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Seller not bound by listing price

By By Richard Alderman
March 9, 2013 at midnight
Updated March 8, 2013 at 9:09 p.m.


I saw a house listed for sale. I was the first one to make an offer, and I offered the full listing price - exactly what he was asking. He refused to accept and said he wanted more money. Don't we have a contract? Doesn't he have to sell the house at the listing price?

This is a very interesting question, and the answer may surprise you. Under the law, when a seller advertises a house for sale, he is merely inviting offers from prospective buyers. As a buyer, your offer to buy the house is just that - an "offer." The seller may accept your offer or reject it.

In other words, by putting the house on the market, the seller is merely soliciting offers; he is not making an offer to sell. Whether the seller accepts your offer is not based on the listing price, it is based on the market. When there are many interested buyers, the listing price may be just the starting point for negotiations. My guess is the seller had several people make offers at the listing price and now expects higher offers.

My daughter signed a "co-signer's agreement of responsibility for defendant," with a bail bonding company for a now ex-boyfriend. The amount of the bond was $1,500. The bond company is now calling her to collect because he didn't show up in court. Is she liable for the money they are trying to collect? She asked them to call him and to leave her out of it, but they insist because she signed, she is also liable. Can anything happen to her if she ignores their calls?

My opinion is she owes the money. That is what the agreement is for. She should read the agreement carefully to see if there is any basis for refusing to pay. If she does pay, she has a claim against the ex-boyfriend. I should point out that in Texas, it can be difficult to force someone to pay his or her debts. To see what the company may do if she does not pay, she should take a look at the debt collection section on my website listed below. Once she knows her rights, she may be able to work out a payment plan with the company.

I have a "lifetime warranty" on my foundation. The company that issued the warranty has disappeared and, I believe, is out of business. My foundation now needs major repairs. What are my legal rights?

Unfortunately, a lifetime warranty is for the lifetime of the company that issued it, not the lifetime of your house. Any warranty is only as good as the company that stands behind it. If the company is out of business, you do not have anyone against whom you can assert your legal rights. Be sure to carefully research a company before you buy any long-term or lifetime warranty.

Doesn't the law require that an employer give an employee two weeks notice before terminating her? I was just told to clean out my office by the end of the day.

Unless the employee has an employment contract requiring notice, the law does not require any prior notice. Without an employment contract, an employee in Texas is "at will" and may quit or be fired at any time without any notice. Most employers usually give some prior notice or severance pay, but it is not required.

How does a court decide who gets custody when one of the child's parents dies? Can any relative ask for custody? Does it matter if the parents are not married?

Generally, when one parent dies, there is a strong legal preference to give custody to the other parent. It does not matter if they are married. Only after that parent is found unfit does a court consider giving custody to another relative, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle. The court then looks to see what would be in the best interest of the child.

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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