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Debt Collection Laws in Rhode Island

Dena Standley | July 31, 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: Rhode Island debt collection laws protect consumers from being mistreated by debt collectors. These laws cover when, how, and for how long debt collectors can follow up on debt. If you’ve been sued for a debt, SoloSuit can help you stand up for your rights in court and settle your debt to avoid going to court at all.

Debt collectors often grow impatient when they follow up on debt. Some go a step further and use illegal means to convince or scare you to pay. Fortunately, consumers in Rhode Island do not have to tolerate these unlawful practices.

The state has laws that regulate how debt collectors conduct business. These debt-collection laws protect debtors from being harassed, misled, deceived, or experiencing unfair practices.

Rhode Island debt collection laws include both state-specific and federal laws. This article will explore the various laws that protect consumers and explain how these laws can be used to win a debt collection case. If you have received countless calls from a debt collectors, citing the law often causes them to back down or stop calling. Let's begin with the state-specific laws.

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The Rhode Island Debt Collection Practices Act protects you

The Rhode Island Debt Collection Practices Act has fourteen sections, as outlined in Rhode Island General Laws Title 19 Chapter 19–14.9. Each section explains various laws that debt collectors ought to follow, and the last section outlines the outcome when they break the laws. The following are some of the regulations and how they affect you.

Contacting someone other than the debtor for location information

According to RI Gen L § 19-14.9-4, a debt collector can only call your family or friends to ask about your current location but should not disclose that you owe any debt and should only call once. In addition, they cannot use a postcard, and if they send the inquiry via mail, the letter shouldn't show it is about a debt collection.

Harassment or abuse

Section RI Gen L § 19-14.9-6 states that a debt collector should not engage in behavior that equals harassment, oppression, and abuse. For example, debt collectors should not:

  • Threaten to use illegal means to get you to pay
  • Use profane or obscene language
  • Leave the phone to ring multiple times with the intent to annoy you

Debt validation

Have you sent a Debt Validation Letter to your creditor? Have they verified the debt in written form? If not, they have violated law RI Gen L § 19-14.9-9. This law states that once you send a Debt Validation Letter, the debt collector should respond within five days. The written verification notice should contain the following:

  • The debt amount
  • The creditor’s name
  • The statement that the debt will be taken as valid if you do not dispute in 30 days
  • The statement that you can dispute the debt

Once you dispute the debt or ask for more information about the original creditor, the debt collector should stop all collection activities until they provide the required information. Watch the following video to learn how to write a Debt Validation Letter.

Unfair practices

Rhode Island debt collection laws (RI Gen L § 19-14.9-8) prohibit collectors from using unfair or unethical means to collect a debt. Examples include:

  • Threatening to publish or publishing your debt for general circulation
  • Demanding the consumer to deposit a post-dated check or order for withdrawal
  • Threatening or carrying out any actions that would take away or damage your property

Communication about the debt

Section RI Gen L § 19-14.9-5 of the debt collection laws stipulates how a creditor should communicate to you about the debt. The provisions prohibit debt collectors from:

  • Calling after 9 pm and before 8 am
  • Calling multiple times for the same debt
  • Calling you if you hired an attorney to handle the matter
  • Calling you at your workplace

Rhode Island’s statute of limitations limits when debt collectors can sue you

The statute of limitations is a period of time through which a creditor can enforce payment of a debt through the legal system.

In other words, the statute of limitations on debt is the deadline to file a debt lawsuit against someone. Once the statute of limitations on debt has expired, the creditor or debt collector can no longer pursue repayment through the courts.

The statute of limitations on debt is 10 years in Rhode Island. This includes Rhode Island’s statute of limitations on credit card debt and medical debt, which are both 10 years. On the other hand, if granted a judgment, creditors and debt collectors only have 20 years to take action based on that judgment. The table below further outlines the Rhode Island statute of limitations on different types of debt:

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Rhode Island

Debt Type Deadline
Credit Card 10 years
Medical 10 years
Auto Loan 10 years
State Tax 10 years
Mortgage 10 years
Written contract 10 years
Open contract 10 years
Oral contract 10 years
Judgment 20 years
R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-13 and § 9-1-17

Federal law also protects you from unfair debt collectors

Apart from the state laws, Rhode Island also uses federal laws under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to control debt collectors and protect consumers. Most of the Rhode Island state debt collection laws borrow heavily from the FDCPA, the above laws are also found in this Act. Subchapter 1692 o-§ 816 also states that the FDCPA laws do not alter, annul, affect, or exempt an individual from complying with Rhode Island state laws.

Let’s look at an example of an FDCPA violation.

Example: Tracy began receiving calls from Vent Credits for a $3,200 debt she had defaulted from paying six months ago. She asked them to stop calling and sent SoloSuit’s Debt Validation Letter. Instead of responding to the letter, Vent Credits continued to call multiple times daily and became rude when she enquired about debt validation. This is a clear violation of the FDCPA, and Tracy could use this information to win in court.

What could Tracy do in this situation? Let's look at the options she has in the next section.

Steps to take after a debt collector violates your rights

If possible, do not let a debt collector get away with harassing, misleading, threatening, or mistreating you at any stage of the collection process. Once you discover they have violated the Rhode Island debt collection laws, take the following steps:

  1. Contact them and inform them of the violation and the legal action you will take against them if they do not rectify the issue. If they rectify the issue and apologize, then you can stop at this stage. But if they ignore you, move to step two.

  2. File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Fair Trade Commission, and your State’s attorney general's office. These institutions will follow up on them to ensure they address your concern.

  3. Talk to an attorney to see if you have a strong case. If you do, they will assist you in navigating the legal process and help you seek compensation.

  4. Take legal action against them by filing a lawsuit in court. If you win the debt collection case, you may receive reasonable damages to cover the actual and additional damages and attorney fees.

Under the FDCPA, you may be eligible for up to $1,000 in compensation per violation.

What are the penalties for debt collectors in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, when a debt collector violates the laws, and you take action against them, these are the penalties they may face under section RI Gen L § 19-14.9-13:

  • They may have their registration revoked if they violate the rules regarding communication.
  • When a debt collector calls you without proper registration, they will be fined $2000 or imprisoned for one year.
  • Incur damages for individual actions of up to $1000 and up to $500,000 or 1% of their net worth for class actions.
  • If the creditor proves a violation was not intentional, the debtor will be given 15 days to cure the violation or incur the penalty.

If you take a lawsuit against a debt collector for violating the debt collection law, you must file the suit within one year of the violation.

Avoid getting to this point by offering to settle with the debt collector using SoloSettle

Settle your debt in Rhode Island

Putting your debt behind you will also eliminate frequent phone calls and allow you to start rebuilding your credit. The collection agency likely purchased your debt from a credit card company or a bank at a steep discount, and it may be willing to accept a lower settlement.

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.

For more information on Rhode Island debt settlement, check out our guide on How to Settle a Debt in Rhode Island, or watch the following video:

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You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit. (We can help you in all 50 states.)

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