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Be careful of deals that sound too good to be true

Richard M.  Alderman Interim Dean of the Law Center

Richard M. Alderman
Interim Dean of the Law Center

Q. Is it legal for me to act as an “agent” for a company from outside the US? The company will have their customers mail checks to me in my name, I cash the checks, keep a percentage of the original, and wire the remainder to company? This sounds like a great opportunity.
A. It does sound like a great opportunity, and as my father used to say, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” As far as I know, there is nothing illegal about representing a company from outside of the U.S. for the purpose of collecting payments. In this case, however, my opinion is that this offer is a scam. Without going into the details, what will happen is the checks you receive and “cash” eventually will bounce after you have forwarded your money to the company. You will then have to return all the money you received from the bank. The bottom line is you will be out a lot of money. My advice is to ignore all of these get rich quick, work-at-home, schemes.
Q. Can you be turned in to a collection agency for a bill if you are at least paying something on it, say $5?
A. If you are not paying the full amount due on a debt the debt is considered in default and can be sent to collection. Sometimes speaking with the creditor and explaining why you are not paying the full amount and when you will be able to pay can delay collection efforts.
Q. Who is liable for golf ball damage to auto when driving near a golf course? Thank You.
A. Interesting question. For anyone to be liable, they must be “negligent.” In other words, they did not act as a reasonable person would in the same circumstances. For example, the golf course could be responsible if it did not have sufficient protection for passing cars. If every similar course had a 20-foot fence, and it had no fence of a ten-foot fence, it could be considered negligent, and responsible for damage caused by a golf ball. The golfer could also be responsible if he or she did not act reasonable. For example, if the golfer had hit the ball in the street before, and did not take responsible steps to aim the ball away from the road, the golfer could be considered negligent.
In many case, however, no one may be responsible because it was simply an accident. If this was just an accident—the golfer and the golf course both acted reasonably—nether would be liable and you would have to pay for the damage. This is why it is so important we all have full-coverage automobile insurance.
Q. I have lived in the same apartment for 6 years. I am a good tenant and always pay my rent on time. Can my landlord just refuse to renew my lease with no explanation? I have been told he doesn’t like me.
A. As a general rule, either the landlord or the tenant can chose not to renew a lease with no explanation. For example, if you wanted to move, you could just tell the landlord “I’m not renewing my lease.” If he asked why, you could say “none of your business.” Similarly, the landlord can decide not to renew your lease and require you to move. There is nothing stopping a landlord from not renewing a lease because “he doesn’t like” the tenant. A landlord, however, cannot refuse to renew a lease based on race, sex, age or religion. This would be unlawful discrimination.
Q. Someone who owes me money just died. Am I out of luck? Do his children have to pay?
A. When someone dies, his or her children are not liable unless the child had agreed to pay the debt. You may not, however, be out of luck. After a person dies, his or her estate is responsible for the debts. You should file a claim with the executor or administrator of the estate. If there are any assets in the estate, they can be used to pay the money you are owed.

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