Rent-A-Thug debt collecting process

Monday, December 3rd 2007, 3:02 pm
By: News 9

Lola Johnson came back to her Oklahoma City home one day in 2004 to find her front door open. Someone had broken into her home.

"And I went (gasping)-someone done broke into my house," said Lola Johnson.

But when she went inside she noticed nothing was touched-except for her refrigerator. Lola Johnson had rented the refrigerator from Rent-A-Center and was less than $30 behind on a payment. And Lola Johnson said when she went to the store after her home was burglarized, she found her refrigerator right there on Rent-A-Center's property.

"How could they do another human like that?" asked Lola Johnson. "It was real bad and it was devastating."

Lola Johnson hired a lawyer and was eventually awarded $35,000 in actual damages.

"Those matters in our eyes are still in dispute. She waited, at least her attorney did, for two years before they brought the complaint to us; so by the time we could investigate if this occurred-all the coworkers no longer worked for us," said Gus Witcomb, a Rent-A-Center spokesperson. "We have a very clear policy in place for how we go and collect furniture that needs to be returned to us. And if a worker violates that in any way...that person no longer works for us."

Lola Johnson said she did tell the store, but the complaint may not have made it up the chain of command.

This was not the only occasion Rent-A-Center has come into question for such aggressive debt collecting-what Lola Johnson's attorney calls "corporate thuggery." On, News 9 found more than 260 complaints filed against the furniture rental company nationwide for such things like forcing a door open and picking locks. But is it legal?

"Kicking in the door of someone's home may be OK if you're a soldier hunting for a terrorist or an officer trying to arrest a fugitive," said Tim Hummel, Lola Johnson's attorney. "But it is illegal to kick in someone's door because they owe you money."

Hummel said this is not the first time the Oklahoma City Rent-a-Center has used aggressive behavior to collect furniture either. Hummel represented another local person whose door was kicked in by the metro rental company.

"Me, personally, I will never rent from them again," said Lola Johnson.

To report questionable debt collecting processes call the Oklahoma Commission on Consumer Credit at (405) 521-3653.

If there's something Amanda Taylor and the Consumer Watch team can help you with call

Originally Aired: 11-12-07