When is it Creditor Harassment in Pennsylvania?
People who owe others money are sometimes used to phone calls, emails, letters, or other communications from creditors and debt collectors. While creditors are allowed to collect the money owed to them, there are specific rules they must follow. When a debt collector’s behavior crosses the line into harassment or abuse, you have legal options. However, it might not be clear to you what is reasonable conduct and what behavior violates the law. The skilled bankruptcy attorneys at Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates help people facing financial crisis deal with harassing creditors. Below, our Philadelphia bankruptcy attorney looks at creditor conduct that constitutes harassment along with your legal options.
What is Creditor Harassment?
Creditor harassment occurs when a debt collector attempts to collect a debt through intimidation, abuse, coercion, or bullying a consumer to pay a debt. In most cases, harassment happens over the phone. However, harassment is not limited to phone calls, and a debt collector could also engage in these practices through email, text, mail, or by speaking with your family, friends, or neighbors about your debt.
Your creditors are permitted to recover the money you owe. They have many legal tools available, including filing a collection lawsuit. However, a creditor is prohibited from using deceptive practices of threats to collect a debt.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and Creditor Harassment in Pennsylvania
There is a federal law that protects people from harassing conduct by the creditors. The FDCPA provides strict guidelines that creditors must comply with to protect consumers’ rights.
The first important thing to understand about the FDCPA is that it does not apply to the original creditor. The law only limits the conduct of collection agencies or companies. According to FDCPA, a debt collector is prohibited from acting in a way that oppresses, harasses, humiliates, or abuses a person to collect a debt.
To further clarify what constitutes harassment, the law provides numerous examples. As you might expect, the threat of violence or other harm is strictly forbidden. Additionally, a debt collector is prohibited from using obscene or offensive language. In some situations, a debt collector will provide a debtor with misinformation regarding who they are, the legal status of the debt, or the amount owed. Our experienced Pennsylvania bankruptcy attorney can review your situation to determine whether your creditor’s behavior constitutes harassment under the law.
Legal Options to Stop Harassment by Creditors
It is possible to sue a debt collector that violates the FDCPA. It is important to remember that harassment does not mean you are no longer obligated to pay the debt. Therefore, it is essential not to ignore a court summons or other legal documents you might receive. In some cases, a person might receive a summons for a debt they do not owe. If you ignore it, you could have a judgment entered against you. Do not hesitate to contact our knowledgeable Bucks County bankruptcy attorney if a debt collector is suing you.
Filing a lawsuit under the FDCPA requires evidence. You should keep a log of all calls and correspondence from the harassing agency. Be sure to include what debt collector called, the date and time, and a detailed description of what was said. For example, if a debt collector claimed you could go to jail if you failed to pay the debt, be sure to include what they say. You should also save any letters and voicemails. A pattern of harassment is more compelling than one instance. Our Pennsylvania bankruptcy attorney will sometimes be able to negotiate a lower settlement with a creditor who does not want to face a court hearing. The FDCPA provides guidelines for potential damages, including attorney’s fees. In addition, you could be compensated for any out-of-pocket costs such as parking fees or missed time at work.
Bankruptcy and Creditor Harassment
One of the most effective ways to stop creditor harassment is filing for bankruptcy. While bankruptcy might be an alarming term to some, it was designed to help people facing difficult financial problems. When you file for bankruptcy, an automatic court injunction goes into effect that prohibits all your creditors from contacting you. This automatic stay not only prohibits harassing phone calls, letters, and emails, it prohibits any contact. Therefore, a phone call that would not be considered harassment under the FDCPA would violate the bankruptcy stay and open the creditor up to potential sanctions.
Before completing a bankruptcy filing, you could also obtain additional protections from harassment by retaining our Allentown, PA bankruptcy attorney. Once you have legal representation, your creditors and debt collectors should contact our office instead of you.
Another benefit of filing for bankruptcy is you can sue creditors who continue to harass you or ignore the automatic stay in Federal Bankruptcy Court. Depending on the frequency and severity of the harassing contact, the court could award you monetary damages for any violation. This is especially the case if the creditor or debt collector was aware of the bankruptcy filing. Whether you file for bankruptcy or not, your creditors are still required to adhere to the FDCPA.
Call Our Philadelphia Bankruptcy Attorney to Stop Harassing Creditors
If you are in debt, the pressure could feel overwhelming. When that pressure is multiplied by harassing creditor calls and contact, you might begin to feel even more hopeless. Debt collectors will sometimes use unfair and illegal tactics to try and make you pay a debt. The sympathetic Pennsylvania bankruptcy lawyers at Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates understand this feeling of helplessness. Fortunately, you have options in and outside of bankruptcy to put an end to harassing behavior. If you want to discuss your case, contact our Pennsylvania office at (215)710-6519, or if you are in New Jersey, call (609) 755-3115 to schedule a free consultation.