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Old 01-21-2015, 09:05 AM
104 posts, read 89,884 times
Reputation: 246


Here's the background:

I moved out of my last apartment about a month ago. During my stay there, I had multiple leaks of my A/C cooling system requiring maintenance to come out multiple times, pull up the carpet, dry the padding, fix the leak, and then replace the carpet.

About 1 week prior to my move-out, I noticed that there were some areas of mold beginning to grow on the carpet, due to repeated soakings by the A/C system leak. I called the apt manager and notified them, they said they expected to replace the carpet anyways so it's no big deal. Unfortunately I never got anything in writing.

Fast forward 1 month -- the apartment is under new ownership/management, and I get a bill stating that they are charging me over $1000 for carpet damage from mold. They have already turned it over to a debt collection agency even though I was only notified about it 3-4 days prior to collections agency taking over.

I wrote to the debt collection agency asking for clarification on the debt, and they just gave me a simple statement that said "carpet damage due to mold -- $1000" and that was it.

So now I need to decide what to do.

I looked up the laws in Texas and discovered that wage garnishment is not allowed except under specific circumstances, and that apartment debt/damage is not one of them. So I'm confident that if they did try to get a judgment against me in court, that they wouldnt be able to garnish wages. That being said, they could still get a judgment against me. I haven't seen anything listed on my credit report yet, but I'm assuming that it's a matter of time before that is affected as well.

I feel powerless to fight this debt because all I have are phone calls with no written correspondence. I can prove that maintenance made multiple visits to my apartment for water leaks from the a/c unit, but that's all I can prove with a paper trail. The rest of it is all based on conversation with the old apartment manager who has left the company and with whom I have no way to establish contact.

Here are my questions;

1. If I decide to pay off this nonsense to make it go away, I want to make sure that I only have to pay 1 agency and not multiple parties. I read a story in the newspaper about a guy who paid off a debt collector only to find out that he still had to pay the original party because the debt was never formally transferred from the original creditor to the debt collector. So the first thing I'm going to do before I even consider paying this debt is to demand an official letter stating that ONLY the debt collection agency holds the debt and therefore the apartment complex itself has released me from it so they cant double dip me. How likely are they to comply with providing me a letter like this?

2. I'm assuming that the debt collection agency paid pennies on the dollar to acquire the debt, so that should help me negotiate a little bit, especially since they dont have wage garnishment power against me even if they get a judgment. How likely would a debt collection agency be likely to file suit for a $1000 debt? I'm assuming court costs by itself would be a lot more than $1000

3. I'm assuming that there's no way the debt collection agency will see my side of the story, even if I did have written correspondence and a paper trail proving the carpet mold was caused by the A/C system and was not my fault. Is my only recourse for fighting this to go to court?

4. As a condition of paying this BS debt, can I make a condition that they remove any bad credit ratings on my report? I'm worried that even if I pay this debt, that they will refuse to take it off my credit report and I will be stuck with it on there.

5. Has anybody ever just ignored the debt collector for a debt of this amount and they eventually just write it off? Maybe $1000 is still worth them going to court over, but what if the debt was $100 instead of $1000? Do debt collectors still go to court over small debts like that? Surely there must be a cutoff where they decide it is not worth it.

6. The downside of fighting this out is that I'm assuming that the debt collection agency is charging interest for every day that I delay payment, is this correct? How much fees/interest are they allowed to charge? What is to stop them from charging 100% interest every day forever?
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Old 01-21-2015, 10:48 AM
Location: Grapevine, Texas
9,504 posts, read 19,501,660 times
Reputation: 6627
No Texan's wages can be garnished for a private debt. Texas law only allows garnishments for public debts: taxes, child support, bankruptcies.
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Old 01-21-2015, 10:57 AM
485 posts, read 519,907 times
Reputation: 828
Dispute the charge by your landlord in small claims court. Since you don't have a paper trail or any pictures, all you'll have is your word. Hopefully your landlord will be equally unprepared, or decide the charge isn't big enough to fight for. If they don't show up in court, you'll get a default judgement. IANAL.
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Old 01-21-2015, 11:05 AM
Location: North Texas
23,599 posts, read 31,135,299 times
Reputation: 26651
Might want to ask in the Renting forum too.
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Old 01-21-2015, 11:38 AM
Location: Frisco, TX
96 posts, read 155,760 times
Reputation: 78
In the last apt I was in we started having a leak over the bath tub. Water laced with rust started dripping and started to affect the tub. I put in several calls and kept the notices each time they finished the work. The problem was that there was an ac vent that was leaking and there was a pipe that was rusted out. I asked them to replace the pipe but they just kept putting a band aid on the pipe. After three times I really got mad and told them to fix it or we will move out as by now there was a big spot of rust on the tub. I wasnt going to pay for it when we moved out. I kept all the correspondence by email and the notices just in case they came after me. They finally replaced the pipe.

Good luck to you on your fight. Hopefully you kept something that shows that they are at fault and the mold was due to their negligence and not yours. One of my past coworker even hired a lawyer after the apt company broke some of his stuff during maintenance and he was awarded damages.
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Old 01-23-2015, 02:16 PM
Location: East Dallas
931 posts, read 1,743,834 times
Reputation: 634
Sadly there are those who come up with bogus charges. Next time schedule a walk through inspection and have landlord sign off.
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Old 01-24-2015, 08:41 AM
Location: Dallas, TX and Las Vegas, NV
5,071 posts, read 3,770,509 times
Reputation: 10034
This may get them off your back:

Write to the very top person of the management company and explain the situation. If you have anyone who was also aware of this situation (past neighbors, friends, etc.) also indicate that in the letter. Explain that you now have a collection agency harrassing you for these charges and this will impact future rental applications so you take this matter very seriously. Tell them you have decided to call the local consumer advocate on the local TV station and also see if going on the Judge Judy show is an option.

Ask if they will agree to go on the Judge Judy show with you to hear the case. Tell them you want to sue $2000 for harassment and emotional distress, but the way the show works is both parties have to agree. And at the same time they can sue you for what they believe the debt is.

Next time the collection agency phones, advise them you are getting ready to prepare a dispute lawsuit and ask for their contact information so you can mail them copies of all the documentation.

I think this really might make the apartment management company end this all.
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Old 01-25-2015, 06:19 PM
1,247 posts, read 1,034,927 times
Reputation: 630
I had multiple leaks of my A/C cooling system requiring maintenance.

If you had any pictures of showing the position of the carpet and air conditioner. So far it sounds like you have an valid reason but no evidence.
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