Dena Standley | July 27, 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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
"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
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.
Here's a list of guides for other states.
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Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.
Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.