Portfolio Recovery files a lot of debt collection lawsuits here in Arizona. If you are reading this you are likely having the misfortune of being on the receiving end of one of their lawsuits. And if you are like most, your first thought was “Portfolio who?!” The reason why you may have never heard of Portfolio Recovery before is because you have never done business with them, don’t have any contracts with them, and likely didn’t know they even existed until the process server dropped the lawsuit off at your home.
Portfolio Recovery is a debt buyer. They buy charged off debts from banks and lenders like Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, etc. and then sue on them.
I know it is likely freaking you out that got sued. I am sure you have gone through every possible nightmare scenario in your head and worry that you are going to be homeless over this whole thing. Take a breath. Things aren’t as bad as you might think.
Here are two simple tips that can put you on the path of winning your case. Please understand, there is more to winning a debt buyer lawsuit than what I am about to give you, but these two steps will go a long ways to getting this mess behind you.
Step #1 – Answer the Lawsuit
Here in Arizona when you are served with a civil lawsuit you receive two documents: the Summons and the Complaint. The Summons merely tells you that you have been served (which you already knew due to the nice man that likely woke you up at 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning!). The Summons also give you some important information – specifically that you have 20 calendar days to file a written response (called an Answer) to the Complaint.
The Complaint is the actual lawsuit. This is the document that provides you with the allegations that Portfolio Recovery is alleging against you. This is the document that you must respond to. If you don’t file an Answer within 20 days from the time when you received the lawsuit, Portfolio Recovery can ask the judge to enter a Default Judgment and give them everything they are asking for. It is vital that you file a written Answer to the Complaint with the court.
Sometimes, I meet with people and they think if they can just avoid the process server long enough that this whole thing will go away. Problem is, you can actually make your situation a whole lot worse by avoiding service of the lawsuit. The process server will only try so many times. Then, if they can’t get a hold of you, they will ask the court if they can serve you through the mail or via publication in the newspaper. Many times when people get served those ways they don’t actually get notice that a lawsuit has been filed.
And when you don’t actually get notice, you don’t file an Answer. And when you don’t file an Answer you get a Default Judgment entered against you. And when you get a Default Judgment entered against you, you wake up and your bank accounts are frozen, your wages are garnished, and your money is gone.
Don’t get your money taken. File an Answer within 20 days.
Step #2 – Show Up
As the saying goes, showing up is half the battle. When it comes to lawsuits with Portfolio Recovery this couldn’t be more true. I will save the specifics about Portfolio Recovery lawsuits for another post, but know this – I have yet to see a lawsuit by Portfolio Recovery that has enough evidence to support a judgment. Of course Portfolio Recovery does get judgments, and that is because people ignore the Complaint, and some judges don’t agree with me and in the end it is up to them.
But if you fight your lawsuit, there is a good chance you could win. Make Portfolio Recovery prove their case. The law places the burden on them to show that they own the account and how they came up with the amount owed. If you don’t show up, they don’t have to prove anything. Show up. Make them put on their case. It is shocking how many times they simply can’t do it.
As I said above, these two steps aren’t the only things you need to do to win your case. But they are vital to not losing it. You have to be present. You have to participate. Without these two simple steps, none of the other stuff (which I will discuss in the next post) is even possible.