Is It a Crime to Keep Rental Equipment Passed the Agreement Date?

Various situations may arise when you need equipment you don't readily have on hand. For instance, if you're moving or hauling scraps from a remodeling job at your home, you might have large items to move. You might turn to a rental company to borrow a trailer. When you rent the trailer (or other property) from a rental company, you sign an agreement that sets the terms of the rental – costs and return date.

If you keep the rental equipment passed the date in the agreement, without having first discussed the extension with the owner, and you intentionally fail to pay the amount due for the entire rental period, you could be committing a theft crime. Under Texas Penal Code 31.04, a person may be charged with theft of services if they intend to avoid paying for a service they received. Depending on the value of the services, you may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

Presumption of Intent to Avoid Payment

Concerning rental equipment, the theft of services law outlines specific situations in which a person is presumed to be avoiding payment for property or equipment. This includes instances in which a person actually returns the item.

Let's return to the earlier example in which you rented a trailer. You have it for longer than the period in your rental agreement but eventually return it. After you've given the rental company back its property, the company sends you a letter, demanding payment for the entire time you had the item. If you don't pay the rental charge within 10 days of receiving the notification, the presumption is that you intended to avoid paying, and you are considered to have committed a crime.

Additionally, the presumption of intent to avoid payment takes effect when you fail to return the rental equipment after the company has demanded such.

When the presumption applies depends on the value of the property rented:

  • For equipment worth less than $2,500, you have 5 days to return it
  • For equipment worth between $2,500 and $10,000, you have 3 days to return it
  • For equipment worth more than $10,000, you have 2 days to return it

The presumption also applies when you have made fewer than 3 payments, and you don't return the property within 5 days after the company has demanded it.

The Charges for Keeping Rental Equipment

As mentioned before, theft of services can be a misdemeanor or felony offense.

The level of charge you could be facing includes:

  • A Class C misdemeanor for services valued at less than $100
  • A Class B misdemeanor for services valued between $100 and $750
  • A Class A misdemeanor for services valued between $750 and $2,500
  • A state jail felony for services valued between $2,500 and $30,000
  • A third-degree felony for services valued between $30,000 and $150,000
  • A second-degree felony for services valued between $150,000 and $300,000
  • A first-degree felony for services valued at $300,000 or more

If you're facing serious charges in San Antonio, you need serious defense. At LaHood Norton Law Group, our lawyers provide the legal representation you need. Call us at (210) 801-9400 or contact us online today.