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¡No Se Deje!
People often use the phrase “legal technicality” to criticize the result in a legal dispute. The implication is that a judge or jury unreasonably used a minor detail in the law to justify an unjust result. A man was sentenced to prison for having sex with a girl two months before she attained the age of consent. He complained that the nature of their consensual act would not be any different if it had occurred two months later and that his crime was a mere “technicality.” People that lose their right to litigate disputes for failing to file a lawsuit on time similarly complain.
And, technical details in laws or regulations can be used by consumers to force others to respect their rights. A case illustrates the importance of knowing and using “technicalities” effectively. The “Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act” (PTAF) was created to protect people that are renting a home from owners that lose the property in Foreclosure because of failure to make the payments to the bank. The banks and other lenders would immediately notify the tenants that they had to leave the property immediately. Often these tenants had lease contracts giving them the right to rent the property for months or years in the future. Nevertheless, the banks would insist that since they now owned the property, that they had the legal right to evict them.
The PTAF requires new owners (usually banks) that acquire repossessed homes, to give tenants a 90 day notice to vacate the property. And tenants that have leases must be allowed to stay in the property until the end of their lease UNLESS the new owner of the property will occupy the residence as his/her primary residence. And, even then, the tenant is still entitled to the 90 day notice before being required to leave.
A tenant received a “5 day notice to vacate” from a bank that bought the rental house after the prior owner lost the property in foreclosure. The tenant ignored the notice to vacate. More than 90 days later, the bank filed a court action to evict the tenant. The tenant told the judge that he never received the 90 day notice required by the federal PTAF. The bank argued that it had complied with the law because it waited more than 90 days to file the court action. The court ruled that the 5 day notice provided by the new owner was not legally sufficient. The court said that the law gives tenants the right to occupy the premises until the end of the lease and the right to receive a notice that informs them that they have 90 days to vacate the property. The 5 day notice, even when followed by an unannounced 90 day delay, is at best misleading. This “technicality” provided a significant benefit to the tenant. Technicalities are laws, USE THEM. Consult an attorney promptly if you are involved in a legal dispute. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®
Jess J. Araujo, Esq