Security deposit must be returned
Q. I just moved out of my apartment. I gave proper notice and left it cleaner than when I moved in. I have been told this landlord does not return security deposits. How long do I have to wait to find out if mine is being returned? What can I do if it is not?
A. First, be sure to give your landlord a forwarding address. Assuming that you were current in your rent, gave your landlord proper notice before you move out and a forwarding address, the Texas Security Deposit Law offers you substantial protection. Under this law, a landlord must either return your security deposit, or send you written notice why it is not being returned, within thirty days after you move out. If the landlord does not act within this time period, the law presumes he or she is acting in bad faith. A tenant who sues under this law is entitled to up to three times the deposit plus an additional $100 and any attorney’s fees.
I also should point out that a landlord cannot just arbitrarily withhold money from your deposit. The landlord can withhold only for damages caused by a breach of the terms of the lease, such as excessive damage, but he cannot withhold for damage caused by “ordinary wear and tear.” If you don’t hear from your landlord within the 30-day limit, let him know you know your legal rights. My guess is that you will get back your deposit. If you do not, consider filing a claim in justice court. For more information about this law, check out the landlord-tenant section on my Web site, www.peopleslawyer.net.
Q. I have a debt collector calling me at work. I have told him that my employer prohibits such calls and I could lose my job. His answer was, “Then you better pay me because I am not going to stop calling you.” How can I stop these calls?
A. Under a federal law, called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you have the right to stop all calls from a debt collector, or to stop just calls at work. Under this law, once you notify a debt collector in writing that you want him to stop all future communication, the collector essentially must stop all calls, letters, e-mails and any other form of communication. He can contact you just once more to tell you what steps he will take next. If you want to continue communicating with the collector, but not at work, you can tell the collector you are not allowed to receive such calls at work, and the law says he cannot continue to call. If the debt collector violates this law, you have a claim for damages and penalties.
I suggest you let the debt collector know you know about this law and expect him will stop calling. My guess is that will end the calls. If he doesn’t stop you should immediately file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You also should consider speaking with a private consumer law attorney.
Q. My spouse and I are separated. What do we do to make the separation legal and ensure that property we obtain is not community property?
A. There really is no such thing in Texas as a legal separation. If you want to ensure property you obtain is not community property, you and your spouse should sign a partition and exchange agreement. You should have a family law attorney assist you with this document.
Q. I inherited $50,000 from my aunt. How much will I have to pay for inheritance taxes?
A. The person who inherits property does not pay taxes. It is the estate that pays taxes. Most estates, however, do not have to pay estate taxes. Under current law, estate taxes are due only if the value of the estate is over $5.49 million.
Do you want to know more about your legal rights? Check out my website, www.peopleslawyer.net