Can a Debt Collector Come To My House With a Baseball Bat?
No. There are absolutely no circumstances where a debt collector would ever be justified in coming to your house with a baseball bat. Even if he was headed on foot to batting practice and figured he would stop and attempt to collect some debts along the way with his trusty bat on his shoulder. Before the FDCPA, debt collection was like the Wild West-anything went. Toughs could come to your door to threaten you like a bunch of mob bosses for missing a payment. Yet the FDCPA changed all that. Using threats and intimidation as collection tactics is the exact thing the passing of the FDCPA was working to prevent.
Section 806 of the FDCPA specifically forbids debt collectors from using or threatening to use violence to settle a debt. And this includes non-verbal threats. The debt collector who stopped by your house may have had a smile on his face and a friendly tone but that metal bat on his shoulder is an unspoken, nonverbal threat designed to intimidate you. A debt collector need not speak the threat allowed, mere presence of a weapon is enough to violate the statute.
Other behaviors designed to intimidate can also be considered violations of Section 806. Pounding on the door and shouting, for instance. In court, collection agencies have tried to justify this behavior by insisting they never uttered a threat, but courts have ruled that a spoken threat is not necessarily. Merely coming to your home and behaving in a threatening manner is enough to be considered a violation. (See Marchant vs. U.S. Collections West; Harrington vs. CACV of Colorado, LLC; and Foster vs. D.B.S. Collection Agency.)
Although attempting to collect a debt in person is rare, it is not against the law as long as the collector is not abusive, threatening, or harassing.
A Debt Collector Is Allowed to Do the Following:
- Ask for money
- Discuss setting up a payment plan
A Debt Collector Is Not Allowed to Do the Following:
- Cannot drop by your house if you tell them it is inconvenient for you
- Cannot verbally abuse or threaten you
- Cannot be holding a weapon or something that can be construed as a weapon such as a baseball bat or large wrench.
- Cannot drop by outside the hours of 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM
- Cannot disclose information about the debt to a housemate or family member other than your spouse (in some states).
What Should I Do if a Debt Collector Hurts Me or Threatens Me?
Call the police! If a debt collector attacks or assaults you, your first course of action is to call the local authorities. Even if a debt collector merely wields a baseball bat without uttering a threat, they might be able to be charged with assault. Once criminal charges are sorted out, you need to engage a consumer protection attorney.