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Can my old landlord hire a debt collector to sue me for moving out of my apartment early?

Can my old landlord hire a debt collector to sue me for moving out of my apartment early?

A debt collector is allowed to contact someone to collect on a valid debt.  Before determining whether a debt collector is allowed to contact someone in a particular situation, the underlying legal situation first needs to be evaluated.

When two people enter into a lease to rent an apartment, they usually sign a contract to be jointly liable to the landlord for payment of the rent.  If either party breaks the lease, then the landlord has the right to sue either party for recovery of all the lost rent.  That lawsuit can include late fees or other charges authorized by the lease.  The legal doctrine that allows a landlord to sue either tenant (or both tenants, at the choice of the landlord) is called “joint and several liability.”  Rather than suing, a landlord can appropriately place the account with a collection agency to collect on the unpaid rent.

A separate contractual relationship governs the relationship between tenants.  Usually, two people entering into a lease agree to split the cost, where each side agrees to pay a certain amount towards the total rent.  If one of the tenants stops making payments, then the other tenant has a claim for breach of contract against the non-paying tenant.  The paying tenant can even pay the entire rent due to the landlord themselves to prevent a breach of the lease, and then sue the non-payer for breaching their agreement to split the cost.

Assuming valid contracts exists, moving out of town is generally not a good enough reason to get out of a lease.  There is no requirement that the landlord agree to allow someone out of a lease early, and no requirement for the landlord to agree to shift all of the payment responsibility onto the other tenant.  There is also no requirement for the other tenant to agree to accept all the liability for the entire lease and allow the other tenant to move out early.  It would be pretty unfair to the roommate left behind to have to pay all of the money to the landlord each month when they entered into the lease thinking they would only have to pay half.  Thus, if one of the tenants moves out early, that person should not be surprised if they are sued by both the landlord and/or the other roommate for amounts not paid.

That all said, landlords have a duty to mitigate their damages by trying to rent out the property immediately after eviction.  They cannot wait around for months in order for their damages to compound and then sue for a much bigger number than if they took appropriate steps to lease the unit to someone else immediately.  In our Franklin County, Ohio, for example, landlords are generally only able to collect about two months of future rent as damages even if the lease had six months left on it.  The landlord can also sue for fees and costs allowed by the lease or allowed by the law.  That would require looking at local law, and raising failure to mitigate damages in the court case, probably through a lawyer.

One final note on the issue of whether a debt collector is acting appropriately.  A debt collector is only allowed to demand that amount of money which is actually owed and is bona fide and reasonable.  Thus, if the debt collector is adding fees or costs which are not allowed by the terms of the lease (or are prohibited by law), then the debt collector might still be liable under the FDCPA for collecting on an inflated debt.  That kind of lawsuit could wipe out the rent claimed as due and cover your attorneys’ fees, even if the balance of the underlying debt was otherwise valid.  An experienced consumer lawyer could help there, which is what we do.  Call (614) 944-5219 if you are in Ohio.

 

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Can my credit card company sue me?

Can my credit card company sue me?

Troy Doucet is quoted in this Yahoo article about arbitration clauses. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/credit-card-company-sue-123048287.html

He would also point out that every so often arbitration clauses will be reciprocal, but that is rare and he has only seen it in commercial contracts. Even then, the clauses are usually limited in some respect or another.

If you have an arbitration clause you are worried about, please contact the attorneys at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. by calling (614) 944-5219.

 

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Firm Sues DVD Lecture Company for Advertising Practices

Firm Sues DVD Lecture Company for Advertising Practices

Doucet & Associates Co. LPA, a law firm dedicated to helping consumers and those facing financial difficulty, filed a class lawsuit against The Teaching Company for violating the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA) by practicing deceptive price advertising.

The Teaching Company, based in Chantily, Va., operates as The Great Courses, an online mail-order retailer selling DVDs or CDs recordings of lectures by university professors and high schools teachers. Doucet & Associates has filed on behalf of the plaintiff, as well as all other consumers in Ohio – expected to number in the thousands – who have done business with The Great Courses. Advertisements on their website, the Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair magazine, and mailed catalogs claim that The Great Courses offers its products at a substantial discount for a limited time. However, the lawsuit alleges many of these advertisements do not feature an actual “regular” price. It further alleges when a “regular” price is quoted in the advertisement, it is an amount that is not made available to consumers. The lawsuit argues that The Great Courses has been selling its products at a “discount” that doesn’t actually exist, and the alleged “sales” it offers do not actually end, making the products always on “sale.”

The CSPA explicitly prohibits a company from falsely advertising that a price advantages exists, as does the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Guides Against Deceptive Pricing. The class action suit is seeking injunctive relief to prohibit The Great Courses from continuing its advertising practices in Ohio. In addition, the firm is seeking money damages for each of the consumers affected.

Doucet & Associates is dedicated to fighting for the rights of consumers, protecting their interests and offering legal assistance to those who would otherwise be unable to afford it. If you feel that a company is taking advantage of consumers, the law firm welcomes your call at (614) 944-5219.

 

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