At Mearkle | Trueblood | Adam, we work with a lot of clients that are currently having trouble making payments on debts owed or have had such troubles in the past. The reasons for these difficulties are varied – from market changes to job loss to a bad deal to excessive medical expenses to simply taking on to many debts. Whatever the cause, such financial difficulties often lead to dreaded, persistent efforts from creditors to collect.
We’ve found that many consumers don’t know the debtor rights and legal protections designed to help protect them from harassing behavior of creditors and allow them to address their debts with dignity. A few of the key laws all consumers should be familiar with:
Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA)
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prevents a host of unfair debt collection actions by creditors that largely seek to prohibit three categories of actions: harassment and abuse; false or misleading representations; and unfair practices. For example, falsely representing that certain documents are legal process is prohibited as is making phone calls without disclosing the caller’s identity.
Minor financial remedies are available for consumers subjected to practices by creditors that violate the FDCPA; however, the Act is often more valuable as a bargaining tool in negotiating with creditors.
Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA)
The contours of this act can be found in Fla. Stat. §559.55 et. seq. The act sets out 19 different types of collection practices that are prohibited including strong-arm tactics debt collectors are notorious for employing. Some of the specifically prohibited acts include:
- pretending to be a government official,
- threatening violence,
- threatening to make non-consensual disclosures to the debtors employer,
- and using “profane, obscene, vulgar, or willful abusive” language.
The scope of the Florida Act is broader than the FDCPA, applying to creditors and debt collectors. In other respects, the act is intended to be consistent with the FDCPA and if the two are found inconsistent in a particular application, the FCCPA expressly provides that the law more protective of the consumer should be applied.
Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
Persistent phone calls have historically been one of the most common means of attempting to collect a debt and one of the most commonly abused means. The harassment rose to a new level when robocalls, automated, prerecorded phone calls to consumers, came into the debt collection scene. The TCPA seeks to crack down on the abusive practice, hard. Debt collectors that makes impermissible robocalls to consumer cell phones to collect a debt are liable to the consumer for $500 per call or if the action was willful, $1,500 per call.
As discussed in an earlier blog, this is the act one couple used to obtain a judgment in excess of $1 million from Bank of America because of its harassing phone calls attempting to collect mortgage payments.
Protecting Your Debtor Rights in Foreclosure & Bankruptcy
Sometimes these debtor rights laws can be utilized as partial defenses, negotiating leverage, or counterclaims against the creditor in foreclosure or other proceedings seeking to collect a debt. Other times, actions under them must be independent.
The Jacksonville debtor rights attorneys at Adam Law Group help clients obtain permanent resolution to their debt collection woes in two ways: defending against foreclosure actions (or working out alternative deals with lenders) and representing clients in bankruptcy. If you are having trouble paying your debt, contact us today to discuss your option