Having a debt in collections can be stressful. Constant phone calls and messages from collectors demanding payment only add to the pressure. So you might be wondering: Can debt collectors come to your house, too? Here’s what you need to know.
Can Debt Collectors Come to Your House?
There are certain laws that debt collectors collecting on consumer based debts must follow under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). If the debt collector violates these laws, it may be considered harmful and abusive practices. (These laws do not apply to commercial debts like MCA debts.) But there’s no law that says a debt collector can’t knock on your door and demand payment.
Even so, the chances of this happening are pretty unlikely. Debt collectors often go after unsecured debt, meaning there is no collateral. So if a debt collector did visit your home, they wouldn’t be able to repossess any of your belongings to cover the debt. All they can do is ask for you to pay them what you owe. And it’s expensive to send someone all the way to your house just to do that.
Even though debt collectors can come to your home, they do have to follow some rules. For instance, they can only contact you during reasonable hours, which are defined as between 8 am and 9 pm. You also don’t have to answer the door or respond if you don’t want to.
Can Debt Collectors Enter Your Home Without Permission?
Debt collectors may be able to visit your home, but they can’t actually come inside. Unless you let them, that is. But that may not be a good idea (more on that below).
Additionally, some other things debt collectors can’t do under the FDCPA for consumer-based debts include:
- Contact you or your family members at odd hours
- Come to your place of work
- Talk about your debt with anyone else
- Take your belongings or threaten to do so (that requires filing a lawsuit and obtaining a default judgment in court)
- Threaten or intimidate you
- Use profane language
- Make misleading statements or lie to you, including pretending to be a law enforcement officer, lawyer or government agency
- Threaten to arrest you
- Charge extra fees or interest that weren’t outlined in the original contract
- Harass you in any way
How to Deal With Door Knock Collection Agencies
Sometimes, an original creditor, collection agency, attorney or other third-party will employ “door knockers” who work in the field and verify debts in person. Again, you’re under no obligation to acknowledge their presence, open the door or allow them inside. So if a debt collector does show up knocking on your door, what should you do?
Keep the Communication Minimal
It’s a good idea to avoid any kind of in-person interaction with debt collectors. If a stranger comes to your door and asks who you are, verify their identity before giving any information. (Remember, they can’t lie about who they are.) If you don’t confirm your own identity, they can’t discuss the debt with you. Sharing information about your debt with anyone but you (or sometimes, your spouse) is illegal.
So why not hash it out on the spot? For one, there’s no way to be sure you’re speaking with a legitimate debt collector, which can be a safety issue. It also places a lot of pressure on you when a collector shows up unannounced. That could cause you to agree to a deal that isn’t as good as you could have negotiated with more time to think or a lawyer to help. Ultimately, it’s important to keep your communications in writing whenever possible. Verbal agreements aren’t legally binding. So the collector could say one thing and do another, and you wouldn’t have any proof.
Ask Them to Leave
Again, you aren’t required to answer the door. But if you do end up in an in-person confrontation with a debt collector, you can ask them to leave. Try not to be rude or disrespectful, as you want to de-escalate the situation as much as possible.
In most cases, the collector should respect your request and leave the premises. However, if they refuse to leave or become aggressive in any way, call the police. Harassing you, using obscene language, attempting to enter your home or threatening to take your belongings are illegal under the FDCPA.
Stop Debt Collectors From Showing Up Again
As a consumer borrower, you have certain rights. One of them is to request that a debt collector stop contacting you. You can send a letter to the debt collection agency requesting that they cease communications, including telephone calls and in-person visits. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a few sample letters you can use to specify how you want (or don’t want) to be contacted, such as having all communications go through your lawyer instead of you. Remember this only applies to consumer debts such as student loans, credit cards and personal loans.
It’s best to send this letter through certified mail or require a signature so you have proof it was received. After this point, the collection agency can only contact you or your lawyer for limited reasons, such as providing legal updates. They will no longer be able to visit your home. If they do, you can sue them.
When to Contact a Debt Help Attorney
Dealing with debt collectors is not pleasant. It involves tough conversations and heated negotiations, which not everyone is comfortable with. If you have a debt that’s currently being pursued by a collections agency, or you’re being sued, it’s recommended that you hire a debt relief attorney who is familiar with debt collection regulations and the laws that protect you. They can work to help alleviate the burden of dealing with collectors and help you navigate the law to get the matter resolved. They can also walk you through your options and determine the best course of action for relieving your debt. That could include debt settlement, or other types of debt relief. And in the case of a debt collector that violates your rights, an attorney can walk you through whether it’s appropriate to file a lawsuit of your own.
Tayne Law Group has been assisting people with all consumer-based debt, including credit cards and personal loans, for over 20 years. We offer a free consultation to get to know our debt relief attorneys and learn about the ways we can help you manage your debt. If you have questions about debt collection laws, your debt in general or how to handle an account that has gone to collection, contact us for a no-obligation and free call now: (866) 890-7337. We never sell or share your information so you can be sure you are protected from your information being exposed. You can also fill out a short contact form. All conversations are confidential.