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LEGAL DICTIONARY - LETTER U


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ULTRA VIRES
Without authority. An act which is beyond the powers or authority of the person or organization which took it.

UNCLEAN HANDS
A legal doctrine that prevents a plaintiff who has acted unethically in relation to a lawsuit from winning the suit or from recovering as much money as she would have if she had behaved honorably. For example, if a contractor is suing a homeowner to recover the price of work he did on the home, his failure to perform the work as specified would leave him with unclean hands.

USE TAX
A tax imposed by a state to compensate for the sales tax lost when an item is purchased outside of the state, but is used within the state. For example, you buy your car in a state that has no sales tax, but you live across the border in a state that does have a sales tax. When you bring your car home and register it in your state, the state taxing authority will bill you for the sales tax it would have collected had you bought the car within the state.

USUFRUCT
The right to use property -- or income from property -- that is owned by another.

USURY
n. a rate of interest on a debt which is exorbitant and in excess of the percentage allowed by law. Each state sets its own maximum interest rate. Courts will not enforce payment of interest on a loan if the rate is usurious, so a loan may result in being interest free. Charging usury as a practice is a crime, usually only charged if a person makes a business of usury, sometimes called "loan-sharking." Banks and other commercial lenders generally are not subject to anti-usury laws, but are governed by the marketplace and the competitive rates triggered by loan rates to institutions set by the Federal Reserve Bank.

UNDERWRITER 
(1) To agree to pay an obligation which may arise from an insurance policy. (2) To guarantee purchase of all shares of stock or bonds being issued by a corporation, including an agreement to purchase by the underwriter if the public does not buy all the shares or bonds. (3) To guarantee by investment in a business or project.