Debt and Debt Collection
VIDEO: Virtual Town Hall about debt problems. On May 28, 2020, Legal Services Vermont attorney Maggie Frye talked about debt and the COVID-19 crisis. Topics included changes to court practices after COVID-19 as well as responding to letters, phone calls and lawsuits by debt collectors. Watch the video on Facebook or YouTube.
This section of the website has information about:
- personal debt and debt collection
- how to stop debt collectors from contacting you,
- defending yourself in court against debt collection, and
- how to protect your property and income from debt collection.
8 tips for dealing with debt collection
- If you are tired of getting phone calls from a debt collection agency, you can use our sample letters to tell them to stop calling you. There are some special rules for debt collectors, which are businesses that are paid to collect debts. However, if you have been served with court papers, you do have to send an Answer to the lawsuit within a few weeks. Learn about answering a lawsuit.
- It’s legal to keep getting calls from an original creditor, but you do not have to answer the phone. An original creditor is the original business that says you owe money. However, if you have been served with court papers, you do have to send an Answer to the lawsuit within a few weeks. Learn about answering a lawsuit.
- You can’t be taken to court for a debt that has gone for more than six years without a payment. This is a Vermont law. If you make a payment, it adds another six years to the time you can be sued for the debt — so don’t make a payment just to get them off your back.
- When a creditor or debt collector contacts you, don’t panic! In most cases*, they must go to court to collect on a debt. Without legal process, they can’t take anything from you. Know what part of your income and assets may be exempt from collection — meaning a court can’t order you to pay out of these specific incomes and assets. Learn about what income and assets are exempt. (*Government agencies can collect debts by taking some benefits. Cars can be repossessed for debt owed on the car. And some student loan lenders can get administrative wage garnishments.)
- If you don’t agree that you owe the debt, or you have no way to pay it, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Don’t talk to or write to the creditor or debt collector — other than sending a “do not call” letter to a debt collector. They have a legal right to use anything you say or write as evidence that you owe the debt. For example, if you write, “I don’t owe that much!” that can be used as evidence that you admit you owe something. The “do not call” letter can only be legally enforced against a debt collector. If you send a letter to a creditor, they may, in fact, take it as a signal to keep trying to contact you.
- Don’t make a payment to get them off your back. A payment extends the legal time limit that the creditor has to sue you in court.
- Consider bankruptcy. Creditors must stop trying to collect on the debt after you file for bankruptcy. If the debt is discharged in bankruptcy, it is illegal for them to try to collect on this debt again.
- If you have been served with court papers, contact us for advice. Don’t wait; you may be able to show that you should not have to pay the debt.
- Check your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act says debts must be taken off your credit report seven years after the first report of negative information.
- See these pages of our website for information on debt and debt collection.
- Rights Against Debt Collectors
- Things Debt Collectors Can’t Do
- Stop Debt Collectors from Contacting You
- Protect Your Property and Income from Debt Collectors
- List of exempt income and property according to Vermont law
- Defend Yourself in Court Against Debt Collection
- Frozen Bank Accounts
- Student Loans
- Get Help Managing Debts
- Credit and Credit Reports