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Tenant may not change door locks

By By Richard Alderman
Dec. 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.


Do I have the right to change the locks on my apartment door? I think someone else has a key. If I change the lock, must I give the landlord a key?

Under Texas law, a landlord must change or re-key the locks on exterior doors whenever a new tenant moves into the apartment. The landlord also must repair or replace any defective lock at his own expense. Unless the lease provides otherwise, however, a tenant may not "remove, change, re-key, replace, or alter a security device or have it removed, changed, re-keyed, replaced, or altered without permission of the landlord."

This does not mean, however, that you cannot have the locks changed. Texas law requires that a landlord must re-key or change the locks whenever requested to do so by the tenant. In such cases, however, the tenant must pay the reasonable costs of changing or re-keying the lock.

I have a copy of the sixth edition of your book, "Know Your Rights!" I was told there is a new edition. Where can I get a copy?

Thank you for asking. The eight edition of my book, "Know Your Rights! Answers to Texans' Everyday Legal Questions," is currently available at bookstores or from my website, peopleslawyer.net. The book has 19 chapters, dealing with just about every area of law. It is written in a simple to understand question and answer format and includes some model letters and forms to help you resolve your legal problems. It also is available in a Kindle edition.

May a store limit how many items I can purchase? I tried to buy 10 of an item that was advertised in a "Black Friday sale," but the store said the sale was limited to one per customer. Is this legal?

Start by reading the advertisement. If the advertisement limits quantities, the limitation is enforceable. The harder question is whether the store may limit quantity when nothing is said in the ad. In my opinion, the store may limit a customer to a "reasonable" quantity. If it is a deep discount sale, such as the one you mentioned, a limit of one per person seems reasonable and what most people would expect.

About 15 years ago, I did business with a company and never paid my bills. I was shocked to find out that they still refuse to deal with me until I pay. Isn't there some sort of limitations period for collecting a debt?

There are limitation periods for any type of legal action. For example, most debts cannot be enforced after four years. There also are limits on how long such information may be reported on your credit report. Generally after seven years the information becomes obsolete and cannot be reported.

There are no limitations, however, on how long you "owe" a debt. In fact, until it is paid, the money is owed.

Perhaps more importantly, a business generally has the right to do business or refuse to do business with whomever it wants. If the business you owe money to does not want to deal with you until the debt is paid, it has a legal right to do so. It may seem "shocking" to you, but it is obviously a matter of some importance to the person to whom you owe the money.

If you loan someone money and there is no type of legally binding agreement, only verbal, what type of action can be taken to retrieve funds?

You seem to think that there is no "legally binding agreement" because it is not in writing.

If you loaned the person money and he agreed to pay you back, you have a "legally binding agreement," even if it is oral. You can file a claim in small claims court to collect. Of course, you will have to prove you loaned the money.

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 peopleslawyer.net.

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