Q: I went into a vehicle purchase agreement with someone. After I signed the contract, the buyer wrote something in blue ink after one of the terms and then signed it. I did not agree to the new term. Am I bound to the original terms or is the new term binding? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: One party cannot unilaterally amend or add new terms to a contract after both parties sign it. It is considered a counter offer, which must be accepted or rejected by the receiving party. If you did not agree to this amendment of the contract either verbally, or by signing or placing your initials near the amended or added term, you did not consent. I would reject the term in writing and make sure the document is given to the other party and you keep a copy for your records. Some people in this situation would write next to the term, “this additional term dated _____ is rejected”, and date and sign or place their initials next to it the added term.
Q: My father in law was getting evicted from his apartment he asked if he can stay with us we told him no we don’t have the room. He asked can he store his stuff in our basement we said sure. So, we started moving his stuff in as we were doing this he offered my son his bed and his dresser, so we took the items. We let my father in law stay one night because of the weather and he had nowhere to go. One night turned into 40 nights and then we put our foot down said you gotta go, in so many words. He moved out and he bought the house next door to us and demanded his bed and dresser back. We told him no, in no in so many words, because we can’t afford a new bed and already threw the old one out. Now he is suing us for 2,300 dollars. Does he have a case? He never paid rent and there was no agreement for rent. (Elizabeth, PA)
A: Anybody can sue anybody. It doesn’t mean they will win. No attorney will take the case (I can think of one who would). Will he go to the District Justice Office and sue? Probably not. If he does, will the DJ award him money or the bed to be returned? Probably not. He has no written agreement, it would be your word against his that it was a gift versus conditional loaner furniture.
Q: My partner and I recently moved to a place together after living in separate places. We both hired the same moving company. I was moving from a one-bedroom, third-floor apartment while my partner was moving from a small house. There were two movers for both moves. One of my movers suffered from asthma and had to constantly take breaks, which prolonged my move from the originally estimated 6 hours to over 12 hours. Eventually, the one mover stopped coming up and packed the truck, leaving me to one mover to move my belongings and furniture. Furthermore, the movers took an hour lunch break on my time. In the process, many of my boxes were dropped and some of my furniture was damaged right before my eyes. My partner’s move was worse. This company damaged several antique pieces of furniture (and I do mean damaged) as well as damaged the new home we moved to. The damages include: gouges in the wood door frames and hardwood floors, a damaged handrail with plaster everywhere, damages to the brick wall next to our driveway (broken bricks from backing in sloppily), etc. We have been in touch with the moving company, but so far, they have been defensive. Do we have any rights here? (Bridgeville, PA)
A: I put this under “litigation” as you may get more responses. I hope you have not paid them. You have more leverage if you did not or you can stop payment on the check. These moving companies are notorious for stalling and delaying-they probably have no intention on paying you. Have an attorney read your contract. Gather your evidence-photographs, documents, your written log of what happened, estimates for furniture repair and home repairs. If your evidence is good, and your damages are high enough, an attorney may take the case. Do not wait too long to file this. There are applicable statutes of limitations.
Q: My mother has dementia and we have hired bonded, trained, insured caregivers to provide support for her daily needs. We suspect that theft and possible abuse may be occurring. As a deterrent, we would like to install a “very plainly visible” home “video-only” surveillance system. What are the legal requirements of doing so with non-family members regularly in the home?
A: My thoughts are that if they are aware they are being recorded by video, it is not a crime. Have a lawyer draft a release as part of their employment contract. It would basically state that they acknowledge and understand that they are subject to video surveillance and they release you from all civil and criminal liability related to such surveillance.
Q: The car is still with the dealer for detailing. I purchased a car 1 day ago. The dealer did not give me the sales contract to take home with me to go over completely because the car is being detailed. I was told I could get the paperwork in 4 days when I come back to pick up the car. I do not want the car now. This entire transaction seems very suspect to me. It is still at the dealership. Since I have not taken possession of the car yet, can I rescind the contract? (Hermine, PA)
A: It has only been a day or so, you haven’t taken possession, and it appears title has not changed. Just be firm with them and tell them you do not want the vehicle. I would draft a dated letter to them telling them so and keep a copy. Serve it on them via hand delivery or mail, and keep a copy. You did not say if you paid anything. If so, they should return your deposit.
Q: I noticed that the contract was not followed. I had a roof installed in August of 2011. Yesterday I noticed that there was water leaking into one of my upstairs bedrooms. I cut a hole into my attic wall and found where I think the leak is coming from but noticed that there is a large area where there is no underlayment. In my proposal it clearly states that there will be new underlayment installed. is there anything that I can do to keep from paying out of pocket for this?
A: Review your contract to double check if underlayment was to be used. That would definitely be a breach of contract if underlayment was contracted to be used and was in fact not used. Have another contractor inspect the work. You will need him to verify that underlayment was not used per the contract, and him to give you a report stating what he found and what he needs to do to remedy the situation, even if it means a new roof. Have him take photos. I would then notify the prior contractor of your leak, both by telephone and in writing. Proof of notice is essential if you potentially have to sue him. If he will not remedy the situation to your satisfaction, you may need to file a law suit. Make sure to preserve all documents and information from the prior contractor and for what is currently going on.
Q: Once a contract is signed, is it possible to change a component and hold a party to the change without signing a new contract?I signed a contract with my nursing school when I started in August 2012. This is a 2 year program. On May 31, 2013, there was a change to the contract. I was never asked to sign a new contract until I brought the discrepancy up to the Dean. Is it legal for her to hold me to the change if I didn’t sign anything to agree to it? Is it legal for the Dean to tell us this contract is “for clinical reasons” when it is a grading scale issue?
A: Generally speaking, once it is signed, one party to a contract cannot unilaterally change any fundamental terms. This is unless language permitting such changes exists in the contract. However, I am not looking at these contracts and really cannot give you a certain answer. You need to review the contract with an attorney. I wouldn’t discuss this matter at school until you are fully apprised by an attorney as to whether you have legal rights or not. Also, I would also only fight this battle if it is an important one in that you want to be on good terms with the persons who right now can influence your career.