Articles Posted in Creditor Harassment

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pastdue-150x150If you fall very far behind on your credit card payments, or any other kind of debt for that matter, your debt might appear as having been charged-off on your credit report. A charge-off occurs when you are at least 180 days behind on your credit card payments, and the bank decides that the debt is no longer collectible and decides to write it off as a loss. However, this does not mean you no longer owe the debt. You are still 100% responsible for the debt. But what do you do and what should you expect?

The debt will have to be repaid.

At first, you might think that it is a good thing that your debt has been charged-off and you might even think that you no longer owe the debt. Unfortunately, when your bank decides your account is uncollectible, that is simply an accounting term. It in no way affects your liability for the entire debt owed. However, there is one caveat. The bank can only collect on the debt until the statute of limitations expires. In Florida, the statute of limitations for a credit card debt is five years. Continue reading →

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debtWhen thinking about filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Jacksonville, Florida, not knowing or understanding the Jacksonville Bankruptcy Process can make filing bankruptcy seem very overwhelming and scary. Not only are Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorneys asked about what to expect after filing bankruptcy; they are also asked what clients should and should not do before filing for bankruptcy. In order to help you better understand the Jacksonville Bankruptcy Process, please see below for a general timeline of events you should be familiar with.

6 to 8 Years Before Filing a Jacksonville Chapter 7 Bankruptcy:

If you filed a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy before AND received a discharge of your debts, then you will not be eligible to file a new Chapter 7 Bankruptcy before eight years after you filed your previous Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

If you filed a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy AND received a discharge, you might be able to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy after six years if you paid a minimum of 70% of your unsecured claims.

1 Year Before Filing:

Your Bankruptcy Trustee can look back as far as one year for debts paid back to relatives or close business partners. What this means is that a payment made to a relative or business partner could be construed as a preferential payment over your other creditors. If this should happen, the Court could take the payment back from them in order to distribute it evenly to all of your other creditors.

This same concept holds true if you have tried to hide your assets from your creditors by transferring, destroying or hiding any of your property within one year of filing Bankruptcy. In this situation, the Trustee might deny a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy discharge and/or recover the property.

However, your Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney may prefer that you wait two years to ensure there are no issues when you do file. Continue reading →

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You have already filed and completed a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. All of your unsecured debts have either been paid off or discharged and all of your secured debts (such as your mortgage) are current. You found the light at the end of your financial debt tunnel. In addition to your mortgage, you have been approved for a couple of new credit cards and a personal loan. You are able to make all payments very easily. Then, very unexpectedly, you are laid off from your job or are forced to take a pay cut. You can no longer afford to continue to pay your mortgage along with the credit cards and personal loan. Your creditors are already sending you harassing letters in the mail and calling your phone multiple times a day. You are devastated. You worked so hard to get out of your financial crisis only to find yourself in another one. You need bankruptcy protection NOW. You find out that your income is now low enough to qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. So you think you’ll just file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, reaffirm your mortgage, and be ok. Right? You meet with a bankruptcy attorney to get the process started only to find out you cannot file a Chapter 7; at least, not yet.

The good news is that you can definitely file bankruptcy again, but there are very strict time limits that must be followed if you have already received a Chapter 13 discharge. In order to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you must wait 6 years from when you filed your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, but you only have to wait 2 years from when you filed your Chapter 13 in order to file another Chapter 13. Therefore, you can usually file for another Chapter 13 immediately after receiving a Chapter 13 discharge, since Chapter 13 Plans generally last between three and five years.

In the above scenario, you filed your first Chapter 13 Bankruptcy on August 15, 2013. Today is October 29, 2015, just over 2 years later. Therefore, you cannot yet file a Chapter 7, but you can file another Chapter 13 in order to receive bankruptcy protection now from your harassing creditors.

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The thought of having to file bankruptcy can be very scary. There are a lot of unknowns at first. One of the biggest unknowns is determining when it is time to finally give up, throw in the towel and actually declare bankruptcy. Meeting with an experienced bankruptcy attorney can be very helpful, but if you are not quite ready to speak with an attorney, here are a few questions to ask yourself if you are trying to decide if you should file bankruptcy now.

  1. Are you only able to make your minimum credit card payments or no payments at all?
  2. Are your wages being garnished by a Wage Garnishment Order?
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debt-collector-madCreditor Harassment During Bankruptcy

When you file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, something called an automatic stay is put in place as soon as you file. This Automatic Stay prevents your creditors from continuing to try and collect a debt from you, but unfortunately your creditors will most likely not stop harassing you and trying to collect from you the moment you file for bankruptcy. This is because it takes the Bankruptcy Court a few days to prepare your Notice of Bankruptcy and to then mail it to all of your creditors. If, however, your creditors continue to harass you after a reasonable time has passed for them to receive notice of your bankruptcy from the Bankruptcy Court, then they are most likely in violation of the Automatic Stay, provided the debt falls into one of the very limited exceptions: criminal matters, child support, alimony, taxes, certain evictions, ect.

So what should you do if a creditor is still harassing you? The first thing you should do is to let the creditor who is harassing you know that you have filed bankruptcy. You can do this verbally over the phone, or by writing. For example, you can write that you filed bankruptcy on their bill and mail it back to them. Letting the creditor know you have filed bankruptcy stops the contact in the majority of instances. These initial contacts from your creditors shortly after filing bankruptcy are generally just mistakes, which is often due to the creditor’s system not having been updated with the Notice of Bankruptcy they received. It is not yet time to be alarmed, but it is important to keep a log of their contacts with you.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for money.jpgCreditors have hounded you for months. Your bills have been piling up, but you have finally saved enough money to pay off one of your debts in full. You feel some relief because you have finally made a step towards getting out of debt. However, something happens and you are forced to file bankruptcy just three months later. Your bankruptcy trustee may now consider the payment you made a preferential payment, because you paid one debt off in full while giving nothing to your other creditors.

When a debtor declares bankruptcy, he or she is not allowed to show preference to any one creditor and must divide their assets equally among all creditors. This means that if a debtor pays one creditor in full (6 months prior to filing bankruptcy if a normal creditor and 1 year if a family member) the creditor may be forced to give the money back to the bankruptcy trustee.

11 U.S.C. § 547 defines preference as:

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People who are in debt are likely use to receiving constant phone calls and mailings from creditors. However, once a person files for bankruptcy this constant contact should come to a halt. If you still receive phone calls and mails from a creditor this, may be a form of harassment and you have certain rights.

Under U.S. Law, when a debtor files for bankruptcy one benefit he or she receives is creditors must stop all collection efforts against the debtor. Creditors who try to collect a debt during a bankruptcy or after a discharge is in violation of Federal bankruptcy law. When a bankruptcy is filed, an automatic stay prevents most creditors from continuing collection actions against a debtor. A debtor who continues to be contacted by a creditor, should contact their attorney’s office so the attorney can warn the creditor of a potential violation of the debtor’s automatic stay. The debtor should keep the mailing received or make a record of the phone call.

If the creditor continues to send notice of the debt to the debtor after being warned, the creditor can be dragged in front of a bankruptcy judge. This form of harassment is illegal, and no judge will be happy a creditor continued to contact a debtor after being notified of a bankruptcy filing. A judge will often order the creditor directly to stop.

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Payday loans are small, short-term, unsecured loans often known as cash advances. These loans usually rely on the consumer having previous payroll and employment records. Payday loans are risky. The default rate on these loans has been reported to be as high as 10-20 due to high interest rates. In most cases, debtors can discharge payday loans through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or a portion of the debt through Chapter 13.

Before a debtor files for bankruptcy due to a payday loan, he or she should ensure the loan came from a Florida Licensed lender. In Florida, there are a number of restrictions on these loans that include not lending more than $500, and not lending to a person who already possesses an outstanding payday loan. State statutes limit the fees charged on a payday loan to 10% of the total loan amount. This is the interest rate for the specific loan term, not an annual interest rate. If the borrower cannot pay back the payday lender, the lender is limited to demanding the original amount lent plus the 10% fee, simple costs, and any bad check fees imposed by the bank. The lender cannot charge the borrower any other costs unless a court rules otherwise.

Payday lenders may be able to successfully object to a borrower’s payday loan being discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy under certain circumstances. This usually happens if the borrower received a loan from the payday lender within 70-90 days prior to filing their bankruptcy. The lender may argue to the court the borrower took the loan with no intention of paying it back.

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Debtor's Prison, Bankruptcy, Collection PracticesWe all believed that debtor’s prisons were things of the past but in light of the recent arrest of an Illinois state citizen over a medical bill for $280 dollars, it’s apparent that debtor prisons have not yet resigned themselves to the history books.

Lisa Lindsay, like many women in the United States contracted breast cancer. After surviving the ordeal she was sent a bill for $280. Lindsay was told she didn’t have to pay the bill as it was sent in error, yet the hospital sold the debt to a collection agency. State troopers then took her from her home in handcuffs by which time she ended up having to pay $600 to settle the charges. I have written on this subject before, but the instances of arrest have increased as debt collectors have gotten more aggressive.

The law in most states allows for the arrest of people for contempt of court. Contempt of court is what gives the court the ability to arrest those who don’t pay their child support. What happens in these cases is the collector getting an order for the debtor to perform some action (typically provide payroll records). When the debtor doesn’t provide them, they are found in contempt of court and a warrant is issued for their arrest. The problem is that in the cases where people are being arrested the vast majority of the debtor’s addresses for notice are incorrect. This leads to people being arrested for not providing documents they didn’t know they were ordered to provide. Some states, such as Illinois, are amending their procedures to require that these debtors be served with papers before an order of contempt can be issued. This should minimize arrests for those states, however most of them, including Florida, remain without these protections.

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Debt Collection, Secured Debt, Unsecured Debt, Procedure, Debt DefenseThese days, debts are bought and sold like stocks. By the time a debt collector files suit against you, they may be the third or fourth agency to hold your debt. Generally, this is a good thing because Debt collectors assume that they will be able to win by default in nearly all of their cases. As a result, these collectors rarely keep proper documentation (or don’t even get it in the first place).

Adopted by nearly every state, the Uniform Commercial Code sets forth requirements that must be met by a secured creditor before they can assess a deficiency against a debtor. There are varieties of other provisions that can be used to protect consumers: the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Federal Truth in Lending Act, etc. One of the most powerful protections a consumer has is the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. When one knows how to get evidence and how to present pleadings properly, the strength of a case is greatly amplified.

When a collector files a complaint with the court, they must have the debtor served at their last known address. There are a variety of defenses that can be used: Perhaps the collector hasn’t properly shown that they are owed the debt, perhaps the debt amount has been improperly calculated, perhaps the debtor isn’t even the right person -the list goes on and on. What is important to keep in mind is that a lack of action on the part of the defense means that they consent to the facts alleged. This is called a default judgment. Default judgments are difficult, though not always impossible to “re-open” and work out properly. It’s far easier to defend such a case if counsel is sought prior to a judgment being obtained, preferably before the initial twenty days after service of process has occurred. By getting into a case early, a lawyer will almost invariably have a better chance at defeating the complaint and may be able to get attorneys fees or file a counter-claim for damages (suing the person who is suing you).

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