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The High Cost of a “Cheap” Rental

Helping one family can lead to consumer reform for all.​

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Cynthia” and her family of three children survived on Social Security Disability benefits. Three children generated a lot of laundry, so in order to save money, Cynthia decided to stop using the local Laundromat and get her family a washing machine.

She visited a rent-to-own store, where an employee told Cynthia that she could get an energy efficient front-loading washer-dryer set by paying only $20 per week. She was told the actual cost of the set was about $600, but not that her payments, which numbered 52 in all, would add up to over $1,000.

Further, the employee didn’t tell Cynthia that the washer and dryer set was used. The washer stopped working even before Cynthia finished paying for it. The store took it back, but gave her a mismatched top-loader replacement and added 13 weeks to her contract term. In the end, Cynthia never got the front loading set she paid for, and ended up paying $1,300 for a top-loading set.

Cynthia contacted Vermont Legal Aid for help. We were able to successfully resolve her problem with the rent-to-own store. In addition, Legal Aid helped get a bill passed in Vermont that requires rent-to-own businesses to more completely disclose the details of their rental agreements. This will protect all Vermonters who do business with rent-to-own stores.

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