You’re walking to your car and see something that makes your heart sink. It’s a piece of paper underneath your windshield wiper, and at first you’re hoping it’s just a flyer, but nope — it’s a parking ticket. Just like that, your day is ruined.
What a lot of people don’t know is that parking tickets can mess up a lot more than a good day. Unpaid tickets can end up on your credit report as collection accounts, and that can seriously damage your credit score.
One of our readers found himself in a particularly unfortunate situation with parking tickets: They didn’t belong to him, but they were affecting his credit anyway.
“I just got contacted by a collection law firm for some 21 parking tickets totaling $1,600 from 2009 that were from a guy I gave a car to, and he kept using my old plates, even though he told me he changed them. Do I have any defense?” — Todd B
This is a complicated predicament, Troy Doucet, a consumer law attorney in Dublin, Ohio, said.
“I think the issue is ultimately going to come down to [if] the state law requires that someone take specific action to cancel out plates upon a sale and whether or not the failure to do so imputes any further tickets or problems with those plates back to him,” Doucet said.
That would influence whether or not the debt collector has the right to try and collect with the previous vehicle owner. It’s important to know that consumers have some control over the way debt collectors interact with them (assuming the debt collector follows the rules).
What Are His Options
One thing Todd could do is request the debt collector not contact him by phone, which he’s entitled to do under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, John C. Heath, a credit expert and attorney with Lexington Law, a Credit.com partner said. Debt collectors must also comply with a written request for verification of the debt, so that letter could help Todd figure out if the tickets are his responsibility.
“It would really be a legal issue if he was responsible for the tickets,” Doucet said. “That’s a complex analysis under the state law, and it would require a ton of research. So the easiest way would be to validate the debt.”
The debt validation should provide information on where the tickets originated, which Todd could use to contest the tickets with the authority that issued them. If appealing the tickets doesn’t work, Todd may need to consult a consumer attorney in his jurisdiction to determine the best course of action.
If Todd successfully appeals the tickets, that should take care of the debt collectors and any related credit damage. If the collection accounts continue to show up on his credit report, he can dispute them on grounds that they are inaccurate, Heath said. Consumers also have the right to challenge items on their credit reports they find unfair.
“During the dispute or challenging process, show supporting documentation that it shouldn’t be on the report, and it should come off,” Heath said. Supporting documentation could include a title transfer and any sales paperwork.
You can do all these things on your own, but if you’re having trouble dealing with debt collectors or fixing errors on your credit report, you could hire someone to do the hard work. You can learn more about how credit repair works here. In the meantime, while you’re challenging a statement on your credit reports, you can see how it’s affecting your credit by getting a free credit report summary on Credit.com.
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