I am writing this report on behalf of my father, an immigrant who has been pursuing the American dream since the 1970s and who has been prevented by shady people/ companies like this one. He has limited English abilities despite his decades in the US so here I am venting for him.
My father is a very trusting individual (too trusting?) and has been in the restaurant business for many years. Like others who have been affected by this company, he was offered a lease for restaurant equipment with a $1 buyout agreement at the end of the lease. The signature on the contract is a funding coordinator by the name of Anna Crawford, but he does not remember who it was that he was dealing with.
He simply signed all documents presented to him as the sales rep verbally "explained" each document in simple English. Since he has a literacy level of an elementary school student, he just signed all documents as they were verbally "explained" by the sales rep and believed in the $1 buyout as he had been told. The rent was $2,179.60 for a base term of 60 months (5 years), after which he was told the buyout would be in effect and he would be the owner of the restaurant equipment.
It has now been almost 6 years and he finally started wondering why he was still being charged for the lease. He was told that there was no buyout agreement and that whatever he signed had been auto renewed for a year and that he can't get out of it. Did they notify him of the renewal? Of course not until he asked about what was going on. They also threatened to sue if he tried to break the contract now.
He just told me about the letter and I was able to get a copy of the lease agreement to review. Indeed, he had not signed anything that detailed a buyout. Rather, all the forms he signed reemphasized several times that the equipment was the property of the company and under no circumstances belonged to him. Even the form entitled "Private Sale Acknowledgement" was simply a another contract to reemphasize the binding contract. He just understood the "Private Sale" part, didn't understand the small words, just trusted whatever the sales rep said, and signed.
The contract details that the lease is automatically renewed "for a year and thereafter renew for successive 3 month terms until you deliver the Equipement to us." What if he's still interested in a buyout? The lease says "you may at the end of the Base Term or any renewal term, purchase all (but not less than all) of the Equipment for its Fair Market Value." Awesome... Not.
Furthermore, it states "Unless there has been a separate purchase option or buyout agreement attached to this Lease, then at least 120 days prior to the end of the Base Term you must give us written notice via certified mail that you will purchase the Equipment or that you will return the Equipment to us..." Was there a separate buyout agreement ATTACHED to the lease? Nope, only a verbal one, which is nearly impossible to prove in court. 120 days prior? Thats almost four months before the end of the lease. We have already paid almost a year additional to the lease, and now we will have to pay for another 3 months until October thanks to the "auto renewal" clause.
Shady people and businesses like Five Point Capital, Inc. are what inspires me to be an attorney. Give me three more years and I will find a way to take shady dipsh**s like you down who prey on trusting small business owners.
My attorneys at the office that I work at have advised my father to hire an attorney of his own to at the very least try to negotiate a better contract for the duration of the term. I know if he were to try to negotiate on his own he would only get screwed again. For everyone else out there who have similar experiences, get an attorney. Class-action lawsuit as someone else suggested would be well-deserved for this company. I have the contract, forms, and letter from the company should someone be interested in a suit.