Radcliff Creditor Harassment Defense Attorneys
Protecting Hardin County Clients from Creditor Harassment
No one wants to have outstanding debts. Unfortunately, you may at some point be in a position where you are delinquent on one or more loans and be unable to immediately pay. When a debt goes unpaid for a certain period of time, a lender may contact you directly asking about payment. They might also hire a collections agency to routinely and aggressively demand what is owed, which can quickly devolve into creditor harassment.
Left unchecked, creditors may attempt to bother you at work, call at inconvenient hours, or even ask your colleagues about your ability to repay. You do not have to tolerate creditor harassment, as federal protections entitle you to certain rights, even when you owe a substantial sum to one or more lenders. Our Radcliff creditor harassment defense lawyers at Musselwhite Meinhart & Staples can help protect you from the worst debt collection practices and help you explore options for regaining control of your finances, including through bankruptcy. We have decades of experience of communicating with collection agents and can efficiently and effectively curb abusive and unlawful actions.
Your Rights Under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (ACT) is a federal law that limits how and when a collection agent can contact you about an outstanding debt. Its goal is to protect you from creditor harassment.
Debt collectors and collection agents tend to prey on debtors not understanding their rights under the ACT. This means they may attempt to violate one or more of the ACT’s provisions in an effort to get you to repay your debts. Naturally, you would pay your debts if you could, but it can be understandably easy to feel bad about falling behind. That does not mean you should let debt collectors take over your life or violate your rights.
Under the ACT, the following actions are defined as creditor harassment:
- Debt collectors cannot call you at an inappropriate hours. This is more specifically defined as between the hours of 9 PM and 8 AM, local time. Calling in the middle of the night or at the crack of dawn can sometimes be used as a tactic to upset or frustrate you.
- Debt collectors cannot inform your neighbors, friends, colleagues, or anyone else that you owe a debt. Your business is between you and the lender, and it is unlawful for a debtor to attempt to shame or manipulate you by going through your peers.
- Debt collectors cannot call you at work if they are informed you cannot accept personal calls. Many employers do not allow their employees to take personal calls on the clock, no matter how important. If you inform a debt collector that your boss prohibits these kinds of calls, the collector is lawfully required to stop. Similarly, they cannot attempt to intimidate you by informing your boss of a debt. The only exception is if they have a court-order to render wage garnishment.
- Debt collectors can by default only contact your employer once and can only attempt to reach you. If a debt collector is trying to track you down and learns of your place of employment, they are permitted to contact your employer in order to get in touch with you once. They are also not permitted to discuss the existence or details of the debt. They can only ask how to reach you.
- Debt collectors cannot contact you directly if you inform them you have legal representation. Once you inform a debt collector that you have retained a lawyer to represent you, they are no longer permitted to contact you directly. All communications must go through your legal representation instead.
- Debt collectors cannot continue to contact you if you ask them to stop. This one is important, and many debtors do not realize they have this ability. If you tell a debt collector to cease contacting you by phone or in writing, they are legally obligated to honor your request and stop communications. Keep in mind this only applies to the specific debt collector or collections agency you told to stop. If you have other debts with other debt collectors, they can continue until you also tell them to stop.
If you have been the subject of creditor harassment, your rights could have been violated if one or more debt collectors participated in any of the unlawful behaviors listed above. Our Radcliff creditor harassment defense attorneys can help advise on next steps if creditors continue to violate your rights. The good news is there is a legally binding way to enforce your rights under the ACT, though they can potentially spur separate and unintended consequences.
Using Stop Letters to Enforce Your Rights in Kentucky
To ensure a collections agent stops contacting you, you should submit a “stop letter” in writing to their address through certified mail. This stop letter acknowledges that the debt collector has been in touch with you but requests that they cease all written and verbal communications under the rules of the ACT.
It is important to send a stop letter by mail (versus asking a collector to stop calling over the phone) because the document is trackable. When told to stop verbally, some unscrupulous debt collectors will sometimes pretend they misunderstood or did not hear. Keep a copy of the letter and records of when you sent it.
Once a stop letter has been received, a debt collector has the right to send one final communication acknowledging their receipt of the document and outlining next steps the debt collector plans to take involving the outstanding debt. This follow-up might include a warning to what will happen if you continue to not settle the debt. Depending on the nature of the loan or agreement, if the debt is not paid by a specific date, you may be subject to a lawsuit. You should take the threat of a lawsuit very seriously, as it can result in foreclosure, property repossession, wage garnishment, and more.
How Bankruptcy Can Help You Fight Creditor Harassment
If you are being hounded by creditors, you, by definition, have one or more significant outstanding debts. While you are able to put a stop to the immediate effects of creditor harassment through stop letters and enforcing your rights under the ACT, these actions do not eliminate your debts or prevent your lenders from filing lawsuits against you.
In order to put a stop to creditor harassment once and for all, you will need to get on top of your debts and build a more sustainable financial future. This can potentially be accomplished through filing for bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy allows you to discharge unsecured debts, which can relieve you of a great bulk of your financial burden. Chapter 7 bankruptcy involves a liquidation process, in which nonexempt assets are sold to partially repay creditors. Chapter 13 bankruptcy restructures your outstanding debts into a single monthly repayment plan you will follow for 3 to 5 years.
One of bankruptcy’s most powerful benefits is the automatic stay, a court order that triggers shortly after you file that halts all collection actions. In other words, once you file for either type of consumer bankruptcy, creditors are no longer able to contact you or otherwise ask you to repay debts.
Successfully completing the bankruptcy will likely result in many or all of the debts they are attempting to collect being discharged. If they are seeking secured debts, which are not dischargeable in a bankruptcy, you will still have a substantial amount of time to reorganize your finances and raise the necessary funds. Keep in mind the automatic stay stays active as long as your bankruptcy does, meaning if you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you could have as many as 5 years of no creditor harassment.
It is important to track instances of unlawful creditor harassment ahead of filing for bankruptcy. Zealous creditors will sometimes argue against a bankruptcy filing in court. Having evidence suggesting creditors harassed a filer and violated the ACT can make the difference in a bankruptcy proceeding without issue.
Get Help with Creditor Harassment
It can be easy to feel isolated if you have multiple debt collectors chasing you for money you do not have. Even with the rights afforded to you under the ACT, fighting the collection agents can feel hopeless if you know you will not be able to immediately repay the underlying debt. Our Radcliff creditor harassment defense lawyers at Musselwhite Meinhart & Staples are determined to help you get back on your feet and stop aggressive collectors once and for all. We can help evaluate whether bankruptcy makes sense for you and leverage your filing to keep creditors off your back through the automatic stay. Our team has over 100 years of legal experience and knows how to stop the worst of harassment in the short- and long-term.
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