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Know your rights: Landlord can't 'just throw out' delinquent tenant

By By Richard Alderman
Jan. 26, 2013 at midnight
Updated Jan. 25, 2013 at 7:26 p.m.


I have a friend who has not paid her rent and has been given notice to get out of her apartment. She wants to know what will happen next. She is desperately trying to find a new place to live. She is afraid the landlord is just going to throw her out.

If your friend has not paid rent, the landlord has the right to evict her from the apartment. To evict her, however, the landlord must go to court, give your friend an opportunity to have a hearing before a judge and then have the eviction handled by the constable. The landlord does not have the right to just "throw her out" or lock her out of the apartment.

The legal process will take a few weeks, and she will be given notice of when the eviction hearing will take place. My suggestion is for your friend to move as soon as possible and to definitely be out before the constable takes her property. For more information about how the eviction process works, look at the landlord/tenant section on my website, peopleslawyer.net.

I own a small remodeling business. A customer agreed to pay me $500 for some work. He paid me $100 but has not paid the remainder. It has now been three months. When I told him he still owed me $400, he said too bad, "we don't have anything in writing" and offered me $100. I told him I needed the money and would go to small claims court if necessary. He said I couldn't sue because our agreement is not in writing. Is he right?

He is not right. An oral contract that can be performed in less than a year is enforceable, as is any oral agreement that has been performed by one side.

You did the work; you have a legal right to be paid. I suggest you again ask for your money, and if he doesn't pay, send a certified letter demanding payment.

Then, if you still do not get paid, file a claim in small claims court. If you win, you will be entitled to recover your money and the costs of the lawsuit.

My guess is court will not be necessary and he will pay once he knows he can't bully you.

I own my home. I am thinking about letting my boyfriend move in with me. Some friends have warned me that if he stays for a week, he can claim common-law marriage and be entitled to half of my home. Is this true?

It is not true. When it comes to common-law marriage, there is no such thing as a "one-week rule," or, as many others think, a "seven-year rule." A common-law marriage is not based on how long you spend together. To have a common-law marriage, you must meet three requirements: You must agree to be married, hold yourselves out as married and live together as husband and wife. You can live together forever and not have a common-law marriage as long as you do not want to be married. More importantly, however, even if you were married, your husband would not have an interest in a home you owned before marriage. Property owned before you are married is "separate" property, and a spouse does not obtain an interest in it simply by virtue of a marriage.

Is an oral lease valid? My landlord says it is not. He wants to raise my rent above the amount to which we agreed.

As a general rule, agreements dealing with real estate, including a lease, must be in writing to be enforceable. Under Texas law, however, a residential lease for a year or less does not have to be in writing to be valid. If you have an oral lease for a year or less, it is as binding as a written one. Of course, you must prove the existence of the agreement and its terms.

I am planning our wedding. I was given a price quote for a location for our reception. Four months later, I went back to accept the quote and pay a deposit and was told the price was not longer valid; it would be higher. Can I enforce the original price quote?

As a general rule, a price quote is binding, and an attempt to change it could be a violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The question is: For how long is the quote enforceable? I assume you agree that if you went back two years later, she would not have to honor the price. Is four months too long? In my opinion, this is a pretty long time to expect someone to hold open a quote for a reception. Most people make decisions within a few days, and I don't think it is reasonable to expect someone to stand by a price quote like this for four months. Unless she told you she would hold it open that long, my opinion is they are not bound by that price. You also should carefully read the quote because it may specifically state when it has to be accepted.

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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