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Know your rights: Landlord does not have to change a lease

Nov. 12, 2011 at 5:12 a.m.


I signed a lease with my friend. She now is getting married and wants her name removed from the lease. Even though my credit is good and I can afford the rent, the landlord will not remove her name. What can we do to get her name off the lease? She is having trouble renting another apartment.

A lease is a contract between the landlord and the tenants. In this case, the three of you have entered into a contract for the lease of the apartment. That lease cannot be changed unless all of the parties agree. If the landlord does not want to change the lease, there is no way you can force him to do so. I suggest you speak with him and try to work things out. Maybe if you agree to a larger security deposit, he will allow you to sign a new lease with just your name.

My husband cashed his paycheck at a convenience store. The store is now calling him, saying there are no funds in the employer's account. Is my husband liable for the check or is the company? Does my husband have any rights against his employer for all of the bounced check fees he incurred as a result of his paycheck being returned?

When your husband cashed the check he endorsed it. Placing his indorsement on the check makes him responsible for the amount of the check if it is not paid. In other words, the store that cashed the check has the option of going against either your husband or the company that wrote the check. If your husband pays, however, he has a claim against the company that wrote the check.

In my opinion, your husband is also entitled to damages against his employer for the amount of fees incurred for checks that bounced as a result of his paycheck being returned. I suggest he immediately let his employer know that he expects it to pay the check and compensate him for all of the fees he incurred as a result of its check bouncing.

I live with my fiancé. We have decided not to get married and split up. Do I have the right to sell the engagement ring and use the money to get a new place to live?

As a general rule in Texas, an engagement is considered a conditional gift. The gift is given on the condition that you get married. Whether the ring must be returned, however, usually depends on who breaks off the engagement. If the man calls it off, most courts say the woman may keep the ring. If the woman calls off the wedding, or the decision is mutual, the ring probably must be returned. Based on what you say, you have mutually agreed to end your relationship. If that is the case, my opinion is that you must return the ring, or get him to agree to allow you to sell it.

I got a form will at the library. Is it valid, or do I need a lawyer and a notary?

A will is valid if it meets the requirements of Texas law. There is no requirement that the will be prepared by an attorney or that it be notarized. Having said that, these are both good ideas. If you use a form will (paper or from a computer program) and it is properly witnessed, it can be valid. On the other hand, if you make a mistake, or you use a form that does not comply with Texas law, you could cause your loved ones a great deal of frustration and expense.

In my opinion, having an attorney prepare a will may be the best way to save money in the long run. Also, having the will notarized, although not necessary, makes it easier and less expensive to probate. Many attorneys will prepare a simple will for a very reasonable fee. Sometimes, the fee charged is not too much more than the do-it-yourself kits. I suggest you make some phone calls to see if you can find an attorney to assist you.

Richard Alderman, a consumer advocate popularly known as "the People's Lawyer," is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. His column appears weekly in the Victoria Advocate. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a Web page at www.peopleslawyer.net.

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