Should I sue or should I pay up?
April 19, 2007 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Should I sue or should I just eat it?

Long story short, my old apartment complex thinks I owe them money for damages, summarized here. I disputed with no results, they referred it to a collection agent and now they've dinged my credit. They want $700, I want my $200 security deposit back. I have several questions:

1. Is it worth it to take it to small claims?

2. If I just pay the collection agent, is there anything special I need to do to ensure that my credit is no longer affected?

3. Will a ruling against them for the security deposit nullify their claim for damages?

4. My brother and I were both on the lease (jointly and severally liable). He's out of town frequently and otherwise swamped with his new business. Can I represent him at trial?

5. If they've sold the debt to a collection agent (as opposed to having the agent collect on their behalf), does this complicate the process?

I recognize that none of you are my lawyers and your responses are not legal advice.
posted by electroboy to Work & Money (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Re: Credit. If you pay the collection agency, it'll show as paid and act as a defacto acceptance of the debt as legit. While it doesn't adversely mark your credit as much as an open collections account would, it'll still hang out there for at least 7 years.
posted by thanotopsis at 12:07 PM on April 19, 2007

I'm dealing with a similar issue right now. There's a lot of good info in that thread.
posted by SpecialK at 12:09 PM on April 19, 2007

CreditBoards is your friend when it comes to dealing with collections.

As far as the carpet, that's a wear and tear item that normally is replaced upon change of tenants if it hasn't been changed in a couple of years, at least here in the south. Additionally, you couldn't have caused the water leaks, so if you have proof that that was the cause of the carpet damage, small claims may be the best option.

Keys do not cost $200, so you should have some of your security deposit coming back to you in any event.

When my girlfriend had a similar problem, she was still in college, so she had one of the law students write them a nasty letter and the landlords dropped it, but it never made it to collections, although that shouldn't matter.
posted by wierdo at 1:14 PM on April 19, 2007

Response by poster: Some additional information: I've already written the letters, asked for proof, gotten a bill and some grainy photos that show little, but could be considered "proof". The apartment complex has generally followed the law, it's just that the damage is their fault and not mine. My question is mostly:

a. Is this worth pursuing?


b. Will a "win" help my credit score or will or not make much difference?
posted by electroboy at 2:15 PM on April 19, 2007

A win will let you challenge any credit issues. I think it's worth doing. Small claims court is affordable, easy and effective, and maybe they'll slow down before they screw over the next tenant.
posted by theora55 at 2:35 PM on April 19, 2007

Please consult for complete info, but...

If they have sold the debt that really doesn't complicate matters any. The debt is real (in the sense that they have some basis to pursue, even if the underlying claim of damage is horsepuckey) and transferable, the only impact of it being sold is that the new owners might lack the necessary documentation to force you to pay.

You said in that old thread that you send the demand for validation, did they get back to you with it? If not you might want to look into suing them for continued collection activity. Again, debtorboards is your friend.
posted by phearlez at 2:48 PM on April 19, 2007

wierdo writes "Keys do not cost $200, so you should have some of your security deposit coming back to you in any event."

Some patented keys do as a way of reducing distribution.
posted by Mitheral at 3:25 PM on April 19, 2007

You can challenge inaccurate items on your credit report. If you can show proof that the claim placed on your report was faulty, it should be removed. It would be worth it to me to have the item removed.

Alternately, you may be able to negotiate with the credit agency who 'owns' the debt. They have the ability sometimes to remove the item completely. They may do so in exchange for payment.
posted by gummo at 3:50 PM on April 19, 2007

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