This is why renter's insurance is so important

Dec. 3, 2011 at 6:03 a.m.

We just signed a lease for a house. After being in the house for six days, we had a grease fire. We do not have renter's insurance, but the landlord does, and his insurance paid to repair the kitchen. Now the landlord says that he was told that the insurance company was going to come after us for the amount it paid. He said because of this, we must move out. Is this legal? Do we owe the money? Can we be evicted?

If you are negligent and your negligence causes damage to a home or apartment you rent, you are responsible for the damage. In other words, if the grease fire was your fault, for example, you were not watching the stove, or had the burner set too high or added too much oil, you are responsible. If the landlord's insurance company paid to repair the damage, it now can seek reimbursement from you. As I have said many, many times before, it is extremely important that everyone who rents property has renter's insurance to protect him or her from liability in situations like this.

Whether the landlord may evict you, however, is another question. I suggest you ask the landlord where the lease gives him the right to evict you based on the fire. Unless the lease gives him that right, my opinion is he has no right to demand you leave.

I am the custodial parent who just got a raise in child support for my son. The non-custodial parent is now threatening to sign over his rights so he does not have to pay. Can he do this and just walk away?

He cannot avoid child support by just "signing away" his rights. A court can terminate parental rights and end support payments, but this usually is only done when someone else adopts the child and becomes liable for the child's support.

My husband and I own a house that we bought after we got married. He has a daughter by a prior marriage. He says he is going to write a will leaving his interest in the house to his daughter. Can he do this? Could she force me to sell the house?

Because you bought the house after you were married it is community property, owned by both of you. Your husband has the right to leave his share of the house to whomever he wants. In fact, if he does not have a will his share in the house will automatically go to his daughter. His daughter, however, does not have the right to force you to sell the house or move out. After his death, even though you are only a co-owner of the house, you will have the right to live there as long as you want.

I made an honest attempt to pay a debt by sending the collector a check to be paid towards the debt. The collector returned the check, stating it refused to accept my partial payment. Is the collector obligated by law to erase the debt because it refused the payment?

Not under any law I know of. Although most collectors will accept whatever you pay, a debt collector or creditor does not have to accept anything less than the full amount you owe, according to your agreement. If you offer to pay less than the full amount, the creditor may accept it or reject it. If your payment is rejected, the creditor is still owed the full amount.

Write to Richard Alderman at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a Web page at



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