5 Crucial Areas of Commercial Real Estate Law for Colorado Businesses

5 Crucial Areas of Commercial Real Estate Law for Colorado Businesses

Real estate law is a broad and complicated legal area. Colorado is no exception with a tangled mass of statutes on everything from discloser and zoning laws to insurance and contract laws. Whether you lease or own your business location, you will likely encounter a property law issue at some point. Attorney Elizabeth Lewis, MS, JD can help guide you through real estate law at every level before it affects your business. The following post will discuss five crucial areas of commercial real estate law for Colorado businesses.

  • Landlord/Tennant Laws
  • Disclosure Laws
  • Zoning and Land Use Laws
  • Contract Law
  • Insurance Laws

Landlord/Tennant Laws

Whether you own or rent your business space, landlord/tenant laws are designed to protect the rights of both sides who have entered into a rental or leasing agreement. There are numerous areas within these laws, including taxation, right of privacy, payment of rental fees, disclosures, duration of agreements, and right to terminate agreements. As a Colorado business owner, it is essential to comply with state laws in order to prevent violations. It’s a good idea to hire a Colorado-based attorney to advise you on all of your real estate and leasing issues from initial set up to lease/contract review to protecting your assets.

Disclosure Laws

Before you buy or rent a business space, you want to know everything you are getting into. Are there any toxic substances, like asbestos or lead paint? Does the building have energy use restrictions or accessibility inspections? You may have found the perfect location, nestled in the bustling heart of downtown Denver, but it is important to know what you may not readily see. Like other real estate laws, discloser laws vary from state to state and deal with the location, condition, and restrictions of the property. Furthermore, a commercial lease and residential lease differ greatly and are subject to different laws. A small business attorney will review and advise you on existing or potential factors before you are ready to lease or buy a retail space.

Zoning and Land Use Laws

Your real estate choice, whether you operate out of a home office or huge warehouse, will affect your business. Commercial real estate can be divided into several categories, including office buildings, industrial, retail, restaurant, multifamily, undeveloped land, and more. Each of these properties are subject to Colorado state zoning and land use regulations.

Besides determining taxation, these laws define and enforce how a property is used. As a business owner, you already have a checklist a mile long when it comes to choosing your location – rent or buy, physical space, length of lease, affordability, renovations, maintenance, competitors, specifications for signs, accessibility, and much more. Learning that you must apply for rezoning to the local board is not something you want to add your list, and it does not guarantee that your application will be accepted. With the expert advice of an attorney, you can navigate through these real estate laws in order to select the perfect location.

Contract Law

After you have decided whether to buy or rent, reviewed the terms of disclosure, and confirmed zoning, you will enter into a contractual agreement. Specifically worded and structured, these legally binding documents are meant to stand up to any challenges by a landlord, tenant, or outside entity. Many savvy business owners have agreed to the terms of a contract only to fall victim to some unforeseen loophole or unintentional breach that leads to litigation. In this event, an attorney will represent you and help protect your business.

Insurance Laws

Based on the space you occupy and the business you operate, you are required to have certain insurance. This is to protect your investment and cover any property loss or liability issues. The type(s) of insurance you purchase depends on your status as lessor or lessee, the number of employees you have, as well as any building ordinance or state laws. In the unfortunate event of an accident, burglary, fire, or other disaster, additional insurance can help to cover the aftermath of damage to your business. A small business attorney can help you decide what coverage is right for you.

If you are a landlord or a tenant who needs help with Colorado commercial real estate, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Lawyer. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney

Mailing Address:

501 S. Cherry Street, Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80246
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

Online at:

Foreign National Business Formation and the EB-5 Visa Process in Colorado

Foreign National Business Formation and the EB-5 Visa Process in Colorado

Congress, in its quest to keep our economy healthy, looks for ways to invite business owners and entrepreneurs from other countries here, to our shores, to build, manufacture, and employ our citizens. The good news, if you are a foreign national looking for a chance to become a U.S. business owner, is that you don’t have to be a multi-national conglomerate to own a business here in the United States.

USCIS administers the EB-5 program, created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.

The EB-5 program doesn’t restrict visas to large corporations like Toyota and Siemens. Instead, it requires foreign investors invest in a new commercial enterprise or rescue a troubled business where they will continue to employ the existing employees for at least two years.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services (USCIS) describes new commercial enterprise as for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of lawful business including by not limited to:

  • A sole proprietorship
  • Partnership (whether limited or general)
  • Holding company
  • Joint venture
  • Corporation
  • Business trust, or
  • Other entity, which may be publicly or privately owned

There are a few catches, but if you can overcome them, you can set up shop in the United States as a foreign national. What seem to be the more challenging requirements? You have to be able to hire or employ 10 qualifying employees, and you need to be able to invest a substantial amount of capital.

A Foreign National Owned Business Must Provide Employment for 10 Qualifying Employees

Keeping in mind that the qualifying employees can be existing employees, as an Eb-5 foreign national owned business you must provide employments for 10 qualifying employees. A qualifying employee is described by USCIS as follows:

A qualifying employee is a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident or other immigrant authorized to work in the United States including, but not limited to, a conditional resident, a temporary resident, an asylee, a refugee, or a person residing in the United States under suspension of deportation.

However, “this definition does not include the immigrant investor; his or her spouse, sons, or daughters; or any foreign national in any non-immigrant status (such as an H-1B non-immigrant) or who is not authorized to work in the United States.” Which means your family can of course come with you, but if you hire a friend or family member who is also a foreign national, their job may not count toward the requirement to employ ten qualified people.

EB-5 Capital Investment Requirement

The EB-5capital investment requirement is pretty steep, but you can cut the amount required in half if you are willing to invest in a High Unemployment or Rural Area. The minimum general qualifying investment amount is $1 million, but the investment requirement in a Targeted Employment Area (High Unemployment or Rural Area) is on only $500,000.

There are a lot of rules and requirements that extend beyond this surface explanation, but if you are a foreign national who has a business idea or an entrepreneurial skill set that you believe would prosper well in the United States, it is worth your time to talk to an attorney who is familiar with the law and has experience preparing EB-5 visa applications.

Foreign National Business Formation in Colorado

Our state, like many U.S. States, has a Regional Investment center designed to attract Foreign National business formation in Colorado. The Colorado Regional Center describes EB-5 investment as “an alignment of interests” which allow immigrant investors the opportunity to “live, work, attend school, or retire anywhere in the U.S.” Their website lists a host of benefits, including a path to citizenship if that is your ultimate goal.

  • The investor does not have to be sponsored
  • The process for approval is relatively fast compared to other visa programs
  • The investor has more freedom of travel
  • The investor has increased US educational opportunities (including residency benefits for dependent students) and
  • The investor has the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen after five years

The EB-5 visa program is thriving in Colorado, and many areas of the state are welcoming and diverse, making it a popular alternative to more expensive East and West coast investment possibilities. If you are a foreign national with an interest in investing in or operating a business here in the United States, or have questions about foreign national business formation and the EB-5 visa process in Colorado, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney

Mailing Address:

501 S. Cherry Street, Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80246
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

Online at:

Preparing Quarterly Tax Payments for Your New Colorado Small Business

Preparing Quarterly Tax Payments for Your New Colorado Small Business

Preparing Quarterly Tax Payments for Your New Colorado Small Business

If you are a relatively new Colorado small business, and the January deadline to pay estimated taxes just snuck up on you, this post is for you.

You or your bookkeeper are probably using software to keep track of your sales and income – but knowing what you brought in is not the same as knowing what you owe in taxes. Plus, for small business owners, paying taxes is not an affair you sweat out every year in April – your estimated taxes are due four times every year, so you want the process of estimating what you owe, plus having the funds on hand to meet your obligations to be as simple as possible. Tax planning is always an important part of your overall business plan for the coming year, so take some time now, before the year gets away from you, to make sure you are ready for what lies ahead.

Making Your Small Business Estimated Tax Payments

If you already have a year of business ownership in your rear view mirror, then the process of making your small business estimated tax payments can be a bit more simple for you, but you can still get caught owing much more than you thought you did when the final calculations are made in April of next year. What’s the best way to stay on top of what you will owe? If you have ever had trouble meeting your tax obligations, or failed to run certain calculations correctly, you already know this: hire a qualified tax professional to help you stay on top of what you will owe. Estimated taxes are actually designed to keep you out of trouble, so having someone help you make those estimations correctly is a smart thing for any small business owner to do. Plus, you can write of the expense of having help!

If on the other hand, your small business has only been around for a couple of months, trying to figure out what taxes you might owe on this year’s income based on last year’s income is going to be difficult. It’s true that owing less than $1000 in taxes at the end of the year will mean that you don’t need to file quarterly taxes, but what if you do so well that your start up expenses and other allowed expenses during the course of the year don’t reduce your taxable income as much as you expect?

Try Calculating Estimated Payments Yourself

Here’s a litmus test for you: try calculating estimated payments yourself. If you can do it, put them on your calendar each quarter, and do them yourself (but consider having a tax professional review and submit them for you). If they are confusing, or just take more time than you have to give, use the list of questions provided at the end of this blog to find and hire someone to help you. Here are the relevant forms:

  • Individuals, including sole proprietors, partners, and S corporation shareholders, generally use Form 1040-ES (PDF), to figure estimated tax.
  • Corporations generally use Form 1120-W (PDF), to figure estimated tax.

Questions to Ask a Prospective Tax Preparer

    When you hire a tax professional for your small business, take the time to find someone who is qualified – the IRS offers the following list of questions to ask prospective tax preparer.

  1. Has the preparer worked with businesses similar to yours in size and type?
  2. Is the preparer familiar with your particular line of business?
  3. Does the tax preparer offer electronic filing?
  4. [Will he or she] deposit your tax payments electronically?
  5. [Ask] what services are included in the preparers’ fees.
  6. If the IRS examines your return, what is their policy on assisting you?
  7. You may want to ask for references, just as you would for any professional service.
  8. Consider checking with the Better Business Bureau, your State Board of Accountancy for CPAs, the State Bar Association for attorneys, or the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility for enrolled agents.
  9. Avoid any paid preparer who refuses to sign a return they prepared.

If you need a highly qualified tax advisor, or just want a referral to a good tax accountant to help you calculate quarterly tax payments for your new Colorado small business, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Lawyer. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney

Mailing Address:

501 S. Cherry Street, Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80246
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

Online at:

Eight Important Questions For Your Small Business Attorney

Eight Important Questions For Your Small Business Attorney

Asking a Colorado small business attorney about these important aspects of your business now can save you a lot of frustration and expense down the road.

Whether you are a Colorado small business just getting started, or an established company with locations throughout the United States (and growing!), it is important that you work with an attorney throughout the life of your business. This post will cover the following list of typical reasons entrepreneurs with new or established businesses should seek out a business attorney:

  • business formation advice and documentation
  • business development and planning consultation
  • creation and/or review of business contracts
  • employment and independent contractor agreements
  • non-disclosure agreements
  • review of leases
  • software licensing contracts
  • website documentation

Business Formation Advice and Documentation

The form your business takes (ex: corporation, s-corporation, or a limited liability company) affects how you pay taxes, and how your personal assets are protected by the law. Business formation also has a role in your record keeping, and document filings. If you are in Colorado, there are some things you can do on your own, but before you get started, speaking to a small business attorney to get business formation advice and documentation instruction for your specific situation can be one of the most important decisions you make. Even if you want to handle some of the paperwork and filing on your own, you should still have an attorney review your situation and make a business form recommendation. Once you have good advice on which form of business to choose, your attorney can help you file the paper work, direct you on how to keep necessary records, or do it for you.

Business Development and Planning Consultation

Even if you are a brand new business, having an experienced small business attorney provide business development and planning consultation is a smart move. No entrepreneur has every skill-set needed to grow a business – you might have fantastic sales skills, but terrible record keeping practices. Let a good business attorney refer you to trusted resources in the areas where you need help.

Consulting with your attorney about gaps in your business plan is a good idea, too. While no attorney enjoys seeing a business fail, a big part of any small business law practice unfortunately involves helping people clean up after a business fails. This puts your small business attorney in an ideal position to advise you about what not to do.

Creating and Reviewing Business Contracts

Just do it! Whether you are a small business writing your first contract, or an established business sending out a contract you have used for years, it is critical that an attorney help with creating and reviewing business contracts. Even if you are familiar with contract law in Colorado, laws change over time, and what was a good contract five years ago may no longer be.

Employment and Independent Contractor Agreements

Employment law is one of the most complicated and confusing aspects of business. It is easy for a small business owner to get tangled up in a bad employment contract, or to set requirements for workers that disqualify them as independent contractors. Without the advice of an attorney, it is fairly easy to break the law unintentionally when it comes to your employment and independent contractor agreements.

Non-disclosure Agreements

If you are not sure if you need non-disclosure agreements in your line of work, ask your attorney. The answer may surprise you. There are many instances an NDA is a good idea, even if you are not discussing an invention or new idea.

Review of Leases

This is another “just do it” recommendation on our list of important questions to ask your Colorado small business attorney. There is no such thing as a “standard” lease agreement. Your attorney can provide a review of leases before you sign them and tell you exactly what you are committing to and how the lease can be terminated (or not!). You do not want to be stuck with a $20k widget that you can’t use and you can’t return. Your attorney can protect you, so let her!

Software Licensing Contracts

Even if you don’t write code or work in technology, it is a good idea to find out whether any of your ideas, practices, applications, or web sites should be protected by software licensing contracts . To do so, you will need the services of a good intellectual property attorney such as myself.

Website Documentation

You probably have a website, but have you properly posted your privacy and copyright policies, terms of service, etc.? If not, you could be placing your business in a precarious position. If you haven’t covered yourself with the correct legal statements, your small business attorney may have a broiler plate recommendation for the website documentation legalese that belongs on your public website.

Whether you have eight important questions for your small business attorney, or just one, the sooner you ask, the better. If you need legal advice about business formation, non-disclosure agreements, website documentation or any other legal advice for your small business, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Lawyer. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney

Mailing Address:

501 S. Cherry Street, Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80246
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

Online at:

Colorado’s Cottage Food Industry Grows Stronger

Colorado’s Cottage Food Industry Grows Stronger

For a small business owner looking to test the waters of entrepreneurship in the food industry, the cottage foods industry option might be just the thing. You might ask, “What are cottage foods?“, and for that, we can consult with the Act itself, but it’s largely limited to a variety of foods that are prepared in such as way as to not require refrigeration and must be sold directly to consumers, versus restaurants or grocery stores. Additionally, the sales of such items must take place at the producer’s location, or at a farmer’s market or other similar community-supported event/venue that deals directly with consumers. Think back to the time where you bought a jar of specialty jam or pickles at your local farmer’s market, and you were most likely supporting a cottage food producer.

When the Senate Bill 12-048 (or the Colorado Cottage Foods Act) was enacted, a cap on the amount of sales permitted under the act made it difficult for a producer to scale up as they needed, should their micro-business experience rapid growth. An additional issue was the short list of approved items, which seemed slightly thin on the variety of products available for making. In 2015, things changed under a few amendments, designed to lift that sales cap and also provide for a greater range of allowed products.

Amendments House Bills 15-085 and 15-1102 improved the original Act to increase items permitted and when a few steps further into defining the products by use of tiers. Those tiers are broken down into the following configurations:

–Tier One Foods: Spices, teas, dehydrated produce, nuts, seeds, honey, jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butter, flour, and baked goods, which include candies, tortillas, and fruit emapanadas.

–Tier Two Foods: Pickled vegetables which have an equilibrium PH value of 4.6 or lower, and other non-hazardous foods. For example, sales are permitted of eggs to a level of 250 per month, so backyard chicken owners might be able to sell a bit of their overflow.

These provisions expand the diversity of available cottage food items for consumers, as well as extend the opportunities for people producing them. Along with these provisions, House Bill 15-1102 addresses the labeling of such products, so consumers are aware of the production classification and its production source, so consumers can easily identify they are purchasing items produced in a home kitchen, versus an industrial site.

While it might seem like the cottage food industry is “small potatoes”, one need only look at a company like Boulder County-based Celestial Seasonings to get the inspiration they need to take their product from their kitchen to a large-scale facility. Starting back in 1969, founder Mo Siegel was hand-picking wild herbs in our local mountains and creating their very first tea, and today, their product line has expanded dramatically to more than 105 varieties of tea, with ingredients being sourced from over 35 countries.

If starting a cottage food industry is something you are considering, keep in mind there are some trainings the state offers in order to make sure you are adhering to strict purity and production standards, as well as making sure you’re compliant as possible with state regulations surrounding your product(s).

If you need legal help, don’t hesitate to contact me at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com.

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney

Mailing Address:

501 S. Cherry Street, Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80246
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

Online at: