If you do not pay a debt you owe, your creditor will either initiate collection activity against you or hire a collection agency to do so. Collection activity, however, is not limited to letters and telephone calls. Debt collectors have the legal right to visit your home or place of business in person to recover an unpaid debt provided they adhere to federal and state debt collection regulations when doing so.
Collecting in Person
While creditors have the right to collect debts in person, few actually do. It’s cost-prohibitive for major creditors, such as credit card companies, to send a representative to each debtor’s home to inquire about his debts in person. If you owe a delinquent debt to a local creditor, the local creditor is much more likely to visit you at home than large creditors with hundreds or even thousands of accounts on the books.
Unethical debt collection agents have been known to threaten noncompliant debtors with an unpleasant house call. Doing so, however, is against federal law. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) regulates what debt collectors can and cannot legally do. The FDCPA states that collection agents cannot make threats that the company cannot carry out or does not actually intend to carry out.
Although the FDCPA does not apply to original creditors, only third-party collectors, some states, such as Pennsylvania and California, have modified the FDCPA at the state level to include original creditors – granting consumers the same protection from their original creditors that they possess from collection agencies.
If your creditor shows up at your home to repossess property you presented as collateral for the original debt and the property is located within your home, she can proceed if you voluntarily surrender the property. If you do not surrender the property, the creditor has little choice but to return with law enforcement officials. A creditor cannot break into your home to collect a debt nor can a creditor come to your home and physically assault you or your family members.
Debt Validation Period
Although the FDCPA does not prohibit collectors from visiting your home, it does prohibit collection activity during the validation period. If you requested a debt validation from a third-party collector, the collector must stop all collection activity until sending you proof of the debt. Any debt collector who visits your home during this validation period violates the FDCPA. You have the legal right to file a lawsuit against any company that violates federal debt collection laws.
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission: The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
- Pennsylvania Attorney General: Fair Debt Collection Practices
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: Debt Collection Practices – When Hardball Tactics Go Too Far
- Legal Services of Northern Virginia: Debt Collection
- Federal Trade Commission. "Debt Collection," Accessed Dec. 3, 2019.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "What Is a Debt Collector and Why Are They Contacting Me?" Accessed Dec. 3, 2019.
- Partners Financial Services, Inc. "Your Debt Collection Agency And The Benefits Of Third-Party Debt Collectors," Accessed Dec. 3, 2019.
- Experian. "Collections on Your Credit Report," Accessed Dec. 3, 2019.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Can Debt Collectors Call Me Anytime They Want, Day or Night?" Accessed Dec. 3, 2019.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "What Is an "Unfair" Practice by a Debt Collector?" Accessed Dec. 3, 2019.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Are There Laws That Limit What Debt Collectors Can Say or Do?" Accessed Dec. 3, 2019.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Can Debt Collectors Tell Other People, Like Family, Friends, or My Employer, About My Debt?" Accessed Dec. 3, 2019.
Ciele Edwards holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been a consumer advocate and credit specialist for more than 10 years. She currently works in the real-estate industry as a consumer credit and debt specialist. Edwards has experience working with collections, liens, judgments, bankruptcies, loans and credit law.