LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Civil matters only, please.
QUESTION 1: I joined a gym with an automatic withdrawal from my checking account. When I did not renew my contract, I thought the withdrawals would stop. However, the gym says the contract has an “automatic renewal” clause every 5 years. Was this legit? I don’t have a copy of the contract. How can I get out of a contract that renews itself?
ANSWER: Practical advice before the law – always keep a copy of whatever contract you sign, and if you are not allowed a copy, do not sign.
With regards to the law – contracts that have no term (time limits within which to perform or cancel) are almost always invalid in Louisiana. They are referred to as “contracts in perpetuity” and are rarely upheld. If no term is stated, it is implied that the term of the contract is for a “reasonable time”.
However, the company would argue that the contract is not one in perpetuity, as it is a 5-year contract capable of being cancelled. When no action is taken that will be considered a renewal of the contract.
However, since contracts that automatically renew can resemble contracts in perpetuity, the legislature put some requirements on those types of contracts. The automatic renewal clause cannot be in fine print on the last page. Title 9, section 2716 requires:
9 §2716. Contracts with automatic renewal clauses
A. Any person, firm, or corporation engaged in commerce that sells, leases, or offers to sell or lease, any products or services to a consumer pursuant to a contract, when the contract automatically renews unless the consumer cancels the contract, shall disclose the automatic renewal clause clearly and conspicuously in the contract or contract offer.
B. Any person, firm, or corporation engaged in commerce that sells, leases, or offers to sell or lease, any products or services to a consumer pursuant to a contract, when the contract automatically renews unless the consumer cancels the contract, shall disclose clearly and conspicuously how to cancel the contract in the initial contract, contract offer, or with delivery of products or services.
C. A person, firm, or corporation that fails to comply with the requirements of this Section is in violation of this Section unless the person, firm, or corporation demonstrates all of the following:
(1) It has established and implemented written procedures to comply with this Section and enforces compliance with the procedures.
(2) Any failure to comply with this Section is the result of error.
(3) When an error has caused the failure to comply with this Section, it, as a matter of routine business practice, provides a full refund or credit for all amounts billed to or paid by the consumer from the date of the renewal until the date of the termination of the contract, or the date of the subsequent notice of renewal, whichever occurs first.
D. The provisions of this Section shall not apply to the following:
(1) The Louisiana Rental-Purchase Agreement Act as provided in R.S. 9:3351 through 3362.
(2) Banks, trust companies, savings and loan associations, savings banks, credit unions, finance or credit companies, industrial loan companies, or any other financial institution licensed or organized under the laws of any state or the United States, or any foreign bank maintaining a branch or agency licensed under the laws of the United States, or any subsidiary or affiliate thereof.
(3) Insurers licensed under Title 22 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950.
(4) A contract entered into before January 1, 2011.
(5) A contract that allows for cancellation by the consumer by written notice within thirty days or within one month, after the initial period has expired.
E. Any contract automatically renewed in violation of this Section shall revert to a thirty-day renewal contract in accordance with the same terms.
QUESTION 2: I am renting a place and have noticed some mold from leaky pipes. When brought to the landlord’s attention, he said that I was still getting a good deal because my rent price was “below market value”. Am I entitled to a reduction, or can I bill the landlord for mold removal?
ANSWER: The term to consider in this situation is “habitability”. Landlords have no obligations to provide a perfect or flawless dwelling, but they are bound by
what is known as the “implied warranty of habitability”. You can find this concept in Civil Code Article 2682, Section 2, which states that the lessor is bound to “maintain the thing in a condition suitable for the purpose of which it was leased.”
Applying the law to these facts – leaky pipes are a structural issue, and one that the tenant is not liable for. More importantly, as we all learned after Hurricane Rita, mold is not merely a nuisance, but can be dangerous. So, habitability has not been provided here.
The landlord has made an issue of the reduced amount of the rent. It is important to read the lease – if the lease actually states that in exchange for a significantly lower rent, the tenant is responsible for structural repairs, then that agreement is binding.
But if the lease does not include that arrangement, the tenant can exercise the right to “repair and deduct”. That is where a landlord refuses to address a condition which renders the premises uninhabitable, the tenant can repair it themselves and deduct the number of repairs from the rental payment.
QUESTION 3: I was told that if I fish in freshwater I need a freshwater license, but if I fish in saltwater, I need a salt AND freshwater license. Is this correct?.
ANSWER: Sort of. What you refer to as a “freshwater license” is known as Basic Fishing License, and it is required to cast net, frog gig, trot line and of course, to fish with a rod and reel. There is an area in La. called the “saltwater line” and if you fish below (or south of) that line, you need a saltwater license in addition to the Basic License. Licenses go on sale on June 1 and expire on June 30 of the following year. If you need more information, or want to see where the saltwater line is, visit the Wildlife and Fisheries website: www.wlf.louisiana.gov
DISCLAIMER: The information furnished in this answer is general and may not apply to some situations. All legal situations are unique. No one should rely to their detriment on these answers. Anyone with a potential legal problem should seek the advice of a licensed attorney before taking any action or inaction. The answers provided are not intended to be specific legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created between the SWLA Law Center and the viewers of KPLC-TV.