September 21, 2019
Unfortunately, a debt collection agency can take as long as they want to respond to your request to validate an existing debt.
I would say, generally, the usual range is between 1–30 days or they never respond.
The FDCPA actually gives the collector this power to keep the debtor in a state of uncertainty until the statute of limitations runs.
Here’s the relevant section of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
§ 809. Validation of debts
(a) Notice of debt; contents
Within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall, unless the following information is contained in the initial communication or the consumer has paid the debt, send the consumer a written notice containing --
(1) the amount of the debt;
(2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed;
(3) a statement that unless the consumer, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector;
(4) a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector; and
(5) a statement that, upon the consumer's written request within the thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.
(b) Disputed debts
If the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period described in subsection (a) of this section that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, or that the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor, the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt, or any disputed portion thereof, until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor, and a copy of such verification or judgment, or name and address of the original creditor, is mailed to the consumer by the debt collector. Collection activities and communications that do not otherwise violate this subchapter may continue during the 30-day period referred to in subsection (a) unless the consumer has notified the debt collector in writing that the debt, or any portion of the debt, is disputed or that the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor. Any collection activities and communication during the 30-day period may not overshadow or be inconsistent with the disclosure of the consumer’s right to dispute the debt or request the name and address of the original creditor.
(c) Admission of liability
The failure of a consumer to dispute the validity of a debt under this section may not be construed by any court as an admission of liability by the consumer.
(d) Legal pleadings
A communication in the form of a formal pleading in a civil action shall not be treated as an initial communication for purposes of subsection (a).
So, you’ll notice the FDCPA says the consumer must request validation of the debt or dispute the debt within 30 days or she automatically admits validity of the debt, but the collector can take however long they want to validate the debt.
They are supposed to provide validation of the debt within 5 days, but what happens if they don’t? Nothing? Under §813(a)(2)(a), you could potentially sue them for $1000, I’m not sure what the case law shows for this.
So this is one section of the FDCPA that unfortunately skews in favor of the collector allowing them to take essentially as long as they want to respond to your request for validation.