Know your rights

Richard Alderman

Q. When my lease was up, my landlord asked me to sign a new lease. He told me I could sign now, but I had 30 days to decide after signing my lease if I wanted to stay or go. Shortly after signing the new lease, my apartment was broken into. Within 30 days, I told the landlord I was moving. She told me I couldn’t because I had already signed a lease. I also reminded her that I had 30 days to decide whether I wanted to stay or go, but she said it didn’t matter. I moved well within the 30 days, and now she has reported to the credit bureau that I broke my lease.

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Q. I was told that Texas now allows me to have a special type of deed that transfers title to my home after my death without probate. Is this true? What is it called?

A. As of September 1, 2015, Texas allows an owner of real property to transfer the property to his or her beneficiaries by executing what is called a Transfer On Death (TOD) deed. This type of deed effectively avoids the need for probate to transfer the title to real property after death. Homeowners can now transfer real property after death without incurring legal fees or court costs.

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Q. I am 60 years old and my English is not very good. I usually get very nervous speaking to a group or to people I don’t know. I want to file a claim in justice court, but I am afraid I will not be able to communicate well with the judge. I know I can have a lawyer, but that will be expensive. I have a grown son who has said he will assist me, but I don’t know if that will be allowed. Can my son help me in court?

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Q. In January, a business agreed to install a new “Ford remanufactured engine” in my truck. On the receipt, it came with a 100,000 miles and three-year warranty. Before 1,000 miles, the truck started making a knocking noise. The business told me it was the transmission. I brought the truck to a local Ford dealer. The dealership performed a complete diagnostics and said the knocking was coming from the engine.

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Q. How many days do I have to change my mind after I buy a car? I signed a contract late at night and went in the next morning to cancel. The dealer told me I was out of luck and couldn’t change my mind. My friend told me I have three days to change my mind.

A. The dealer is correct. As far as the law is concerned, you generally cannot simply change your mind after you sign a contract.  There are exceptions, however, for health spa contracts, door-to-door sales, timeshare contracts and certain contracts that put a lien on your homestead.

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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?

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Q. My friend was late on her rent at an apartment complex. One day she came home and found a lien notice where her TV used to be. They took both of her TVs in the apartment. Isn’t this stealing? Is this legal for them to do?

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Q. Is it true that medical bills or accounts are not allowed to remain on your credit report for more than four years in the state of Texas?

A. It is not true. Medical bills are basically the same as any other debt. They stay on your credit report for seven years. There is a four-year statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit for a debt; however, the fact that you cannot be sued does not mean you no longer owe the debt, and it will not become “obsolete” and removed from your credit report for seven years.

 

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Q. I would like to know if the property manager of an apartment project can refuse to give the tenant the owner’s name if the tenant requests it.

A. According to the Texas Property Code, the landlord or property manager must disclose the name and address of the holder of record title after you request it. If the information is not disclosed, you could be entitled to $100 plus one month’s rent in damages, as well as attorney’s fees and court costs. I suggest you send your request by certified mail.

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Q. Is an oral lease valid? I want to move early but my landlord says we have a valid lease for a year.

A. An oral lease for a year or less is just as enforceable as a written lease. Of course, the person who is trying to enforce the lease must prove the oral agreement exists. Maybe you can get the landlord to agree to terminate the lease early by forfeiting the security deposit or paying a month’s rent. If the landlord does not agree to terminate the lease, you may owe damages for moving out early.

 

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