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Old debts may not be put back on your credit report

Richard M.  Alderman Interim Dean of the Law Center

Richard M. Alderman
Interim Dean of the Law Center

Q. I defaulted on a credit card ten years ago. I was never sued and I thought everything had gone away. I now have a collection agency threatening to again report the debt to the credit bureau because they are not the original creditor. I worked for seven years to maintain good credit. Will this now be put back on my credit report?
A. This is called “re-aging” and the debt collector cannot do it. As you seem to understand, negative information stays on your report for seven years. After that, the information is considered “obsolete” and generally cannot be reported. The seven-years period, however, runs from the original debt. The fact the debt is sold or assigned to a debt collector does not start the clock running again.
I suggest you let the debt collector know that you believe its threat to place the information back on your credit report violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This is the federal law that protects you against abusive, harassing and deception debt collection tactics. If it has been reported, contact the credit bureau and let them know this is all the same debt and you want it removed. For more information about debt collection and credit bureaus, look at the debt collection material on my website, www.peopleslawyer.net
Q. I would like to know if the property manager of an apartment project can refuse to give the tenant the owner’s name if the tenant requests it.
A. According to the Texas Property Code, the landlord or property manager must disclose the name and address of the holder of record title after you request it. If the information is not disclosed, you could be entitled to $100 plus one month’s rent in damages, as well as attorney’s fees and court costs. I suggest you send your request by certified mail.
Q. We hired a contractor to remodel two of our bathrooms. We paid him everything except the labor, which was to be paid at the time of completion for both bathrooms. After four months he stopped coming because he said he had lost money on the job. He also didn’t do the work very well; the shower leaked and he left holes in our family room ceiling and some of the grout in one bathroom is coming up. We finally fired him and asked for a refund on the second restroom, which he hasn’t touched. After several weeks of waiting for our refund, he continues to make excuses for not bringing our money to us. What recourse do we have?
A. You seem to understand the contractor’s failure to do the work breaches your contract and entitles you to damages. Your damages could be a refund of what you paid for the work not completed. But it also should include any costs you will incur to get what he has not done properly repaired, or any increase in costs to get the work completed. In my opinion, the contractor’s failure to properly perform also violates what is known as the “warranty of good and workmanlike performance.” A breach this warranty gives you a claim under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, our state’s consumer protection law. You could be entitled to up to three times your damages plus attorney’s fees if you have to hire an attorney.
Based on what you say, however, it seems like the contractor knows he owes you the money. As a first step to getting paid, I suggest a certified letter explaining that you know your rights under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and that you will file a claim in justice court or speak with an attorney if he does not promptly pay or make arrangements to pay what he owes you. Make it clear that you believe it is in everyone’s best interest to settle this matter amicably, and avoid any additional waste of time and money. Hopefully, he will pay. If he does not, contact the office of your local justice of the peace to find out how to file a claim in justice court, or, contact a local consumer law attorney.

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