Information in this article is not intended to provide legal advice for your individual circumstances and does not create an attorney client relationship with Lexington Law. If you need specific legal advice, contact an attorney in your jurisdiction.
A debt validation (or verification) letter may help you resolve some issues related to collection accounts and potentially minimize the damage done to your credit score.
For example, collection agencies may “reactivate” debt that you might have forgotten about, reporting very old debt again on your credit report. Or they may even try to collect debt that you already paid or that is past your state’s statute of limitations. In these cases, you may want to use a debt validation letter.
What Is Debt Validation?
Debt validation is simply the act of demanding that a credit agency prove that you owe a specific debt. The right to debt validation is protected under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
How to Request Debt Validation
To protect your FDCPA rights, should follow a certain process. These steps help you document that you sent a proper validation letter and whether or not the collection agency responded in a timely manner.
1. Obtain a Copy of Your Credit Report
Obtain a copy of your credit report and highlight the negative items you want to challenge. Make sure you have a basis for challenging them. Examples for reasons include that you already paid the debt, that you never owed the debt to begin with or that the debt is beyond your state’s statute of limitations on collections.
2. Write and Mail a Letter
Write a letter including the reasons you feel the debt is invalid. Address the letter to the collection agency that reported the debt to the credit bureau. State that you’re requesting validation of the debt or removal of the debt from your credit report. Then mail the letter and request a return receipt so you have proof that you sent it and that the collection agency received it.
3. Follow Up With a Challenge Letter
If you don’t receive a validation of your debt and it’s still on your credit report, follow up with a credit challenge letter. Send this letter to the credit bureau and include copies of any documentation you have that disputes that you legally owe the debt. Make sure to note that you contacted the creditor and did not receive a response to your validation request, and include copies of the letter and the return receipt as proof.
4. Wait 30 Days for a Response
The credit bureau must investigate dispute letters. It will contact the reporting collection agency and request documentation of the debt. If the collection agency doesn’t provide sufficient documentation within 30 days, the credit bureau must remove the item from your credit report. Continue to check your credit report, even if you don’t hear from the bureau or creditor, to see if the item is removed.
How to Write a Debt Validation Letter
Dealing with collection accounts and agencies can be stressful, and if you don’t think you owe the debt, you might also be angry. Remember, it’s important to be as professional, clear and concise in a debt validation letter as possible. You might need to use this letter later for proof that you asked for validation of the debt, so you don’t want to complicate the issue or use unprofessional wording.
Instead, keep it as brief as you can, including only what you need to for the validation request. That includes:
- What debt you are writing about
- That you are requesting validation under the FDCPA
- What information you are requesting
- That you dispute the debt and request it be removed from your credit report
- Your request that the creditor stop trying to collect the debt
Is a Creditor Required to Respond to Debt Validation?
Creditors do not have to respond to every debt verification letter sent to them. Under the FDCPA, if a collector contacts you about a debt, you have 30 days to request validation. If you send a verification request within that time, the creditor is legally obligated to respond to you. However, if you send a letter outside of that time or based on something you see on your credit report, the creditor is not legally obligated to respond.
Some people might tell you that it’s better to simply pay the debt and ask the creditor to delete the item from your report in return. That can in some cases, be an expensive proposition that doesn’t provide any results—especially if you don’t actually think you owe the money. Payment for deletion isn’t an option most creditors can back up because many collection agencies have contracts with the credit bureaus that prohibit it.
How a Debt Validation Letter Can Help
Even if you’re outside of the debt validation window under the FDCPA, a debt verification letter can still offer some benefits. First, if the collector realizes that there is an issue with their information, they might remove the negative item from your credit report. Even if that doesn’t happen, you at least have documented proof you took these steps, and that can help you when you try to dispute the information with the credit bureaus.
For more help with staying on top of your credit report and disputing incorrect items, get in touch with the credit consultants at Lexington Law.
Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.
Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.
Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.