Virginia Fair Debt Collection Laws

Virginia’s fair debt collection law makes it a crime for debt collectors to send documents simulating legal process.

Updated by , Attorney · University of Denver Sturm College of Law

The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) (15 U.S.C. § 1692 and following) regulates debt collectors. The FDCPA protects consumers from unfair and deceptive debt collection practices. The FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from contacting you at certain times and places. The FDCPA applies to every state, so if you live in Virginia, the FDCPA's protections apply to you.

While Virginia doesn't have a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protecting consumers from deceptive and abusive practices by debt collectors, it does have a criminal statute prohibiting anyone trying to collect a debt from imitating legal process to get paid.

What Is Virginia's Fair Debt Collection Law?

Again, Virginia doesn't have a set of fair debt collection laws. But Virginia makes it a crime for debt collectors to send documents simulating legal process.

You can find the full text of the Virginia criminal statute pertaining to debt collections at Va. Code § 18.2-213.

What Are the Prohibited Debt Collection Practices Under Virginia Law?

Virginia's criminal statute prohibits anyone trying to collect a debt from imitating legal process to obtain payment.

How Does Virginia's Fair Debt Collection Law Compare to the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?

The FDCPA protects consumers who owe money to merchants, credit card companies, or others for household debts. It prevents debt collection agencies from using intrusive or deceptive practices when collecting these debts. For instance, the FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from:

The FDCPA also limits the time of day and different ways that a debt collector can communicate with you. (15 U.S.C. § 1692c, 15 U.S.C. § 1692f). In addition, like the Virginia statute, the FDCPA says a collector can't send you a document that looks like it's from a court or attorney or part of a legal process if it isn't. (15 U.S.C. § 1692e).

The Virginia law is much less extensive than the federal FDCPA. Also, it's a criminal statute. So, unlike the FDCPA, it doesn't allow individuals to sue collection agencies for violating the law.

Who Is Regulated by Virginia's Debt Collection Law?

Under the Virginia Code, any person who knowingly delivers, mails, sends, or otherwise uses or causes to be used any paper or writing to collect money can't simulate or intend to simulate any warrant, process, writ, notice of execution lien or notice of motion for judgment. (Va. Code § 18.2-213).

Who Is Regulated by the FDCPA?

Under the FDCPA, the term "debt collector" includes someone who regularly collects debts for others or whose main business is collecting debts. So, the FDCPA applies to debt collectors and sometimes debt buyers, but usually not to creditors collecting debts they originated. The law does apply to a creditor that collects its own debts under a different name. (15 U.S.C. § 1692a).

What Are the Penalties for Violating Virginia's Fair Debt Collection Law?

Any person who violates Virginia's fair debt collection law is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor and can be fined. (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-213).

What Are Your Rights If a Debt Collector Violates Virginia's Fair Debt Collection Law?

Because this is a criminal statute, you can report a violation but can't directly sue the collector for breaking the law. (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-11). But if a bill collector violates the federal FDCPA, you can bring a lawsuit seeking damages (see below).

Filing a Lawsuit for Federal FDCPA Violations

If a debt collector uses abusive or deceptive collection behavior, you might also be able to file a lawsuit under the federal FDCPA. However, be aware that FDCPA violations don't eliminate the debt, nor do they restrict the creditor's options for taking legal action.

Talk to a debt relief lawyer if you need help initiating a lawsuit.

How Can You Get Help With Virginia's Fair Debt Collection Law?

You can also file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) if you have an issue with a debt collector in Virginia. After you submit a complaint, the CFPB will work to get you a response, typically within 15 days.

What Are Your Rights If You're Being Sued by a Debt Collector?

If a debt collector sues you, you have the right to respond in court. You also have the right to hire an attorney to represent you in the case.

Even though you're being sued, you can still try to settle the debt. If the collector violated federal or state laws when trying to collect from you, you could have leverage in debt settlement negotiations.

Read More Articles

Learn what to do if a bill collector uses abusive tactics.

Read about what you should and shouldn't do when a debt collector calls.

Get tips on how to tell the difference between a debt collector and a scammer.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you need help dealing with an aggressive debt collector, figuring out what option is best for handling your debts, negotiating a settlement, or responding to a lawsuit for nonpayment of a debt, consider consulting with a debt relief lawyer.

If you have a lot of debts, you might want to consider filing for bankruptcy. In that situation, you'll want to talk to a bankruptcy lawyer

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