Stories about breaking the law!

Everything’s Coming Up Sunflowers

, , , , | Legal | CREDIT: MeowSchwitzInThere | June 29, 2021

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains content of a legal nature. It is not intended as legal advice.


A client walks into the office and asks us for a contract review. He then hands over a Homeowner’s Association contract. Before slogging through a whole HOA contract, I ask him what he is hoping to accomplish.

Client: “They want me to dig up my sunflowers.”

Me: “Your… sunflowers?”

Client: “Yes, I planted a row of sunflowers outside my house. They pranced by and said that sunflowers are not allowed per the contract I signed. So, I want you to tell me if that is true or not.”

Me: “Sir, before anything else, I need to tell you that this will likely be an hourly fee bill. HOAs are notorious for dragging things out. These could quickly become expensive sunflowers.”

Client: “I don’t care. This is America and I should be able to plant sunflowers, God d*** it.”

Still thinking he isn’t THAT serious about sunflowers, I ask for a three-hour retainer. He immediately pulls out a checkbook and pays for four hours. So, I buckle down to review the alleged anti-sunflower clause.

The sunflowers he has planted are really big and are all along the front of the house. It is a very substantial number of sunflowers.

The contract does indeed contain a clause, with a VERY thorough list, regarding which plants are not allowed to be planted. The list has just about every plant I can think of, in alphabetical order — think, “Apple, banana, cauliflower, dill…” — sunflowers included. Corn is not included, which becomes very important later.

Quick legal point: if you write, “no dogs allowed,” it is normally assumed that you are talking about all dogs generally. If you write, “no labs, golden retrievers, or poodles allowed,” it is normally assumed that all other dogs are allowed. Sometimes a not-so-great attorney will write a super long list to pad hours — read: charge more — instead of just writing, “no plants without prior approval,” or something.

I call the client back in for the bad news. In explaining the above legal point, I let him know that the HOA got a raw deal from whoever drafted the contract.

Me: “No can do on the sunflowers. But if it makes you feel any better, they were probably over-billed by whoever wrote this contract. Pretty shoddy work, too. They even forgot to write down ‘corn,’ but they included nonsense like ‘dragonfruit.'”

Client: “So yes to corn, no to sunflowers?”

Me: “I didn’t really check the contract for corn. But it’s not prohibited in the plant section, so probably?”

Client: “Excellent. That’ll work.”

I thought he was oddly happy with bad news. Then, two or three weeks later, he came in with a picture of his house, surrounded by huge sunflowers.

What happened? This guy drove out to the country and bought obnoxiously large and ugly cornstalks. He promptly planted them where the sunflowers had been. When confronted by the HOA, he told them, basically, “Suck it. The contract lets me plant corn.” Then, after some negotiation, he agreed to take the corn down in exchange for permission to plant sunflowers.

Now we are friends, he is still a great client, and he lives surrounded by a ridiculous moat of sunflowers.

This story is part of our Best Of June 2021 roundup!

Read the next Best Of June 2021 roundup story!

Read the Best Of June 2021 roundup!

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That’s No Accident

, , , , | Legal | June 26, 2021

There are some folks who think they can pull one over on the insurance company to try to get free repairs. If a car’s in an accident, they will claim that damage that existed before the accident was caused by it, no matter how improbable it is. Sometimes insurance companies investigate; sometimes they don’t.

We get a call from a customer. He’s been in a rear-end collision and his car needs some repairs. Fair enough. One of the things that needs to be fixed is the rear parking sensors. Again, fair enough. However, the damage he’s talking about seems excessive given the details of the accident. The garage is asked to check.

They phone back and the garage owner is barely able to contain his amusement.

Garage Owner: “He’s lying about the rear parking sensors.”

Me: “How do you know this?”

Garage Owner: “Because there aren’t any. The car was fitted for them as an option, but this one never had them installed.”

It seems that when he bought the car, the customer had thought that it had rear parking sensors but that they didn’t work, and he decided to claim that they had been damaged in the accident to get them repaired for free.

The claim was swiftly referred to the fraud department.

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They Read You Loud And Clear

, , , , | Legal | June 24, 2021

I’ve been getting an absurd number of spam calls from “Amazon” claiming I need to reconfirm my payment settings. It’s bad; I’m getting over five calls a day. Though I block the number each time, the number spoofing is good and I keep getting more and more calls from different places each time. Eventually, I get sick of it.

Me: *To my wife* “Ugh, another spam call. Brace yourself; I’m going to be loud.”

Wife: “Are you going to yell at them? That doesn’t work.”

Me: “No. I’m putting my theater and choir kid training to good use.”

I answer the call. The scammer does their spiel.

Scammer: “To speak with our cybersecurity department, press two.”

I press two and inhale deeply.

Scammer: “Thank you for calling Amazon—”

I screamed for a solid ten seconds. The scammer hung up. It seems to have worked; I haven’t gotten a call in weeks.

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Bankrupt, Financially And Morally

, , , | Legal | June 22, 2021

It’s a Monday in the 1990s. My neighbour is new; they bought the house last week. I see him walking home while I work in my garden and I immediately see that something is wrong. We don’t know each other that well yet, but you know the walk when you see it.

Me: “Hey, is everything all right?”

Neighbour: “[Home Appliance Chain] went bankrupt.”

Me: “What? When did that happen? “

Neighbour: “I went to their store… It was empty. “

Me: “They closed?”

Neighbour: “No… It was empty. Nothing was there. Just… floors and walls.”

Me: “Hold up… Did you buy something from them?”

Neighbour: *Nodding* “I bought everything from them: refrigerator, stove, washing machine… I paid for everything.”

Me: “Oh, no. When?”

Neighbour: “Saturday. How… how am I supposed to tell my wife about this?”

I was lost for words. It turns out the store went bankrupt and managed to keep it from everyone… even their employees! Their employees made wonderful sales on Saturday and closed the shops — they were closed on Sunday — and when they returned on Monday, the stores were all cleaned out by the owners, and the employees were told they were out of a job. 

Since the owners filed for bankruptcy, it took weeks before it was granted, and then the remaining money was split over suppliers, employees, and on the bottom of the list, clients. It won’t surprise you that there wasn’t enough to repay my neighbour. 

I did not have the funds to help them financially, but luckily, they had family and friends who helped with loans and donations.

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Apparently, There’s Some Fraud In Your Network

, , , , , , | Legal | June 20, 2021

I worked for a while in the office of a railway company. At the time, the company ran both a long-distance main line and a more local network. My department dealt with delay claims; in the UK, if your train is delayed by more than thirty minutes, you are entitled to some or all of the price of your ticket back. Because long-distance main line tickets can be very expensive, all the delay claims on the main line were checked to make sure they were genuine, but claims on the local network weren’t because the company believed it wasn’t worth it, since any losses due to fraud were likely to be very small.

But then, the policy changed; checks were introduced to the local network, as well. The savings from this amounted to £8,000 in the first week alone! And a man who had appeared to be the unluckiest traveller ever was discovered to have put in for compensation for more delays than there had been on the entire network that year.

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