Debtors facing harassment by creditors have a couple of options to fight back.
December 04, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Options in the fight against creditor harassment
Article provided by Wyatt & Gracey, PC
Visit us at http://www.wyattpllc.com
If you are one of the millions who have fallen behind on their bills, you are likely receiving phone calls from collection agencies. Although some debt collectors maintain a professional attitude, many engage in tactics that cross the bounds of decency and fair treatment. Although you may think that putting up with creditor harassment is part of the deal when you are delinquent with your bills, this is not the case. There are legal protections in place regardless of whether you file for bankruptcy.
Protection without bankruptcy
Although bankruptcy offers many additional protections, it is not necessary to avail yourself of it to receive protection from creditor harassment. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) protects everyone from abusive, unfair or misleading debt collection tactics during the collection of a personal or household (but not business) debt.
Under the act, debt collectors are prohibited from engaging in the following practices:
-Calling you excessively or at inconvenient times (before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.)
-Using obscene language or threats of imprisonment or harm if the debt is not paid
-Threatening to file a lawsuit, garnish your wages or seize your property if it is not permitted by law or there is no intention to do so
-Contacting you if you are represented by an attorney
The FDCPA gives you a powerful right if you experience any of these tactics--the right to file a lawsuit for damages. Under the law, you may recover any losses that you suffered because of the debt collector's illegal behavior. If you did not have any losses, the law allows you to collect up to $1,000 per violation. In addition, you can recover court costs and attorneys' fees that you incur by filing the lawsuit.
Debtors who file for bankruptcy gain protections from creditor harassment over and above the FDCPA. Once bankruptcy is filed, the most important protection kicks in--the automatic stay. Once the stay is in effect, creditors are legally prohibited from taking any action to collect the filer's debts. This means that debt collectors may not call you, send letters or attempt to repossess your property, unless the Bankruptcy Court lifts the stay.
If the debt collector disregards the stay, serious consequences can result. For one, debtors are entitled to file a lawsuit against the debt collector to recover damages and attorneys' fees. In cases where the conduct was especially malicious, the debtor may also recover punitive damages and damages for emotional distress. In addition, since the automatic stay is a court order, the debt collector can also face additional fines and sanctions for contempt of court.
For most creditors, the automatic stay prohibitions last throughout the entire bankruptcy process. If the underlying debt is discharged in bankruptcy, the creditor may not attempt to collect it even after the bankruptcy has ended.
Consult an attorney
If you are experiencing creditor harassment, contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney to learn more about your rights. Aside from asserting your protections under the FDCPA, an attorney can advise you on the debt relief option that would best alleviate your challenging financial circumstances.
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