This information is intended for California residents only. This is general information only. You must speak with a lawyer to know how the law applies to your case.
Law Office of Thomas Hjerpe
350 E Street, Suite 403
Eureka, CA 95501
Telephone: 707 442-7262
DEBT VALIDATION WITHIN 30-DAYS OF FIRST CONTACT:
You have the right to request information from a debt collector to confirm that it is your debt. From the time that they receive your request for debt validation until they have provided you with proof, they cannot take collection efforts. This means that all phone calls and letters must stop. They also cannot report the delinquent debt on your credit reports.
Your right to request debt validation is highly time sensitive. From the date of the debt collector’s first contact with you [by phone, letter, notice, etc.], the debt collector has five days to provide you with written notice of your right to request debt validation. You have 30-days from receipt of your first written notice from a debt collector to ask for debt validation.
Your request must be in writing. Your request for debt validation should briefly state the nature of your dispute [“this is not my debt,” or “this debt was paid in 2009,” etc.]. In every letter you write you need to include your full name and address as well as the creditor’s name and account number information as it appears in their collections letters and notices. You need to date your letter and keep a photo copy of your letter.
You must send your letter by certified mail with return receipt requested. This will prove that you sent the debt validation request within the 30-day period. Be sure to track the delivery. It is possible that the debt collector will fail to sign for receipt. If that happens, confirm the correspondence address and re-send your dispute via certified mail without return receipt requested. This will at least prove that your package was delivered to the proper address within the 30-day time period.
Once you tell a collection agency that you are represented by an attorney and you direct them to contact your attorney, the collection agency is prohibited from contacting you directly. This does not stop litigation, but it will stop telephone harassment. For some people this can be an excellent solution. Debt collectors also may respond better to letters written by a lawyer. We provide such services on a flat fee basis
The Federal Trade Commission will not sue the debt collector, but when they receive a sufficient number of complaints against a particular agency they may take action to shut the agency down or take otherwise stop the agency from violating the law. You can file an online complaint using the FTC's Complaint Assistant at: www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau takes your complaint, passes the complaint along to the creditor, and works with you and the creditor to find a solution to the problem. You will not recover money from a creditor who violates the FDCPA by going through the CFPB, but you may be able to stop the harassment. You can submit complaints with the CFPB online at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint
Lawyers are not allowed in Small Claims Court. This may be the best way to go for smaller cases where damages will be less than $10,000.
Suing in Superior Court or Federal Court allows you to recover the maximum damages available, but it is difficult and the other side will have lawyers. You will need a good lawyer to succeed. Lawyers typically take these cases on a contingency fee basis so you will not have to pay costs or fees.
DEBT VALIDATION AFTER THE 30-DAY PERIOD EXPIRES:
If you do not request debt validation within the first 30-days you can still request debt validation. However, the debt collector is not required to stop collection efforts or stop credit reporting and the debt collector is not required to respond. Nevertheless, if you have a legitimate dispute about your liability for the debt it may later be deemed harassment for a debt collector to have continued collection efforts after they knew or should have known that you were not responsible for the debt. Consider sending a debt validation request each time they contact you and make reference to all prior debt validation requests.
LETTERS REGARDING HARASSMENT:
When a debt collector violates the law you should write to the debt collector, briefly describe the abuse, identify any individuals involved, the date, time and manner of the abuse, and demand that they cease further abuse. As with debt validation letters, you need to send dispute letters via certified mail with return receipt requested. This may stop the abuse. If it does not stop the abuse, it may nevertheless help to document ongoing abuse that can be used in litigation.
Journaling is an excellent tool to help you track and document harassment. Keep a journal near your phone. If you use a cell phone, download an app that will allow you to take notes.
* Note the date and time of the call;
* Write down the name of the collection agency, the name of the underling creditor [if applicable] and the name of the individual;
* Note incoming telephone number;
* Take notes about anything abusive that was said by the collections agent;
* Note any instructions you gave to the collections agent.
By itself a journal is not conclusive proof of abuse but it can be used in litigation to coordinate with their phone records to prove the frequency of calls. The more your journal can be coordinated with their phone records the more a Court will be inclined to rely on the accuracy of the other information in your journal.
Steps You Can Take to Stop Creditor Harassment
Below you will find sample letters to use for many situations. These are examples and you should feel free to change the language to match your situation. We are providing copies in both .pdf and Word formats for your convenience.
Example of Debt Validation Request - Made within 30-days of Initial Contact:
Example of Debt Validation Request - Made after more than 30-days after Initial Contact:
Example of Letter to Stop Harassment:
Example of Letter to Advise of Inability to Pay [Judgment Proof]:
Example of Letter to Advise of the Death of the Debtor:
Sample Creditor Phone Log/Journal: