What You Should Know Before Signing a Rent-to-Own Agreement
State and federal laws protect rent-to-own consumers against fraudulent or deceptive practices. However, one of the most important things that you can do as a consumer is be informed of your rights to help protect yourself from becoming a victim of rent-to-own agreement scams.
Rent-to-own fraud usually occurs when a company illegally fails to disclose all the costs and terms of a rent-to-own agreement. Under state laws, every consumer has the right to all available information in a rent-to-own transaction. Before signing a rent-to-own agreement, be sure to ask the following questions:
- How much are my payments and when are they due? All rent-to-own agreements must clearly state the amount of each payment and how often each payment should be made, whether it is weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
- What is the lowest number of payments I can make? The rent-to-own agreement may require that you make a certain number of payments before you're able to return the product or else you must pay a penalty fee. Be sure to check the company's policy.
- What other fees should I expect? Always read the fine print on your contract to see if there are any extra charges such as insurance fees, collection fees, processing fees, delivery fees, late payments, reinstatement fees, and moving fees. Theses additional charges can considerably increase the total cost of the merchandise.
- What are the interest rates? In most states, rent-to-own agreements must disclose the interest percentage that will be charged for renting the merchandise. Be sure to ask what these rates are.
- What is the total amount to own the product? To calculate the total dollar amount of the product you wish to rent, multiply the number of payments by the amount of each payment. Add extra charges to that amount to determine what you will pay before the item belongs to you.
- When will I own the product? In most rent-to-own agreements, a consumer will not own the product until all rental payments have been made. Be sure to check and understand when you will gain ownership.
- Is the product I'm renting new or used? Under state laws, your rent-to-own agreement must disclose whether the item you will be renting is new or used. Also, ask about the manufacturer's warranty and owners manual.
- Will I be responsible for lost or damaged merchandise? The rent-to-own agreement must state who will be held liable for lost or damaged items and should state the maximum cost a consumer is required to compensate for the items.
- Is there a grace period for late payments? A grace period refers to the amount of time you have to make a late payment before you are charged additional fees or your items are repossessed.
- How can I reinstate a rent-to-own agreement? Within a specified period, you have the right to pay all late fees to reinstate your contract. Defend your reinstatement right. If you have already invested a lot of money to own an item, you don't want to lose it.
- Is there a balloon payment? In some rent-to-own agreements, a company may ask that you make a large (balloon) payment at the end of your lease. Never sign a contract with a balloon payment amount you cannot afford.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of rent-to-own agreement fraud, it is important to seek the early advice of a qualified consumer fraud attorney. You may be eligible to seek compensation for your losses. Please contact us today to learn more about your legal rights or to speak with an experienced attorney FREE of charge.