Aaron’s is a rent-to-own service that offers furniture, electronics, appliances, and outdoor products.  If you can’t lay down significant sums of cash all at once, rent-to-own can be a good option, as it lets you lease items and pay them off over a period of time. While rent-to-own can be convenient if you need items now but can’t pay in full, you’ll end up paying more in total. And, if you can’t make payments, you face a variety of consequences. In this article, we’ll discuss whether or not it’s possible to go to jail for not paying for your leased items and what type of legal action Aaron’s can take, if any.

How Aaron’s Rent to Own Works

The Aaron’s rent-to-own policy is the same for all Aaron’s merchandise, and you can begin a lease in-store or online. Aaron’s has four different lease options: 12 months, 18 months, 24 months, and 120 days “same as cash” (90 days for residents of California). The 120-day option means that you pay the cash price for the item and aren’t subject to any lease service fees. These fees cover the warranty Aaron’s gives all of its merchandise and can also be thought of as the interest that accrues for not paying outright. With any of the repayment plans, you can choose to pay the item off before the deadline, thus saving money on the service fees.

You can use the Aaron’s rent-to-own service even if you don’t have a credit history. Though credit may not be necessary, Aaron’s does require that you provide proof of income, residence, and three references. If you’re applying for the lease online, you’ll also be asked to provide your social security number.

When signing up to lease merchandise from Aaron’s, you’ll have to make an initial payment with a debit or credit card. Afterwards, you can make payments by debit, credit, cash, check, or money order. The product will be delivered to your place of residence and set up for free. Note though that Aaron’s cannot install appliances that need to be connected to a water or gas source.

Throughout the length of your lease, Aaron’s general warranty will let you repair or replace any defective products at no additional cost. It also covers your merchandise in the case of natural disasters like fires or floods.

You can change your mind and decide to return an item before paying off the lease. Aaron’s will keep a record of what you’ve paid so far, and that money can be put toward a similar item in the future. However, the item will be in the same condition as whatever you return, so it’s a good idea to keep your leased products in the best condition possible.

What Happens When You Miss a Payment?

To learn 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 to see what’s going on. If they cannot contact you directly, they’ll call your references to try and get a hold of you. According to the customer service representative, 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. Some managers may be forgiving and provide extensions for repayment, whereas others may ask you to return the merchandise the first time you miss a payment.

What Are the Legal Consequences of Failing to Pay at Aaron’s?

Aaron’s isn’t going to call the police on you or enter your house, but they will take action if you don’t pay. After calling you and your references, if Aaron’s is unable to get in touch with you and it’s clear that you’re making no effort to get in touch with them or to make payments, they’ll sell your debt to a debt collection agency. How long it takes to do this is up to each individual store. After selling to a debt collection agency, Aaron’s has nothing to do with you or the merchandise they rented to you. The debt collectors will be the people attempting to find you, as the money you owed Aaron’s will now be owed to the debt collection agency. From this point on, it’s up to the debt collection agency as to how they want to go about getting the money you owe.

Debt collection agencies are typically more capable of finding someone who owes money; they’ll start by contacting the people around you such as family members and neighbors, and if that isn’t enough, they may even use private investigators. They also often have access to information about the debtor’s assets, such as bank accounts, which they use to help determine a repayment plan.

Though they often have a negative reputation, and some collectors don’t follow the law, dealing with a debt collector can be a positive experience if you’re honest and stay in touch. If you refuse to communicate or try to avoid the debt collector, they may take legal action. If possible, debt collectors will try to set up a repayment plan that works for you. However, if you are constantly missing payments or refuse to pay, then they will likely report your failure to pay to the credit bureau and take legal action.

What type of action they take is up to the collection agency, but often they’ll bring you to court in order to force you to pay, one way or another. If the court rules in favor of the debt collector, they may be allowed to garnish wages or collect money from your bank account; however, they’ll have to contact your employer or your bank before they can access this money. In other scenarios, debt collectors may be able to put a lien on your property until you pay what you owe or use the court system to threaten you with jail time for not paying up.

Though current laws state that you cannot go to jail for failing to pay a civil debt (i.e. credit card debt, loans, an unpaid rental from Aaron’s), local and state court systems have found loopholes in these laws. One of them is to view your debt as a condition of probation or parole; thus, if you’re already on probation or parole fail to pay, you can end up behind bars. Another thing the court can do is issue an order for you to appear at a hearing or make a payment. If you fail to show up or don’t make the payment, they can issue a warrant for your arrest and you’ll be taken to jail. A bond will be posted for the amount the court had ordered you to pay. Thus, the debt collector gets his way: either you pay or you go to jail and then pay to get out.

This all sounds pretty scary, but different states have different laws. In some states, courts are allowed to use these loopholes, whereas in others the laws are stricter, so going to jail for missing debt payments is impossible. Therefore, it’s important to find out what laws your state abides by in order to understand the exact consequences of failing to pay your debts.

In Summary

Failing to pay for your rentals at Aaron’s can have some very serious consequences, especially if you aren’t willing to communicate your financial situation to Aaron’s. Your best bet is to let Aaron’s know that you’re facing hard times. If they take your TV back, so be it; you won’t be in debt and you’ll still have credit from the rental to use next time you want to rent or purchase something from Aaron’s. If you outright refuse to pay or try to disappear without paying, Aaron’s will sell your debt to a debt collection agency that will be more than willing to track you down and take you to court. In the worst case scenario, you could even be sent to jail.