Debt Collectors...Don't Mess with Texas!

There are a few states that will not allow a debt collector to garnish wages, and Texas is one of them.  

If you live in Texas and have too much debt or are having trouble with debt collectors, here are some valuable tips that you need to know:

texas_flag.jpg

If you, or someone you know, has gone through a time where you were not able to keep up with your debts, then you also know how stressful it can be!

Add to that a debt collector who calls all the time and may even make threats as to what they can do to you if you don't pay, and, well, it is really a bad experience.

But, if you live in Texas (and this will help everyone else as well), I have some good news and tips for dealing with and going through this tough financial nightmare:

We've been helping people solve their debt problems and deal with debt collectors for over 15 years.  

Once in a while, a prospect or new client tells us that they really don't know h

We take time to counsel and/or interview a prospect about their particular situation.

Even though each of our clients has too much debt in relation to their income and ability to repay their debts, each has a unique "reason" that led them to us.  

See if any of these sounds familiar:

  • Loss of employment
  • Divorce
  • Illness or disability
  • Too little fixed income after retirement

Once you start to fall behind or stop making the minimum payments required by the creditor, here's what happens:

At first, you start getting letters from the creditor warning you of the missed payment(s).

Then the calls start!  Lots of calls!

Now, at this point you cannot stop them from calling you (they have the legal right), you do not have to put up with harassment!  Such as:

  • threaten violence or other criminal acts;
  • use profane or obscene language;
  • falsely accuse the consumer of fraud or other crimes;
  • threaten arrest of the consumer, or repossession or other seizure of property without proper court proceedings;
  • use the telephone to harass debtors by calling anonymously or making repeated or continuous calls;
  • make collect telephone calls without disclosing the true name of the caller before the charges are accepted.

The penalties for violation of these laws by a creditor or debt collector are severe.  If you believe they have violated these laws, contact your state's attorney general's office (online is best) and file a complaint.  

We are in Oregon, so an Oregonian would go here:

Oregon Consumer Financial Protection

If the original creditor cannot get you to start making payments again or will not work with you to modify your account, then they may decide to charge it off and send it or sell it to a debt collector.

So, the letters and calls start again, but now, you can put a stop to these calls! 

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample LetterIf a debt collector cannot get you to start making payments or will not agree to a modification of your account, they may decide to FILE A CLAIM against you.

This would be done in your county's courthouse, and then you would be SERVED A SUMMONS.

I've written numerous blogs over the years that explain the who "Legal Process" that a debt collector may take.  For more information, click below:

"Don't Panic if you Receive a Summons!"

But for now, let me explain to Texas residents how they are protected from debt collectors as opposed to those who live in other states.

Once a judgment has been awarded (usually called a "default judgment" as the plaintiff/creditor wins by default), a creditor usually has several options:

  • Apply for a writ of garnishment for your wages
  • File a LIEN on your home or property
  • Apply for a writ to LEVY the funds in your bank account

In Texas, the Texas Consumer Protection Laws specifically state that a creditor/plaintiff CANNOT:

  • Garnish wages or
  • Place a lien on your home (provided it is homesteaded properly)

They can apply for a levy to take funds from your bank account, so be very careful!!!

Here's a link to help you protect your bank account funds.

However, as far as your home or place of residence, you need to make sure it has been properly HOMESTEADED.  

I found a great site that I recommend that you visit:

Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas

Bottom line...

Good news:

If you live in Texas, debt collectors cannot garnish wages or place a lien on your home.

HOWEVER...

That doesn't mean that the responsibility for your debts goes away!

You have several options, such as:

  • Debt Management
  • Debt Settlement
  • Bankruptcy

If you would like help in deciding which option is best for you, click below:

FREE  Debt Elimination Summary

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: Texas, can a debt collector garnish retirement income, debt collection in texas, exemption from garnishment

Tips on How to Deal With Debt Collectors


Dealing with a debt collector can be one of the most frustrating experiences you will ever go through!  Here are a few tips that will help.

It's 5:30 PM, and you've just sat down at the table to finally relax and enjoy a meal.

 ring phone ringing

 

You don't recognize the caller from your caller ID, but you know who it probably is. 

Yep, another call from that debt collector.

If you're like so many people these days who for one reason or another have fallen behind on your credit card or some other unsecured debt, you know how annoying it is to get these calls!

Let's put a stop to these calls!

If you do not know the address of the debt collector, then go ahead and answer the phone (just this time only!).  Tell the debt collector that you want to pay this bill, but cannot at this time.

Of course, the debt collector will try to get you to agree to some small amount to be paid as a check-by-phone or from your debit card. DO NOT DO IT!!!!

Instead, ask for the address (as though you intend to mail a check later).  If the debt collector will give it to you...great.  If not, then just hang up.  In a week or so, you should get (if you haven't already) a letter from the debt collector with the address you need.

According the the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), if you write a letter demanding that the debt collector stop calling you, they must stop or face some very hefty fines!

Click below for a FREE sample letter to send:

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample Letter

By-the-way....

Make sure you send the letter either by Priority Mail with a tracking number or by Registered Mail.  You want to have proof that the debt collector received the letter.

OK, you've sent the letter, and since it will take a week or so for the calls to stop, what should you do the next time the phone rings?  Here is what I suggest:

TURN OFF THE RINGER ON YOUR PHONE AS SOON AS YOU GET HOME! 

If you do not have caller ID, GET IT!  You will be able to see who is calling and if you do not recognize the caller...DON'T ANSWER.  Your friends and family will leave a message. 

DO NOT RETURN ANY MESSAGE FROM A DEBT COLLECTOR...PERIOD!

Debt collectors are trained to do one thing and one thing only...get you to pay!  And although there are very clear laws that limits what they can and cannot do, some debt collectors are pretty low-down, and if you're not careful, they will get you to start paying. 

DON'T FALL FOR THE HARDSHIP PLAN OFFER!

Although a "Hardship Plan" may have it's place, once in a while, for the most part, they are not a very good solution to your problem.

In most hardship plans, you will agree to make a lower payment for about 6 months and then the creditor will re-evaluate your situation.  While this may help with your "cash flow" for a short term, in the long term, you will not be any better off.

OFFER A REDUCED AMOUNT AS A SETTLEMENT!

Believe or not, most debt collection companies will take a settlement on your account for much less than the current balance.  A 50% reduction is not unusual and depending on your circumstances, you may able to get an even better settlement reduction.

Check out some of the settlements we have done for our clients:

Recent Settlements See what we have  done for our clients!

If you don't have a lump sum to offer, they will (in most cases) work out a TERM-SETTLEMENT plan.  Don't be afraid to ask!

Depending on how old your account is and your specific financial circumstances, the debt collector may have purchased your account from the original creditor for literally pennies-on-the-dollar, so they will usually take a settlement paid out over a 6-12 months, and in some cases longer.

What about a SUMMONS!

If you have received a summons, it is still not to late to work out a settlement or a repayment plan, but you need to take action quickly!  I have written many blogs detailing HOW AND WHAT TO DO IF YOU RECEIVE A SUMMONS.  Please take a few minutes to check out.

BOTTOM LINE:

Dealing with Debt Collectors is certainly not easy, but can be done.

Would you like some assistance?  Just let us know:





Photo Credit:   Sean MacEntee



Tags: debt collection, debt settlement, debt, debt collection in oregon, credit card debt relief portland oregon, debt collection in texas

Texas Debt Collection Exemptions

Not only are things "Bigger and Better in Texas", so is protection from debt collectors!

don't mess with texas Living in Texas (I grew up in Dallas) has a lot of advantages, but none as important as protection from debt collectors.

If you are facing overwhelming problems with too much debt and you are fortunate enough to be a Texas resident, then you have certain protection from creditors and debt collectors that other states do not offer!

 

 

For the sake of this article, I'm talking about UNSECURED DEBTS, such as:

  • Credit Cards
  • Store Credit Cards
  • Personal Loans
  • Private Student Loans
  • Medical Bills
  • "Pay-Day" Loans

When you can't make at least the required minimum payments on your unsecured debt, and miss a payment or two, here's what usually happens:

First, the original creditor (Visa, Master Card, US Bank, etc.) will most likely give you a call and send a letter reminding you that your account has become delinquent.  Sometimes the language is very...let's say, "firm or somewhat threatening".  Something like:

Dear Mr. So-n-so:

Your account with XYZ company has become seriously delinquent.  Missing payments on your account can have a negative effect on your credit report.  We understand that you may be facing a difficult time and want to work with you on this matter. 

Please give one of our customer service representatives a call to discuss your options. It is imperative that you bring your account current as soon as possible, to avoid legal action.


OK, so what do you do? 

If you think you will be able to get your account caught up, then give them a call to see what can be done.  Sometimes the creditor is willing to forgive late fees and other penalties if you can bring your account current.

But what if you know you can't "bring your account current"?

It has been my experience, that most people who need help with their debts are not someone who just "over-spent" foolishly.  They are people just like you and me who got into trouble. It's important to know how this process works so that you (or someone you know) is not taken advantage of by a debt collector.

There are all kinds of reasons why people get in trouble with their credit:

  • Loss of employment
  • Loss of a spouse or partner
  • Prolonged illness
  • Disability
  • Retired and on a fixed income not quite enough to keep up!
  • and many other reasons that are beyond your control!

 

After the original creditor has made many attempts to contact you by both phone and mail, they may decide to write-off or charge-off your account and transfer or sell to a debt collector.

Now the DEBT COLLECTOR starts sending "nasty" letters and making call after call!

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample Letter

If you have only missed a payment or two, and have the means to get caught up, I think it is a good idea to contact your original creditor to discuss trying to bring your account current. 

But, I do not believe it is your best interest to call a debt collector.

There are those that disagree with me on this, but my experience in dealing with debt collectors over many years has taught me that they only have one job and that is to get as much money in the shortest period of time.

They don't really care about your situation and for the most part are not sympathetic at all.  In fact, I had one of my retire clients who had also lost her husband of over 50 years tell me that a debt collector told her that she should go get a job and quit making excuses for her debts.  Really?  72 years old and a widow!  And not only that, rather than file for bankruptcy protection as she could have, she has chosen to settle as many debts as possible.

Many debt collectors are fine, professionals and you can work with them. But some are, well... you know!  So, my advice is not to try and call to explain your situation, especially if you live in Texas!


What happens if a debt collector takes LEGAL ACTION?

A debt collector has the option to FILE A COMPLAINT in your county's court.  This is a legal option they can use in order to scare or force you to pay your debt.

Once the COMPLAINT is filed, you will receive a SUMMONS.  The summons will state that the PLAINTIFF (that's the credior or debt collector) CLAIMS that you owe this debt.  It will also state that you have 30 days (some state 20 days) from the receipt of this summons to file an ANSWER.

An ANSWER is a legal brief explaining why you legitimately do not owe this debt.  There is usually a cost to file the ANSWER, and most likely you will need an attorney to file it so it is in the proper "legal" form. About 99.9% of the time, you owe the debt, so there is no need to dispute it.  The key is to know how to handle it.

I've written several blogs over the years explaining what to do if you recieve a summons.  If you live outside of Texas, I would encourage you to not only read about your options, but you will need to take action.

But hey, ya'll...if your a Texas resident, I've got good news!

The purpose of filing the claim is to get you to:

1)  Take action to pay your debt out of fear of what may happen if you don't!

2)  The debt collector hopes to be awarded a JUDGMENT, so they can either GARNISH YOUR WAGES, place a LIEN ON YOUR HOME or even LEVY YOUR BANK ACCOUNT.

In the great state of Texas, you have laws that protect you from creditors like few other states. 

Your wages cannot be garnished for unpaid, unsecured accounts, but even in Texas, they can be garnished for child support or alimony, unpaid taxes and defaulted student loans, so be advised!

Your home is also protected from a lien with a wonderful Texas Homestead Protection!

Although there a some restrictions to the homestead law, basically it means that a creditor cannot apply a lien against your property for unpaid, unsecured debts.

So, your wages and home are protected in Texas, what about your bank account?

As in all states, if your only source of income is from Social Security and/or a Retirement Plan or Fund, Disabily Income, etc. and those monies are directly deposited in your bank account, THEY ARE EXEMPT FROM GARNISHMENT OR LEVY.

HOWEVER, although your wages are exempt in Texas, once they are deposited in your bank account, they would be subject to a garnishment or levy (after a judgment is awarded to the creditor)!

I advise any client who has earned income to NOT DEPOSIT to your bank account with a judgment against you!  I know it can be a hassle, but think about what it would be like to start bouncing checks on Monday after your bank account was FROZEN over the weekend!

Bottom line for all of you Texas Residents:

  • Your home (including a mobile or manufactured home) is exempt from a LIEN
  • Your wages are exempt from garnishment
  • But, you need to take caution with your bank account!

 

Photo credit: 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomjmac/3695294596



Tags: debt collection, credit card debt, debt settlement in Texas, exemptions, can a creditor levy my bank account, can social security be garnished, can a debt collector garnish retirement income, debt collection in texas, debt relief in Texas, exemption from garnishment

Dealing With Debt Collectors Can Be Frustrating!

If you have ever had to deal with a deal collector, you know how frustrating and stressful it can be!

  • First you get the letters from the debt collector.
  • Then, you get the phone calls.
  • From then, you get a combination of angry and sometimes threatening letters and calls!
  • If you chose to ignore all of this, you may get a knock on your door and be served a summons!

Yes, very stressful and frustrating.

But, here are some tips to make this process somewhat bearable:

You must understand the basics of the DEBT COLLECTION PROCESS:

Let's say you have several (unsecured for the sake of this blog) accounts including:

  • Credit Cards
  • Store Cards
  • Medical Bills
  • Private Student Loan
  • Personal Bank Loan

Not that unusual for the average person to have $7,000 - $15,000 of unsecured debt these days.  As long as you are making at least the minimum payments, everyone (your creditors) are happy.

But, miss a payment or two and the DEBT COLLECTION PROCESS starts.

Once your account gets a couple of months behind, it will most likely be transferred to  the "collection or recovery" department within the company.  They send letters and start making calls.

By-the-way...here's a link to show you how to stop collection calls from DEBT COLLECTORS.

But, as annoying as the calls are, as long as the account is with the the original creditor (not transferred to a debt collector), they have the legal right to call you.  Now, once that account is transferred, sold, written off, etc. and lands with a Debt Collector, you can request/demand that they stop calling.

STOP Collection Calls Free Sample Letter

If your account is still with the original creditor, you may be able to get a settlement (reduction in the total you owe), but most likely they are going to offer you some sort of HARDSHIP PROGRAM...but, BE CAREFUL!

In most "hardship programs", the original creditor offers to let you lower your monthly payment for 6 months or so and then "reconsider".  While this may cut your overall payments, inevitably, you will have to go back to making the larger payments.

So now you are late on your payments, the calls and letters are still coming, but there's not a lot you can do about it due to your financial circumstances.  What happens to your debt now?

In most cases, the creditor will hire a Debt Collection Company to try and get as much money from you as possible.

Dealing with debt collectors can be very intimidating for the average person.  They call several times a day and leave messages (for anyone and everyone to hear) that says that you need to return their call right away.

So, you call them back, and here is where it gets frustrating.  Debt collectors are trained to do one thing...GET AS MUCH MONEY OUT OF YOU IN THE SHORTEST PERIOD OF TIME they can!

You try and explain your situation, thinking that the debt collector will actually "care".  While it is true that not all debt collectors are bad people, it has been my experience over the last decade of dealing with them for my clients that the average debt collector has just gotten (for lack of a better word) "calloused".

You owe their client (the creditor) money...their job is to get it....period.

The debt collector will tell you that you must pay this much in this period of time and there is nothing else available.  But, that is usually not true.  In most cases, some sort of settlement can be negotiated.

The problem with trying to negotiate on your own for your own debts, is that you are (obviously) emotionally involved, stressed out, frustrated and scarred of what the debt collector can and cannot do to you!

If you are going to try and negotiate and/or work out agreements with debt collectors, I strongly advise you to learn about what your rights are as a consumer in dealing with them.

The Federal Trade Commission has some very good information on their sight that you should investigate. 

                    Go to: Consumer Information about Debt Collection.

The more prepared you are, the better your chances are that you can negotiate a good settlement or repayment plan.

If you are unsuccessful in coming to a mutually agreeable settlement, the debt collector may take the final drastic step and file a complaint against you.

They will hire an attorney who is licensed in your state to file a claim in your county's courthouse.  Next, you will be served a summons.  A lot of people try to avoid accepting the summons, but eventually you will be served.

unfortunately, a lot of people who are served a summons choose to ignore the summons.

                   BAD MISTAKE!  Please, DO NOT IGNORE A SUMMONS

                    Check out a recent blog on this that will be very helpful.

The goal of the claim and summons is to either:

  • Scare you into sending them money
  • Being awarded a "default judgment" so they can pursue wage garnishment.

But, the are EXCEPTIONS!  Basically, only W-2 wages can be garnished and each state has it's own variation of how much, etc.

The basic guideline for garnishment is 25% of your net take-home pay!  Wow!  Suppose you are bringing home a modest $2500 per month.  At 25%, that's $625 they can get and there's little to nothing you can do about it.  That is why you can't ignore a summons.!

Debt collection in Texas is a little different in that there is no wage garnishment for residents of Texas! However, your bank account could be garnished or better, levied in Texas, so be careful.

Their are more protections and/or exemptions that would prevent a debt collector form being awarded a wage or even a bank garnishment.  Again, if you are going to try and go it alone with debt collectors, you have to know what type of income is and is not available for garnishment!

I live in Oregon, and debt collection in Oregon can be very, very stressful and frustrating!  It seems that the smaller debt collection companies are tougher to work with than the larger ones.  Some debt collections companies are actually attorneys who only deal with debt colletion.  However, they can and will work out settlements, depending on your various circumstances.

Finally, if you decide to DIY and deal with the debt collectors on your own...good luck!

worry rocking chair

It is a frustrating and stressful situation to be in.

  • Know your rights
  • Know the debt collectors rights
  • Know the process

FREE EBook Debt Settlement  Basics

 


Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/kitby/4883787012/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: settlements, wage garnishment, debt collection in oregon, hardship plans, debt collector, credit cards, debt collection in texas

Don't Mess With Texas!

dont mess with texasIf you live in Texas and are having problems paying your debts, you have some specific protection from debt collectors that other states don't provide!

In other words, "DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS"!

What is the Texas Homestead Law?

Texas Homestead Law exempts your primary residence from creditors in bankruptcy as well as from debt collectors.

This includes a home or condominium as well as improvements such as:

  • swimming pool
  • hot tub
  • barn
  • water tower
  • pumps
  • roads
  • and other affixed items

A Texas resident mus file a HOMESTEAD DECLARATION (form filed with the county recorder's office).

Essentially, a debt collect cannot file a lien against a homeowner's primary residence in order to attempt to collect an unsecured debt.

Can Wages be Garnished in Texas?

Again, residents of Texas have some advantages that other states don't have, in that a debt collector cannot garnishment wages for debt collection in Texas.

This DOES NOT apply to:

  • Unpaid income taxes
  • Alimony or child support
  • Federal Student Loans
Of course, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) applies to Texas residents as well as a number of other state laws to protect it's citizens from unfair debt collection practices!

Employers can find information about wage garnishment limits and exemptions in Texas at:

www.twc.state.tx.us.

Texas provides some of the best protection from creditors of any state and allows those who are in financial trouble to seek relief through DEBT SETTLEMENT without the fear of wage garnishment and/or a lien on their homestead.

If you would like to know how to settle your debts for less than you owe, let us know!

debt settlement in texas

 

photo by: Jamiesrabbits

Tags: wage garnishment in texas, fdcpa, debt settlement, debt collection in texas, texas homestead law