Is it legal for someone to send you to collections if they failed to contact you first about the unpaid funds?

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Is it legal for someone to send you to collections if they failed to contact you first about the unpaid funds?

My old apartment told me they would contact me when they knew how much it was going to cost to fix my old apartment. I gave them my new address and all my contact information. I have not heard from them since the move out, and I just received a letter from collections stating that I have failed to pay the required amount. I have not paid that amount due to the fact that I didn’t know it existed.

Asked on August 4, 2011 Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

"Collections" is not a legal proceeding--it's simply an attempt to (as the term implies) collect on a debt. Some creditors try to do this, at least initially, themselves; others send debts straight to a collections person or company. There is nothing illegal about doing so, just as there is no legal requirement that someone has to make other attempts to recover the money before turning it over to collections. Indeed, there is no requirement to even go to collections first, rather than simply proceeding immediately to filing a lawsuit for the unpaid amounts. Therefore, your recourse is to: 1) pay, if you believe the amount justified and can pay it (and you may and should request documentation proving what you owe; 2) try to work out a payment plan or schedule, if you're willing to pay, but can't pay all at once; 3) don't pay, if you think it's valid but truly can't pay at all--then, if sued and a judgment rendered against you, consider bankruptcy; or 4) fight it, if you think the debt is wrong.


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