Focus at Four: Lawmakers want to crack down on rent-to-own practices

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BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - Some state lawmakers want to crack down on those rent to own businesses, and how they handle customers who default on contracts and payments.

Jay Root with our reporting partners at the Texas Tribune has been investigating this.

Click here to read the full Texas Tribune article.

In his article he says that rental companies can avail themselves of a little-known law written decades ago by the rental industry lobby — in Texas and in many other states — that can turn a dispute over a love seat or big screen TV into a criminal offense report, a trip to jail and even felony theft charges.

In some cases, the customers have already paid thousands of dollars by the time they default, court records show. But if they don't pay the remaining balance, they can face theft of service charges — even if they return the goods.

A months-long investigation by The Texas Tribune and NerdWallet found rent-to-own companies have pressed charges against thousands of customers at police departments in Texas and in other states.

Policies and record keeping vary wildly even county to county, so it's impossible to say for sure how many people have been arrested or prosecuted.

But in a single medium-sized county in central Texas — McLennan, where Waco is located — at least six rent-to-own companies pressed charges against more than 400 customers in the past three and a half years, police offense reports show. According to Waco Police Department records, more than half had sent in payments for at least two months, an analysis of the data shows.