Community Legal Information Clinic

Chico Consumer Protection Agency

Our department assists clients with complaints against businesses and issues dealing with fraud, identity theft, credit/other types of debt, and general questions regarding bankruptcy. We are also able to help provide legal information surrounding contracts, small claims court, lemon law (car sales and other consumer goods), probate law (wills and trusts), insurance claims/disputes, disaster insurance recovery, licensed contractor disputes, dog bites, escrow questions, and other potential consumer issues. Along with providing legal information in the above areas of law, we are able inform people on how to file complaints to federal agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission.

In the Chico Consumer Protection Agency, we assist roughly forty to fifty clients per month. Not only do we strive to provide information that can aid businesses against frivolous lawsuits but we also provide individual clients with legal consumer information to protect them from unfair or illegal business practices.

Disclaimer:

All information is provided by paralegal interns. All information is purely information and is not meant to be taken as advice. All information is typically specific to California law, but may occasionally be more general or federal law. We are not affiliated with any of the third-party links and provide these only to further your potential research.

The Community Legal Information Clinic (CLIC) is an undergraduate law clinic comprised of paralegal interns only.  WE ARE NOT ATTTORNEYS AND CANNOT PROVIDE YOU LEGAL ADVICE NOR LEGAL REPRESENTATION.  We are paralegal interns and provide legal information only. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are “Lemon Laws”?

“Lemon law” is a term that refers to protections a consumer may have in regards to the purchasing of a car. When getting stuck with a defective or repeatedly broken vehicle, there may be specific lemon laws enacted in your state that could solidify your chances of receiving a refund or replacement of the purchased vehicle. Typically, lemon laws protect new vehicles purchased through the manufacturer/dealer but can also vary depending on the state’s requirements

For the SOURCE and more information on lemon law, you can visit here: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/lemon-law-used-cars-30107.html(opens in new window)

California’s specific lemon law requirements can be found here: https://www.autopedia.com/html/LemonLaw/CA_lemonlaw2.html(opens in new window)

Another helpful source may be: https://www.autopedia.com/index.html(opens in new window)

2. What do I do if I think my identity has been stolen?

If you believe your identity may have been stolen, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can submit a claim online through their website (link listed below). The FTC also recommends contacting any companies you know the fraud has been involved with and to put out a fraud alert. You can also file a report with your local police department.

Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft webpage to report the case: https://www.identitytheft.gov/(opens in new window)

More detailed list of steps to take in this situation: https://www.identitytheft.gov/#/Steps(opens in new window)

Information about your rights in this situation: https://www.identitytheft.gov/#/Know-Your-Rights(opens in new window)

Links to more resources and referrals: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft(opens in new window)

California Attorney General’s information on identity theft: https://oag.ca.gov/idtheft/first-aid(opens in new window)

3. How long can I collect "Alternative Living Expenses" from my homeowner's insurance if I lost my home in a California fire?

Normally, 36 months. "The passage of Senate Bill 894 (Dodd and McGuire, Chapter 618, Statutes of 2018 ), Assembly Bill 1772 (Aguiar-Curry and Wood, Chapter 627, Statutes of 2018), and Assembly Bill 1800 (Levine, Chapter 628, Statutes of 2018) increased the 24-month mandatory ALE coverage period to a minimum of 36 months if a policyholder acting in good faith and with reasonable diligence encounters delays in the reconstruction process of their home."

Source can be found here at the California Department of Insurance (DOI) website: http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0400-news/0100-press-releases/2019/release079-19.cfm(opens in new window)

4. What is Small Claims Court and how much can you typically sue for?

Small Claims Court is a source for remedy of smaller/quicker suits, where the “plaintiff” suing the “defendant” must do so without being represented legally. Suits can range from property damage to disputes with contractors about repairs on a home. When suing someone, there are options to consider:

1) Mediation with the opposing side

2) Whether the opposing side has actual money to award you if your case wins

3) Get help from a local court’s Small Claims Advisor

4) Making sure to file with the right court-Link here for SOURCE expanding on this: (https://www.courts.ca.gov/1112.htm(opens in new window)
#Figuring_Out_if_you_Have_Been_Sued_in_the_Wrong_Court)https://www.courts.ca.gov/1256.htm(opens in new window)

Generally, an individual can sue for up to $10,000 in a claim. As a business or other entity, it is only possible to sue for up to $5,000 in a claim.

For filing a certain amount, there are fees that come along with this.

There is a $30 fee for claims ranging from $0-1,500

There is a $50 fee for claims ranging from $1,500-5,000

There is a $75 fee for claims ranging from $5,000-10,000

For the SOURCE and more basic information on Small Claims Court, you can go here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/1256.htm(opens in new window)

Forms that will be needed may be dependent on the court/county you are attempting to file a small claims court claim with. For Butte County, https://www.buttecourt.ca.gov/Packets/(opens in new window) gives self-help access to varying packets of forms, including “Small Claims”.

Another source for help on filling out forms is: https://www.courts.ca.gov/9744.htm(opens in new window)

SHARP (Self-Help and Referral Program) in Butte County is also available to help with filling out specific forms regarding your issues. (530) 532-7015

5. What is “escrow” and what are the responsibilities of the homeowner and home buyer?

Escrow is a period of time that is known as the process of buying/selling a house, usually between the signing of a contract and the actual “closing” of the house purchase.

For specific information on the process and your role as a home seller, you can visit: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/escrow-role-home-seller-32339.html(opens in new window)

For information regarding the “closing” process and what to expect as a home buyer, you can visit: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/escrow-role-home-seller-32339.html(opens in new window)

For general definitions regarding escrow, you can visit here: https://dbo.ca.gov/general-definitions/(opens in new window)

For information regarding “Escrow Law”, you can visit this source: https://dbo.ca.gov/escrow-law(opens in new window)

6. Are there ways to clear, or “knock off” consumer debt from your personal record?

One potential way to deal with consumer debt is through negotiation with the creditors. If negotiation with creditors occurs, there is a possibility that they may choose to settle debts for lower than the original amount owed or they may provide more time to attempt paying off the consumer debt. For information regarding debt settlement/negotiating with creditors, you can visit: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/debt-settlement-negotiating-with-creditors(opens in new window)

Another way to deal with consumer debt is through the process of filing for bankruptcy. For more information on bankruptcy, you can visit: https://www.courts.ca.gov/1067.htm(opens in new window)

Information regarding debt settlement, which is another option that could clear some consumer debt from your record, can be found here: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/credit-card-debt-settlement.html(opens in new window)

For general information on dealing with consumer debt, you can visit: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/options-for-dealing-with-your-debt.html(opens in new window)

7. What is the difference between Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is typically referred to as “liquidation” bankruptcy, while Chapter 13 bankruptcy is referred to or thought of as “reorganization” (repayment plan) bankruptcy.

For more information and comparison between the two, you can visit here: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-is-the-difference-between-chapter-7-chapter-13-bankrutpcy.html(opens in new window)

For general information about bankruptcy and the different types, you can visit the California Courts Self-Help page here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/1067.htm(opens in new window)

For the U.S. Courts “Bankruptcy Basics” on federal bankruptcy laws/processes, you can visit here: https://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/bankruptcy/bankruptcy-basics(opens in new window)

8. What is “student loan forgiveness”?

For general information and links on student loan debt, you can visit: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/student-loan(opens in new window)

Student loan “forgiveness” or cancellation is where the debtors may be eligible to no longer make loan payments due to specific circumstances (typically relating to the individual’s job). Instances that are eligible typically for forgiveness or cancellation are: attending a school that closed, being a teacher or having an occupation in some type of public works, you are disabled, or you die.

For information regarding qualifications of student loan forgiveness and other basics, you can visit: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-is-student-loan-forgiveness.html(opens in new window)

For forms, you can go here: https://studentaid.gov/app/formLibrary.action?_ga=2.209785301.1317750114.1561505496-776273074.1542732235(opens in new window)

Another way to handle student loans and discuss potential student loan forgiveness is by contacting your student loan holder/servicer. For more information regarding this and where/how to find who the servicer is, you can visit here: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/who-is-my-student-loan-holder.html(opens in new window)

The (put the link as the name: Federal Student Aid Office) also has extensive information regarding student loan forgiveness. https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation(opens in new window)

Other ways to deal with student loan debt can be found discussed here: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/how-get-out-student-loan-debt.html(opens in new window)

“Undue hardship” - a qualification that if met can potentially clear all student loans through bankruptcy – is discussed as another potential option of dealing with student loan debt here: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/student-loan-debt-bankruptcy.html(opens in new window)

9. I hired a contractor to build me a new fence, but the project took far longer than he said it would, and he left my yard a mess. How can I file a complaint against him?

In the state of California, there are currently 3 different ways to file complaint against contractor with the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB).

1) Call 1-800-321-2752 to have a Complaint Form mailed to you

2) Use the on-line Complaint Form

3) Download and print a Complaint Form

Link to the online Complaint Form here: https://www2.cslb.ca.gov/OnlineServices/ConstructionComplaint/ComplaintFormProcess.aspx(opens in new window)

Link to printable Complaint Form and where to mail the forms here: https://www.cslb.ca.gov/Consumers/Filing_A_Complaint/Filing_A_Complaint_By_Mail.aspx(opens in new window)

Link to more general information about creating a Complaint here: https://www.dca.ca.gov/consumers/complaints/cslb.shtml(opens in new window)

10. I was bit by someone's dog and had to go to the hospital to get the damage looked at by a doctor. Who is responsible for my medical bills?

Dog owners are generally responsible for their dogs and harm or damage they may cause. If the dog bite resulted in medical expenses, the owner is usually responsible for the reimbursement of the medical bills, any time lost from work for the victim, as well as pain and suffering. There are exceptions to this however, and every case is different.

For more information on who's responsible, and what to do in this situation, you can visit this link: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/dog-book/chapter11-4.html(opens in new window)

11. What is the difference between a “living trust” and a “will”?

For detailed information and comparison between the two of these, you can visit here: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/living-trust-v-will.html(opens in new window)

For information specifically regarding wills (how to make one, what their functions and benefits are, etc.), you can visit: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-is-will.html(opens in new window)

For information specifically regarding living trusts in California, you can visit: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/california-make-a-living-trust-32153.html(opens in new window)

For general information regarding Wills, Estates, and Probate, you can visit the CA Courts Self-Help page here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/8865.htm(opens in new window)

12. My neighbor’s tree fell onto my fence and is refusing to pay to fix the damages of my fence. What can I do?

If a branch from your neighbor's tree falls and damages your property (fence, car, boat, house, etc.) due to weather (snow storm, high winds, etc.) or any act that is of no fault of the neighbor, the neighbor is most likely not responsible for the damages. The laws vary by state, but commonly the neighbor is only responsible for damage when the damage occurs from their own negligence (not maintaining the tree, leaving overhang and or dead branches hanging, etc.).

In the case that the neighbor is liable, you can bring a case against them in small claims court. For more information about filling a small claims case, see question 5. However, if your neighbor is not liable you can report the damage to your insurance company instead.

More detailed information linked here: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/my-tree-fell-neighbors-garage-who-pays.html(opens in new window)

13. What is Power of Attorney, and generally what are the holder's responsibilities?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the power to represent you for certain important legal decisions. The person signing the Power of Attorney, is known as the “Principal”, while the person appointed to represent the Principal, is known as the “Agent” or “Attorney-in-fact".  The Power of Attorney can be used to give someone else the authority to make decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself, or are not available at the time. Power of Attorney can also be used as an alternative to guardianship in some cases.

The Agent can be responsible for many different financial decisions. Decisions including, but not limited to; bank deposits and withdrawals, buying or selling property, paying bills, trading stocks, hiring people to help the Principal, file the Principals tax returns, and more. However, when signing a Power of Attorney, the Principal can limit the kinds of financial decisions the Agent can make.

More detailed information from SOURCE and FAQs here: https://www.occourts.org/self-help/probate/medical-financial-eol/poa.html(opens in new window)

Other forms and links regarding Power of Attorney in California can be found here: https://saclaw.org/legal-forms/(opens in new window)

For information regarding different types of Power of Attorney, revocation, and other self-help tips, this guide is available on the Sacramento County Public Law Library: https://saclaw.org/wp-content/uploads/lrg-power-of-attorney.pdf (PDF)

14. What are the differences between a copyright and a trademark?

When it comes to protecting “intellectual property”- your thoughts, ideas, catchphrases, etc. - both copyrights and trademarks can potentially aid in this protection. Copyrighting helps more with original works of expression, such as a book or movie, and prevent others from copying/stealing those works without the owner’s permission to do so. Trademarking, on the other hand, protects what copyrights do not: names, phrases, titles, logos/symbols, etc. The nature of trademarking is to “distinguish” one’s self/business from others with an original idea/logo/name.

Both copyrighting and trademarking can be used concurrently, in an instance where the artistic aspects of a company’s logo or a movie poster is protected by a copyright while the actual name or title of the work is protected by a trademark.

For more information on copyrighting and trademarking, you can visit: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/which-protection-do-i-need-patent-copyright-or-trademark.html(opens in new window)

Or you can visit: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/trademark-basics/trademark-patent-or-copyright(opens in new window)

More info specifically on copyrighting: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1a.html(opens in new window)

For information specifically on trademarks, such as the basics of trademarking or where to apply for one, you can visit: https://www.uspto.gov/trademark(opens in new window)

Generally Helpful Links

NOLO: https://www.nolo.com/(opens in new window)

NOLO is a source full of legal encyclopedias, forms, books, software, and referrals. You can search by your issue or your location. This website has an abundance of useful free information, but it should be noted that some information or forms may require a purchase.

California Courts Self Help Site:https://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp.htm(opens in new window)

This courts website allows you to look up any legal question you may have. There is a search bar, as well as different common categories to choose from. These pages will provide all legal options and information about these different issues. It is important to note however, that this is the California courts website, so all codes and laws are relevant to California and may differ in different states.

Find you county's court site: https://www.courts.ca.gov/find-my-court.htm(opens in new window)

When filing a claim to the court, there are usually county specific documents that need to be turned in as well as the standard state documents. This website allows you to look up your own county and determine if there are additional documents that need to be filled for a claim.

Self-Help and Referral Program (SHARP):https://sharpcourts.org/(opens in new window)

The SHARP program was developed to provide free legal assistance to those who may not have an attorney. It is a self-help center that provides assistance regarding family law related matters in Butte, North Butte, Lake Tehama, and Glenn County. They focus on issues regarding divorce, guardianships, restraining orders, etc.

Butte County Superior Court Packets and Forms: https://www.buttecourt.ca.gov/Packets/(opens in new window)

If you already have an idea of what forms you are looking for, this website provides several different packets of court forms and has them grouped together by different common legal issues.

Other miscellaneous forms and information on the Butte County Superior Court website:https://www.buttecourt.ca.gov/LocalRules/(opens in new window)

Butte County Superior Court Definition of Terms List:https://www.buttecourt.ca.gov/Information/DefinitionOfTerms/(opens in new window)

Legal terminology can be very confusing. This website provides a long list of common legal words and phrases with simple definitions.

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                       Monday     11-3
                       Tuesday    11-3
                       Thursday  11-3
                       Friday       11-3

Directors of CCPA