Know Your Rights: Victim of sexual assault may terminate her lease

Know Your Rights: Victim of sexual assault may terminate her lease

Q. I was sexually assaulted at my apartment. I am very scared to live there and asked the landlord if I could terminate my lease. He said if I left early, I would be breaking the lease and would continue to owe rent. Do I have the right to leave?

A. Until recently, you did not have the right to terminate your lease if you were sexually assaulted at your apartment. Today, however, a tenant who is the victim of a sexual assault may terminate the lease. To terminate the lease with no further liability, you must give the landlord 30 days written notice of your intent to terminate and written documentation of the sexual assault. You may move out before the 30 days, but you will owe rent for that period. A landlord who continues to charge rent after you have given proper notice to terminate the lease could be responsible for substantial damages.Q. I am single and just bought a home with money I inherited. I have been dating the same person for more than a year and we are talking about marriage. If I get married and divorced, will my husband be entitled to half my house?

A. The house is your separate property, and your husband will not have an interest in it. When a couple gets divorced, the court divides all of the community property. Generally, this includes everything either of you obtain after you are married. Property you owned prior to marriage or property you inherit during marriage, however, is separate property and is not divided as part of the divorce. To ensure that your interest is protected, you may want to talk with a family law attorney about entering into a premarital contract, clearly spelling out your rights.Q. I have five brothers and sisters. Some of us are on better terms with our father than others. Our mother passed away last year and left everything to our father. I have been told that if my dad dies, the law requires my father’s estate be divided equally between all the children. Is this true?A. If your father dies without a will, his estate will be divided between all of his children. With a will, however, he has the right to dispose of his property any way he wants. For example, he can leave all of his property to his children in unequal shares, or can leave some of the children all the property and others none. In fact, the law does not require he leave any of his property to his children. The bottom line is that under Texas law, a person has the right to leave property to whomever he or she wants. The important thing is to have a will clearly spelling out how you want your property distributed after your death.Q. A few years ago, I borrowed money from a friend. He recently passed, and his wife is trying to collect this money back from me. There was never any written paperwork. Now her lawyer has sent me a copy of the deposit slip that shows the amount deposited into my checking account. Can she make me pay this money back?A. If you borrowed the money, you have a legal obligation to repay it. If you do not, you can be sued. The claim will be on behalf of your friend’s estate. The fact that there is no written agreement or promissory note does not matter. The deposit slip indicates the amount of money you received, and you seem to understand it was a loan and not a gift. My suggestion is to do the right thing and pay back the money you owe.Q. Can I name my husband as executor of my will if he is also going to be the beneficiary?A. Yes. Almost anyone may serve as the executor of a will. Basically, the only people who may not serve as executors are minors, incompetents, convicted felons, and others a court finds unsuitable.Want to know more about your legal rights? Check out my website, www.peopleslawyer.net

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