How to dispute a rental collection

Dena Standley

February 22, 2022

Summary: If you've been sued for a rental debt, fight back with SoloSuit's help. Here's everything you need to know about rental debt collections and how to dispute them.

Without the time and expertise to chase after a debt, a landlord can hire a collection agency. While a collection agency may assist the landlord in collecting from a judgment, it rarely limits its clients to judgment holders.

When a collector calls you about a debt you owe your former landlord, a legal judgment does not guarantee the landlord's claim. However, you are now in a position where a third-party organization can affect your finances directly. The collection agency is most likely to pursue repayment by any legal means available to them, mainly if the amount you supposedly owe is significant.

While you can opt-out of paying the money you owe to the collection agency, they will still pursue repayment. This article outlines the specific steps you should take to dispute the collection agency tactics.

Here are the steps to dispute a rental collection:

The ACA estimates that 11% of tenant debt goes to a collection agency. The landlord or any collection agency hired can sue you to collect the debt. If the judge favors the creditor, the court will issue a civil judgment to the landlord or the collection agency. In some states, a debt collection judgment can stay in effect for a decade or more, and the creditor may garnish your wages and freeze your bank account.

The rental debt may not be yours

As a tenant, you may owe debts to the landlords without facing eviction. A landlord may turn over your debt to a collection agency without ever getting an eviction judgment if, for example, you leave damages to the premises that exceed the amount covered by your security deposit.

When a debt collector calls you, do not assume that you owe something, especially if it involves rent. Most renters move out thinking they owe nothing, and then months later, they get contacted by a debt collector. For example, a debt collector may insist you failed to give proper notice when moving out or that you owe money for damages to the property.

How damage and cleaning fees work

Many landlords charge deposits to prevent paying high costs to repair tenant damage. You can dispute the deductions from your deposit if you disagree with the damages your landlord is claiming or if the repair costs seem excessive.

A landlord can deduct the cost of repairs or cleanings required to restore the property to its pre-tenant condition. Repair deductions must only cover necessary repairs, and they cannot apply to ordinary wear and tear. If you paid a non-refundable cleaning fee, the landlord cannot charge you for cleaning when repairing the item would be sufficient.

Take photos or videos of the unit before you leave. It will help you defeat groundless damage claims by your landlord and potentially get some of your deposit back. Also, ask the landlord to inspect the unit in your presence so that you can take care of any alleged damage.

You have legal rights to certain information about any debt collection contact you receive from a debt collector, and they must give it to you in writing within five days of contacting you. This information includes:

  • Creditor's name
  • Amount due
  • A 30-day dispute window (if you do not dispute the debt within that time frame, the debt collector will assume that the account is valid)
  • Proof of the debt if you dispute it in writing within 30 days
  • Details of the original creditor

Request a debt validation

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) grants you rights as a consumer. As mentioned above, a collector must validate the debt within 5 days of contacting you as outlined in the FDCPA. If they don't hear back from you in 30 days, they will assume that the debt is valid. So, you should always send a Debt Validation Letter to the collection agency within 30 days of their initial contact, especially if you feel like something is fishy about the debt they claim you owe.

A Debt Validation Letter is an official, legal demand that declares your rights under the FDCPA. Most debt collectors simply give up after receiving a Debt Validation Letter because it takes time and resources to validate a debt. SoloSuit can help you draft a Debt Validation Letter in minutes. Requesting a debt validation can get debt collectors off your back, prevent a debt lawsuit, and protect your credit score.

Here's the timeline you should follow when looking for debt verification and sending a Debt Validation Letter:

Debt Validation Letter Timeline

Learn more about SoloSuit's Debt Validation Letter here.

Check your credit history

Collection agencies must prove they have credit bureau authority before collecting debts. The (FDCPA) allows you to validate a debt when a collection agency demands payment. If a collection agency cannot validate the debt, the credit bureau will not list it as a negative item on your credit report. To ensure the item is not negatively impacting your credit, you need to review an updated copy of your credit report. You can get a free credit report from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax annually.

As soon as you receive your credit reports, confirm all the details. If anything appears inaccurate, report it to the major credit reporting agencies. The Fair Credit Reporting Act ensures credit reporting agencies provide only accurate information about your credit history.

If you can find inaccurate information, the credit bureau fixes it. The bureau should remove the collections from your credit report if it cannot correct the errors.

Write a dispute letter

When you receive all information from the debt collector, you have 30 days to dispute the debt. When you dispute the debt, a debt collector cannot call you or contact you to collect the disputed portion until the collector provides you with written verification of the debt. For the debt collector to send you a debt validation, you must submit your dispute in writing.

You should date the letter, make a copy, and send the original to the debt collector. Send your letter through certified mail with a return receipt. This will serve as proof that the agency received your letter. Alternatively, you can fax the letter, but be sure to save the confirmation receipt.

Debt collectors are only required to provide debt validation after receiving a timely request if they plan to move forward with their collection efforts. If they give up, they do not have to validate the debt. Luckily, most original creditors lack support documents for repeatedly resold debts, which makes it harder to validate them. Contact the credit bureaus and appeal that they delete any unverified debts.

Make a pay-per-delete offer

If disputing the debt does not remove it, try negotiating a "pay for delete" with the collection agency. By paying for the deletion of the collection, they can remove it from your credit report. After confirming the debt, send a letter to the collector if you wish to pay. Make a payment for the collector by removing the entry from your credit report. Ensure the collector returns a signed copy of the letter to you to seal the deal. Don't pay until you have a written agreement.

You can request a "goodwill deletion" from the collector—a practice associated with your original creditors. Explain to the collector why you want the debt removed. You cannot be sure they will accept your request, but it's ok to ask.

Do you want to dispute your rental collection?

Like peanut butter and jelly, debt collectors and landlords go together. Often, debt collectors misrepresent the amount of debt and the consequences you may face if you do not pay it. SoloSuit makes it easy for you to respond to a debt collection if contacted by a debt collector.

What if my landlord is suing me for debt?

If you've been sued over a rental debt, the first step to winning in court is to file an Answer to the Summons and Complaint. Most people who are sued for debt don't know how to respond, and when they don't, they lose by default. Ignoring a debt lawsuit can have serious consequences, like having a default judgment entered against you. Default judgments can hurt your credit score and lead to major financial issues like wage garnishments and seizure of property.

Being sued for debt can be scary and intimidating, and finding a lawyer can be time-consuming and costly. You can save time and money by representing yourself in court with the help of SoloSuit. Here's how it works.

SoloSuit's innovative technology helps you draft your own legal Answer. With step-by-step instructions, it only takes minutes to prepare your Answer. And did we mention it's free? Start drafting your Answer today. For a small cost, SoloSuit can also file the Answer for you, so you don't have to worry about doing it yourself. You can also pay an extra fee to have an attorney review your court documents before filing.

This flowchart outlines all the possible routes a debt lawsuit can take:

Debt Collection Lawsuit Flowchart

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James


Get Started


We have answers.
Join our community of over 40,000 people.

You can ask your questions on the SoloSuit forum and the community will help you out. Whether you need help now or are just looking for support, we're here for you.


Ask a Question


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

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit: A Student Solution To Give Utah Debtors A Fighting Chance

How to answer a summons for debt collection in your state

Here's a list of guides for other states.

All 50 states.

Guides on how to beat every debt collector

Being sued by a different debt collector? Were making guides on how to beat each one.

Win against credit card companies

Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.

Going to Court for Credit Card Debt — Key Tips

How to Negotiate Credit Card Debts

How to Settle a Credit Card Debt Lawsuit — Ultimate Guide

Get answers to these FAQs

Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.

Why do debt collectors block their phone numbers?

How long do debt collectors take to respond to debt validation letters?

What are the biggest debt collector companies in the US?

Is Zombie Debt Still a Problem in 2019?

SoloSuit FAQ

If a car is repossessed, do I still owe the debt?

Is Portfolio Recovery Associates Legit?

Is There a Judgment Against Me Without my Knowledge?

Should I File Bankruptcy Before or After a Judgment?

What is a default judgment?— What do I do?

Summoned to Court for Medical Bills — What Do I Do?

What Happens If Someone Sues You and You Have No Money?

What Happens If You Never Answer Debt Collectors?

What Happens When a Debt Is Sold to a Collection Agency

What is a Stipulated Judgment?

What is the Deadline for a Defendants Answer to Avoid a Default Judgment?

Can a Judgement Creditor Take my Car?

Can I Settle a Debt After Being Served?

Can I Stop Wage Garnishment?

Can You Appeal a Default Judgement?

Do I Need a Debt Collection Defense Attorney?

Do I Need a Payday Loans Lawyer?

Do student loans go away after 7 years? — Student Loan Debt Guide

Am I Responsible for My Spouses Medical Debt?

Should I Marry Someone With Debt?

Can a Debt Collector Leave a Voicemail?

How Does Debt Assignment Work?

What Happens If a Defendant Does Not Pay a Judgment?

How Does Debt Assignment Work?

Can You Serve Someone with a Collections Lawsuit at Their Work?

What Is a Warrant in Debt?

How Many Times Can a Judgment be Renewed in Oklahoma?

Can an Eviction Be Reversed?

Does Debt Consolidation Have Risks?

What Happens If You Avoid Getting Served Court Papers?

Does Student Debt Die With You?

Can Debt Collectors Call You at Work in Texas?

How Much Do You Have to Be in Debt to File for Chapter 7?

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Debt in Washington?

How Long Does a Judgment Last?

Can Private Disability Payments Be Garnished?

Can Debt Collectors Call From Local Numbers?

Does the Fair Credit Reporting Act Work in Florida?

The Truth: Should You Never Pay a Debt Collection Agency?

Should You Communicate with a Debt Collector in Writing or by Telephone?

Do I Need a Debt Negotiator?

What Happens After a Motion for Default Is Filed?

Can a Process Server Leave a Summons Taped to My Door?

Learn More With These Additional Resources:

Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.

How to Make a Debt Validation Letter - The Ultimate Guide

How to Make a Motion to Compel Arbitration Without an Attorney

How to Stop Wage Garnishment — Everything You Need to Know

How to File an FDCPA Complaint Against Your Debt Collector (Ultimate Guide)

Defending Yourself in Court Against a Debt Collector

Tips on you can to file an FDCPA lawsuit against a debt collection agency

Advice on how to answer a summons for debt collection.

Effective strategies for how to get back on track after a debt lawsuit

New Hampshire Statute of Limitations on Debt

Sample Cease and Desist Letter Against Debt Collectors

The Ultimate Guide to Responding to a Debt Collection Lawsuit in Utah

West Virginia Statute of Limitations on Debt

What debt collectors cannot do — FDCPA explained

Defending Yourself in Court Against Debt Collector

How to Liquidate Debt

Arkansas Statute of Limitations on Debt

Youre Drowning in Debt — Heres How to Swim

Help! Im Being Sued by My Debt Collector

How to Make a Motion to Vacate Judgment

How to Answer Summons for Debt Collection in Vermont

North Dakota Statute of Limitations on Debt

ClearPoint Debt Management Review

Indiana Statute of Limitations on Debt

Oregon Eviction Laws - What They Say

CuraDebt Debt Settlement Review

How to Write a Re-Aging Debt Letter

How to Appear in Court by Phone

How to Use the Doctrine of Unclean Hands

Debt Consolidation in Eugene, Oregon

Summoned to Court for Medical Bills? What to Do Next

How to Make a Debt Settlement Agreement

Received a 3-Day Eviction Notice? Heres What to Do

How to Answer a Lawsuit for Debt Collection

Tips for Leaving the Country With Unpaid Credit Card Debt

Kansas Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection

How to File in Small Claims Court in Iowa

How to File a Civil Answer in Kings County Supreme Court

Roseland Associates Debt Consolidation Review

How to Stop a Garnishment

Debt Eraser Review

Do Debt Collectors Ever Give Up?

Can They Garnish Your Wages for Credit Card Debt?

How Often Do Credit Card Companies Sue for Non-Payment?

How Long Does a Judgement Last?

​​How Long Before a Creditor Can Garnish Wages?

How to Beat a Bill Collector in Court