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Payment is “due” on due date

Richard M.  Alderman Interim Dean of the Law Center

Richard M. Alderman
Interim Dean of the Law Center

Q. I pay my bills by mail. My due date is the first of the month and I have a ten-day period before they charge a late fee. I always mail my check by the tenth day. The company has begun charging me interest and a late fee. How can I be charged a late fee if I can prove my payment was mailed before the due date?
A. First, the “due date” for your payment is the first of the month. That is the date it expects to receive payment. The ten days are a “grace period” to give you time to remit your payment so it can be received before any penalties are imposed. Payment due means payment arrives, not that it is mailed. You chose to mail your payment, and you are responsible for insuring that it arrives before the end of the grace period.
The simple way to avoid any penalties is to mail your check promptly after your receive your bill. In my opinion, an even better way is to arrange to make your payments online. Almost every company has a way to pay your bill online and your payment is then received on the day you click “submit.” Check your next statement to see what it says about online payments.
Q. I co-signed for someone who bought a car. He stopped paying and I had to pay $3,000 to settle the account. Can I recover this money from the person I co-signed for?
A. As you seem to understand, when you co-sign you must pay in the event the person you co-signed for does not. If you do not pay, it can adversely affect your credit rating and you could even be sued for the debt.
If you pay, however, the law gives you the right to be reimbursed by the other party. I suggest you speak with the person for whom you co-signed, and if you can’t work things out, send him or her a certified letter asking for payment. If you still are not reimbursed, file a claim in justice court.
This also is a good time to remind everyone about the dangers of co-signing. In my opinion, you should never co-sign unless you are ready and able to pay. When a creditor asks for a co-signer, he is basically saying he has doubts that the other person will pay and wants a co-signer as a guarantor. As a co-signer, you should have the same doubts, and consider the consequences when the person for whom you co-signed defaults.
Q. I had a car accident. The person who hit me won’t tell me the name of his insurance company. I don’t believe he even has insurance. The damages to my car are not extensive and I was not seriously hurt, but I will think he should pay. Am I out of luck?
A. This seems to be a common question. I should first point out that driving without insurance is unlawful and the person could be subject to a substantial fine and loss of his license. Promptly reporting the accident to the police is one way to find out if the other party has insurance.
As far as liability, insurance really is not relevant. If the person who hit you caused the accident, he is liable for your damages. Whether he has insurance does not change his liability. If the amount of your damages is under $10,000, I suggest you file a claim in justice court. If you file suit, the other person probably will bring in his insurance company, if he has insurance. If he doesn’t have insurance and doesn’t pay a judgment in your favor, he could lose his drive’s license and car registration.
Q. I heard you have a consumer newsletter. How do I subscribe? How much does it cost?
A. You heard correctly. I publish my Consumer Alert Newsletter by email three times, every week. Each issue contains useful information ranging from shopping and budgeting hints to legal updates. The newsletter is free, but you must subscribe at my website below.

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