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Know your rights: Texas Lemon Law provides some lemon-aid

By By Richard Alderman
July 14, 2012 at 2:14 a.m.


I bought a lemon. Not a yellow fruit, a red car. It has been nothing but problems. I have had the car in the shop more than a dozen times and it is less than 1-year-old. Does Texas have a Lemon Law? How do I use it?

Yes, Texas does have a Lemon Law. It applies to any car, truck, motorcycle, motor home and All-Terrain Vehicle that develops problems covered by a manufacturer's written warranty.

Under the law, a vehicle is considered a "lemon" if it is not repaired after a reasonable number of attempts. A reasonable number of attempts is twice within the first 12 months or 12,000 miles, and twice more during the 12 months or 12,000 miles after the second repair attempt.

In other words, four attempts at least two of which must be within the first 12 months or 12,000 miles. If the problem is a serious safety defect, it is only necessary to have a total of two attempts, at least one of which must occur within the first 12 months or 12,000 miles. A vehicle also qualifies under this law if it is out of service for repair for a cumulative total of 30 or more days in the first 24 months or 24,000 miles.

If your car has had the same problem, it is likely that you meet the standard necessary to establish a legal "lemon." To use this law, you must give the manufacturer notice of your complaint. If it is not taken care of, you should consider filing a formal lemon law complaint.

Under the law, if you prevail you could be entitled to a refund or a new car. To obtain more information about the lemon law, visit txdmv.gov/protection/lemon_law.htm, or call 888-368-4689 and press "4."

You mentioned a program at the University of Houston Law Center that provides assistance to consumers with problems. How do I contact them?

The program you are referring to is the Texas Consumer Complaint Center. I established the Center four years ago to help consumers resolve simple consumer disputes.

The Center is staffed by attorneys and law students and helps with any type of consumer problem. We deal with everything from debt collection and landlord tenant problems, to faulty repairs or construction and defective products.

To file a complaint with the Center, visit texasccc.com, or call 877-839-8422.

If I mail a check for a credit card payment and have it postmarked by the due date, is that considered on time? I was just charged a late fee based on the date it was received, not mailed.

The due date is just that, the date the payment is due. If the payment is not received on or before that date, it is considered late.

The best way to avoid problems resulting from a delayed delivery of a check is to go online and arrange to pay the bill directly through the merchant's website.

My neighbor built a new bed all long the property line. The bed is substantially higher than our lot and when it rains, we flood. Is this legal?

As far as the law is concerned, your neighbor does not have the right to alter the natural flow of water and is liable for any damage caused if he does.

As a practical matter, you should discuss this with your neighbor and try to convince him to install proper drainage. If he refuses, you may need a real estate attorney to assist you with your negotiations.

You have written about our consumer protection law, the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Can I file a claim under this law in small claims court? Can I get three times my damages?

You may file a claim in small claims court for money damages under any legal theory recognized in Texas, including the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

The only limitation is that your claim must be for $10,000 or less. The Deceptive Trade Practices Act allows you to recover up to three times your damages, but only if you show the person you are suing acted knowingly.

Basically this means that he knew or should have known that he was misleading or deceiving 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 peopleslawyer.net.

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