Due to an increasing number of abusive debt collection practices, many states have passed laws protecting debtors from harassment, abuse, and lies. These laws have the same aim as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: require debt collectors to conduct their work in an ethical, legal, and respectful way that does not violate the rights of debtors. The TDCA defines exactly what debt collectors can and cannot do.
What Debt Collectors Can’t Do
The bulk of the TDCA outlines which debt collection practices are illegal. While trying to collect a debt, callers cannot:
- Threaten criminal acts against the debtor
- Make false accusations of fraud or other crimes
- Threaten arrest, repossession of property, or property seizure unless they have a court order to take property
- Call anonymously
- Call repeatedly
- Use profane language
The TDCA also prohibits the use of fraudulent collection activities, including:
- The use of a false name or identification
- Attempting to collect more than the amount actually owed
- Misrepresenting the company they are calling from
- Falsifying documents that appear to be from a court or government agency
Who Collectors Can and Cannot Contact
While calls to family members, neighbors, coworkers, and friends can be embarrassing, Texas law does allow debt collectors to call third parties. They can only do so to get your address, place of employment, or address. Upon collecting that information, they can not contact the third party again.
Debt collectors can also contact employers in certain circumstances. They are prohibited from calling your workplace if they know the employer does not want you to be contacted there.
Property Debt Collectors Cannot Take
Texas protects your homestead from being seized by creditors, unless the debt is tied to the sale of the property. Creditors with a judgment lien on the home cannot use their position to force a sale of the home.
Updates Affecting Debt Buyers
In mid-2019, HB 996 was passed. HB 996 amended the Texas Debt Collection Act to put certain restrictions on debt buyers. The law prohibits debt buyers from taking action against a debtor in an effort to collect a debt that is past the statute of limitations. It also prevents the statute of limitations from restarting if the consumer orally or in writing affirms the debt. This prevents buyers from purchasing portfolios of charged-off debts and attempting to collect on them.