Avoiding People’s Courts

how to avoid the People's Court

I am not usually a fan of TV shows other than News or a Science documentary channel, but one of my favorites is The People’s Court.  It is amazing how many people do not understand the essential rules of the Uniform Commercial Code which I think is the same in both Canada and the USA.

Case after case is brought in, disputes over misunderstandings that could be avoided by a little knowledge marinated in a sprinkling of the salt of common sense.

One very frequent problem is that deposits to hold a sale in abeyance are not refundable unless agreed to in advance and memorialized in writing or at least through mutual e-mails, or texts.  Deposits purchase time, whether ten minutes or ten days.

Buying a used auto is an “as is sale”.  The occasional “Lemon Laws” only apply to new vehicles purchased from a commercial dealer.  Not in private sales.

Buying a ten or fifteen-year-old vehicle with close to or in excess of 200,000 miles is not a guarantee of lifetime free repairs. Quite often bad things just happen and are not the fault of the last person you blessed with your patronage.

When renting, where a 30-day notice is required, that means a full thirty days from the next “Rental Due Date” preferably in writing not by voodoo hand signals.  And in most jurisdictions, there are laws about informing a vacating tenant the reason security is being withheld in actual writing on paper listing the suspected damages and the estimated cost of repair mailed to the tenant within a specific time period.

Also when a renter vacates the premises, anything left behind whether usable or garbage becomes an expense to the owner that can be charged to the security deposit.

An engagement ring is a gift in anticipation of a wedding.  Cancel the nuptials, even for the best of reasons and it needs to be returned to the purchaser.  Also, actual gifts given while playing house do not suddenly become loans when the wisdom of a breaking up lights the bulb over your head.

A salesman’s “puffery” (verbal comments) is not a warranty.  Trusting a person you only met on Craig’s List or at an auto shop’s back room a few minutes earlier is not a cause of action in court or a reason for slanderous remarks posted on some social media website.

how to avoid the People's CourtUnless you are a certified auto mechanic with six to ten years of actual experience it is wise to spend a few dollars to hire a real automotive repair technician (ASE certified) to examine a prospective purchase before you sign the sales contract, not a few weeks later when a knocking rod starts to wake the dead as you drive past the nearest  cemetery. Your favorite uncle or recent boyfriend may know how to drive but is not the best choice just because he, or she, “knows” about cars.

Your former friend calling you to get his or her money back is not harassment, even if they get upset at your ducking them and avoiding repayment.

Of course, one party to a contract cannot unilaterally decide to change the terms of a contract no matter how convenient it is.  A thirty-day warranty on an auto is valid for precisely thirty days, not six months or the first oil change.

The mental idea that, “I never said I wouldn’t pay the loan back, ” cannot be deposited in a bank or mailed to a landlord as payment for rent.  It is also seldom useful in buying week to week groceries.

how to avoid the People's CourtChild support is not a gift to the other spouse.  It is your share of the expense of raising, feeding, clothing and housing your child, not something subject to your luck at the racetrack or the change in the price of a bag of weed.

One more thing, when there is any written contract (e-mails or texts may count as well) between parties that clearly lay out the terms of an agreement, prior oral statements, pinkie swearings or sincerely crossed hearts are not admissible.  The limits are the four corners of the agreement.

If more people understood these things and a few others before they signed a written agreement, life would be much easier.  I am sure other readers can add a few more misunderstood rules.

As Judge Marilyn Milian so often says; a loan of anything over a $1.oo should be in writing, even on a piece of toilet paper, in crayon if necessary, if there is to be any hope of repayment.

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