Puppy comes with a warranty

Q. I bought a new puppy. Shortly after we took it home it became very sick and died. Our vet told us the dog was sick when be bought it. We asked the seller for our money back or a new puppy and she refused. What are our rights?

A. Whenever you buy a “good,” whether it is a car, a pair of shoes, a television, or a puppy, the law is the same. Unless you have a contract stating otherwise the seller gives you what is called an implied warranty of merchantability. Under this warranty, the seller automatically guarantees that what you bought is “fit for its ordinary purpose and will pass without objection in the trade.” What this legalese means is that the seller guarantees that what you bought will perform as you expect and is in the condition other sellers would find reasonable. With a puppy, this means the puppy is healthy. In my opinion, unless you have a contract that says otherwise - for example stating the sale is “as is” - if you can show the puppy was ill when purchased, the seller has breached this warranty and owes you a refund or a new puppy. I suggest you go back and try again to talk with the seller. If you still are unsuccessful, consider small claims court.

Q. My lease ended and I went month-to-month. My landlord says I still must give 60 days notice before I leave. Is this legal? I thought you only had to give 30 days notice when a lease was month-to-month?

A. This has become a common question. As a general rule, when parties have a month-to-month tenancy, either party may end the relationship by giving 30 days notice. On the other hand, parties may always agree to extend or shorten this time period. My guess is that your lease has a clause saying that after the lease period ends, you become a month-to-month tenant. It probably also says that even if you become a month-to-month tenant, you still have to give 60 days notice. I don’t like such clauses because tenants usually are not aware of them, but they probably are enforceable.

Q. My father recently passed away. In his will, he left me his home. He has owned the home for more than 30 years, and owned it before he married for the second time. Now his wife, my step-mom, says she has the right to live in the house and I cannot sell it. Is she right?

A. Your stepmother is correct. As you seem to understand, the house was your father’s separate property and he has the right to will that property to whomever he wants. His wife has no ownership interest in the house. Because your father left the house to you in his will, you own the property. Your right to use or sell the property, however, is subject to your stepmother’s “homestead right” to stay in the house as long as she lives. The only way you will be able to sell the property is to get your step-mom to agree to move. Perhaps you can “buy out” her interest.

Q. I owe a lot of money to credit card companies. I am afraid they are going to sue me. All of my money is in my retirement plan and an IRA. Can they take this money if they sue me?

A. As I have said before, after you are sued, a creditor can garnish money in a bank account, such as checking or savings. A creditor, however, may not take your retirement or IRA funds. Under Texas law, money in a retirement account or an IRA, including a Roth IRA, is “exempt” and may not be taken by your creditors. I should add that under federal law, Social Security benefits are also protected. To see a list of all the property “exempt” from your creditors, look at my Web site below.

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