What to Know if Your Landlord Uses a Debt Collector to Recover Your Unpaid Rent

Posted on: May 27, 2021
The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

If a debt collector is trying to evict you, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services may be able to help. Call our Covid-19 Helpline at 1-844-244-7871 to apply for free legal assistance or fill out our online application here.

If you have been unable to pay your rent due to Covid-19, your landlord may decide to hire a debt-collection company or a lawyer to try to recover the money you owe. Your landlord will tell the debt collector how to get in touch with you and how to report the debt on your credit report.

You have certain legal rights if your debt is turned over to a debt collector. Debt collectors must obey a law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Please note, the FDCPA does not apply to your landlord or to your landlord’s employees who may try to collect your past-due rent (like a building or property manager).

Under this law, debt collectors cannot harass or deceive you. Here are some examples of behavior that would violate this federal law:

  • Calling you at unreasonable hours
  • Cursing at you or calling you vulgar names.
  • Calling over and over to annoy you
  • Lying to you about what the debt collector plans to do to you.
  • For example, a debt collector can’t threaten to sue you unless the debt collector plans to sue. A debt collector can’t threaten to garnish your wages unless the debt collector sued you over the debt and got the court to issue a judgment against you. .

Debt collectors (a collections company or attorney your landlord has hired) have more responsibilities toward you when taking action during the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions’ Eviction Moratorium. The “moratorium” is the period during which people with COVID-related hardships have more protections against eviction, foreclosure, and some debt collection practices.  

  • Through at least June 30, 2021, debt collectors cannot file an eviction against you for non-payment of rent without first providing clear, written notice about the protections under the eviction moratorium. You can still be evicted for some reasons other than nonpayment of rent.
  • This notice must be provided on the same date as the eviction notice. It also has to be in writing, on paper. Phone calls or electronic notice such as text messages or emails are not enough.
  • Debt collectors are also prohibited from misrepresenting that you are ineligible for protections under the eviction moratorium.

In order to qualify for protection under the moratorium you must fill out a declaration form and provide it to your landlord. You can download a copy of the declaration form in English here. More information on the eviction moratorium and rental assistance can be found here.

 

*Please note, our services are only available for residents of the following parishes: Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge Parish, East Feliciana Parish, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Washington, West Baton Rouge, West Feliciana

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