George Simons | October 19, 2022
Summary: The good faith exception can excuse debt collectors when they use unfair debt collection practices. Here is SoloSuit's guide to the good faith exception and how it applies to debt collection cases.
Did you know that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects you from certain tactics debt collection agencies use to recover their debt? Being in debt doesn't give a debt collector the right to harass you while trying to recover the amount, unless they are acting in “good faith.”
Here's everything you should know about your rights when dealing with debt collectors and the good faith exception rule.
The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from:
However, the law also acknowledges that there are times when debt collectors might contact you mistakenly. According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 37 million phone numbers in the United States are recycled each year. For this reason, there's always a possibility that a debt collection company may contact you by mistake, thinking you're someone else.
When a debt collector violates FDCPA practices, they may be required to pay a fine of up to $1,000 to the individual they mistakenly contacted, or contacted in a manner that violated a provision of the FDCPA. But the court must also establish that the violation was intentional. If the violation was unintentional, the court would consider it an honest mistake.
This is what is often referred to as the good faith exception rule. If the court determines that the debt collector acted in good faith, then the individual who was contacted by the debt collector might not prevail in a civil action. Here's an example of a good faith situation.
A debt collector inputs an incorrect single digit when calling a consumer. Yet, surprisingly, the phone call goes through. In that case, the recipient of the call may not be able to sue the debt collection agency for violating FDCPA rules. Instead, the court will determine that the debt collection agency made an honest mistake.
The same applies if the consumer wrote down the wrong phone number. A single wrong digit could make a huge difference in a phone call. As a result, the debt collection agency may end up calling the wrong person. But does that mean that the debt collector should be held responsible for violating FDCPA rules? The answer is no. This could be a case of an honest mistake.
If you receive a notice that a debt collection agency has filed a lawsuit against you, it's always advisable to take it seriously. Some consumers ignore such notices, hoping that the debt will magically disappear. It doesn't.
Instead, it gives the collection agency an upper hand in pursuing the debt. The worst thing about it is that you may be sued for a debt you don't even owe in the first place. To avoid this, it's essential that you respond to the lawsuit.
When you're being used over debt, you'll receive two documents:
It's also important to note that these two documents have different names in some states. For example, in Texas a Summons is known as a Citation, while a Complaint is referred to as a Petition.
Follow these three steps to respond to the Summons and Complaint and win in court:
Now, let's break down each step a little further.
Before responding to the Complaint, make sure you read and understand every paragraph. Then, you can either admit, deny, or simply claim that you don't understand a particular paragraph.
However, from the legal perspective, it's always advisable to deny all claims. This strategy forces the debt collector to prove all allegations raised against you. As a result, you'll be surprised to realize that you don't even owe some of the debt listed in the complaints.
When you fall back on your debt payments, the original creditor will try to contact you several times. If they fail to reach you after a certain period, usually 150 days after your last payment, they will sell the debt to a collection agency. Depending on their backlog, the collection agency might also sell the debt to another agency. The cycle continues, and in the process, the collectors might lose track of what you owe.
When you assert your affirmative defenses, you're basically providing reasons why the debt collector doesn't have a case against you. There are many reasons the debt collection lawsuit may be invalid. Some of the most common defenses include:
It's also important to note that asserting your affirmative defenses is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you don't claim your defenses at this stage, you can't bring them up later.
You have up to 35 days, depending on which state you live in, to file your Answer with the court before you lose by default. If you lose by a default judgment, the debt collector can garnish your wages or put liens on your property as a way to recover the debt.
After creating your Answer, follow these steps:
Many consumers face numerous challenges when responding to a debt collection lawsuit. For example, even if your Answer document is well-drafted, it is useless if you file it to the wrong address. In most cases, the court's address and the mailing address are usually two different things. If you fail to submit your Answer on time and appropriately, the court might pass a default judgment against you, allowing the plaintiff to pursue other means to recover the debt, including wage garnishment.
But that's not something you need to worry about when using SoloSuit.
SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.
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.
"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.
>>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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