Consumer Bankruptcy, COVID-19

Personal Bankruptcy Filings Drop in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic Relief

Personal bankruptcy filings are down, leaving many financial analysts questioning whether the drop in filings can be attributed to financial relief offered from governmental pandemic relief programs or to other economic factorsThis stimulus relief offered consumers a much-needed financial boost, but the question remains how long this boost will hold off future bankruptcy filings. 

The number of consumers reporting problems with paying their bills decreased between June 2019 and June 2020, according to figures from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  The number of personal bankruptcies filed dropped 38 percent over a 12-month period between March 2020 and March 2021. 

Government stimulus checks, decreased consumer spending, and the availability of mortgage forbearance programs could be part of the reason for this decrease in filings. During this periodconsumers have also reported cutting back on discretionary spending on expenses, such as vacations  

Normally, a decrease in bankruptcy filings indicates an overall improvement to consumers’ financially lives, but experts warn against being too optimistic about these figures. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic is entering its second and the number of consumers who have died or become seriously ill during this time, it is unlikely that all consumers are thriving financially. 

The federal bankruptcy court system attributes the decrease in bankruptcy filings to many different factors, including a reduced amount of consumer spending, moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures, as well as the temporary closure of courtrooms for in-person hearings.  

In this study, the CFPB surveyed the financial lives of approximately 1,700 consumers, giving these individuals a series of subjective questions to answer regarding their finances. The number of survey participants reporting that they had money remaining in their accounts at the end of a month increased by 3.9 points to 46.6 percent. The number of consumers reporting that their finances were controlling their daily lives dropped 8 points to 32.7 percent.  

In the four years immediately preceding the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the U.S., consumer bankruptcies never fell below 750,000 annually. However, between April 2020 and April 2021, the number of consumer bankruptcies filed dropped to 473,000. At the same time, the number of business bankruptcies fell by 13.9 percent.  

As the government stimulus programs wind down and the moratoriums on foreclosures and evictions come to an end, this trend could quickly change, which is why many financial experts remain only cautiously optimistic about these figures.  

Please click here to read more.  

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.   

COVID-19, Foreclosure Defense, Foreclosures

Emergency Mortgage Relief Could Extend Through 2022

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of homeowners have benefited from the mortgage relief programs offered by the federal government, and some private lenders.  Now that a year has passed, approximately 2.5 million homeowners are still enrolled in some sort of mortgage relief program, whether it be payment suspension or mortgage forbearance, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) 

It is for this reason that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) wants to extend these provisions and programs further into the future to ensure that these homeowners are not forced into foreclosure.  

Foreclosure Defense, Foreclosures

10 Percent of American Families at Risk of Eviction, Foreclosure

More than 11 million American families are facing a crisis when it comes to housing, specifically when it comes to making their rent and mortgage payments, according to a new report released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The CFPB conducted a survey of the housing market during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and found that approximately 2.1 million American families are at least three months or more behind on their mortgage payments. Approximately 8.8 million of them are late on paying their rent.  

Debt Collection

Debt Collectors Will Soon Be Reaching Consumers via Text and Social Media

Debt collectors will soon have another way to reach consumers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a ruling outlining how collectors will soon be able to reach consumers via text messaging and social media The federal government has cleared the way for collection agencies to send unlimited texts, emails and even instant messages on social media platforms. 

Debt collectors will be required to include instructions on how to opt out of these messages within the text of the communication. The CFPB will also limit collectors to calling consumers to seven calls per week per debt.  

Debt Collection

Consumer Groups Dispute Proposed Debt Collection Rule

A new rule is being proposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that would require debt collectors to notify consumers as to whether they can be legally sued for a debt they are attempting to collect. This rule follows complaints made by consumers regarding debt collectors threatening to collect on debts that they otherwise would not be able to pursue legally.

Every state has statutes of limitation which control how long an individual or entity can bring a legal action. For collection of debt, this timeline in Florida is five years for debts resulting from written contracts, such as personal loans, and four years for oral contracts or revolving accounts, including credit cards. If a creditor contacts a consumer regarding a debt past that deadline, the consumer is not under any legal obligation to pay.

Bankruptcy Law, Debt Relief

Trump Administration Delays Consumer Protections for Abusive Payday and Car-Title Lenders

New consumer protections against abusive lending practices have been placed on hold by the Trump Administration for another 15 months. The protections that were enacted in 2017 were set to take effect this week are now being delayed, perhaps indefinitely.  The reasoning behind the delay of this consumer safeguard: ‘It’s too troublesome for lenders.’

The delay is being viewed as just another example of the current administration stripping away consumer-friendly policies enacted under the Obama administration.

Debt Relief, Timothy Kingcade Posts

Mulvaney’s Role in Dismantling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Highlighted in New York Times Magazine

After Mick Mulvaney was appointed as the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), following the start of President Trump’s term, many consumer advocates feared that he would bring sweeping changes that would undo any of the progress that the CFPB had made in protecting consumers. A recent opinion piece published by New York Times Magazine highlighted many of the events following Mulvaney’s appointment that showed that many of those fears were, in fact, quite valid.

The CFPB was originally created with the assistance of Senator Elizabeth Warren, following the 2008 financial crisis. The agency was meant to be an economic watchdog for American consumers and protect them from predatory lenders. However, after its creation, opponents of the agency in the Republican party disputed efforts made by the CFPB. It was not surprising that President Trump would appoint someone who did not fully support the agency’s mission to run the CFPB soon after being elected.

Shortly after Mulvaney began working at the CFPB, he ordered a total hiring freeze, put many enforcement cases on hold and also informed the Federal Reserve, the agency that funded the CFPB a zero dollar budget, stating that the CFPB could handle its affairs with money already in their account.

Within weeks, Mulvaney announced that he would reconsider one of the bureau’s major long-term initiatives: rules to restrict payday loans, products that are marketed to the working poor as an emergency lifeline but frequently leave them buried in debt.

“Anybody who thinks that a Trump-administration C.F.P.B. would be the same as an Obama-administration C.F.P.B. is simply being naïve,” Mulvaney told reporters. “Elections have consequences at every agency.”

A payday loan is a short-term loan given in exchange for the borrower’s paycheck, along with a fee paid to the lender. Mulvaney was not supportive of the CFPB’s role in restricting payday lenders. While he agreed that these loans were not always financially sound, it was his stated position that borrowers should be wiser and not take out these loans without understanding the terms.

However, the CFPB and Warren previously viewed payday companies as predatory lenders who took advantage of borrowers who were desperate to get out of a bad financial situation.

‘These are entities that suck up billions of dollars a year from people making $25,000 a year. And it’s going into the pockets of the wealthiest people in the world.’

Borrowers take out these loans in a last-ditch effort to pay for an emergency expense but very rarely are informed of the terms in fine print, or misinformed of the consequences if they fail to pay the loan off timely.  If a borrower cannot pay the loan off at the end of the period, the companies often roll the older loans into new ones with even higher fees.

Many states offer protection for borrowers when it comes to predatory lending and payday loans. However, it was Warren’s position and the original mission of the CFPB to provide uniform protections for all borrowers nationwide. Florida offers consumers who take out payday loans from licensed lenders certain protections, including the following:

  • A borrower may borrow up to $500 per loan;
  • A borrower can only have one outstanding loan at a time;
  • The maximum fee that can be charged is 10 percent of the total amount borrowed, plus a $5.00 verification fee;
  • The loan contract cannot exceed 31 days but can also not be less than seven days;
  • Contract terms that otherwise limit your rights as a borrower are prohibited;
  • A borrower must pay a previous loan in full and wait a full 24 hours before entering another loan;
  • If the borrower is not able to pay the loan in full at the end of the term, the lender must give a 60-day grace period without any additional charge.

The New York Times Magazine piece also highlighted the fact that Mulvaney received campaign donations in the past from many different payday lenders, which leads one to question the motivation behind the CFPB’s sudden change in policy when it comes to payday loans. Mulvaney is now working as the President’s Chief of Staff, but the changes made at the CFPB have had longstanding ramifications when it comes to consumer protection from predatory lending practices.

Click here to read more on this story.

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.

Additional Resources:

https://www.accountsrecovery.net/2019/04/16/nyt-feature-details-how-mick-mulvaney-took-apart-the-cfpb/

https://www.flofr.com/sitePages/PaydayLenders.htm

 

Bankruptcy Law, Debt Relief, Student Loans, Timothy Kingcade Posts

What Student Loan Borrowers Need to Know about the Navient Lawsuits

Several important legal cases are pending in federal courts, many of them naming student loan service provider, Navient, as a party to the case. In fact, the number of lawsuits made against federal student loan servicers has increased rapidly over the past few years.

Navient, along with federal student loan provider, Nelnet, have been named as parties in these lawsuits. Currently, the state attorneys general for the states of California, Illinois, Washington and Illinois have filed lawsuits against Navient. These lawsuits follow an earlier lawsuit filed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in January 2017, which alleged that Navient had incorrectly processed student loan payments, which, in turn, kept borrowers who were struggling to meet their monthly payments from being able to make lower repayments.

These lawsuits have come at a time when faith is being lost in the current administration and its motivation to protect borrowers from lenders, like Navient, who they say take advantage of borrowers and their inability to make payments. The CFPB created the Office of Students and Young Consumers during the Obama administration as a way to protect the rights of borrowers, but recent moves by the Trump administration have taken this office and moved it into the larger Office of Financial Education. As a result of these controversial changes, the prior CFPB student loan ombudsman, Seth Frotman, resigned in protest. In his resignation letter, he accused the administration of changing the mission of the CFPB and failing to protect borrowers from predatory lending practices.

Now the state attorneys general offices feel that it is their responsibility to protect their constituents if the federal government refuses to do so, which has led to these recent lawsuits. These states have alleged similar grounds as were alleged in the CFPB suit against Navient by saying that the company put borrowers into temporary forbearances on their loans when they should have worked with them on signing them up for income-based repayment plans.

Forbearance suspends borrowers’ monthly payments but keeps the interest accruing in the interim.  Even taking off just a few months from making payments on the loan, can add hundreds even thousands of dollars to the balance due to interest.  Therefore, once the forbearance period ends, which is meant to be a temporary period of time, the borrower will owe substantially more than he or she did at the start due to the interest rates running during the forbearance.

These states argue that the borrowers would have qualified for income-based repayment plans which would offer a lower monthly payment that they could arguably meet. These plans would have allowed them to stay up on their payments and not fall behind. In addition, making the monthly payments lower would make it easier for these borrowers to eventually be considered for loan discharge.

Click HERE to read more on this story.

For borrowers who are struggling with student loan debt, relief options are available.  Many student loan borrowers are unaware that they have rights and repayment options available to them, such as postponement of loan payments, reduction of payments or even a complete discharge of the debt. There are ways to file for bankruptcy with student loan debt.  It is important you contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all 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.

 

Bankruptcy Law, Debt Relief, Student Loans, Timothy Kingcade Posts

Disabled no longer face big tax hit when student loans are forgiven

Borrowers who have had their federal student loans forgiven due to “total and permanent” disability determinations will no longer have to pay federal income taxes on the amount forgiven. This change is great news for borrowers who anticipate having loans forgiven in the future. However, if the disabled borrowers were granted loan forgiveness prior to the rule change in December, the benefit does not extend to them as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is not retroactive.

According to a report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in December 2016, the United States Department of Education forgives an estimated $2 billion in loans owed by disabled borrowers annually.

Disabled borrowers include veterans who are no longer able to work due to service-related injuries but also anyone who is determined to be “totally and permanently disabled” by a physician and is now receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. According to the GAO, over 213,000 people were approved for discharges due to total and permanent disability (TPD) in 2014 and 2015. The typical amount forgiven in 2015 was around $17,500, an amount which would be then considered taxable income by the IRS.

In 2016, the Department of Education, utilizing a computer matching software, identified an additional 387,000 borrowers who appeared to be eligible for loan forgiveness. Notifications were then sent to these individuals regarding their eligibility, also warning them of the tax consequences. An additional 19,000 in new approvals for loan forgiveness were then made.

However, the fact that only 19,000 followed through showed that borrowers may have been either intimidated by the paperwork or scared of the tax consequences of the student loan forgiveness.

Now that no federal tax implications are tied to loan forgiveness for disabled borrowers, lawmakers want to see the Department automatically clear out the debt of those who do meet the eligibility requirements by using the same or similar computer matching program that was previously used. In fact, on Feb. 15, eight lawmakers sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and VA Secretary David Shulkin, asking that the process begin in discharging these debts.

“Veterans who have served our country with honor and sustained a debilitating service-connected disability are still facing the burden of payments on debt that is eligible to be forgiven,” the letter said. “Delaying benefits owed to our veterans due to a lack of coordination among federal agencies is unacceptable.”

Certain issues may delay borrowers from filing for a TPD discharge, especially if the filer is not a veteran. Delays have been known to happen at the Social Security Administration level.

“Borrowers with disabilities who are eligible for loan discharge may still struggle to get relief from the burden of their student loans,” the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s student loan ombudsman, Seth Frotman, reports. “Borrowers complain to the Bureau about problems related to every stage of the TPD discharge process.”

Once approval has been given for the disability and the borrower has been approved for loan forgiveness, it is also still possible that the approval can be taken away if the borrower fails to submit to annual income verification that is required for the three years following the approval, also known as the three-year monitoring period. The IRS is not notified that the loan has been forgiven until after the three-year period has been completed.

However, if the borrower was given TPD discharge through a VA application, he or she will not need to do the three-year monitoring period.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) suggests borrowers do the following when seeking TPD loan discharges:

  • Provide proof of disability from a physician, the Social Security Administration or Veterans Administration;
  • If the borrower’s loans are in default, it is recommended that he or she apply for discharge as soon as possible. Any payments being taken out of social security benefits will then stop while the application is being reviewed;
  • Remain in touch with the loan servicer during the three-year review period;
  • Discuss other options if the borrower has been turned down for a TPD discharge. Other income-based repayment plans do exist to help ease the burden if the borrower cannot get a total discharge.

There are ways to file for bankruptcy with student loan debt.  For borrowers who are struggling with student loan debt, relief options are available. Many student loan borrowers are unaware that they have rights and repayment options available to them, such as postponement of loan payments, reduction of payments or even a complete discharge of the debt. It is important you contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all 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.

Related Resources: https://www.credible.com/news/student-loans/disabled-no-longer-face-big-tax-hit-student-loans-forgiven/

Bankruptcy Law, Credit, Debt Relief, Timothy Kingcade Posts

Florida Ranks in the Top 5 States for Invalid and Illegal Debt Collection

Invalid and illegal debt collection practices are at an all-time high across the country, and Florida is no exception.  Data was analyzed from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) to identify the states that engaged in these deceptive and illegal practices.  ‘Zombie’ debt collections are rampant in South Florida and involve attempts to collect debts not owed, those that were already paid or discharged in bankruptcy, debts owed by someone else, or are a result of identity theft. Typically, this debt collection practice is done by third-parties, who have collected these debts written off by the original creditor.

The five states in which zombie debt collection is most prevalent are:

  1. Delaware– Delaware leads the nation when it comes to the likelihood of having to deal with a collection agency trying to collect a debt you do not owe.  With a total of 422 complaints in the Consumer Complaint Database, Delaware has a per-capita rate of 44.72 complaints per 100,000 residents.
  2. Florida– Florida comes in at number two with 42.43 complaints per 100,000 residents (a total of 8,314 complaints in all).
  3. Georgia– Georgia trails Florida by two hundredths in its per capita incidence rate of reports of zombie debt collection attempts, with 4,258 complaints registered and a population of almost exactly 10 million residents.
  4. Nevada– Like Florida, Nevada has incidence rates of illegal debt collection attempts well above the national average of 25.84 per 100,000.
  5. Maryland– Maryland has 38.65 complaints per 100,000 residents. The affluent and suburban Prince George’s County has an incidence rate of 66.6 per 100,000 residents.

Knowing which debt collection agencies have a history of practicing zombie debt collection in your state can help you avoid being a victim.  The three debt collection agencies most likely to engage in invalid and illegal debt collection practices in the country are:

  1. Encore Capital Group
  2. Enhanced Recovery Company (ERC)
  3. Portfolio Recovery Associates

Click here to read more on this story.

If you 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, P.A. 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.