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Ask Barrister Your Own Question

Barrister
Barrister, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 23544
Experience:  14 yrs practice, Civil, Criminal, Domestic, Realtor, Landlord 24+ yrs
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I have just been contacted concerning a bill for tuition and

Customer Question

I have just been contacted concerning a bill for tuition and housing for a state school in North Carolina from 2006. This was not a loan taken out, but a bill the school says I did not pay. It has now been 7 years and I am just hearing about this issue now. What is the statute of limitations for a bill due to a school in NC and what are my rights as it is not a bill I believe I owe.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Hello and thank you for using JA! My goal is to provide you with excellent service and help with your legal problem.
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If this is just a bill they are alleging you own and not a student loan, then in NC the statute of limitations for them to try and collect is only 3 years if you signed something when you initially started school.
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So if they have not tried to collect before now, then they would be time barred from doing so. You can send them a letter stating that even if the debt is yours, under NC law the statute of limitations is only 3 years and under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, they are prohibited from pursuing collection on that account. Should they continue, you will file suit under the Act for $1,000 per violation payable to you.
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This is a good template you can modify:
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Your Name
XXXXXAddress
Your City, ST 01234


ABC Collections
XXXXXbr/> Chicago, IL

Date
.
Re: Acct # XXXXX
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To Whom It May Concern:
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I am continually being called on the telephone by your firm over an alleged $xxxxx debt. According to the information given to us by your firm, the date of last activity by the original creditor is July of 20XX. The SOL on this alleged debt, even should it be ours, is 3 years in the state of NC. Since the debt is out of the statute of limitations, and you are reporting this on my credit report, you are conducting collection activities on zombie debt.
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I'm sure you are aware of the provisions in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). However, I would like to point out that your firm has violated provisions of the FDCPA by implying that the legal status of the debt is collectible by reporting the alleged debt to the credit bureaus. The exact statute:
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[15 USC 1692e]
(2) The false representation of --
(A) the legal status of the alleged debt
(B) any services rendered or compensation which may be lawfully received by any debt collector for the collection of a debt.
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I am also doubtful that you would have adequate documentation to prove in court that you have the right to report this negative information on my credit report, and therefore you are in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act as well as the FDCPA. However, I will give you the chance to prove that you are lawfully entitled to report this information by requesting an investigation.
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Under the FDCPA I am also invoking my right to ask you to stop contacting me unless you can provide adequate validation of this alleged debt or notification that you are ceasing collections activities.
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Please remove this account immediately from my credit report or I will have to take legal remedies which may include lawsuits and notifying our state attorney general's office. In addition, I'm sure your legal staff will agree that non-compliance with this request could put your company in serious legal trouble with the FTC and other state or federal agencies. Under the FCRA and the FDCPA, each violation is subject to a $1000 fine, payable to me.
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Sincerely,
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Your Name

.
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That should get them to leave you alone and pursue other accounts.
.
.
Thanks
Barrister
Barrister, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 23544
Experience: 14 yrs practice, Civil, Criminal, Domestic, Realtor, Landlord 24+ yrs
Barrister and 2 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Relist: Inaccurate answer.
I have been given conflicting information and need to confirm.
Expert:  Attorney Wayne replied 1 year ago.
PLEASE DO NOT use the rating system until satisfied. Instead, please click CONTINUE CONVERSATION for more info.

Hello. I'd like to add some information that may be helpful. In terms of consumer law, the above information is correct. But there are additional factors.

Is this is a state school or a private one? This is a key distinction in bill collection. Please let us know.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hello Attorney Wayne,


 


This is a state college (University of North Carolina Charlotte). I am told this is an unpaid bill from the school for tuition and housing.

Expert:  Attorney Wayne replied 1 year ago.
That's an important distinction. Because state colleges are state government functions, the statute of limitations is different. It can be as long as ten years, depending on how the debt was arranged. So it is important to get confirmation of the debt, and the documentation on which the debt is predicated first.

Once that is obtained, if it appears that the debt is covered by the ten year statute of limitations (a contract with the word "seal" appearing at the signature line, for instance), then it may still be collectible.

There's a good run down of the procedures under the state debt collection laws at one of the UNC campus's websites. (While some information, such as the name of a specific debt collection vendor may be particular to that unit of UNC, the procedures are generally statewide, under a law that requires the Attorney General to handle collections for state government units, including UNC campuses)
http://www.uncp.edu/ba/policies/co/co0708.html

The Attorney General's Office provides the following guidelines:
http://www.ncdoj.com/Files/About-DOJ/Legal-Services/Legal-Resources/Collections-Guidelines-Sept-2008.aspx

It is interesting to note that the Attorney General's office does not advise not to collect debts on which the statue of limitations has run; the reason is that that if a debtor acknowledges the debt exists, it starts the clock running again on the statute of limitations. So it is important to say nothing, except ask for proof of debt, including billing and payment records, as well as the nature of the debt (so as to determine if the debt is being pursued under the three-year statute of limitations or the ten-year one).

Here's a precise quote from the Attorney General's guidelines for state agencies:
"The Debtor has the burden of proof of bringing the defense that the statute of limitations has run. Once a debtor raises this defense the collection agency and the Collection Section will stop all collection proceedings and return the account to the Agency creditor with the code (SOL), which means Statute of Limitations has run and the account is considered uncollectible. If the Debtor raises the defense of Statute of Limitations to the Agency Creditor, then the Agency Creditor should also consider the account as uncollectible if the Statute of Limitations as run.

But the Attorney General tells the state to use a gotcha:

"If a Debtor acknowledges the debt, either by letter, e-mail or by making a payment toward the debt, this will renew the statute of limitations and it will begin again from the date the correspondence or payment is received by the Agency Creditor."

In sum, the previous expert's guidance is correct if the debt is covered by the three-year statute of limitations. But if the university says it was incurred under a contract (for instance, for room and board) signed under seal (which is a legal term, in the old days for a wax seal, but these days is usually done simply by printing the word SEAL by the signature block), then the statute of limitations runs for ten years. No matter what, watch out for the gotcha as described -- with this, as with any debt collection effort.

I wish you every success in resolving this matter!

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