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Know Your Rights: New owner is liable for return of security deposit

By By Richard Alderman
Aug. 11, 2012 at 3:11 a.m.


I leased a home from a company and gave the proper 30-day notice. My last day was July 10, and I have not received my security deposit. I contacted the management company and was told that the house was sold the month before my lease ended. I was told to contact the new owner because my deposit was transferred to him. I have not received my deposit after forwarding my new address to the new owner. Who is responsible for returning my deposit?

First, under the law, a landlord has 30 days after you move out to return a deposit or send written notice explaining why it is not being returned. If the deposit is not returned after 30 days, based on what you say, both the new owner and the former owner are liable for the return of the deposit. The new owner is liable as soon as he purchases the property. The former owner remains liable until the new owner delivers to the tenant a signed statement acknowledging that the new owner has received and is responsible for the tenant's security deposit. In your case, no notice was sent, so both are now liable. I suggest you wait until the end of the 30 days, and then send a certified letter to both parties letting them know you believe they have violated the Texas Security Deposit Law, and you expect the deposit promptly will be returned. If it is not, and you must go to small claims court, you could be entitled to three times the deposit plus an additional $100.

I defaulted on a credit card ten years ago. I now have a collection agency threatening to again report the debt to the credit bureau because they are not the original creditor. I worked for seven years to maintain good credit. Will this now be put back on my credit report?

This is called "re-aging," and they cannot do it. As you seem to understand, negative information stays on your report for seven years. After that, the information is considered obsolete and generally cannot be reported. The seven-year period, however, runs from the original debt. The fact the debt is sold or assigned to a debt collector does not start the clock running again. I suggest you let the debt collector know that you believe its threat to place the information back on your credit report violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If it has been reported, contact the credit bureau, and let them know this is all the same debt and you want it removed. For more information about debt collection and credit bureaus, look at the debt collection material on my website, www.peopleslawyer.net.

How long after closing do I have to file a deceptive trade claim against a real estate company that sold property for me? I had problems with the surveys and the amount of land that was sold.

A claim under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act must be filed within two years of when the deceptive act or practice occurred, or when you discover the act or practice, whichever is longer.

My husband didn't have a will when he died. I still have a statutory durable power of attorney he signed. Does this help me get his property into my name?

The power of attorney will not help. The authority granted by a power of attorney ends at death. To control the distribution of property after death, you need a will. If your husband died without a will, he died "in testate" but you can still probate his estate. Talk with a local probate attorney.

Do you want to know more about your legal rights? Pick up a copy of the 8th edition of my book "Know Your Rights," available at bookstores or my website, peopleslawyer.net.

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.

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