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Has Bankruptcy Reform Reduced The Number Of Filings?

When Congress overhauled the bankruptcy laws about 10 years ago, the goal was to provide a higher percentage of repayment of at least a portion of some debts, crack down on abusive filings, and to reduce the overall number of consumers seeking the protection of bankruptcy. An elaborate mathematical computation was put in place that dictates what type of bankruptcy a person is allowed to file, and other changes as to exemptions and the amount that must be repaid for certain pieces of collateral (like cars) was changed. The result of the new law was confusion. Too many Courts were unclear on how to apply the new rules, and as a result there has been abundant litigation regarding several key bankruptcy issues. But, perhaps the most interesting thing is in figuring out if the changes had an impact on the volume of filings.

While in the year immediately after reform the number of cases decreased, the same cannot be said of the years following:

●          Just five short years ago, the number of filings was up by over 1/3.

  • California leads the pack with the number of filings, at close to 60,000 in a single quarter!
  • In just the middle district of Florida, the number of filings in the first five months of 2015 topped 10,000.

These numbers show reform had an impact on the number of filings, but only initially. As more issues are decided, and the rules made clearer, more people are considering bankruptcy as an option. Of the number of cases filed, nearly 100% of them are by individuals and families. The latest information is that 98% of filings fall in this category, and of those 65% of them are the more desirable Chapter 7. The bottom line is that when the economy is sluggish, people will use bankruptcy as a way to manage overwhelming debt. We have a handle on all the changes, and even evolving local rules and procedures and can help you take charge of your financial future. Call us today to find out more about bankruptcy as a solution to burdensome debt.

 

If you have questions about bankruptcy, call our office for answers. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

Are Overdraft Charges Collectible?

Having too little money in the bank can result in checks or charges from your debit card going unpaid. This is referred to as having insufficient funds, and the situation can be made worse by the lending institution’s charge of a fee for having an item presented to them without enough funds to cover the amount. All of the sudden you not only owe the original charge, but also a fee to your bank. If there are more than one items sent back for insufficient funds, the fees quickly add up and pretty soon your account balance can reach drastically negative levels.

A question that frequently arises in cases like this is whether the bank is entitled to collect the overdraft fee? Well, in some instances what has happened is that after consumer simply stop using the account, a debt buyer comes along and buys the debt for pennies on the dollar. Thereafter, collection efforts ensue. In order to avoid this happening to you, there are options at your bank, when setting up your account. These include:

  • Opting out of the ability your bank has to accept an item when funds are too low to cover the amount. This would mean your bank refuses to honor the charge, and the only entity seeking payment is the vendor.
  • Overdraft protection, which works to have funds automatically transferred from another account to your checking account when an item is presented and funds are too low.

It is important to set up a checking account in a way that works for you. If you do run into trouble, it matters who is doing the collecting when it comes to terms of what law is followed. In the debt buyer situation, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act must be followed, because the debt buyer is not the original creditor. However, if the bank is seeking repayment, the FDCPA does not apply because the bank is the original creditor. This distinction is important because certain protections are given to consumers by the FDCPA which are not present when the collector is the original lender. For more information on what to do about overdraft charges, call our office.

 

If you facing collection of NSF fees, call a knowledgeable attorney to discuss your options. We can help you understand your choices and make a decision that works for you. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

Does State Or Federal Law Govern Debt Collections?

If you are unable to meet your monthly obligations as they become due, you may be facing a foreclosure or wage garnishment. The hardship these circumstances can create on you and your family is great, and this is all the more true when a debt collector engages in harsh or abusive debt collection practices. Fortunately, there are laws in place to protect consumers from harassment through debt collection, and if you are a victim of harassment you should stand up for yourself.

While each state has its own version of consumer protection laws in place, the main law that governs debt collections is federal. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits the following things:

●          Misleading communication from a debt collector.

  • A misstatement about the amount due, or a demand for immediate payment. You are required to be given 30 days to dispute the validity of the debt, and also to ask for identification of the original creditor.
  • Abusive or harassing debt collection techniques, such as threats of jail time or physical harm for nonpayment.
  • An attempt to collect a debt that is not due, or that is outside the applicable statute of limitations for collection.

In order to determine if a debt collector has engaged in any of these practices, careful review is required. If you believe you are being treated unlawfully, send a written request that the collector “cease and desist” communication with you. Once you have done that, call our office. We will review the facts of your case, including any recordings of telephone calls between yourself and the collection agency as well as all documentation you’ve received. When we are able to identify a violation of the law, we will take steps to hold the collector accountable. You are entitled to damages for each violation committed, and the collector can also be held responsible for your attorney fees in having to fight for your rights.

If you have questions about collection practices, contact our office for help. We will explain your options, so you understand your choices and can make a decision that meets your needs. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

What Is Subprime Lending?

If you are in the market for a loan, it is important to know your options. Loans with the most favorable repayment terms are typically given to those with the best credit ratings. However, this does not mean a person with a few dings to their credit cannot obtain financing. Alternative forms of lending are available, many of them through a subprime lender. Before agreeing to take out a loan with a subprime lender though, check around and know the facts.

Subprime lending is defined as a loan that is made at an interest rate above the prime rate. Reasons why a lender might offer a subprime loan include:

●          Poor repayment history, or too many delinquent accounts on your credit.

●          A low credit score.

●          A foreclosure or bankruptcy appearing on your credit.

●          A history of late payments.

If subprime loans are offered at higher rates, you might be wondering why it would be beneficial to agree to these loans. The answer depends on your circumstances. If you are fresh out of bankruptcy, a subprime loan can be a good way for you to being rebuilding credit. This is, of course, provided you make timely repayment and don’t default on the note. A subprime loan may also have a rate that is actually lower than some credit card rates. If that is the case, this type of loan can be used to pay off the higher rate card and actually end up saving you money in interest. As with all lending, the key is to find a loan that fits your budget, and to stick to your budget. If your credit is less than perfect, and most people’s credit falls into this category, a subprime loan may be your ticket to getting the funds you need for emergencies and the necessities of life. After a history of good repayment on a subprime loan, your credit can improve to the point where you begin qualifying for more traditional loans. When that happens, you are able to keep more of your hard earned money in the bank and can begin building a nest egg for your financial needs rather than taking out any loan.

 

If you have questions about subprime lending, let an experienced attorney help you. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

Do I Have To Go To Mediation To Save My Home?

With a large part of the American public facing foreclosure, a question that frequently arises is how the case gets resolved. Some cases go to trial, with the homeowner challenging the foreclosure as wrongful. Still yet, some cases are settled out of court through arbitration or mediation. There is always more than one way to get something done, and saving your home from foreclosure is no exception.

In Florida, a program has been put in place for mediation of foreclosures. The process is aimed at keeping the owner in their home, and does so by:

● Seeking modification of the mortgage loan.

● Getting the lender to agree to place deferred payments at the end of the loan, and allow the borrower to resume payments without a delinquency.

● Working towards a reduced interest rate, which results in lower payments that are more manageable for the homeowner.

Being ordered to participate in mediation does not necessarily mean the parties have to reach a resolution at the meeting. If the process does not yield results, the parties can ask the Court to make a decision. It is also possible to revisit the process at a later stage in the litigation. Sometimes what seemed like an unsatisfactory result can being to look more doable after more facts are revealed throughout the case. If you have exhausted your efforts in Court and at mediation and are still unable to formulate a plan with your lender that keeps a roof over your head, you can also consider restructuring your mortgage debt through a bankruptcy proceeding. Call our office for more information. We will explain your options so you can make an informed decision.

If you need help with saving your home, call our office. We explain the different processes, and help you reach results that fit the facts of your case. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

Is Bankruptcy The Answer To The Foreclosure Crisis?

Is it a buyer’s market, or a seller’s market? This is an important question if you are in the market for a house, or are trying to sell your home. But, it may not matter, and the foreclosure upswing the country saw a few years ago may be getting ready to hit again. When the economy slowed, thousands of homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure, or opted to file bankruptcy to avoid a foreclosure. In recent years, the market seems to have stabilized somewhat, but financial experts warn another round of foreclosures may be just around the corner.

A PBS report outlines the issues as follows:

● Many families are working multiple jobs, just to maintain mortgage payments.

● Most lenders are failing to work with struggling homeowners to lower interest rates, re-write loans, or reduce payments to a manageable level.

● When mortgage holders do seem helpful, the process is long and confusing, leaving many borrows uncertain as to the result.

The problem is the same now as it was then, most homes are valued at less than what is owed. This leaves owners unable to sell their property to get out from under the loan, and many lenders unwilling to help. One possible answer is to seek the protection of bankruptcy. When filing bankruptcy, a consumer can opt for a Chapter 13, which will allow the borrower to keep their home and pay only its value rather that what is due. This will ensure the lender receives at least a portion of what is owed, and will give the debtor a chance to regain financial footing.

If you are unable to meet your monthly obligations as they become due, call our office for help. We can help you stay in your home, and develop a budget that fits your financial situation. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

Can An Auto Lender Bait And Switch?

Predatory lending isn’t just for home loans, it is also typical when consumers visit the car lot. A common lending tactic among auto lenders is the “bait and switch”. What happens is that the lender lures in a potential buyer with a deal on a certain auto, then claims not to have finalized the financing and requires you to return to sign more papers. Most times this happens after you’ve driven off the lot!

The result of bait and switch financing is that you can be stuck with agreeing to a loan with less favorable terms, because you are left with no other choice. In most instances any trade in vehicle you had has been resold, and due to your need for transportation you agree to sign a contract for more money, or a higher interest rate. Other deceitful auto lending practices to watch for include:

● Multiple window stickers, with a manufacturer’s price as well as a sticker for dealer additions.

● Limited time offers.

● Undervaluing a trade in.

If you are asked to return to a dealership for any of these reasons, be sure to arrive prepared. Take a friend along with you, so you will have a witness who can corroborate your story at a later date. Also ask for the dealer to put their reasons for the need for a new loan in writing. This will give you the proof and evidence you need to hold the dealer accountable for unsavory lending practices if the transaction goes south. If you are informed the contract is no longer valid, be sure and request return of your down payment. If you do not receive your money back, and the dealer is unable to articulate a reason, you should seek the assistance of a qualified attorney immediately.

For assistance with auto lending bait and switch, or other bad lending tactics, call our office. We will review the facts of your case and develop a strategy that meets your needs. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

What To Do About A Privacy Breach?

With identify theft on the rise, and even recent breaches in security on the IRS’ website, it is important now more than ever to safeguard your financial data. Lenders are required to provide their privacy policies, and give you an opportunity to opt out of certain practices. One area you can advise your creditors to leave you out of is in the selling of your data to other entities. While the practice is common, and is used for things like marketing new products or services, it can leave you exposed and vulnerable to ID theft. You might also be a victim of stolen identity when there is a privacy breach of mass proportions. We’ve all heard the stories about certain credit card companies experiencing breaches, and warning their customers of possible leaks in information. The best thing to do in these circumstances is to close your account, or request a new card with a different number.

Other things you can do to protect your financial data include:

● Check your mail daily, so offers for credit don’t sit in your mailbox for an extended period of time.

● Stop your mail from delivery when you go on long vacations, or ask a trusted friend or family member to retrieve your mail regularly.

● Shred documents that contain your personal information before throwing them in the trash.

● Don’t carry your social security card in your purse or wallet.

● Never provide personal information over the phone, unless you initiated the call.

A regular checkup of your credit report can be helpful in identifying possible privacy breaches, and help you to catch a problem early. The sooner you take action, the sooner you can avoid damage to your credit and finances. If you believe you’ve been the victim of a privacy breach, call us to find out what to do next.

We will review the facts of your case and develop a strategy specifically tailored for your needs. We offer an individualized approach and work with you to reach satisfactory results. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

What Is Predatory Lending, And What Can I Do About It?

Everyone is out to make a profit, and this includes banks and other lenders. The way a lending institution makes money is by making loans. The interest received on loans that are not paid in full monthly adds up quickly, and is a major revenue source for creditors. This is why you receive “offers” in the mail for everything from car and home loans, to loans that will pay for your vacation. If you are able to make the payments, and the terms are favorable, this type of advertising is harmless. But, when the terms are unreasonable, or the lender deceives you into making the loan that problems arise.

The practice is referred to as predatory lending, and some of the signs include:

● Fees in excess of the standard fees for the type of loan, a loan made to someone with a credit score similar to yours, and a loan made in your geographic area.

● Penalties if you pay off the loan before its maturity date.

● Loans by companies that advertise things like “bad credit OK”.

When talking about a mortgage loan, if you are not given the chance to escrow your taxes and insurance you should also question whether the loan in question is the right one for you. It also a good idea to be wary of loan structures that pay off higher rate debts by repeated refinance attempts. The more often you rely on the equity in your home for income, the more likely you are to end up without any equity at all. This can make resale difficult, and leave you with few financial choices. Lenders that gloss over these concerns may be engaging in predatory lending, and you should get a second opinion. There are laws against these practices, and if you have been the target of a predatory lender, you can take action to recovery any damages you’ve suffered.

Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information on your legal options against a predatory lender. We help you understand the process and work towards results that make sense. Schedule an appointment to learn more.

 

 

Can Older Debtors Avoid Collection?

Having debt is not limited to a certain age group. This is especially true in today’s economy, where it is becoming more likely that people work well beyond retirement age in order to continue paying their bills. The law does not discriminate between who is sued for a delinquent debt, and who is not, just because of their age. The unfortunate result is that a good number of the elderly are being made to answer collection lawsuits, and they are doing so without fully arming themselves with the knowledge needed to obtain satisfactory results.

While the options to avoid collections may be limited, depending on your circumstances, there are some important things senior citizens should know about the process. Not only is social security not subject to attachment by a wage or bank garnishment, but there are other forms of income that are exempt. SSI is also not subject to being garnished, and it is also a form of supplemental income that should be explored in order to boost an elderly person’s bank account. SSI is available for:

● Blind, aged, or disabled persons with little to no income.

● Provides funds to meet basic needs.

Federal disability payments are also yours to keep, and cannot be garnished or taken from you. If you are being asked to make payments from any of these sources of income, or are being garnished and your only income are these sources, you can seek to have the monies returned to you. One way to avoid these consequences in the first place is to keep the lines of communication open with your creditors. Providing the information about the source of your income before legal action is taken may prevent a creditor from proceeding further. Before deciding how to respond to collection efforts, consult with a qualified debt relief attorney to learn your options.

If you have questions about how to avoid collections and what income sources are off limits, call our office for help. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.