The question of what is or isn't legal or legitimate for a particular
circumstance in the state of Virginia is one that, ultimately, can
only be decided by the appropriate Virginia courts. The same holds
true for your specific questions about what part of the balance,
charges and fees -- if any -- you are responsible for...only the
courts can decide this.
Hopefully, you and the furniture seller can settle the matter between
you long before the courts and lawyers get involved.
Before discussing your situation, though, let me point out the
disclaimer at the bottom of the page, here. Google Answers is no
substitute for professional legal advice, so be sure to take all the
information here with the appropriate grains of salt. That said,
there are some steps you should consider to help resolve the
First of all, have you let the furniture dealer know that you are
willing to make a full payment on the amount due for the furniture
itself? If you haven't, you might want to pick up the phone and have
that conversation. Once the seller knows that you are willing to make
a prompt payment for the remainder of the cost of the furniture, they
may be willing to drop demands for any additional fees in order to
close the matter out, and receive their cash.
If they insist on collecting the late fees, as well, you'll have to
decide how adamant you want to be on that topic. An offer of a
partial payment of the fees may help to resolve things...even if it
seems unfair to you, sometimes it's just the most pragmatic thing to
do to avoid a prolonged battle over the account.
From a legal point of view, it's not at all clear if you and the
seller had a recognizable contract between you. When you purchased
the furniture, did you sign any papers? It would certainly be unusual
if you didn't, but not unheard of. If you did sign papers, they
probably contain some details as to a payment schedule, interest rates
on unpaid accounts, late fees, and so on.
If such papers were part of the process, and if you signed them, then
pretty much the seller is holding all the cards, and you are beholden
to the terms of the contract.
If, on the other hand, there is no written contract, then you might be
in a sort of legal no-man's land. There are several
legally-recognized categories that are something short of a formal
contract. In Virginia, probably the most common of these is known as
an "open account", which is largely a "good faith" agreement, without
any formal language underlying buyer or seller responsibilities.
If this is the case, then you and the seller will need to come to a
common understanding of how to best resolve your situation, or else
the courts will likely be asked to intervene, and make the decision
for you. There are no hard an fast rules that I know of for you to
fall back on, in terms of who bears what responsibilities in
situations like these.
The seller may also turn to the services of a professional collection
agency, which, if nothing else, will prove to be a great annoyance.
In either case, if you can't work out the situation through a common
understanding, then you may find you'll need some assistance from a
lawyer, or from a consumer assistance type of organization.
I've provided a few links, below, to additional information about
Virginia law as it applies to situations like yours, as well as to
some organizations that may be able to offer some assistance.
If there's anything else you need, though, just let me know by posting
a Request for Clarification, and I'm at your service.
Best of luck,
Additional sources of information:
Open Account Under Virginia Law
[provides additional details about the differences between a formal
contract and an open account]
A DEFENDANT?S STEP-BY-STEP PROCESS THROUGH VIRGINIA?S GENERAL DISTRICT COURT
[covers the process for responding to a "Warrant in Debt", a legal
claim that you own money]
WARRANT IN DEBT
[shows what a Warrant in Debt form actually looks like]
The Office of Consumer Affairs
Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
[They can offer assistance in helping to resolve your situation. Note
that you can also search their "Complaints" file to see if any other
people have complained about the business in question, and if so, how
those complaints were resolved.]
A Civil Operations Manual For Virginia?s General District Court
[This is a pretty legalistic resource, but it covers a lot of
territory about consumer rights, responsibilities, and the legal
process to defend oneself. See, especially, the section at the end on
Again, let me know if there's anything else you need on this, and best of luck.