A major source of stress experienced by those in financial straits is produced by the creditors and bill collectors who mercilessly hound the consumer for payment, often resorting to threats, public embarrassment and other harassing tactics. The Fishback Law Corp in Irvine helps people throughout Orange County and Southern California put an end to creditor harassment with the help of legal protections such as the automatic stay in bankruptcy and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The Automatic Stay in Bankruptcy
As soon as you file for bankruptcy, your creditors are put on notice about the filing, and any collection efforts are automatically stayed (stopped) during the bankruptcy proceeding. The automatic stay is a feature of all types of bankruptcy, including Chapter 7, Chapter 13, and Chapter 11, and applies to both consumer and business bankruptcies.
The automatic stay means that all attempts to collect a debt must stop. This includes letters and phone calls, wage garnishments, lawsuits, repossessions and foreclosures. Once in bankruptcy, it is up to the bankruptcy court to decide which debts will be paid and in what order, and which debts will be discharged, so that any collection efforts during this time would frustrate the purpose of the bankruptcy proceeding. A creditor who wishes to resume collection efforts must first apply to the court for relief from the Automatic Stay, and it is up to the court to decide whether to grant relief from the Automatic Stay.
The Automatic Stay is one of the most important features of the bankruptcy process. Consumers at the end of their rope from stress and worry find immediate relief from the pressure of bill collectors breathing down their necks.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Even outside of bankruptcy, there are laws which limit the kind of conduct bill collectors can engage in. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), otherwise known as the Rosenthal Act, bill collectors may not:
- Call you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., or at other times you have told them it is inconvenient to call
- Call or visit you at work if you have told them your employer does not allow it
- Continue to call you after you have told them to stop, except for certain limited purposes allowed by law
- Call you just to annoy or harass you
- Call you without identifying themselves
- Publish your name on a list of people who owe money
- Contact your co-workers, neighbors or relatives about your debt, except to locate you, and they are very restricted about what they can say in such situations
- Have contact with you if you are represented by an attorney
- Threaten violence
- Use obscene or profane language
- Make false or misleading representations
- and much more
Debt collectors who violate this law can be sued for money damages, including your attorney’s fees and court costs. This law only applies to professional bill collectors and not to the original creditor, such as a credit card company, furniture store, or doctor’s office.
The stress stops here
Sleepless nights and endless worry can cause real physical ailments and put a strain on your ability to function from day to day and enjoy time with your family. We want to help you relieve those financial pressures and take back control of your finances and your life. In Orange County and throughout Southern California, contact the Fishback Law Corp for assistance.