One of the most distressing aspects of being in a financial crisis is the constant contact from creditors. When an individual cannot pay their bills due to a lost job or a medical emergency, they are not trying to avoid their obligations; they are simply trying to survive. It is normal and understandable that a creditor would call or send notices to collect the money they are owed. The mental anguish can be significant when creditors are insistent, intimidating, and even abusive in their pursuit of payments.
The good news is that there are limits to what creditors can legally do. Even when an individual is in debt and owes money, they are not required to endure specific kinds of harassing behaviors from creditors and debt collectors. When creditors go too far, they can be held accountable for their illegal actions. Additionally, by filing for bankruptcy, individuals have a practical and feasible way to deal with debt, which can also serve to silence creditors and stop harassing behaviors.
What Rights Does Your Creditor Have?
Creditors have the right to seek and demand payment on an overdue account balance. They have the legal right to place phone calls, send bills and notices through the mail, and send texts to a provided phone number. They may also utilize other reasonable forms of contact, but there are limits placed on their rights.
When collection methods increase in severity and frequency, they may move into the realm of creditor harassment. Remember, debt collectors are permitted to do their jobs, but they are not allowed to violate personal rights. Sadly, many consumers do not understand the line between a creditor’s legal pursuit of payment and creditor harassment.
Some creditor behaviors that may cross an acceptable legal line include the following:
- Calling debtors before 8 a.m.
- Calling debtors late at night.
- Contacting debtors at their workplace after being advised those calls are not allowed by the employer.
- Making any threats of financial damage or physical harm.
- Pretending to be someone else to get a debtor on the phone.
- Utilizing inappropriate, rude, or profane speech.
- Lying about the amount owed or the nature of the debt.
- Calling a debtor over and over to pester and annoy them.
Debt collector behavior that infringes upon personal rights can be distressing, disruptive, and even traumatic for the debtor and their family. You need to know that there are legal remedies and ways to make the harassment stop.
Filing for bankruptcy represents more benefits than simply dealing with debt. Those who begin the filing process initiate a protection known as an automatic stay, which compels all creditor contact to cease immediately. However, if you think you have been victimized by illegal or disruptive collection practices, speaking with a bankruptcy attorney can help to move past this distressing phase.
For many people, bankruptcy is a last-ditch effort and not necessarily their first choice for dealing with financial troubles. However, the process may represent the most practical and effective way to establish a future free from creditor harassment and stress.
Because the bankruptcy decision is not easy – and it will affect your life for years to come – it is not one to be entered into lightly. Still, it also should not be feared or avoided because of misinformation. The best strategy is to speak with a Sarasota bankruptcy attorney regarding your situation to determine if it is the right solution for you.
Richard V. Ellis is a Sarasota family law and bankruptcy attorney who has helped hundreds of residents regain their financial footing.