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Each roommate is responsible for the full amount due a landlord

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Richard M. Alderman Interim Dean of the Law Center

The People’s Lawyer

ww.peopleslawyer.net

Q. I am a recent graduate of the University of Houston, and was hoping to get your advice. To make a long story short—my friend is trying to sell his flooded vehicle. The buyer offered around $16,000, which is about the right price if it was not flooded. The event of flooding has yet to make it to AutoCheck, which is why the price is near what it is worth in very good condition. What are the repercussions of selling this vehicle and not saying about whether it was in a flood?

A. It my opinion, not disclosing that the car was in a flood will violate the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. This is our state’s consumer protection law and it applies to all sellers, not just those in business. This law requires any seller disclose facts he knows will matter to the buyer. It sounds like your friend is aware that this information would matter to the buyer, and the law requires he disclose it. If he does not, he could be responsible for three times the buyer’s damages, plus attorney’s fees.

Q. My tenant failed to pay rent on May 1st. He advised me on May 12the he was voluntarily moving out. On May 16th he said he would finish moving everything out that day. We entered property approximately 48 hours later and found items he had left. Is the intent of the tenant to vacate the property enough to consider the personal property left after May 16th abandoned?

A. This one does not have a simple answer, and I would not rely on his “intent” to abandon the property. If you destroy the property and he did not abandon it, you could be liable for damages.

The easiest approach is to contact the tenant and ask if he has abandoned the property and if you have permission to remove it. If you cannot contact him, you can remove the property, then send him notice you have it and that you will keep it a reasonable time for him to claim it. Tell him that after that you will consider it abandoned. Another approach is to go ahead with an eviction and let the constable remove the property.

Q. There is a man that keeps calling me and says he is collecting a credit card company debt. He has been harassing me over this ten-year-old debt. He said that I would be served an arrest warrant for fraud if I don’t take care of this problem. He even said that I would be served at my place of employment or my residence. Can he do this?

A. Based on what you say, it sounds like he is violating state and federal debt collection laws. Basically, these laws prohibit a debt collector from harassing you, or threatening an arrest. Texas law also requires a lawsuit be filed within four years, and threats to sue after that time period violate the same laws. To see what these laws say, take a look at the “Legal Topics—Debt Collection” section my website, www.peopleslawyer.net.

Next time he calls get a name, let him know you know about these laws, and demand he stop all further communication. Under federal law he may only contact you one more time after you tell him to stop.

Q. I have an eviction on my record from four years ago. I currently have two years of a good rental history and I am looking for a new place to live. However, I am being denied because of the past eviction. How long can apartment’s look back into your rental history?

A. Unfortunately, they can go back as long as they want. At some point, however, your current payment history should be more important than what you did in the past. I suggest you speak with the landlord when you first apply and explain your situation. Hopefully, you will find one that believes you have turned things around. Maybe save up and offer a larger security deposit.

Do you want to know more about your legal rights? Check out my website, www.peopleslawyer.net


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