Short Answer: Potentially, yes. Rent-to-own companies do sometimes have the ability to press charges against customers due to theft-of-service laws under which failing to make rent-to-own payments can, in some cases, be prosecuted as theft. Some states have fair debt collection laws that help to protect consumers. For more details, see below.
What Happens When You Miss a Payment?
To find out more about the consequences of not paying for your rented merchandise, we contacted Aaron’s customer support. Typically, if you miss a payment, Aaron’s will try to get in touch with you right away. If they cannot contact you directly, they’ll call your references to try to reach you. Whether or not you get a second or third chance to pay for your merchandise is up to the manager of the store you rented from.
What Are the Legal Consequences of Failing to Pay at Aaron’s?
After calling you and your references, if Aaron’s is unable to get in touch with you it can sell your debt to a debt collection agency. The collection agency can attempt to take you to court, and can, in some cases, have you arrested if you fail to meet a court date or make a court-ordered payment.
Current laws state that you cannot go to jail for failing to pay a civil debt (e.g., credit card debt, loans, an unpaid rental from Aaron’s), but companies can use the loophole of court-ordered payments, having you arrested for contempt of court rather than directly prosecuting you for failing to pay a debt. Another loophole rent-to-own companies have used is theft-of-service laws, which have been used to charge customers with theft for failing to make payments.
Some states have taken measures to remove these loopholes in state law. For example, Texas passed legislation preventing companies from pressing criminal charges except in cases of clear intent to steal property (e.g., reselling rent-to-own furniture before paying it off).
Not all states have such protections, so it’s a good idea to check laws in your state.
Failing to pay for your rentals at Aaron’s can have some very serious consequences, and in some cases you can be arrested. In some states fair debt collection laws will protect you, but your best bet is to let Aaron’s know as soon as possible if you’re having trouble making payments. Management may be able to work with you to come up with a plan or to cancel your lease.