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Author archives: Yolanda Burnett


Hosting on Airbnb? Here are some legal tips!

Thinking about renting your home on Airbnb? Make sure to check your local laws!

Local laws and regulations often fail to keep up with the speed of market innovation, leaving jurisdictions scrambling to balance personal liberty and community safety. This is the case with Airbnb and other short term rental sites that allow homeowners to rent out their spare rooms or entire houses to travelers for a short period of time.

From its humble beginnings of San Francisco roommates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia renting out an air mattress in their apartment to help pay the rent to a global powerhouse disrupting the hospitality industry in under ten years, Airbnb has challenged governments around the world to rethink private property use. Some hosts are finding that their local zoning ordinances prohibit them from renting out their homes, while others are facing serious legal and financial consequences of less than ideal guest behavior.

So if you’re thinking of becoming a host on Airbnb or a similar services, municipal attorney Martin Crim has a few tips for you:

Check your local zoning ordinances

Before you begin hosting guests, check your local zoning ordinance for restrictions or requirements for short term rentals. For example, in the City of Manassas, short term rentals are allowed with restrictions on the amount of time a guest may stay. However, a few miles away in Fairfax County, short term rentals are prohibited unless your home is approved as a bed and breakfast.

Read your rental agreement / Homeowners’ Association rules

Even if your locality allows short term rentals, if you are a renter or have a Homeowners’ Association, you may be subject to additional restrictions or regulations regarding property use and guest occupancy limits.

Check with your local tax authority

Check with your local tax authority to ensure that the income you earn from renting out your property isn’t subject to any taxes beyond those handled by the service provider.

Be present

By far the most disastrous cases stemming from a short term rentals gone wrong have been those that occur when the homeowner wasn’t there. Don’t let a guest stay in your home completely unsupervised unless you are certain that they are trustworthy and will be respectful of your property, your neighbors, and any other entities involved.

The attorneys at Vanderpool, Frostick, and Nishanian, P.C. are here to help with your real estate, zoning, and land use matters – feel free to contact us!


Community Spotlight: Habitat for Humanity of Prince William County

VF&N assisted Habitat for Humanity in opening its new ReStore in Woodbridge, VA  

At Vanderpool, Frostick, & Nishanian, P.C. community engagement is our priority. Our attorneys and staff are active in a variety of organizations, service groups, and nonprofits both personally and professionally. In this weekly blog series, Community Spotlight, we are highlighting these organizations and the value they provide to our community! This week, we’re featuring Habitat for Humanity of Prince William County for whom VF&N zoning and land use attorneys Karen Cohen and Paul Gauthier provided commercial leasing legal services for the organization’s new Woodbridge ReStore.

Habitat for Humanity Prince William President/CEO, Traci DeGroat said of Karen, “We are grateful for Karen Cohen’s legal expertise in the commercial leasing of the Woodbridge ReStore. It was such a joy to work with her. She is smart, articulate, responsive…her work impressed all of us. And because of her efforts, we are able to expand our services in the Prince William County community.”

About Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit housing organization that works with families in need of decent, affordable housing to build, renovate, repair, and finance homeownership in local communities and around the globe. The Prince William affiliate is a locally based, community-level Habitat for Humanity office that serves the Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park area.

Habitat for Humanity believes in giving community members a hand up, not a hand out. Wages have not kept up with the cost of living, leaving many hard-working families struggling to afford decent housing. Partner families with the need for the organization’s services provide sweat equity – volunteer work in return for assistance – and can pay a low/no-interest mortgage or a portion of repair costs.

The ReStore receives building materials, appliances, furniture, tools, and more from donating corporations, construction companies, and individuals. They are then sold to the general public at 40-90% off retail prices, and the proceeds support the Habitat for Humanity’s housing initiatives. You can help support low-income families by shopping, donating or volunteering.


The ABC’s of Estate Planning – Wills, Trusts, and More

This article was originally written by David Wilks, Estate Planning Attorney with Legacy Law Group of Northern Virginia, a division of Vanderpool, Frostick, & Nishanian, P.C., on November 6, 2017.

Importance of Wills and Trusts – and Other Personal Legal Documents

One of the key components in planning for your future is establishing the right set of legal directives. A will, living trust, durable power of attorney and advance medical directive are all designed to protect your desires should you no longer be able to speak for yourself. This could be death or an incapacitating medical condition. Each document has its own function while the set of documents help develop your comprehensive estate plan.

Who Needs a Will?

Everyone needs a will so that assets are properly distributed to heirs upon death. Without a will, the courts decide how assets are distributed and disputes often arise. Keep in mind that a will alone must be approved by probate courts. It does, at least, give direction on distribution for the courts to follow.

The basic components of a will name the person who is leaving the assets, names the beneficiaries and also designates an executor who works with probate courts to carry out the wishes of the will. Once all parties are defined, the body of the will defines how assets become distributed upon death. A will can be as elaborate as you choose, down to designating who gets what jewelry or garage tools.

What Do Trusts Do?

There are two basic types of trusts in estate planning: a revocable and irrevocable trust. When a trust is created, your assets are transferred into the trust. A revocable trust with you as the trustee means you can take back your assets at any time. An irrevocable trust means the assets cannot be taken back. Most revocable living trusts become irrevocable upon the death of the trust grantor.

Trusts not only need to be written but they need to be funded. Part of a trust includes the will, listing all assets such as real estate, bank accounts, and investments. Once assets are listed, they must be retitled at the bank or investment firm listing the trust as the owner, otherwise, they are not in the trust and still subject to probate.

Trusts avoid probate and allow the successor trustee to distribute assets as you designate in the trust upon your death. Not everything needs to be distributed immediately, meaning the trust can maintain assets in accordance with the trust language. An example is setting up a college fund for a grandchild who might only be five years old upon your death. The funds remain managed by the trust until the child goes to school and are then distributed according to your wishes.

What Does A Durable Power of Attorney Provide?

A durable power of attorney is a document used to name a person to serve as your agent if you become incapacitated. In the durable power of attorney, you name the person you give authority to, usually a family member or close family friend. The document is used for both healthcare and financial interests.

For example, if you are in a coma after a car accident and on life support, the agent makes decisions on whether to maintain life support or not. Additionally, the agent is given the ability to pay bills or manage assets to cover medical expenses or household needs.

A durable power of attorney can be revoked at any time prior to incapacitation. For example, if a husband and wife name each other but later divorce, they may revoke the power of attorney and establish a new one.

How Does an Advance Medical Directive Protect Me?

An advance medical directive is often created with a durable power of attorney. While the power of attorney names an agent, the advance medical directive establishes your desires for medical treatment if you cannot speak for yourself.

These directives include whether to resuscitate if you suffer cardiac arrest, whether to keep you on life support or feeding tubes. This becomes the outline of your wishes, while still alive but unable to speak for yourself. The power of attorney would use this to execute your desires.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the various estate planning documents and their legal descriptions. The Legacy Law Group of Northern Virginia, a division of VF&N, is here to simplify the process and give you peace of mind.

Call today for a consultation: (703) 492-9955.


Community Spotlight: Rotary Club

VF&N attorneys Mike Vanderpool, Randy Frostick, and Brett Callahan have each held leadership positions in local Rotary Clubs

At Vanderpool, Frostick, & Nishanian, P.C., we value our community ties, and we believe that serving our community extends beyond our professional legal services. Community engagement is a priority, and our attorneys and staff are active in a variety of service organizations and nonprofits. In this weekly blog series, Community Spotlight, we are highlighting these organizations and the value they provide to our community! This week, we’re featuring the Rotary Club, where VF&N lawyers Mike Vanderpool, Randy Frostick, and Brett Callahan have each served in leadership roles.

“Service Above Self” 

The Rotary Club is a diverse group of professionals across industries who come together to serve the community, with a special focus on children’s health and education. In addition to community service, Rotary is a network that promotes growth and leadership skills, as well as understanding and impacting international humanitarian issues by pursuing the goals of Rotary International. Through community projects and charitable donations, the Rotary Club is building better communities locally and around the globe.

About Rotary International

Rotary International is a global service organization comprised of more than 35,000 clubs and 1.2 million members worldwide. Rotary is committed to creating positive, lasting change in communities at home and abroad through six focus areas:

  • promote peace
  • fight disease
  • provide clean water, sanitation, and hygiene
  • save mothers and children
  • support education
  • grow local economies

Our Involvement

Three attorneys at Vanderpool, Frostick, and Nishanian, P.C. have been active in Rotary Clubs. Mike Vanderpool was president of the Manassas Rotary Club from 1996-1997 and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Manassas Rotary Foundation. Randy Frostick was president of the Manassas Rotary Club from 1994-1995, and Brett Callahan is currently serving as Vice President of the Bull Run Rotary Club.

The Bull Run Rotary Club meets on Tuesdays at 7:30am at City Tavern in Manassas.

The Manassas Rotary Club meets on Wednesdays at 12:15pm at the Center for the Arts in Manassas.


Starting a Home Business: Should You See an Attorney?

Written by Martin Crim and Eileen Settlemyer

Zoning for your home business

Are you interested in operating a business out of your home? In the digital age, starting a business out of your garage or home office is more common than ever. However, most municipalities have very specific requirements for commercial use of residential property that many aren’t aware of until it’s too late. Best case scenario, you may already comply with local zoning ordinances and just need to register your home business. Worst case scenario, you may have to close your business or move it off-site. Here are some things to consider when operating a business out of your home:

What kind of business you have or want to operate

A typical zoning ordinance, such as the one in Prince William County, Virginia, distinguishes between “home occupations” and “home employment,” which have different approval requirements. They differ in how much impact they have on your neighbors and the neighborhood as a whole.

A “home occupation” refers to home businesses that have no impact on the residential development. There are no non-resident employees or customers coming to the residence and no signage on the property. Because there is no exterior evidence of the business for a home occupation, certificates are relatively easier to obtain than for a home employment. Learn more about the Prince William County home occupation certificate requirements here.

On the other hand, a “home employment” refers to a home business operated in a residence to which employees and customers may come. There are much stricter conditions for approval than home occupation, such as limited signage, operating hours, and number of customers allowed per day. Prince William home employment certificate requirements can be found here.

The rules of your Homeowner’s association

Once you know what type of home business you are operating, check to make sure this use is allowed by your home owner’s association. HOA covenants, rules, or bylaws may have specific restrictions regarding home occupation and/or home employment.

If your HOA does not allow you to operate a home occupation or employment, you may be able to receive an exemption to this rule under your HOA covenants. These are sometimes allowed for home occupation where there is a demonstrable absence of an impact on the neighborhood.  A letter from your neighbors supporting your business is particularly helpful.

Your area’s local zoning ordinances

There are different regulations at the state and local government levels. At the state level, consider sales tax and various regulations on some types of businesses; at the local level, check zoning ordinances and business license requirements.  To determine what your locality’s zoning ordinances will allow:

  • Check zoning maps online or in your local planning office for your zoning district
  • Research the zoning provisions for your zoning district. Look for:
    • Permitted uses, including accessory uses
    • Performance criteria – typically restrictions on impacts of home business

If your business falls outside of the acceptable conditions for your municipality, things get trickier, and you should consult an attorney well versed in zoning law.

While it is possible to run a home-based business without difficulty, it is important to be prepared to defend your business from criticism and opposition. We have attorneys at Vanderpool, Frostick, & Nishanian, P.C. who can help answer your questions regarding your land use, zoning, and municipal law concerns across Northern Virginia.

The following flow chart summarizes the land use controls that may affect your home business:



We’re here to help! Submit this form, and we will send you the applicable home business zoning ordinances for your locality.

Disclaimer: the resources provided in response to this form do not constitute legal advice nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. This blog is provided by Vanderpool, Frostick, & Nishanian, P.C. for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The information provided should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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Community Spotlight: Manassas Center for the Arts

VF&N has been a longtime supporter of the arts in Manassas, Virginia

At Vanderpool, Frostick, & Nishanian, P.C., we value our community ties, and we believe that serving our community extends beyond our professional legal services. Community engagement is a priority, and our attorneys and staff are active in a variety of organizations, service groups, and nonprofits. In this weekly blog series, Community Spotlight, we are highlighting these organizations and the value they provide to our community! This week, we’re featuring the Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory where VF&N attorney Brett Callahan currently serves on the Board of Directors.

About the Manassas Center for the Arts

This mission of the Center for the Arts of Greater Manassas/ Prince William County is to enrich, entertain, and celebrate the community through performances, gallery exhibits, and arts education. To this end, the Center sponsors theatrical productions for children and adults, teaches art classes, promotes visual arts, and provides community outreach programs for local youth. Their location in the historic Candy Factory in Old Town Manassas houses an art gallery, classrooms and office space, and a theater in the round.

The Center for the Arts produces drama, visual arts, and dance programs and classes for all ages. The art gallery located on the first floor of the Candy Factory hosts rotating art exhibits featuring the work of local artists.

The Center for the Arts relies on the support of generous donations, sponsorships, and volunteers from the community. If you would like to learn more about their programs or how you can support the arts in the Greater Manassas/ Prince William County area, check out their website.

VF&N attorney Brett Callahan dedicates her time and leadership serving on the Board of Directors of the Center for the Arts. A musician herself, she says, “the Center provides so many great opportunities for kids and adults to engage with the arts in the community.” Previously, Kris Spitler had also served on the Center’s Board of Directors for ten years, serving as the Board’s President from 2010-2012.

About the Center’s Programs

Pied Piper Theatre: This children’s theatre program is in its 22nd year, putting on three performances per year while teaching kids all the skills needed to put on a dramatic or musical production both onstage and off. Students can learn technical skills like stage management, set design, lighting and sound, as well as performance skills.

Rooftop Productions: The Center’s adult theatre program is in its 10th year, providing a creative outlet for adults and fun for the whole community with traditional performances and interactive dinner theatre.

Prime Time Past Time Players: A theatre group for adults 55+  who put on performances and workshops for seniors incorporating theatre games, technical exercises, and storytelling.

Arts on the Go: The Center for the Arts has partnered with local sponsors including NOVEC, Micron, and SPARK, module designers Eric Vasey, DK Stewart, and Thomas Hannon, and academic consultants Nancy Pallo and Karen Moffitt to provide fully integrated STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) education modules to local elementary and middle schools. These award-winning interactive exhibits allow students to understand science through hands-on, creative lessons and activities.

Zentangle: A veterans’ art program that provides a creative and therapeutic outlet for local veterans focused on the meditative power of the arts.

Summer camps and classes: Camps and classes include technical and performance training for theatre, arts across a wide variety of digital and physical media, and various social and performance dance styles. Classes are offered both at the Candy Factory and other locations around Prince William County.

Summer Sounds Concerts: Each year, the Center for the Arts, Micron Technology Foundation, the City of Manassas, and the Harris Pavilion offers a series of free concerts on Saturday evening throughout the summer at the Harris Pavilion in Old Town Manassas.

About the Candy Factory

The home of the Center for the Arts is the historic Candy Factory in Old Town Manassas. The building dates back to 1908 when the Hopkins Candy Company expanded into the facility; it was later sold to the Merchant family and used as a tire factory, warehouse, and retail space until the family donated the building to the City of Manassas for the Center’s use in 2002. Located across from the Southern Railway Depot, visitors of the Center can see the historic Manassas railway line through a plexiglass floor display in the Candy Factory. The Candy Factory’s open exhibit and performance spaces can also be rented for private events.


Community Spotlight: Matthew’s Center

VF&N attorney Martin Crim has been on the Matthew’s Center Board of Directors for 4 years and currently serves as the Vice Chair.

At Vanderpool, Frostick, & Nishanian, P.C., we value our community ties, and we believe that serving our community extends beyond our professional legal services. Community engagement is a priority, and our attorneys and staff are active in a variety of service organizations and nonprofits. In this weekly blog series, Community Spotlight, we are highlighting these organizations and the value they provide to our community! This week, we are recognizing Matthew’s Center for Visual Learning in Manassas, VA where VF&N attorney Martin Crim currently serves as on the Board of Directors as Vice Chair.

About Matthew’s Center for Visual Learning

Matthew’s Center is a non-profit day school dedicated to enhancing the lives of children and families affected by autism and related disabilities. It builds pathways for success with individuals ages 5-21 across the autism spectrum in a child-centered, family focused environment. The Center employs dedicated, highly-qualified, trained professionals who specialize in working with individuals with special needs. Their programs are based on the science of Applied Behavior Analysis and use the latest research-based methods to help individuals reach their full potential. Matthew’s Center is licensed by the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Department of Social Services.

VF&N attorney Martin Crim has served on the Matthew’s Center Board of Directors since 2013. He is currently serving as the Vice Chair. As the parent of a son on the autism spectrum, it is important to him to contribute his time and leadership to Matthew’s Center.

To learn more about this incredible community organization, visit their webpage.


VF&N Attorney Karen Cohen Awarded GMU Prominent Patriot ’17

Manassas, VA, October 12, 2017– The law firm of Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian wishes to congratulate Prince William land use and real estate attorney Karen Cohen of VF&N on her selection as a George Mason School of Business Prominent Patriot 2017.

Each year, George Mason School of Business honors alumni nominated and selected by their peers who demonstrate citizenship, scholarship, and leadership in their daily lives as a Prominent Patriot. Read more about the award and this year’s recipients here.

In addition to her work as a partner attorney at VF&N, Karen Cohen (MS Real Estate Development, ’12) also currently serves as a director-at-large on the School of Business Alumni Chapter Board. She helped create the Mason’s Real Estate Development Industry Group, which she served as its first director. She is also on the strategic plan committee for Mason’s Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship (CREE) and the fundraising committee for the Annual Business Celebration.

Congratulations Karen Cohen!