Know your Texas consumer protection codes, Part two of series

Texas has some surprising (and very agreeable) consumer protection codes on the books that you as a consumer should be aware of. Most of these codes are “tie-in statutes,” which means that they can be brought under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). Since the DTPA allows very favorable remedies, this is a definite advantage to the consumer. Scutt Law, PLLC will be presenting and explaining a few of the tie-in statutes at a time in installments, so that you the consumer are aware of the protections afforded to you under these Acts. This installment covers the removal of unauthorized vehicles from parking facilities, rent-to-own agreements and self-storage facility liens.

Removal of Unauthorized Vehicles from Parking Facility or Public Roadway Act [Tex. Trans. Code Ann. Section 684.086]: This Act protects consumers against the wrongful towing of a motor vehicle, or the charging of unreasonable fees for such towing. The Act applies to any public or private property that is used for restricted or paid parking of motor vehicles.

Under the Act, a parking facility owner may remove a vehicle from a facility only if the owner provides actual notice to the consumer. Notice requires that signs be posted on the property, and must comply with the requirement of the Act regarding size, location and content. For example, the sign must state “unauthorized vehicles will be towed at owner’s expense,” and contain the international symbol for towing and a telephone number that is answered 24 hours a day. Additionally, a parking facility owner may not accept anything of value from a towing company in connection with the removal of a vehicle from a parking facility, and he or she may not have a monetary interest in that towing company.

The Rental-Purchase Agreements Law [Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Chapter 92, Sections 92.001-92.202]: This law is designed to regulate rent-to-own agreements and the advertising of such agreements. The main goal of this law is to make sure that consumers are fully informed of the true nature of the transaction and the real costs involved. Think of an agreement with a rental outlet that allows a consumer to rent a television set. That agreement would be subject to this law if, for instance, the agreement provides that after a period of 24 consecutive monthly payments, the consumer will become the owner of the television set.

The law protects consumers by requiring that rent-to-own agreements be written in plain English (without legal jargon) and in any other language used by the merchant in an advertisement related to the agreement. The agreement must make full disclosure to the consumer of the terms of the agreement, and limits certain unconscionable clauses that may be inserted into the agreement by the merchant. The agreement also must disclose whether the merchandise is new or used, the amount and total of payments, the cash price of the merchandise, and the amount the consumer may be responsible for if the merchandise is damaged or destroyed.

Self-Storage Facility Liens Act [Tex. Prop. Code Ann. Sections 59.001-.046]: This Act is designed to protect consumers by regulating the process by which a consumer’s property is sold to satisfy unpaid rent at a self-storage facility. The Act provides that a lien (an official claim or charge against property or funds for payment of a debt or an amount owed for services rendered) attaches to stored property from the date the tenant places the property in the self-storage facility. This lien takes priority over all other liens on the same property, so even if the consumer still owes money for the purchase price of that property (for instance, for a bedroom set), the self-storage facility may seize the property, anyway. The consumer may redeem the property that has been seized prior to its sale by the storage facility by paying the amount owed the facility plus any reasonable expenses incurred by the seizure.

However, the storage facility may not seize the consumer’s property without a court judgment unless the original contract between the consumer and the facility includes a provision authorizing the seizure and sale in conspicuous bold or underlined print. If the provision is present in the original contract, the storage facility must deliver a notice to the consumer prior to seizing the consumer’s property. It is important to note that the requirements under this Act may not be waived by the consumer.

Texas has some very beneficial consumer protection laws, and it is to your advantage as a consumer to know your rights and to act on them. Therefore, you should contact an attorney if you feel you have a claim under the DTPA or any of the tie-in statutes.

*Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.