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Debt Collection Laws in Washington

Dena Standley | August 01, 2023

Dena Standley
Legal Expert, Paralegal
Dena Standley, BA

Dena Standley is a seasoned paralegal with more than 20 years of experience in legal research and writing, having received a certification as a Legal Assistant/Paralegal from Southern Technical College.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: Washington's debt collection laws protect consumers from being harassed, abused, or scammed. Knowing these laws will help you respond to them and stop debt collectors’ unlawful practices. You may be eligible for compensation if a debt collector has violated these laws to get you to pay a debt. If you’ve been sued for debt, SoloSuit can help you stand up for your rights and settle your debt before going to court.

You are just about to fall asleep after a long day, and your phone starts ringing. On checking, you find it's the same debt collector calling after you requested them to stop contacting you at night. You choose not to answer it, but they keep calling until you have to switch off your phone.

Does this incident sound familiar to you or someone you know? If so, it is not unusual for debt collectors in Washington to annoy and harass consumers for a pending debt. Fortunately, Washington has functional debt collection laws that protect consumers from having to endure such situations.

In this article, we’ll explain these debt collection laws and how they apply to your situation, plus the actions you should take if a debt collector violates your rights.

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Washington state law and federal law regulate debt collectors

RCW Chapter 19.16 sets rules and regulations that Washington debt collection agencies must follow. More specifically, RCW 19.16.250 breaks down all debt collection actions and practices that are prohibited in the state of Washington. These laws were created to protect consumers, like you, from unfair debt collection practices.

In addition to state laws, Washington also enforces federal laws like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to offer more protections for consumers.

Below, we break down Washington state debt collection laws in detail.

RCW 19.16 is outlines Washington debt collection laws to protect you

While both state and federal laws are outline to protect Washington consumers, we’ll break down state laws first. Under RCW Chapter 19.16, debt collectors must abide by the following protocol when attempting to collect a debt in Washington.

Debt collectors must communicate professionally

When attempting to communicate with consumers, debt collectors often overstep their boundaries and use unlawful ways to scare the debtor or cause unrest until they pay. However, the RCW 19.16.250(13) addresses this issue by prohibiting collectors from communicating any intent to “harass, intimidate, threaten, or embarrass” a debtor, including:

  • Calling you early in the morning or late at night (before 7:30 a.m. or after 9 pm)
  • Failing to identify themselves when they call
  • Calling again after you tell them to stop
  • Calling you at home more than three times in a single week, or at work more than once a week
  • Making any threat of force or violence
  • Threatening criminal prosecution
  • Using any sort of profane or offensive language

Debt collectors cannot lie or misrepresent themselves

RCW 19.16.250(4, 14-16) prevents debt collectors from lying or misrepresenting who they are. These sections specifically state that debt collectors cannot pretend to be connected to any sort of government agency or law enforcement agency.

These points also prevent debt collectors from using any sort of form that appears to be connected to the judicial process or government organization. They are also prohibited from lying about the addition of attorney costs and court fees in the collection of a debt. Finally, debt collectors cannot threaten to take legal action if they know they cannot or do not plan to do so.

Wage garnishment laws protect you from excess garnishment

Unfortunately, creditors sometimes receive permission to garnish your wages. Even with a court ruling, RCW 6.27.150 prevents debt collectors from excessive wage garnishment. If they go beyond the limits set forth in this law, you can file for an exemption or file an objection to the garnishment order amount. If the judge finds your case provable and valid, they will stop or reduce the garnishment amount.

Learn more from our guide on how to Stop Wage Garnishment in Washington.

The Federal Debt Collection Practices Act also protects consumers in Washington

The Federal Debt Collection Practices Act adds another protective layer to the Washington state debt collection laws. It supports the Washington laws and says in section 816 that you must first adhere to your state law before relying entirely on its law.

Abuse and harassment

Sometimes, creditors feel they have a superior position over you because you owe them money and they are a big company. Federal law addresses this concern under § 806 of the FDCPA. The regulations state that a debt collector should not use:

  • Violence or threatening to use violence to harm you, your reputation, or property
  • Profane or crude language on a call or in written form
  • Publicly listing your debt with the aim of embarrassing or shaming hem
  • Falsely advertise the sale of your debt to force payment

Debt validation

Debt collectors dislike validating debt because they sometimes do not have complete debt information. This issue occurs when they buy off a debt from an original creditor.

§ 809 of the FDCPA addresses this by requiring debt collectors to send a written notice within five days of initiating contact or after sending a Debt Validation Letter. The debt collector must provide the following information:

  • Full name of the original creditor
  • Breakdown of debt in question
  • A statement allowing you to dispute the debt if the need arises
  • A statement saying they will provide more information if you request for it
  • A statement indicating the debt will be confirmed as valid if you do not respond in 30 days.

Learn more about the Debt Validation Letter and how to use it to stop collectors in this video:

Steps to take after a debt collector violates your rights

Even with these laws, most debt collectors still violate consumers' rights hoping they do not know about them. But after reading this article, you can take action against them when you discover they violated your rights. The steps to take after a debt collector violates your rights are as follows:

  1. Document and file any communication you have with a debt collector. Highlight when and how they have violated your rights and quote the law.
  2. Reach out and inform them of the violation. Ask them to stop the activity or amend the errors. If they agree to change, move to step three.
  3. Submit a complaint to the Fair Trade Commission, your attorney general's office, and the consumer protection finance bureau. These institutions will compel the creditor to rectify the error.
  4. Dispute the debt if the violation involves the creditor entering an incorrect debt on your credit report. The bureaus will address the issue within 30 days.
  5. File a lawsuit if all the above means fail to yield results. Ensure you have overwhelming evidence that will prompt the debt collector to want to settle the debt for less than you owe.

Under the FDCPA, you may be eligible for up to $1,000 per violation. To learn more about how to file a complaint against a debt collector in violation of the FDCPA, check out our guide on FDCPA Violations.

Settle your debt and move on with your life

If you've been sued for debt in Washington, you still have options. You should respond to the debt lawsuit to protect your rights, and if you know you owe the debt, you might want to consider debt settlement to avoid going to court and resolve the debt once and for all.

In a debt settlement, you offer your creditor a portion of the total amount due, usually at least 60% of the debt’s value. In exchange for a lump-sum payment, the creditor agrees to drop its legal claims against you and release you from the remaining balance.

SoloSettle, powered by SoloSuit, is a tech-based approach to debt settlement. Our software helps you send and receive settlement offers until you reach an agreement with the collector. Once an agreement is reached, we’ll help you manage the settlement documentation and transfer your payment to the creditor or debt collector, helping you keep your financial information private and secure.

To learn more about how to settle your debt in Washington, watch the following video:

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