When someone is facing serious amounts of debt, it can feel like there is no end in sight. Odds are the individual is fielding continuous calls from debt collectors, all of whom are threatening legal proceedings if the person does not pay the debt owed. However, certain steps can be taken to help handle personal debt issues and hopefully avoid a lawsuit.
1. Review the Debt in Question.
The first step is to review the debt amount. Do not automatically trust what the debt collector is telling you, the debt they are attempting to collect could be expired or past the statute of limitations. It is recommended that the person facing the debt collection action first examine the information provided, research the collection agency that is reporting the debt and see if any discrepancies exist. The debtor has 30 days to verify that the amount is correct after the collection agency has contacted him or her. Take advantage of this time and carefully review the debt before making any payments.
2. Dispute an Incorrect Debt.
If, during this 30-day period, the individual discovers any figure that is inaccurate or unusual, it is recommended that he or she report this and provide proof that it is inaccurate. It is possible that the debt collection agency will clear up any discrepancy and adjust it as necessary.
3. Be Aware of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Not many individuals are aware that they do, in fact, have rights when it comes to collections. Simply because someone has missed a payment and has fallen delinquent does not mean that he or she has no rights. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law that protects the rights of consumers against harassment and aggressive collection practices by third-party collection agencies. Take the time to review the law and to understand what these rights include.
4. Discuss Payment Options.
If the debt is valid, it can help to talk with the collection agency about payment options. At the end of the day, these companies would rather be paid than have the debt be discharged in bankruptcy. Talk with the company to see what payment options are available. The consumer should examine his or her household budget to see what can be done to make payments to repay this debt.
5. Negotiate the Debt.
Another option that many consumers do not realize they have is to negotiate the debt. Many debt collectors or creditors are quite open to discussing other options for payment. If the individual is facing extreme circumstances or hardships, the creditor or collector may be willing to at least reduce the amount of debt owed or extend the deadline for payment.
6. Know the Statute of Limitations.
Every legal matter comes with its own set deadline for when legal claims can be made. Every state has its own statute of limitation for how long debts can be pursued. It is important that the consumer research what his or her timeline is and know what actions affect this timeline.
7. Be Aware of the Timeline.
After the collection proceeding is over, the debt will stay on the person’s credit report for seven years. This seven-year timeline does not start from when the delinquent account was originally opened but rather seven years from the time it became delinquent. Being aware of this fact can help when negotiating a payment on the debt since a paid debt will be viewed more favorably than one that continues to remain unpaid.
8. Understand the Consequences.
It is equally as important that the individual know what the consequences are to leaving a debt unpaid for too long. It also helps to know what the consequences are of ignoring a legal action if one is eventually filed. If the person is sued, it is extremely important that he or she at least appear in court and respond. It can be tempting to just ignore the matter, but by not appearing in court, the individual is likely to lose by default judgment and could have their wages garnished.
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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.