legal advice

Q. What are my rights if I have a common law marriage? If we get divorced, will I have the right to any property?

A. As I have said many times before, a common law marriage is no different than any other marriage. You are married. Whether you are married by a justice of the peace, a rabbi or priest, or have a common law marriage, the legal ramifications are the same.

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Richard Alderman

Q. I am in a dispute with my landlord. Is it legal to record my phone calls with him? Do I have to tell him I am recording it or have a beeping sound?

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Richard Alderman

Q. If I cancel a retail purchase, in this case furniture, within the 72-hour cancellation period, does the store have the right to keep my deposit? The contract does state that the customer shall forfeit the deposit to the store.

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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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Richard Alderman

Q. I have not had this arise, but I am still curious. Can a store demand to see a photo ID when I pay with a credit card? Some places ask, and many do not.

A. Until recently, the only law that controlled whether a store could ask for a photo ID from a customer was the contract between the credit card issuer and the merchant. For most credit cards, this contract prohibits asking for an ID if the card is signed. If the card is unsigned, the merchant has the right to demand to see a photo ID. Here is what each credit company contract says:

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Q. I live in an apartment. I pay my rent on time and I am a good tenant. Recently, a small fire from the next-door unit burned part of my apartment and damaged my property. The apartment owner says he is not responsible for the damage to my property. What can I do? I do not have renter’s insurance.

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Q. I have heard that price gouging is illegal. Exactly how is price gouging defined and what are my remedies if I have been overcharged?

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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. 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. 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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