Know Your Rights
When people come into my office, one of the first things they talk about is the endless calls from debt collectors both at work and home. If you are receiving calls and letters from debt collectors on consumer debt i.e. debts incurred for personal, family and household purposes, here is the law you need know.
1. First Contact- The first communication to you by a debt collector whether on the phone or in writing, must (a) describe the purpose of that communication and (b) inform you that any information that it obtains from you will be used for collection of the debt.
2. Disclosure of Identity- Whenever a person representing a creditor or debt collection agency contacts you, the person must correctly identify himself and must not misrepresent himselfor the entity he represents.
3. Right to Dispute Debt- When a debt collection agency initially contacts you or within five days of the initial contact, it must notify you in writing of your right to dispute the debt and to obtain verification of the debt, and it must provide you with verification if you request it. If you do not believe the debt is enforceable i.e. the lender doesn’t have the original note, it was not properly perfected or the amount of the debt is incorrect, this is a right time to request verification and dispute the debt.
4. Right to Stop Communications- You havethe right to require a debt collection agency to stop contacting you!!! In addition, your spouse,parent (if the debtor is a minor) or guardian can also require that such communication stop. To do this, it is necessary that you ask the debt collection agency IN WRITING, to do so. While such a notice halts communications, it does not stop the debt collection agency from filing a lawsuit to collect on the debt.
5. Obligation to Respect Your Privacy – You absolutely have the right to specify what times are ok and what times are not ok for debt collectors to call you. Collectors are permitted to act on the assumption that anytime between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. debtor’s local time are convenient to the debtor, but a collector cannot assume that those times are ok once the debtor notifies the collector that any portion of that period is, in fact, inconvenient and unsuitable for the debtor. In addition, the debtor can also specifically request that the collector not contact the debtor at work.
6. Communications to Your Employer A collector may only communicate with your employer to verify your employment, to locate you, or to garnish your wages.
7. Communications with Family Members- A collector is prohibited, with certain exceptions, from attempting to collect a debt by communicating information regarding the debt to any of your family members. However, a collector can communicate with your spouse, can contact any family member to locate you and contact your parents if you reside with them. The California statute prohibiting contacting family members no longer applies once the debt becomes a judgment.
The above highlights your rights in California with respect to collection of consumer debts. If you are receiving calls and letters from debt collectors, I urge you to seek legal counsel before entering into any debt consolidation programs either with the lender or a third party. I see people every day for a FREE 30 minute consultation at my offices located in Walnut Creek, Antioch and Brentwood.
WE ARE A DEBT RELIEF AGENCY. WE HELP PEOPLE FILE BANKRUPTCY RELIEF UNDER THE BANKRUPTCY CODE. THIS INFORMATION IS NOT PROVIDED AS LEGAL ADVICE AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON IN MAKING ANY DECISION REGARDING A VOLUNTARY DEFAULT, SHORT SALE, FORECLOSURE OR BANKRUPTCY. THIS INFORMATION IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR OBTAINING TAX & LEGAL ADVICE REGARDING AN INDIVIDUAL SITUATION. © 2011 Joan Grimes