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Why Some Debt Collectors Get Away With Breaking The Law, And How To Stop Them

itme limits to sue debt collectorsWhen you’re getting calls and letter from debt collectors, there aren’t many sands in the hourglass.

She was so deep in debt that she said she had to look up to see the sidewalk. Debt collectors had been calling for what seemed like forever, and she was tired of being harassed.

So she came looking for some help.

During the conversation she mentioned the debt collectors and how she’d been harassed. She recounted some awful things said to her over the phone.

A lawsuit against the debt collectors under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was definitely called for. She couldn’t let them get away with this sort of thing.

Strong Evidence Of Harassment Leads Nowhere

She’d been keeping records of what the debt collectors had to say, including recordings of the conversations (this was in New York, which allows a part to a phone conversation to record it without permission of the other party).

She produced a notebook filled with days, dates, names and what seemed like a transcription of the conversations.

She pulled out a digital recorder that backed up the transcriptions.

The debt collectors had been brutal. And there was nothing to be done.

The problem with the case had nothing to do with the debt collectors. Rather, it had to do with the fact that the harassing acts had taken place too long ago.

Time To Sue Debt Collectors For Harassment Under the FDCPA

We’ve talked about some of the initial time limits for debt collection, but there’s also a limit on how long you have to sue for violations of the FDCPA.

A suit for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act must be brought within one year of the violation’s occurrence. Set your clock by it, because this time to sue is absolute.

For phone calls and messages, the time to sue begins when the call is made. And for letters, the time to sue begins when the letter is sent – not when it’s received.

The general rule is that a court won’t extend the time to sue debt collectors for harassment “by even a single day.” Graham-Humphreys v. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Inc., 209 F.3d 552, 561 (6th Cir.2000).

There is an exception to the rule when a defendant fraudulently conceals their wrongdoing and prevent a plaintiff from filing suit during the limitations period. In those circumstances, the right to be free of stale claims is trumped by the unfairness of the defendant’s conduct. Holmberg v. Armbrecht, 327 U.S. 392, 396, 66 S.Ct. 582, 90 L.Ed. 743 (1946).

Time Is Of The Essence, Even If You Don’t Know It

You don’t know if the phone calls and letters are considered to be harassing under the law. You do, however, know that the collection agencies are bugging you.

You’ve got some options in terms of getting out of debt, so you should talk with a lawyer like me about what those options are.

But beyond that, you should get to an attorney like me who knows about the debt collection laws and can help decide whether the actions cross the line into illegality.

After all, if you don’t fight back in the time specified by law then the debt collection agency gets away with it. And if they do, chances are good that they’ll do it again to someone else.

Image credit: pamlane

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By |March 9th, 2012|

About the Author:

I've been a consumer protection lawyer since 1995, working to help people end their bill problems. I'm a faculty member at the Student Loan Law Workshop, a nationally recognized speaker, and a long-time member of both the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.
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