This post originally appeared on ConsumerLawyer.MN with the title “Debt Collector Calls About Rental Debt.”
Debt collectors and landlords go together like peanut butter and jelly. When a landlord has a dispute over rental debt or damage to a rental property, a landlord will frequently turn to a debt collector.
Many times, the debt collector either misrepresents the amount of the debt or what can happen if you don’t pay it. If you have been contacted by a debt collector about rental debt, here is what you need to know.
Assignment is the foundation of the debt-buying industry, and the industry is built on sand. Or a swamp. Because assignment is also the industry’s weak spot, and the reason why most—if not all—debt-buyer lawsuits should fail.
Debt buyers must prove they have the right to collect a debt. To do this, it must show an unbroken, valid chain of assignment back to the original creditor. Most debt buyers cannot do this.
Getting served with a debt collection lawsuit is one of the more upsetting things that can happen to you. When a process server hands a summons and complaint to you (or to someone you live with who can accept service), it means a debt collector is dragging you into the legal system.
And while getting served with a debt collection lawsuit is not fun, it is not the end of the world. In fact, that summons and complaint—legal process—provides rights to both parties to the case. Which means as a defendant in a debt collection lawsuit, you now have access to tools to defend yourself.
Let’s take a look at the first few parts of a lawsuit to try to dispel the fear and misunderstanding.
Payoff amount and current balance are related but not equivalent terms.
Current balance means the amount you owe according to your statement. The next day, you will owe more. In other words, if you are trying to pay off a credit card and the statement says your balance is $514, you may not be able to bring your balance to zero and satisfy the debt by writing a check for $514. Instead, you would need to contact your lender to find out your payoff amount.
Payoff amount is how much you would have to pay to satisfy the debt. It is not the same amount as the current balance on your statement—at least not for long.
The difference between the current balance according to your statement and the payoff amount is crucial when you are ready to pay off your debt.
This article is a list of defenses that do not work. If you would rather find out what you should do, click over to “Served By a Debt Collector? What To Do Next.”
Most debt collection lawsuits are handled by overworked and unsympathetic debt collection attorneys. With that in mind, focus on your best defenses to the lawsuit. Here are some of the weaker defenses, which you should avoid.
Last week I wrote about the various ways that consumers can afford a foreclosure defense attorney. New York has passed a law allowing consumers to recoup attorney fees and at least one attorney in Florida is allowing clients, under certain conditions, to take a mortgage with his firm.
That practice might be short lived—he is now under investigation by the Florida bar.
Even before a number of big banks stopped foreclosure proceedings because of issues with robo-signers, consumers with money were fighting foreclosures across the nation. New York recently passed a law (effective next year) that allows consumers to recoup their attorney fees if they fight a foreclosure and win.
Not every state has a similar law, however. As a result, some consumers are agreeing to a new mortgages with their foreclosure attorneys.
In an effort to resolve federal allegations, debt collector Allied Interstate has agreed to pay a $1.75 million dollar fine. Allied Interstate was accused of collecting on debts that people did not actually owe, contacting third parties, and threatening legal action that it did not intend to take.
Unsurprisingly, this type of behavior is illegal.