FAQ Collection Harassment
Q – I am being illegally harassed every day by debt collection phone calls. What is the advantage of hiring you to file a lawsuit, rather than filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
A – Not everyone qualifies for this form of bankruptcy (Ch. 7), so your first hurdle is verifying that you qualify, then discuss with the bankruptcy attorney the use of exemptions to keep certain property after bankruptcy. If the debt collector is calling about a consumer debt subject to the harassment laws, then any consumer can go through this process. Indeed, this process has been specifically approved by Congress (in the federal statutes) and the California Legislature (in the state statutes). Also, going through bankruptcy prevents another Chapter 7 filing for eight years. In Chapter 7, almost all debts can be discharged and the calls cease immediately. In filing a harassment lawsuit, a valid debt would still be due, but the calls stop immediately and, in a settlement or a favorable money judgment, the consumer may recover his or her damages, possibly statutory damages, attorney’s fees and costs. Consult an attorney to explore this further, it is an important decision.
Q – Should I hang up or put up with a harassing debt collector, if I cannot afford the payments, but I don’t want to be sued?
A – Everyone is different, but we are all the same that we want a fair chance to pay our debts and none of us wants to put up with constant or severe harassment. Presently, the debt collection harassment statutes prohibit illegal harassment and empowers people, in my opinion, to not take it anymore! Enough is enough, just hang up the phone or let it go to voice mail and save those as evidence for a future lawsuit, possibly. In one case that I recall, the collectors were harassing my client to try to locate the vehicle that was in the contract as security. My client told them where it was, but they kept going to another address, then calling her back when they did not locate it. I would save all evidence of the calls, including the calling history from the Caller ID.
Q – How much will I need to pay up front have Robert Stempler represent me?
A – Nothing for debt collection harassment cases! Indeed, the costs, expenses and legal fees will be paid from any sums that we receive from the other side on an approved settlement or towards the final judgment. The statute provides that the consumer may recover his or her legal fees, costs and expenses, so I would not advise anyone to try to handle a debt collection harassment case without having an attorney on your side, with the possible exception of small claims court, if the debt collection agency is located in California.
Q – I received a debt collection letter, but I cannot afford their settlement. Can I make the debt collection agency settle for less? I heard they paid only a few cents on the dollar for the debt.
A– All agreements require the approval of both parties and there is no requirement that a debt collection agency accept what they paid for the account. However, there are ways to negotiate with a debt collector that may result in both sides approving a settlement. Debt collectors present two main challenges: (1) effectively communicating a settlement proposal so that is given due consideration by the collection agency and (2) properly writing up a settlement agreement, so that both sides approve the agreement in writing.