers a rec room with fireplace, built-in desk, Murphy bed, third bathroom and a wet bar tucked under the stairs. Additional storage is available in the large utility room.

The garage has been converted to a private space for a home office or a private retreat. It has separate heating and cooling, cork flooring, ceiling fans and media connnections.

Desirable details include wood floors, Kolbe & Kolbe or Andersen double pane windows, two zone heating and cooling, front and rear sprinkler systems and lighting to enhance the professionally landscaped, fenced yard.

Nearby Westover Village offers shops, library, restaurants and post office, while a bike path and two parks are a short distance from the home.

Located at 1700 N. Jefferson Street, the home is within the McKinley elementary, Swanson middle and Yorktown high school districts.

Listed at $1,195,000, this is a home in pristine, move-in condition and in a location you will value every day.

An open house will be held this weekend, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 19. For more information, call Betsy at 703-967-4391, or email btwigg@mcenearney.com.

by ARLnow.com — October 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm 783 0

This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Franklin, a rescue pup from Philadelphia named after one of the city’s most prominent historical figures.

Here’s what Frankln’s owner, Josephine, had to say about him:

My name is Franklin, after Benjamin Franklin. I am a 14-month-old rescue from the greater Philadelphia area. They say I am a Jack Russell/Beagle mix, but when I look in the mirror I see some Shepherd in there too!

I just moved to Arlington from Wilmington, Del. I miss all my friends from my old park, but am making lots of new friends at the Fort Barnard bark park. My favorite activity is getting my friends to chase me around. While I look small, I surprise all the other dogs with my speed and deer-like reflexes! I also love to cuddle, look very innocent and carry my toy lion around my house.

Unlike other pups my age, I have been to some pretty cool places. Last Christmas I took a very long car ride to Golden, Colo. I visited my cousins and the Coors Factory! I get to visit the beach and frequently attend brunch. I am a graduate of kindergarten and basic training! Someday soon I hope to master a handshake and more advanced tricks!

Want your pet to be considered for the Arlington Pet of the Week? Email office@arlnow.com with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet.

Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks. Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Arlington and Northern Virginia.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm 1,624 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. My condo is considering a limit on the number of rentals in the building. We will basically have to get on a waiting list to rent out our condo if the max number of allowable rentals has been reached. Will this hurt our values?

A. I’ve personally been a victim of what can happen if the ratio of owner-occupied units to renter occupied units is not kept in check.  I bought a condo in 2002 that I lived in for a while and eventually decided to rent out. A few years after moving out, mortgage interest rates dropped considerably and I tried to refinance the home. Even with over 30 percent equity and lender connections all over town, I could not find anyone who would refinance this home for me because the percentage of rented units exceeded 50 percent.

I had no choice but to stick with my original (more expensive) mortgage. Fast forward another few years and I decided to put the condo on the market. The first offer I received was from an investor who was planning to finance his purchase with 25 percent down. We quickly found out that he was not going to be able to buy in my building because the percentage of renters was still above 50 percent. This narrowed my pool of buyers to those who could pay cash or those who planned to occupy the unit as their primary residence and had financing that would look past the percentage of rented units.

To help answer your question, I reached out to mortgage expert Paul Nagel at First Home Mortgage.  He had the following to say:

One little known role of the condominium developer and/or manager is to protect and ensure that as many financing options are available to potential buyers of any homes for sale in that condominium complex. More financing options available translates to more available buyers, which most likely translates to selling one’s condominium with less time on the market, and selling the home at a higher price as there will be more competition/buyers for each unit for sale.

Maintaining a proper budget, master insurance policy coverage, and sufficient emergency funds are examples of some of the criteria that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, the Veterans Administration, and many other loan programs require to be met as a condition for financing a home purchase in that condominium complex. If one of the criteria is not met, for example, a buyer may not be allowed to use an FHA loan to purchase a home in a given condominium complex.

One such criteria of almost all loan programs is that at least a majority of units must be “owner occupied” or, in other words, not rented to a tenant. Accordingly, a developer or condominium manager often works to limit the number of homes rented to tenants, so that the sales of units in that condominium complex are available to be financed by as many loan options as possible. Conversely, if the number of units rented is not regulated by the condominium manager, sometimes a “downward spiral” occurs, where unit owners cannot sell their units, so they rent the units, making it even harder to get financing for home sales in that unit, resulting in even more units being rented.

Getting back to your question, I think Paul and I agree that proactively limiting the number of rentals in a condominium complex is good for the long-term value of your home. I say this even though it may discourage potential investors from purchasing in your building. You will be protecting mortgage options for those who want to refinance or purchase. You will also be attracting occupants who have a vested interest in maintaining the condominium.

I know there are some people who feel as though their condominium is better off without such limits.  I hope you will share your opinions and reasoning in comments.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by Nick Anderson — October 10, 2014 at 2:30 pm 418 0

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

Some odds and ends this week, and then a couple recommendations for Harvest/Wet Hop Ales that I’ve been enjoying so far this season.

The big news of the week is the news that Stone has decided to put its East Coast facility in Richmond. We’ve been following the rumors and speculation for months, and Richmond finally won out over Norfolk and Columbus, Ohio. Stone Richmond is estimated at a $30 million dollar investment that will bring somewhere in the area of 300 jobs to Virginia, not to mention solidifying Richmond’s status nationally as a Beer City.

Also, there are a pair of noteworthy articles I’ve read over the past couple weeks: Craft Brewing Business dives into this year’s poor barley crop, and the potential ramifications for brewers of all sizes (be sure to read the Reuters article CBB links to as well for more info).

Also worth spending a few minutes reading this week is this Esquire piece by Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Greg Engert. Engert takes an interesting angle on the “drink local” movement, looking at possible pitfalls as markets become saturated with breweries. Greg’s gotten where he is in our industry for a reason, and gives a very smart, reasoned take here.

This past week also saw the 2014 edition of the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Breweries from our area once again made a great showing for themselves, and once again Devils Backbone led the way. This year Devils Backbone won four beer medals and for the third year in a row was a Brewery of the Year winner (this time as a Mid-Size Brewery). Richmond’s Hardywood Park Craft Brewery won a Gold for its Raspberry Stout; Charlottesville’s Three Notch’d took a Bronze for its Hydraulion Red; Capitol City Brewing Company’s Shirlington location won an impressive Silver for Amber Waves (Amber was a highly competitive category this year); DC Brau’s Citizen Belgian Pale Ale won a Silver; and Maryland’s DuClaw, Heavy Seas, Union Craft, and two Gordon Biersch locations all medaled. Check out the full list of GABF winners here.

To wrap up this week, I’d like to mention a couple beers from what is increasingly becoming a favorite seasonal style for me — the Wet Hop Ale (sometimes classifies as Harvest Ale). With hops coming off the vine and going into the beer before they have a chance to dry out, Wet Hop Ales showcase a spectacular clarity of aroma and flavor without overbearing the drinker with aggressive bitterness or overly-rich citrus flavors (for more on Wet Hop Ales, read this past column).

This year, I’ve developed a minor obsession with two Wet Hop Ales in particular. Hardywood’s RVA IPA uses fresh hops from two local farms along with folks who have received some of the hop rhizomes given out by the Richmond brewery every year (the RVA IPA label estimates the number at around 1,000). As a “community-sourced” Wet Hop Ale, RVA IPA is as much as statement of how far Virginia’s beer scene has come over the past few years as it is a seasonal effort. Beyond all of that, the beer is simply delicious: focused floral aromatics give way to a palate that is balanced and elegant; hoppy but with a sense of restraint and an easy mouthfeel that belie its 7 percent ABV strength. Supply is surprisingly good, but RVA IPA won’t last long. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm 340 0

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Mathew B. Tully of Tully Rinckey PLLC, an Arlington firm that specializes in federal employment and labor law, security clearance proceedings, and military law.

Q. What are some sneaky ways employers usually try to retaliate against employees who have filed discrimination complaints?

A. Most employers know state and federal laws prohibit them from retaliating against employees who complain about unlawful discrimination. Most employers also know that they can be hit with stiff penalties for engaging in such prohibited retaliation. Knowing this, and upset with certain employees for asserting their rights, some employers will still try to tip toe the line between legitimate business practices and unlawful retaliation. Sometimes they cross that line.

Employers who want to retaliate against an employee — and who know that they should not do so — will likely try to avoid any actions that would amount to an unequivocal adverse employment action. Anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, prohibit employers from taking an adverse employment action against an employee protected under these laws.

As the U.S. Court for the District of Maryland noted in Wright v. Kent County Dep’t of Soc. Servs. (2014), an adverse employment action “is a discriminatory act that adversely affects the terms, conditions, or benefits of a plaintiff’s employment.” Adverse employment actions, the court added, typically come in the form of “discharge, demotion, decrease in pay or benefits, loss of job title or supervisory responsibility, or reduced opportunities for promotion.”

Employers who want to sneakily punish an employee who has asserted his or her rights under Title VII will probably avoid any of these obvious adverse employment actions, which are black-and-white issues. For example, either an employee was fired or he or she was not. Instead, employers may pursue employment actions in the gray area.

For instance, the employer may try to isolate the employee by moving his or her desk or exclude him or her from certain work-related discussions. It is usually much easier for an employer to provide a legitimate reason for taking these employment actions than more severe employment actions, such as termination.

Unfortunately, as the court noted in Wright, “Title VII does not remedy everything that makes an employee unhappy.” Employees who have been ostracized because of their protected activities must show that the employer’s attempts to isolate them did adversely affect the terms, conditions, or benefits of their employment. Employees in such predicaments should immediately contact an experienced employment law attorney who can prepare for them a retaliation lawsuit.

Mathew B. Tully. Esq. is the founding partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC. Located in Arlington, Va. and Washington, D.C., Tully Rinckey PLLC’s attorneys practice federal employment law, military law, and security clearance representation. To speak with an attorney, call 703-525-4700 or to learn more visit fedattorney.com. 

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by ARLnow.com — October 8, 2014 at 12:30 pm 890 0

This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Jeff, a snaggletoothed Rhodesian Ridgeback/Boxer mix, whose amusing name “fits his personality to a tee.”

Here’s what Jeff’s owner, Ben, had to say:

Jeff is a rescued, snaggletoothed 9-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback/Boxer mix, or as we call him, “a wonderful brown dog.” Jeff’s very human-sounding name fits his laid-back and personable demeanor to a tee, and he can often be found sprawled lackadaisically by his window-side bed. Don’t be fooled by his age or his chill-vibes, though, because Jeff can still hold his own – chasing squirrels, frisbees, or any myriad of other menacing rolling/jumping/running objects.

Famed among friends and family as “the best behaved dog,” Jeff is often welcomed as part of special events. Jeff was most recently honored by taking part in his parents’ wedding party – donning his finest doggy-bow-tie and finding his way into a few photos in Bon Air Park. Jeff is also always a favorite at nieces and nephews birthday parties.

After living nearly 5 years in Arlington, Jeff has recently relocated just south of the border in Alexandria, but still considers himself an active part of the Arlington-pup scene – making frequent appearances in Shirlington.

Want your pet to be considered for the Arlington Pet of the Week? Email office@arlnow.com with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet.

Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks. Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Arlington and Northern Virginia.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 7, 2014 at 3:05 pm 1,013 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. I heard about a new first time homebuyer savings plan being introduced in Virginia. Do you have any information you can share with me about this program?

A. I’m glad you brought this up as it is a brand new program I am excited about. I have to be careful when it comes to anything that may be considered tax advice, so I am simply going to share the general information provided by the Virginia Association of Realtors (VAR). You can download a PDF document from for additional details.

The First-Time Homebuyer Savings Plan (FHSP) allows first time home buyers in Virginia to invest up to $50,000 for the future purchase of a home. Earnings on that money will be exempt from Virginia state taxes. The money can be invested in almost any account you have with a financial institution including savings account, life insurance plan, stocks, bonds, CD, money market or mutual funds. $50,000 is the maximum that can be invested in principle, but the money can grow in value up to $150,000.

From what I understand, these funds can only be used towards the closing costs associated with a home purchase. In most cases, the closing costs range from two-percent to three-percent of the purchase price so the above maximums should be more than enough for most homebuyers.

The money does not have to be for your own purchase. It can gifted to a relative or close friend. This may be especially valuable for a young child that you are putting money away for as your investment will have lots of time to increase in value.

When filing taxes, you’ll just include a 1099 from the financial institution you are investing your money with and a simple one page FHSP document.

I found the following two examples from the VAR website helpful:

Funding for a child

Phillip and Leigh put $10,000 into a mutual fund that they will use to help their son buy his first home. The money grows over the years. When their son is 26, he decides to buy a home. They sell the shares in the fund — now worth $18,500 — and give it to their son to help with his down payment.

Normally they would pay state tax on the $8,500 in earnings, but they file a FHSP form with their Virginia taxes and don’t have to pay a cent in state taxes.

Changing your mind

Emma decides to start putting money away for a first home when she graduates college. She opens a high-yield savings account with a few hundred dollars and adds to it when she can over the next 12 years. The account grows.

Each year, Emma files an FHSP form with the Department of Taxation so she doesn’t have to pay Virginia tax on the interest she’s earned.

Then Emma marries Sam, and Sam already owns a house. She won’t need the money after all. They decide to use it for a vacation instead.

Because Emma used the money for a “non-eligible” purpose — the vacation — Emma must now pay the back taxes on the 12 years of earnings on the account, as well as a five percent penalty on the amount of the earnings over that 12-year period.

Disclaimer: I am not a tax professional and I highly recommend speaking to one before making any decisions that pertain to the FHSP.

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by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 6, 2014 at 1:30 pm 360 0

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

My Cat Has MRSA. That sounds terrifying. How did this happen? Am I going to get sick? What about my children?

First, MRSA stands for Meticillin-resistant (previously methicillin) Staphylococcus aureu. This type of bacteria was first seen in 1951. Methicillin is actually no longer manufactured, but the name remains. The resistance came about because of over-use of antibiotics when they were not needed. Meticillin is in the penicillin family of drugs and they work by destroying the bacterium protective cell wall. Unfortunately, these drugs no longer work on this resistant form of staphbacteria. Other antibiotics do work and the infections can be eradicated though it can take time.

Humans can give MRSA to animals, but thankfully it is rarely the other way around. Staph is commonly found on human skin. About 20% of people carry MRSA in their nasal cavities. Most healthy people do not have any issue with it, and may not even know about it, unless they have a cut or undergo surgery. Things can become challenging if an infection takes hold. Good hygiene habits are the simplest way to avoiding the bacteria. Because this bacteria is resistant to certain types of antibiotics, if it does take hold it can sometimes be difficult to fully eradicate.

Here at NOVA Cat Clinic, we have started seeing more cases of MRSA in our feline patients. We always try to culture wounds or skin infections before using any antibiotics so we can make sure we use the right ones. Since we are doing more cultures, we are finding this organism more frequently and have been able to treat it effectively with the proper antibiotics and supportive therapy like our therapeutic laser.

We currently have a cat that was left here because of this condition. The owner has small children and would not have been able to separate kitty while she were being treated. We have been treating her and we are planning on re-culturing soon to be sure the infection is cleared. Once the infection is gone we plan to find her a new home. She is a sweet and loving cat and she would make someone a wonderful companion.

Please call us at 703-525-1955 or email us at office@novacatclinic.com if you would like to know more.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by Nick Anderson — October 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm 317 0

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

Veering away from existential crises and the wider beer business as a whole this week, I’d like to relate one of the best parts of my job, and of being a beer fan in general: the unexpected, pleasant surprise.

Last week saw the Virginia debut of Nebraska Brewing Company, and I was particularly looking forward to carrying their Melange a Trois, which I got to try at the 2012 edition of SAVOR along with their IPA. But those weren’t the only Nebraska Brewing beers to arrive last week, and I took a flier on a six-pack of Brunette Nut Brown Ale because I’m a fan of the style and liked the idea of having one in cans. Sure enough, Brunette is great: all of the nutty and malty flavor you’d expect from classic examples like those from Sam Smith and other English brewers but lighter, less rich on the palate. This is an easy-going, flavorful, delightful beer that just got me from out of nowhere.

Not all “surprising” beers are everyday drinkers or more modest in style: I knew I’d enjoy Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin, but didn’t expect to become as fixated with it as I have when trying it during my visit to Stone for their anniversary party back in August.

The recently released 2014 bottling of Swiss brewery BFM’s Abbaye de St. Bon-Chien Grand Cru, aged entirely in Champagne barrels (or as they say on the label “Frenchy Sparkling Wine Barrels”) was something no 11 percent Sour Ale has any right to be — refreshing. Something about that version of that beer gives is the trademark Bon-Chien sourness up front, while smoothing out on the back with a finish that draws you right back in for more.

Stone’s Collaboration Series has produced more than its fair share of winners, often showcasing styles they are not necessarily known for. The new Xocoveza Mocha Stout fits right in with the best and most unexpected of them — a Mexican hot chocolate-inspired Stout using coffee, chocolate, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and chili peppers. Usually I’m wary of any chili-infused beer; I’m not a “face-melting — if you’re lucky” hot sauce guy, and too many beers that use hot ingredients can easily go too far. But Xocoveza walks the tightrope perfectly: it’s spicy rather than full-on hot, with roast, sweet, and spicy elements expressing themselves fully but also in harmony. Wouldn’t have expected it, but I’m enjoying it like crazy while it’s here.

What beers unexpectedly became favorites of yours? Which did you think you wouldn’t like but ended up loving? Let’s hear about them below in the comments. Until next time.

Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money-saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm 465 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

You’ve navigated the Arlington rental market to find the perfect place. We have some great apps to make the move and the transition a little easier.

Moving – Looking for something to help you stay organized during your move? Apps like In That Box (for iPhone) and BoxMeUp (for Android) will help you organize all of your stuff. Using QR codes, photos, lists and search, these apps help you find your stuff once you get to your new place. Need a storage unit too? Use these apps to keep your stored items organized as well. No digging through all the boxes to find your holiday party plates.

Neighborhood – Now that you are settled in, it is time to meet the neighbors. Check out Nextdoor, (Android and iPhone), a social network for specific neighborhoods. Nextdoor is still growing in this area, so you could be a trailblazer and start a network in your area. Use Nextdoor for organizing social events, meeting like-minded people, and even to sell your stuff.

Groceries – Obviously one of the more important things to figure out in a new area is where to shop and where to eat. For groceries, check out apps like PeaPod (Android and iPhone) and Instacart (Android and iPhone.) Peapod is a grocery delivery option from Giant. Instacart is a personal shopper service where you can get your items delivered in as little as an hour. The service is available for stores such as Whole Foods, Costco and Harris Teeter in the Arlington area.

Laundry – For many, laundry and dry cleaning is a hassle. Worry no more. Check out Washio (Android and iPhone) for all of your laundry needs. Washio is a door-to-door laundry and dry cleaning service. You schedule your service, someone comes and picks it up and they deliver your items back to you the next day. Prices start at $1.60/lb for laundry and $6.00 for dry cleaning dress shirts. Hate ironing? Laundered and pressed shirts are $2.75.

Transportation – With all these great things delivered to your door, it seems like you might never need to leave the apartment. Maybe now you’ll have some free time you need to head out and enjoy all the city has to offer. Below is a list of apps and sites to help you hit the town.

  • Car Free Near Me – This app/site helps you find just about any of the transportation options in your area. Enter your location and Car Free Near Me tells you the nearest Metro or Metro and ART Bus Stop along with upcoming schedules. It will also tell you where to find the nearest ZipCar or Capital Bike Share.
  • ZipCar and Car2Go – Need a car for a few hours for a quick trip out of the area, or to stock up on essentials at Target and Costco? These car share options are a great way to go.

Lastly, do you need an easy way to pay rent? Cozy is a great option, especially when you have roommates. Use Cozy to collect payments and send one payment from all to the landlord. Best part about Cozy, it’s free!

One of the greatest things about living in the Arlington area is having so much to do right outside your door. Technology helps create more free time to enjoy. So head out and enjoy!

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

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