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What Are the Debt Collection Laws in Tennessee?

When you owe a debt, the debt collection agencies can seem relentless. From their calls and letters to the overall stress of owing a debt you can’t pay, it can be absolutely overwhelming. 

Although collection agencies have the legal right to reach out to people who owe them debts, this does not mean they can do anything and everything in an effort to collect on debts. Debtors do have rights, including those living in Tennessee, but when you are being contacted by a debt collector, it is best to educate yourself about your rights and if they are being violated. Tennessee debt collection laws protect consumers to some extent, and consumers are eligible to take legal action in the event that a debt collector violates these laws. 

Understanding your rights in this situation is one of the best things you can do to protect your interests and to fight back when someone violates your debt collection rights. There are both federal debt collection rights as well as those specific to Tennessee. Tennessee debt collection laws are something that you should review as soon as you begin receiving contact from debt collectors. 

Even when a debt is legitimate, don’t let debt collectors walk over the line. Don’t let them harass you or lie to you about what your debt means. Standing in this power and getting the help of a debt collection lawyer could turn this situation around to protect you. There are federal and state laws in place to help consumers push back when they become victims of a debt collector’s harassment. Knowing when the collector has crossed the line is vital for your next steps. 

Debt collectors will often push the limits in the hope that the consumer doesn’t really know their rights and won’t fight back. In turn, this might re-open the statute of limitations that allows the debt collector to keep reaching out on these matters, further putting 

Tennessee Debt Collection Laws Related to Time

There is a statute of limitations on debt in Tennessee which is 6 years. This means that if the debt does not get closed out in six years, a lender is not eligible to sue the person to collect the debt. However, all debtors should educate themselves about the specifics of these rules before hoping that the statute of limitations will save them from having to pay this debt. The statute of limitations, for example, only stops the process of a debtor getting sued, and doesn’t mean the collector has to stop there.  

It does not eliminate the original debt itself. That debt can only be fully eliminated through bankruptcy or through repayment. Phone calls and letters can be used by creditors to try to collect the debt even after the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit has passed. 

It is also very important to understand what it means to renew the time on the statute of limitations. Anytime that you restart the clock this means that the debt collection agency or individual has another six year period to pursue you. The statute of limitations starts once an activity on the account stops. For example, sending in even a partial payment restarts the whole timeline. Creditors often do still try to collect a debt once the statute of limitations has already expired, even though this is a violation of Tennessee debt collection laws and federal debt collection laws. Even though it is clearly illegal they may attempt to do this to restart the clock by having you respond. You will need to be present at any proceedings related to this debt in order to give you the best possible chance to share with the court that the term expired already. When debt collection happens, you need to educate yourself and fight for yourself as much as possible. 

What Is the Tennessee Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

The suite of Tennessee debt collection laws that protect people are known as the Tennessee Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Tennessee has not enacted a separate state law regarding protections that go beyond those of the Federal Debt Collection Protection Act. However, all debt collectors must obtain a state license and pay a fee in order to legally be allowed to reach out to you. There are no private remedies, however, available to those debtors who discover that debt collectors have violated this rule. This means that most Tennessee residents who have been faced with harassing or abusive debt collection tactics will need to pursue their rights under the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act. 

Understanding Federal Debt Collection Practices Act

This federal law provides limitations about what debt collectors can and cannot do when attempting to resolve certain kinds of debt. This law covers the collection of medical debts, credit cards, mortgages and other debts most for household or family purposes. This means that the FDCPA rules do not cover business-related debts. 
The three different restrictions on communications by debt collectors are important for all consumers to educate themselves because these can be used to fight back when a debt collector crosses the line. These are known as time and place, representation by attorney, and harassment. Debt collectors cannot contact you at unusual places or times, specifically, if it is at a place or time that they know is inconvenient for you. Furthermore, there are also federal laws in place that prohibit them from contacting you prior to 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. If a debt collector has already been informed that you are not able to receive their debt collector's communications at work then the debt collector is not able to contact you any further. 

In the event that this has already happened to you and you are trying to educate yourself about Tennessee debt collection laws, you'll want to keep an accurate record of all communications you have received from the debt collector so that you can protect yourself in these circumstances and provide a clear record. You may be able to pursue separate legal action for these violations. Representation by an attorney is another issue that often comes up in relation to federal or Tennessee debt collection laws. If a debt collector has already been informed that a lawyer is representing you about this debt, they typically must stop contacting you and need to contact the attorney instead. This is only true in those cases in which the debt collector can easily find out or already knows the contact details for your attorney. If a debt collector communicates with you, tell them which attorney is representing you. Finally, debt collectors are prohibited from harassing you or anyone else over the phone. 

All too often, it can be hard to determine whether or not the laws have been violated here but debt collector harassment is a serious issue and one that has grown in recent years. Debt collectors often try to do anything and everything to recover the debt but when they cross the line, you need to keep information about this so that you can protect yourself and respond. Harassment is about more than just being asked on a repeated basis to pay the money that is owed. It can lead to coercion or misleading statements as well as things like threatening to use violence, using profane language, listing your debt for sale to the public, contacting you to collect payment without identifying you as a debt collector and more. In these circumstances make sure that you can consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights and to get further clarity about whether or not debt collection violations have occurred.

What to Do if There Is a Problem?

If you believe that someone has violated Tennessee debt collection laws or federal debt collection laws you need to prepare the evidence of your case and consult with an attorney as soon as possible. The specifics of your case will determine whether or not you have legal grounds to open your separate claim against a debt collector. Many consumers have been successful in taking these debt collectors to court and even recovering compensation. Make sure you have set aside time to speak with a lawyer right away.       

If you’re not sure what your best course of action is, you need to speak with a lawyer. Gather your evidence showing that the debt collector shouldn’t be reaching out to you or any information you have around why the debt is inaccurate and this can be used to stop the harassing behavior and also to protect your credit and your rights.

The debt collection laws of Tennessee can be used by a consumer to stop unfortunate situations and to discontinue the behavior that can disrupt your life. If you’re being sued for a debt that has expired or simply getting calls too early or too late, you have the ability to flex your rights under the debt collection laws of Tennessee so that you can move on with your financial future. 

You can reach out to the experts at Morgan & Morgan for a free case evaluation to get started and take your first steps toward moving on from the frustration of debt collection.

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