Procuring outstanding payments is integral to the success of any business. Banks, lenders, credit organizations and other institutions that roll out credits have their own debt collection policies in place. A debt collection letter is a first leg procedure in debt collection measures.
A debt collection letter holds legal standing in a debt recovery process. There are structured rules and guidelines set by the federal state that define protocols to communicate with the debtors. Any violation of these rules can lead to legal complications. Therefore it is very important for the debt collection agencies and creditors to be familiar with the laws and regulations that apply for a debt collection letter. For consumers/debtors, being aware of the rules and laws will prevent them from getting harassed by the creditors/collection agencies.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) enlists the rules that need to be adhered to while reaching out to debtors. Creditors or debt collection companies generally serve a debt collection letter when the debtor has not cleared his/her dues even after verbal reminders and calls from the collectors.
It is not a single debt collection letter that is issued but a series of letters that are sent over to the debtor over a period of time. The initial letter generally is slightly mellow in terms of tone and generally serves as an informal reminder to the debtor about his or her dues. The letters that follow (generally four or five) tone up gradually and aim to inject a sense of urgency to the case. The last letter in the series would serve a notice for initiation of legal proceedings should the debts remain unattended to by the debtor.
For creditors, it is imperative to put across the urgency of the issue through the letters. However, they need to ensure that they do not cross the line when it comes to maintaining the firm tone of the debt collection letter. Threatening or abusive language are strict no-go areas and creditors are required to stay clear of using a language that may sound offensive, ominous or is insulting to the debtor.
Guidelines to be followed for a sample debt collection letter
Follow formal letter-writing ethics
As is the case with all official pieces of writings, mention the specifics very precisely. Format the letter with the name of the addressee, the sender’s name, date and the purpose for which the debt collection letter is issued.
Initial letter/first letter in the series
In keeping with the federal law, the initial debt collection letter should issue a 30-day notice of verification. The creditors or collection agencies should not mention any legal consequences or actions planned in the first letter as it contradicts the 30-day period. In addition, it is mandatory for the kickoff letter to entail the following statement verbatim:
“This is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose.”
Subsequent debt collection letters
All subsequent debt collection letters need to include the following statement verbatim:
“This communication is from a debt collector.”
Specific information to be put across in all debt collection letters
Every correspondence should include the official address, contact numbers, as well as the working hours of the collector’s office. In case there is a specific mode of payment the debtor needs to pursue, it should be clearly listed and the details provided.
Stress on the point; be judicious in choice of words
A debt collection letter should focus on recovering outstanding debts. The letter should be assertive but there is absolutely zero tolerance to threatening language or abusive terms. The debtors have it within their rights to sue a debt collection agency for threatening or offending by use of abuse or cuss language. The federal policies are quite stringent to curb the use of any abuse, threat or irrational measures employed by any debt collection agency.
A debt collection letter should be realistic to the core. Do not include statements or clauses that shall flat on verification. Be realistic and straightforward to quote the steps that shall be initiated against the erring debtor. Do not build up on words just to pressurize any debtor.
Conform with state-specific laws
The above guidelines apply to any debt collection letter in general. However, there may be additional state-specific laws and guidelines that may be required to be followed. Refer to the state laws when drafting a sample debt collection letter.
It would be best to seek professional help to know what is applicable in your case.