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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00002617/00001
 Material Information
Title: Living Independently: Knowing Your Legal Rights
Physical Description: Fact Sheet
Creator: Harrison, Mary N.
Publisher: University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 1995
 Notes
Acquisition: Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Melanie Mercer.
Publication Status: Published
General Note: "Publication date: January 1995. First published: May 1988. Revised: April 1992. Reviewed: January 1995."
General Note: "HE 5036"
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Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the submitter.
System ID: IR00002617:00001


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FactSheetHE5036 TheInstituteofFoodandAgriculturalSciencesisanequalopportunity/affirmativeactionemployerauthorizedtoprovideresearch,educational informationandotherservicesonlytoindividualsandinstitutionsthatfunctionwithoutregardtorace,color,sex,age,handicap,ornational origin.Forinformationonobtainingotherextensionpublications,contactyourcountyCooperativeExtensionServiceoffice. FloridaCooperativeExtensionService/InstituteofFoodandAgriculturalSciences/UniversityofFlorida/ChristineTaylorStephens,DeanLivingIndependently: KnowingYourLegalRights1 MaryN.Harrison2Consumerlawsandregulationsaredesignedto befairandreasonableforbothbuyersandsellers. Theyprovidetheguidelinesforeverydayconsumer transactions.Ageneralunderstandingoftheselaws andregulationswillhelpyoutoavoidmistakesand misunderstandings.CHECKINGACCOUNTSBeforederegulationoffinancialinstitutions,you hadtogotoabanktoestablishapersonalchecking account.Thenewlawschangedthat.Manydifferent typesoffinancialinstitutionsnowhandlepersonal checkingaccounts,suchasbanks,creditunions,and savingsandloanassociations.Sometypesof brokerageandinvestmentfirmsevenofferpersonal checkingaccountsasapartofasubscriber's investmentprogram. Sincebanks,creditunionsandsavingsandloan associationsallnowoffercheckingaccounts,thereare similaritiesintherulesandregulationsgoverning theseinstitutions.Manyalsohavesimilaroperating policies. Whenanewcheckingaccountisopenedwitha personalorbusinesscheck,fundsusuallycannotbe withdrawnfromtheaccountuntilthecheckhas cleared. Foryearseachinstitutionestablisheditsown policyregardingthelengthoftimeaholdwasplaced ontheaccountbeforefundsbecameavailabletothe depositor.Someinstitutionswithheldfundsfordays andevenweeks.Othersmadethemavailablequickly. Theholdtimebecameanissuethatresultedina FederalReserveBoardruling.Itsregulation establishedmaximumsfortheholdtimes,2business daysforlocally-issuedchecksand5businessdaysfor out-of-townchecks. Ifachecktoastoreiswrittenagainstanaccount thathasinsufficientfunds,boththefinancial institutionandthestorecanassessafee.Presently mostbankscharge$15ormoreforabouncedcheck andmoststorescharge$15to$20.Forchecks returnedbythestatetreasurer,thefeeis$15or5% ofthefacevalueofthecheck,whicheverisgreater. Ifyoushouldoverdrawyouraccountitisimportantto makethecheckgoodimmediately.Thiscanbedone bydepositingtheamountofthecheckplusthe penaltyintoyouraccountandpayingthe badcheck fee tothemerchantandaskingthatthecheckbe resubmittedforcashing.Or,youcancarrythevalue ofthecheckplusthepenaltyincashtothemerchant. Yourbankorfinancialinstitutionwillalsocharge youraccountwithanoverdraftpenalty. 1.ThisdocumentisFactSheetHE5036,aseriesoftheHomeEconomicsDepartment,FloridaCooperativeExtensionService,InstituteofFood andAgriculturalSciences,UniversityofFlorida.Publicationdate:January1995.Firstpublished:May1988.Revised:April1992.Reviewed: January1995. 2.MaryN.Harrison,professor,ConsumerEducation,HomeEconomicsDepartment,CooperativeExtensionService,InstituteofFoodand AgriculturalSciences,UniversityofFlorida,GainesvilleFL32611.

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LivingIndependently:KnowingYourLegalRights Page2Sinceitisillegaltowritechecksagainstnonexistentfunds,checksthatarenotredeemedcan causeyouproblems.Anunredeemedcheckcanbe turnedovertothestateattorney'sofficeandthe personwritingitcanbeprosecuted.Sometimeswhen aconsumer/merchantdisputearises,thecheckwriter willgotothebankandarrangetostopthepayment ofthecheck.Ifthegoodsorserviceshavebeen received,stoppingpaymentofthecheckmaybe interpretedasgivingabadcheck.Thiscouldresult inlegalproblems.Thereusuallyarebetterwaysof resolvingconsumerproblems. Financialinstitutionsarerequiredtosend statementstodepositorsitemizingalltransactions. Checkyourstatementassoonasyoureceiveit.Ifan erroroccurs,reportitimmediately.Keepyour checkbookbalanced.Thiswillenableyoutoavoid accidentallyoverdrawingyouraccount. Beforeopeningacheckingaccountcontacttwoor morefinancialinstitutions.Findoutaboutthetypes ofaccountsavailableandtheotherservicesprovided. Underderegulation,financialinstitutionshavethe freedomtoofferavarietyofchoices.Eachtypeof accounthasitsownguidelines.Learnthedetails beforemakingadecision.ELECTRONICTRANSFERCARDSMostfinancialinstitutionshaveAutomaticTeller Machines(ATMs)andaremembersofanATM system.ATMsenableyoutoaccessyoursavingsor checkingaccount24hourseachday.Youcanmake depositsorwithdrawals,andtransferfundsatATMs ownedbyfinancialinstitutions.ATMsownedby systemsenableyoutowithdrawcashfromyour accountinotherlocations,includingothercitiesand states.Ifyouhavealowbalanceinyouraccount,or bouncechecksoften,thefinancialinstitutionwillnot issueanATMcard.RefertoHE5022 Consumer Cards forinformation. ATMtransactionsareregulatedbytheElectronic FundTransferAct.ATMcardscarrytheriskofa higherliabilityforunauthorizedusethancreditcards. Touseacard,youwillbegivenafour-digitpersonal identificationnumber(PIN)thatyoushould memorize.Thenumbermustbeusedalongwiththe card.Ifyoumemorizeyournumberanddon'ttellit toanyone,itisalmostimpossibleforanunauthorized persontouseyourATMcard. IftheATMcardislostorstolen,youshould reportitwithin2days(48hours).Duringthistime themaximumliabilityforunauthorizeduseis$50. Afterthisperiod,liabilitymayincreaseto$500,and after60daysitcanbeevenmore. Somefinancialinstitutionsalsoissuedebitcards. Fundscanbetransferredinstantlyfromyouraccount toamerchant'saccountbyinsertingthecardintoa point-of-sale(POS)terminal.Liabilitiesfor unauthorizeduseofadebitcardaresimilartothose foranATMcard.CREDITMostmajorpurchases,likeacarorahouse, involvetheuseofcredit.Creditcanalsobeusedas aconvenience,sinceacreditcardeliminatestheneed tocarrycash.AvailabilityTheEqualCreditOpportunityActmakessure thatallpeoplearejudgedbythesameruleswhen theyapplyforcredit.Forexample,noonecanbe deniedcreditbecauseofrace,sex,religionornational origin.However,itdoesnotguaranteecreditto anyone.Creditisnotaright.Youcanbedenied creditbecauseofyourdebtload,creditrepayment recordorinabilitytopay.Ifyouaredeniedcredit, youmustbetoldinwritingthereasonfordenialand whereyoucanchecktheaccuracyofrecordsofyour credithistory.Youwillbeabletoreviewyourrecord withoutcharge.Iftherecordsareincorrect,the reportingagencymustre-investigate,makecorrections andnotifythosewhomadeinquiries.Ifthereare extenuatingcircumstancessuchasadisputedclaim, youhavetherighttowriteyoursideofthestoryin 100wordsorlessandputitinyourcreditrecordfile. Eachcompanyorlendersetsitsownguidelines forextendingcredit.Standardsvary;therefore,ifyou aredeniedcreditbyonecompany,youcanapplyto anotherplaceandpossiblygetcreditthere. Arecordofyourcredithistoryiskeptbythe creditbureau.Thisincludeswhereyouwork,how longyouwork,yourincome,whoyouowe,howmuch youoweandwhetheryoupayyourbillsontime. Mostinformationiskeptforsevenyears.However, bankruptcyinformationiskeptonfilefor10years.

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LivingIndependently:KnowingYourLegalRights Page3Yourcredithistoryisconfidential.Thecreditbureau oracreditreportingagencycanreleaseinformation aboutyouonlytothosewhohavealegitimateusefor it.Forexample,itcanprovideinformationtoaplace whereyouhaveappliedforcreditorforajob.Ifyou gotothecreditbureautocheckyourfile,youwill needtocarryidentification.Theymaychargeasmall fee. Beforecreditisextended,thelendermusttellyou thecostandconditionsofthecredit.TheFederal Truth-in-LendingLawrequiresthattheannual percentagerate(APR)beclearlystatedbeforecredit isextendedsothatconsumerscancomparethecost ofcreditfromdifferentplaces.Whenyousigna creditcontract,youmustbegivenacopyofwhatyou signatthetimethatyousignit.CreditCardsTherearetwogeneraltypesofcreditcards: 1. Cardsissuedbysellersofgoodsorservices ,such asoilcompaniesanddepartmentstores.These cardspromotethepurchaseofspecificconsumer goods,andareusuallyissuedwithoutanannual fee. 2. CardssuchasVisaandMastercardissuedby financialinstitutions.Thesearedesignedtobe usedatmanylocationswiththemerchantpaying asmallfeetothecardissuerforhandlingthe credit.Thesecardsaremorelikelytorequirethe paymentofanannualfee.Theyareissuedby manydifferentfinancialinstitutionsandsome privateorganizations,witheachestablishingits ownpoliciesandcharges.Therefore,annualfees andservicechargesvaryamonginstitutionsfor thesametypeofcards.Therearealsoother typesofmulti-purposecardssuchasDiscover, AmericanExpressandDinersissuedthrough centralizedcompanies.Whilesomearecredit cards,othersarechargecardsthatrequiretotal paymentatthecloseofeachbillingcycle. Youmustrequestacreditcardbeforeonewillbe senttoyou.Itisillegalforacompanytosendyoua cardthatyouhavenotrequested.Youcan,however, beissuedareplacementwhenyourcardexpires,orif youloseit.Whenyouapplyforthecard,youmust betoldthecostandconditionsofcreditbeforeitis extended.Thisincludesthingssuchastheannualfee, ifthereisone,andtheAPRofthefinancecharge. Mostcreditcardsaddafinancechargeifthetotal amountowedisnotpaidwithinthebillingperiod. Statelawssetthemaximumthatcanbechargedby lenderslocatedinthestate.InFloridaitis18 percentAPR(1.5percentpermonth).Ifyougeta cardfromout-of-statetheceilingmaybehigheror lower.Somelenderschargelessthantheirstate's ceiling,butnonecanlegallychargemore.Lenders musttellyouhowthefinancechargesarefigured. Somecardsincludepurchasesmadeduringthemonth whenfiguringthefinancecharge.Othersdonot.To savemoney,comparethecostandtermsofdifferent lendersbeforegettingacreditcard.RefertoHE 5003 CreditCardRegulations formoredetails. Consumersareprovidedprotectionfromthe unauthorizeduseoftheircreditcards.Forexample: Whenthecardisissued,youmustbesentaselfaddressed,postage-freeenvelopeorpostcardfor useinreportingalostorstolencreditcard.Keep itforquickreference. Ifacardislostorstolen,themaximumliability forunauthorizedchargesis$50.However,the lossortheftshouldbereportedimmediately.If itisreportedbeforethecardisusedbyan unauthorizedperson,youhavenoliability. Ifthereisanerroronyourbill,youmust write thecompanywithin60daysandtellthemabout theproblem.Ifyoudidnotmakethecharge,it willberemoved.RefertoHE5001 Correcting ErrorsonBills. Youdonothavetopayformerchandiseyou orderedthatwasneverdelivered,butyoudohave to write andtellyourcreditcardcompanyabout theproblemwithin60days. Noextrachargescanbeaddedforusingacredit card,butadiscountcanbegivenforpayingcash.CreditContractsThetwotypesofcreditcommonlyusedby consumersareopen-endandclosed-end.Withopenendcredit,youcancontinuetochargepurchaseseven thoughyouhavenotpaidtheaccountinfull.Credit cardsareoneexampleofopen-endcredit.Most open-endcredithasastatedmaximum,orceiling,so thatyoucannotchargemorethantheceilingwithout specialpermissionfromthecreditgrantor.The

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LivingIndependently:KnowingYourLegalRights Page4paymentdueeachmonthvariessinceitisbasedon theamountowed. Closed-endcreditisanagreementwherea specifiedamountischargedforastatednumberof monthsandthemonthlypaymentisfixed.Each monthlypaymentisforthesameamountuntilthe debtispaidoff.Youcannotaddotherpurchasesto theaccount.Thistypeofcreditisusedwhenyoubuy acar,ormakeothermajorpurchases.Ifyoufailto fulfillyouragreement,themerchandisecanusuallybe repossessedbythecreditor.Ifarepossesseditem sellsforlessthanyouowe,youareliableforthe balanceofthedebt. TheFederalTruth-in-LendingLawandthe FloridaConsumerFinanceActregulateconsumer creditcontracts.Undertheseregulations,when merchantsselloncredit: Thecontractmustbeinwritingandmusthavea warningstatementtellingyoutonotsignunless allblanksarefilledin.Youaretogetacopyof theagreementwhenyousignit. Maximumcreditceilingsareestablishedbystate lawandvaryaccordingtothetypesofpurchases beingmade. FederallawrequirestheAPRtobeclearlystated. Thecontracthastostatethenumberandamount ofpayments,whendueandwhathappensifa paymentislate.Floridalawsaysalatefee cannotexceed5percentoftheamountdue. Foradetaileddescriptionofyourrightsand responsibilitiesseepublicationHE5002 Consumer CreditContracts.CosignerWhenapersoncosignsacreditagreement,heor sheispromisingtorepaytheloaniftheborrower doesnot.Cosignersaresometimesusedwhenthe borrowerhasneverhadcreditbefore.Ifapersonhas abadcreditrecord,acosignermayberequired. Whenalenderrequiresacosigner,thisindicatesa highrisk.Beforebecomingacosignerbesureyou arewillingtopaythedebtifnecessary,otherwiseyou mayfacecollectionagenciesandevenlegalaction.RENTINGIfyourentaplacetolive,youneedtolearn aboutFlorida'sResidentialLandlordandTenantAct. Itestablishesreasonableguidelinesforboththe tenantandthelandlord.Forexample: Alandlordmustkeepthedwellinginreasonably goodrepair. Tenantsmusttakecareoftheresidence,keepit reasonablycleanandnotdisturbtheneighbors. Althoughalandlordcannotprohibitatenant fromusingawaterbed,thetenantcanberequired tobuyinsurancetoprotectthelandlordandother tenantsfromdamages. Ifrepairsneedtobemade,thetenantmustput therequestinwritingtobeprotectedunderthe FloridaResidentialLandlordandTenantAct. Keepacopyofyourrequest. Guidelinesspecifytheamountofnoticethata tenantmustgivewhenmoving.Forexample: Ifthereisnoleaseandyoupaytherentmonthly, youmustgive15daysnotice. Ifyouhavealease,itwillspecifytheamountof noticerequired. Whenaleaseissigned,boththetenantandthe landlordareboundbyitsterms.Youareobligatedto paytherentduringtheperiodofthelease,evenif youmovebeforeitexpires.Sometimesyoucangeta statementwrittenintotheleasethatpermitsearly terminationifyouaretransferredinyourjobbutyou mayhavetopayapenalty.Someleasesallowyouto subleaseifyouhavetomove.Realizethateven thoughyousublease,youareresponsibleforthe dwellingandthetermsofthelease.Ifdamageis doneitcanbecostlytoyou. Whenatenantmovesthelandlordhas15days withinwhichtoeitherrefundthesecuritydepositor placeaclaimagainstit.RefertoHE5004 Landlord andTenants:RulesandRegulations formoredetails regardingyourrightsandresponsibilities.

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LivingIndependently:KnowingYourLegalRights Page5CONTRACTSFORFUTURESERVICESSomeofthethingsthatyoumayparticipatein, suchasspecialtrainingschools,healthspaprograms, correspondencecourses,anddanceclubsinvolve contractsforfutureservices.UnderFloridalaw,you havethreebusinessdaysfromthetimeyousignthe contracttocanceltheagreementwithoutpenalty. Youdonothavetogiveanyreasontojustify changingyourmind.Also,thecontractcanbe cancelledatanytimeundercertainconditionssuchas disabilityordeath.Youwouldbechargedonlyfor thetimeyouhadusedtheservices.BUYINGACARFederalregulationsrequireeachnewcarto displayawindowstickerlistingitsequipmentandthe vehicle'ssuggestedretailprice.Thisrequirement doesnotapplytotrucks.Youcanusuallybuyanew carforlessthanthesuggestedprice.An EnvironmentalProtectionAgency(EPA)rulingalso requiresthatthecar'sfuelefficiencyratingbe displayedonawindowsticker.Thisratingisquoted asmilespergallonandisintendedtohelpshoppers tofindthemostfuelefficientcars.FinancingStatelawssetceilingsonthecreditcostsusedto financecars.Theolderthecar,thehigherthe interestrate.Shoparoundforcreditinorderto financethevehicleforlessthanthemaximumceiling.LeasingFederallawrequiresspecialinformationtobe disclosedtotheshopperwhenacarisleased.The contractmuststatetheterms,whetheritisanopenendoraclosed-endlease.Open-endleasesmeanyou mayoweextramoneyattheendoftheleaseperiod. Ifyoudrivealeasedcarmorethantheaverage numberofmiles,orthecarisnotinasgood conditionasexpected,youwilloweadditionalmoney. Withaclosed-endlease,youarenotresponsiblefor thevalueofthepropertyattheendofthelease period,andwon'toweadditionalmoney,ora balloon payment.WarrantiesNewcarwarrantiescomeundertheMagnusonMossWarrantyActandmustbeinwriting.The warrantymustclearlytellwhatiscovered,underwhat conditions,andforhowlong. Floridahasa``LemonLaw''designedto strengthennewcarwarranties.Itisineffectfora car'sfirst24,000milesor18months,whichevercomes first.Thelawcoversmajordefectsthatwillaffectthe safetyand/orresalevalueofthecar.Ifadealertries threetimesduringthewarrantyperiodtofixthesame problemanditisnotcorrectedorthecarisinthe shopforatotalof30daysforvariousproblemsand stillisnotfixed,theconsumercannotifythe manufacturerthattheLemonLawisbeinginvoked. Thecompanywillthenhaveonemorechancetofix thecar. Iftheproblemstillpersiststhemanufacturermust thenexchangethecarforanewoneorgiveacash refundminusareasonablechargeformilesthecar hasbeendriven.Floridahasamediationboardthat handlesunresolvedproblemsbroughtunderthe LemonLaw.Todocumentclaimsthatyoumayhave, keeprecordsofanyproblemsthatyouexperience withanewcar. Usedcarsmustcarryastickerthattellswhether thecarhasawarrantyorissold``asis.''Ifithasa warranty,thewarrantymustbeinwriting.Readany warrantycarefully.Donotrelyontheclaimsofa salesperson.Ifthecarissoldasis,thereisno warrantyofanykindonthevehicle.Youhaveno recourseifsomethinggoeswrongimmediately.RepairsUnderFloridalawyoumustbeofferedan estimateforanyautorepairsthatwillcostmorethan $50.Chargescannotbemorethan10percentover theestimateor$50,whicheverisless,unlessyouare contactedandyougiveyourapprovalbeforethework isdone.

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LivingIndependently:KnowingYourLegalRights Page6RESOLVINGCONSUMERDISPUTESOnlyafewoftheconsumerlawsandregulations thataffectyourdailylifehavebeenbrieflyreviewed. Toavoidproblemsorresolveconsumerproblems,you shouldlearnaboutyourrightsandresponsibilities. Obtainandusereliableinformationtomake buyingdecisions.Ifamisunderstandingoccurs,first trytoresolveitwiththemerchantorindividual involved.Ifthatisnotpossible,thencontactthe appropriateregulatoryagencyorrelatedbusiness organizationforassistance.REFERENCES TheConsumerLeasingAct EqualCreditOpportunityAct FairCreditBillingAct FairCreditReportingAct FloridaDeceptiveandUnfairTradePractices Act,RulesandRegulations FloridaMotorVehicleRepairAct FloridaRetailInstallmentSalesAct FloridaConsumerFinanceAct Magnuson-MossWarrantyAct MotorVehicleEnforcementAct Truth-in-LendingActTESTYOURKNOWLEDGESeethelegalrights quiz totestyourknowledge. LegalRightsQuizCircleYourAnswerTrueorFalse TF1.A$10overdrawncheckcouldcost$20to$40inoverdraftfees. TF2.AnyonewhohasabankaccountwillbeissuedanATMcard. TF3.TokeepfromforgettingyourPersonalIdentificationNumber,writeitonthebackofyourcard. TF4.Ifyouaredeniedcreditbecauseofinformationgivenbyacreditreportingagency,youmustbe toldtheagency'snameandaddressandgiventheopportunitytoreviewtheinformationfor accuracy. TF5.ThesameAPRischargedforallVisacardsregardlessofwhichinstitutionissuesthem. TF6.Whenyoucosignacreditagreement,youmustpaythedebtifthepersonsigningthecontract doesnotpay. TF7.Ifyoumovebeforeyourleasehasexpired,youcanbesuedfortheremainderoftherentifyou donotpayit. TF8.FederalregulationsrequiretheAPRtobeclearlystatedonallcreditagreementsorcontracts. TF9.TheAPRishigherforloanstopurchaseusedcarsthanfornewones. TF10.Evenwithanestimate,autorepairshopscanchargeyouupto50percentabovetheestimated cost. TF11.Allmotorvehicles,cars,trucksandcampersmusthaveawindowstickerlistingtheequipment andthevehicle'ssuggestedretailprice. TF12.Florida'sLemonLawincludesprotectionforbuyersofusedcars.