If you are currently being pursued by a debt collector, you will be aware of the tactics they use to get to you. Many naturally feel intimidated by the harassment. However, the reality is there are only certain things a debt collector can rightfully do and there a few things you can do to stop the harassment.
What Debt Collectors are Allowed to Do
Debt collectors actually have a limited number of rights. Unfortunately, they will often tend to push these rights and if the debtor is unaware of his own rights they will continue to use tactics that are outside their bounds. Indeed, ignorance on the part of the debtor is often the biggest asset that debt collectors have. Fortunately, the Office of Fair Trading has laid down some rules as to what debt collectors can or can’t do and it is vital that you are familiar with them.
The first thing a debt collector must do once the debt has been passed over to him is to contact you by letter. This letter will essentially serve as a ‘validation notice’ and must include details such as how much money you are said to owe. This validation notice must be served within five days of receiving notice that the debt has been passed to them. The letter should also include details of the creditor who is owed the money in addition to details on how you can proceed should you feel you don’t owe the money.
What They Can’t Do
First, debt collectors cannot contact you at times that are considered inconvenient, such as 7 o’clock in the morning or late at night, unless an agreement has been made between the collector and the debtor. In addition, collectors cannot contact you at your work premises either in person or by phone.
They also cannot actually visit your home unless they have permission from you and if you nominate a third party such as a lawyer to negotiate the process for you they cannot refuse to deal with them. If on the other hand you choose not to appoint a lawyer the collector may contact another third party to obtain your details (address, phone number and workplace) but they can only contact this third party once. In general, a collector is not allowed to discuss the debt with anyone apart from you, your spouse or your lawyer.
Finally, collectors are not allowed to use threats or foul language towards you, cannot tell you that you will be arrested unless you pay up and, most importantly, they cannot seize your possessions unless they have been granted permission to do so by the law courts.
What You Can Do
If you continue to have trouble with a debt collector and feel you are being harassed, there are several institutions you can turn to. The Consumer Credit Counselling Service, the Office of Fair Trading and the Citizens Advice Bureau will all be happy to offer advice including how to find out about IVAs.
An IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) is an agreement made between you and your creditors that will help you pay back the money. This agreement is legally binding. An agreed period of time will be set – typically around 5 years – in which you will be able to pay back the debt by installments. This will mean you will not have to file for bankruptcy and, once in place, it means debt collectors will no longer be able to contact you.