Landlord Claims Against You for Debt
Authored By: Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
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If your former landlord claims you owe a debt as a result of your tenancy, you should contact the landlord with a proposal for resolving this matter. Often landlords are willing to accept less than the amount they originally say you owe. If you do not believe you owe anything, then provide proof to your former landlord of that. If you are able to reach an agreement with your former landlord, be sure to get the agreement in writing, with both of your signatures. Also be sure to keep proof of any payments you make toward the debt. You can later provide a copy of the agreement and the receipts for your payments (if any) to a credit reporting agency so that they can remove the landlord's bad credit reference from your record.
If you cannot reach an agreement with your former landlord, your landlord may report the debt to one or more of the three credit reporting agencies. If this happens, you can write to the credit reporting agencies and dispute the debt. To contact the credit reporting agency to dispute a debt, you can call Transunion at 1-800-955-5082 or 1-800-916-8800, Experian at 1-888-397-3742, and Equifax at 1-800-685-1111 or 1-800-525-6285. Under federal law, credit reporting agencies must include a dispute statement of up to 100 words with your credit report if you dispute a debt and request that they include the dispute as part of your credit record. Also, by law, you can obtain annually one free copy of your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Trans-Union) by calling 877-322-8228 or by going to https://www.annualcreditreport.com.
Your former landlord may also resort to suing you in court to collect the debt. Even if the landlord sues you, you cannot be jailed for failing to pay, and the landlord cannot take money directly out of your paycheck or out of any federal tax refund you may receive. However, as long as the debt remains unpaid, it may remain on your credit report. Therefore, it may be beneficial to you to resolve this matter whether or not your landlord files suit.
If you can prove that the landlord's debt-claims against you are false, you may want to bring suit against your landlord for making false claims. If the amount you sue for is under $10,000, you can sue in Justice of the Peace (J.P.) court without an attorney. Your lawsuit should be filed within two years of the date your landlord acted improperly.