Short Answer: Rent-A-Center claims to work with customers who communicate early about potential late or missed payments. However, if you do not make Rent-A-Center aware of your situation, the company will likely take action as soon as one business day after the first missed payment. It will begin charging late fees to your account, and the company will attempt to contact you and your references. In extreme cases, the company may take you to court to have a judge order you to pay. For more information about Rent-A-Center’s policies about late and missed payments, see below.
Rent-A-Center Policy for Non-Payment
If you can’t make payments on your Rent-A-Center lease, the company recommends that you call first to see what options you may have. The company may be willing to negotiate with you if you are simply going to be late on a single payment, or if you are experiencing a financial emergency. Leniency will depend on the store manager and may vary by store. If you can’t make the payments on a long-term basis, then your best course of action would be to return the item. If you don’t, it could lead to fees and even legal consequences.
To find out more about how Rent-A-Center deals with missed payments, we called the company’s customer service hotline. Representatives informed us that every case is different and will be treated accordingly by Rent-A-Center. For example, we were told that if a new customer misses their very first payment, likely Rent-A-Center will make an effort to contact them immediately, as missing the very first payment is considered suspicious.
Rent-A-Center charges late fees for missed payments — late fee amounts will be stated in your rental agreement, according to Rent-A-Center’s payment processing terms and conditions. Fees vary by store, contract, item type and condition (new or used), and purchase price. Customer service representatives told us that if you communicate with your local Rent-A-Center, you can potentially avoid the late fee or have it waived. However, the representatives were not willing to disclose typical late fee amounts.
If you miss a payment, late fees start to accrue after the first business day and will continue to accrue until you bring your account current; Rent-A-Center does not typically offer grace periods in its lease contracts. Many customers report that after just one day, Rent-A-Center representatives began calling about late payments.
Since you are not financing on credit when you lease from Rent-A-Center, the company does not report late or missed payments to the major credit bureaus.
The consequences of refusing to pay Rent-A-Center are mainly dependent on state law. Typically, Rent-A-Center will try to get in touch with a customer who isn’t making payments. If you miss payments, Rent-A-Center will first try calling you directly. After this, the company may call the references you listed on the leasing application. Rent-A-Center may even try visiting the address you listed on the application.
If Rent-A-Center cannot get in touch with you, it may take legal action in civil court — the company reserves the right to do this as soon as you begin missing payments. The court will determine the amount of damages owed or provide another remedy. If Rent-A-Center wins the case, then the court ruling may simply be for damages in the amount that you sill owe to Rent-A-Center. If you cannot pay, the court may approve wage garnishments to collect the amount owed.
In other cases, the court ruling may come with additional fines, and in extreme cases, a customer may spend time in jail. There are laws in place to prevent citizens from receiving jail time for not paying civil debts. However, courts in some states have found ways around these laws. For instance, the court can issue an order for the customer to appear at a hearing or to make a payment. If the customer fails to abide by the court order, the court can then issue a warrant for their arrest. Upon arrest, a bond will be posted for the same amount as was in the original court order, and the customer must pay it in order to be released.
This is not possible in all states — some states have strict citizen-favoring laws surrounding rent-to-own services, making it impossible to face jail time. You can contact your state’s Attorney General’s office to find out about civil debt laws.
Beware: Selling Rented Merchandise
There are some people who try to take advantage of rent-to-own services by renting brand new merchandise and then selling it elsewhere to make quick cash. This is an illegal practice — Rent-A-Center can and will take these people to court for it, and the court may charge these people with theft. As long as you communicate with your Rent-A-Center and don’t do anything illegal, you don’t need to worry about going to court or jail. Rent-A-Center generally won’t call the police or press charges.
Can You Get Out of Your Rent-to-Own Contract?
There are two ways that you can get out of your rent-to-own contract. First, you can return your item to Rent-A-Center to pause payments. Our related research explains how to pause and reinstate a lease at Rent-A-Center. Alternatively, if you can afford it, you can pay the remaining balance of the item. If you pay off the item in full, you will be freed from the lease agreement. Rent-A-Center even offers an Early Purchase Discount.
You could also get out of your current contract by starting a new contract. Rent-A-Center allows you to “upgrade” your merchandise whenever you would like to, and then they adjust the payments accordingly. Of course, getting out of one contract by opening up another isn’t ideal, and it will likely result in you owing more money for the upgrade.
If you think you will be unable to make payments on your Rent-A-Center item(s), the best course of action is to communicate with your local store as early as possible. As soon as your payments are late, Rent-A-Center begins charging fees to your lease account and will likely try to contact you or your references. If Rent-A-Center cannot reach you and you do not bring your account current, the company may take you to civil court. The court will likely order you to pay the amount owed on your lease, but in some cases (in states where it is allowed), you could face jail time if you do not abide by the court order. Generally, Rent-A-Center will work with customers who communicate clearly and who try to keep their accounts current. If you cannot make your payments, your best option may be to return the item and pause your lease.
For more about Rent-A-Center’s policies, see our comparison of Rent-A-Center vs. Aaron’s.