Posting on behalf of my boyfriend. Clearly the most responsible decisions were not made along the way, but we’ve had a long six months since his/his mom’s house caught on fire and burned down at the end of May, and he’s trying to make it right.

The bill in question is a cable bill, which was his responsibility when he lived with his mom. After the fire, he called and cancelled service, and he was told he would still be charged for the equipment unless it was returned by some date a monthish after he did this. He agreed, and he asked his mom to make sure she returned the equipment by that date. Not being diligent about making sure she did this was mistake #1. The series of mistakes after this (including not setting up mail forwarding, unnecessarily trying to coordinate with his mom (a difficult person generally), probably erroneously mistaking bills for advertisements, and not just taking a few minutes to log on or call to check his account) that led to him not realizing this never happened is something I still don’t understand, but I digress.

Once I realized in December that no one had ever returned the equipment and that he had an outstanding balance over $1k, I told him to call and make a payment, any payment, on it immediately (I thought, I’m not sure if this was correct, that if you were paying on a debt that it couldn’t be sent to collections). He also collected the equipment from his mom’s house over Christmas/New Year’s and we were going to return it the first week of the new year, but then we got a bill from a collections agency for the approximate amount of the bill. I thought it was probably too late, and that his next step would be to try and negotiate a pay-for-delete once it came up on his credit report, but then we got a bill from the cable company for the outstanding balance, minus the payment he made on 12/15.

Is it too late or not? What should his next step be?

Other details:

Letter from collections agency was dated 12/31/2019 and mentioned the cable company by name. I can’t remember the date on the bill for this month, but it was after 12/31/2019, and it had the date of the 12/15/2019 payment on there.

The amount the collection agency is trying to collect is ~$200 less than the bill sent to us by the cable company (IIRC $1600 and $1400).

The last payment my boyfriend remembers making before this was in May/June 2019.

We have not contacted either the cable company or the collection agency yet.

He is able to pay the combination of late fees to the tune of around ~$600 or so to avoid it being on his credit report, but we believe ~$900-1000 of the charges are the equipment which he would like to return. Paying $1600 (at least all at once) is probably more than he could afford.

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* This article was originally published here