A debt collector showing up at your home is definitely a scary and stressful situation to be in.
However, if you know your rights, you will find this situation to be a lot less overwhelming and a lot more manageable.
As I’ve always said in the past, knowledge is the name of the game.
If you’ve done your research and are aware of what a debt collector can and cannot do, you’ll see that there’s really no need to panic.
Why Would a Debt Collector Show Up at My Home?
If you owe money to someone, typically, they will contact you via phone. Even if your original creditor hires a debt collector, even he/she will typically only contact you via phone calls.
However, there do exist cases in which debt collectors will show up at your house. It’s not common since it’s much cheaper and less time-consuming to just call you but it definitely happens.
Typically, if a debt collector has shown up at your home, it’s not to have a run-of-the-mill discussion about your debts. Usually, a debt collector is sent to your house if you’ve missed a payment or several payments in a row. In that case, debt collectors come to ask you why that is and what your plan is regarding your debts moving forward. ‘
Debt collectors may be working directly for your creditor or they may be working for a larger debt collection agency that your original creditor has hired.
Larger debt collection agencies have a high number of debt collectors at their disposal working all over the UK. These debt collectors are sometimes known as doorstep collectors or field agents.
What Should I Do if a Debt Collector Visits My Home?
The first thing you should keep in mind is to not panic. A debt collector is just any other citizen, he or she does not have any extra-legal powers or any other kind of authority over you. They are not allowed to come inside your home unless you invite them inside.
You don’t even have to open the door for them if you don’t want to. Only bailiffs can barge into your home without your permission and even for that, they have to seek approval from the court first.
If a debt collector shows up at your doorstep and attempts to lie to you by telling you he doesn’t need your permission to get in, they would be in direct violation of guidelines authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
These guidelines are something that all debt collection agencies registered in England have to abide by in order to operate legally. If this happens, then tell them that you know your rights and know that they don’t have the authority to break into your home without your permission.
The very first thing you should ask when a debt collector comes knocking on your door is for ID. All debt collectors are legally obligated to carry ID with them and show them to prove their identity when asked.
Then you should ask them which debt collection agency they are working for and which debt have they come to inquire about. If you don’t recognize the debt they are talking about then you have every right to end the conversation right there and go back inside your home.
However, if you feel that the inquiry is legitimate and the debt is valid, you can tell the debt collector about how much money you can afford to pay them.
You can give them a copy of your budget if you happen to have one. Keep in mind that you don’t have to pay the debt collector anything on the spot. That can be done later via a bank transfer, etc. However, if you happen to give any money to the debt collector in cash, make sure to get some sort of proof from them such as a receipt.
Always bear in mind that you are the one in control of this situation. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the debt collector, you can simply ask them to leave. They are legally obligated to leave the property if you ask them to.
They are also not allowed to be abusive, aggressive or threaten you in any way. Afterwards, you can also call or write to the debt collection agency that you do not want anyone from their agency visiting you at your home ever again.
This should stop any house visits from them in the future. If a debt collector shows up at your door after you have specifically made a request to them to not do that, these are reasonable grounds for you to report them to the FCA.
As I mentioned earlier, home visits are typically quite uncommon. Coming to your home is time-consuming and also costs the debt collection agency money. This is why they typically prefer communicating with debtors through email or calls.
If a debt collector does show up at your door, it’s usually because you are missing payments or being late in paying them. If you’re struggling with paying your debts, it’s a good idea to seek debt advice from an independent charity such as Payplan or StepChange.
They will take your financial information and assess your situation to give you the best debt advice possible to help you get out of the situation you’re in. These independent charities also provide this debt advice free of charge.
Harassment During Home Visits
There is certain information you need to be aware of regarding what debt collectors are not allowed to do when they come knocking on your door.
Bear in mind that a debt collector is allowed to deal only with you. This means that if they visit your house and your roommate or spouse answers the door, they are not allowed to discuss the details of your debt with them.
All they are allowed to do is ask for you and whether they can speak to you. Divulging any sort of information regarding your debts to your housemates counts as harassment and you can definitely report the person to the FCA or even sue them in court if you wish.
I’ve also heard accounts from debtors about debt collectors contacting their neighbours during house visits. These debt collectors will often show up at your neighbours’ doorstep before showing up at yours and divulge information regarding your debt in an attempt to embarrass you and get you to pay up. Again, this is in direct violation of FCA guidelines and you would have every right to sue that person.
Tactics like these are malicious, ill-intended and most importantly of all, illegal. The Financial Conduct Authority put these regulations into place to protect you, the debtor. However, if you’re not aware of your rights and are unable to identify when you’re being wronged, you will not be able to protect yourself from such practices.
Thus, it’s essential that you educate and acquaint yourself with your rights if you are in debt. It will help you navigate yourself to financial freedom with a minimal amount of stress and trauma.
What Should I Do Next?
That entirely depends on why the debt collector was here in the first place. If the person was here regarding a debt you don’t recognize and isn’t yours, you have nothing to worry about.
If it was regarding a debt to which you’ve been making payments to the best of your abilities considering what you can afford, then you don’t have anything to worry about either.
If it was regarding a debt to which you’ve been missing payments or are being late with your payments, then you have some thinking to do. You have several options. Firstly, you can write to your creditor and explain your situation to them.
Try to be as transparent as possible in order to make them understand why you’ve been missing your payments. This way, they will cut you some slack moving forward so that you have time to get a hold of your situation so you can be on time with your payments in the future.
If you feel that you can’t afford to make the payments requested by your creditor, then we suggest you contact an independent charity. They will assess your situation in detail and give you expert advice on how to move forward.
I’m hoping that you’re a lot less scared of a debt collector showing up at your house than you were when you first started reading this post. As with most things when you’re in debt, knowing your rights goes a long way in making things seem not so overwhelming.