For an individual struggling with insurmountable debt, the continuous calls and communications can be overwhelming and stressful. However, at what point do these communications constitute harassment? And if an individual believes that he or she is being harassed by a debt collector, what is the recourse this person has against the debt collector?
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Debtors have protection from harassment from third-party debt collectors under a federal law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Under this law, debt collectors are prohibited from harassing, oppressing or abusing debtors while trying to collect upon a debt. This behavior includes continuous phone calls meant to annoy or harass the individual, use of obscene language and making threats of violence or retaliation against the debtor.
Specifically, the FDCPA prohibits the following:
- Repeated phone calls annoying, abusing or harassing the debtor or anyone answering the phone;
- Use of obscene or profane language in these communications;
- Threats of violence or causing harm to the debtor or other person on the phone;
- Publishing a list of individuals who refuse to pay debts, not including reporting the information to a credit reporting company;
- Not disclosing the debt collector’s information when communicating with someone;
- Contacting third-parties connected to the debtor and giving them information regarding the debt and/or why they are calling;
- Contacting the debtor at work or showing up at the debtor’s work.
The FDCPA prohibits misrepresentations from being made about the debt. Essentially, the FDCPA makes it so debt collectors cannot use false, misleading or fraudulent practices when collecting on the debt. This means the debt collector cannot lie about how much is owed, cannot make false threats that the company will have the debtor arrested, cannot make false statements that the person on the phone is an attorney when he or she is not, cannot make threats to do things that are not legal, and cannot make threats to do something that the debt collector, in fact, has no intention of doing or right to do.
After the debtor has experienced a series of these violations, the FDCPA requires the debtor to send written notification to the debt collector to stop communicating with him or her and informing the debt collector that this communication is in violation of the FDCPA. If the debt collector continues to push and communicate with the person after this notification, it is recommended that the debtor file a claim for an FDCPA violation. If the individual does file an FDCPA claim and wins, the debt collector will pay the debtor damages, as well as attorney’s fees for having to file the claim.
It is highly recommended that the debtor keep a file of all communication received by the debt collector and keep all recordings of voicemails or other communications. It is also recommended that the debtor write down all dates and times that these conversations have occurred, along with notes about what was discussed in the event a legal claim needs to be filed.
Our firm works to hold creditors accountable for violating the protections allotted by the U.S. bankruptcy laws. Recently, our firm’s motion was granted by a Florida judge in a case that held the creditor in contempt of court for violating the automatic stay in a Miami bankruptcy case. The Order directed the creditor to cease and desist all eviction proceedings until further order of the court. The creditor in this case was also required to pay attorneys’ fees for our firm having to bring forth the motion to enforce the automatic stay to protect our client.
If you are dealing with a creditor you think may have violated the automatic stay, contact your attorney immediately. An experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney will know whether the contact was innocent in nature or a willful violation worth pursuing.
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If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.