I was living in an apartment complex, which upon moving in they said they would have security traveling the premises 24/7. In less than 6 months my car was broken into twice, and there was no security ever on the premises. Likewise, I complained about my neighbor being too loud and the management company told her, at which time the neighbor left a threatening note on my door saying she was going to make my life miserable and be incredibly loud.
Because of this, I moved out without paying my last months rent. They sent my bill of $1500 to collections. I have a 750+ credit score, 0 debt, and about $250K in the bank. I do not want to pay based on principle, since they do not deserve a penny and handled this completely irresponsibly.
How much will this one issue affect my credit score?
Should I try and fight it with the collection company? Or is that just a way for them to confirm receipt that I have a collection claim against me?
Any other tips would be great.
2 Answers from Attorneys
I cannot answer the question as to what extent this will affect your credit score. That is really not a legal question, rather, one that requires a working knowledge of the FICO credit scoring model. Mortgage lenders and underwriters probably have a better understanding of that model, and might be better equipped to answer the question. Absolutely, it will adversely affect your score, and the longer it drags on, the worse it will get. It does not matter if you confirm or not that you have a collection account - they are going to pursue the claim, and report it to your credit report whether you deal with it or not. It is better to attempt to resolve the issue, but frankly based on the limited facts you have provided, I don't see that you have a legitimate, legal defense to having paid the rent. You may have a right to sue the owners and/or management of the building for the damage to your car; you may have the right to sue the owners and/or management for false representation, fraud and any number of other causes of action; and you may have had the right to sue the landlord for failing to protect your right to quiet enjoyment of your rental unit, but none of that gives you the legal right not to pay the rent.
If your credit is worth anything to you, I would suggest negotiating with the collection company to settle the debt and remove it from our credit report. Some battles over principal are just not worth it, especially where you do not appear to have taken the correct course of action to deal with your problems with the owner and/or management. Had you consulted an attorney at the time you were having the problems, you may have avoided this mess in the first place.
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If/when you get a notice from a collection agency informing you of an unpaid debt, that same notice usually gives you 30 days in which you can DISPUTE the purported unpaid debt, in writing. Have you done this? If not, and if you are still within that time period, you should do this ASAP. Regarding the Landlord, did you ever give the landlord written notice regarding the threat from the tenant? did you notify the landlord in any manner? Did you advise the landlord about your car being broken into the FIRST time? was it in writing? did the landlord respond? Was there a provision in your lease where landlord promised to provide additional 24/7 security? The answers to all of these questions can affect your decision to "fight" or not.
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