Friday, August 29, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Your options when facing debt collectors

By
From page OSF2 | April 10, 2014 |

I consistently have clients coming to my firm for help with filing for bankruptcy because they are facing crushing debt, and they do not believe they have any other options.

However, low-income seniors do have alternatives to the expensive and long process of bankruptcy. In this column, I will describe debt collection issues many seniors face and some options available to fight against debt collectors.

What can I do if I want to pay the debt, but I cannot pay everything right now?

At all points during the collection process, you may attempt to enter into a reasonable agreement where you can pay off the debt in a manner you can afford. The debt collectors are not obligated to accept any agreement, but if you can demonstrate that you have the funds or will have the funds, they may be more likely to settle.

It is important that if you do negotiate a payment plan, make sure you can afford the plan. If you cannot reasonably comply with the agreement, you will find yourself in the same position. Also, avoid offering collateral, such as your car, because if you do not comply, you risk losing the property.

A credit counseling agency can possibly negotiate with the debt collectors to lower the debt amount and payments over time. To find a local credit counseling agency, you can contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at nfcc.org or 800-388-2227.

How do I stop those harassing calls?

One of the most distressing aspects of debt collection is the receipt of the rude, inconvenient and constant telephone calls.

First, receiving a collection call does not make you a bad person. Life gets in the way of our plans, which includes not paying debt.

But if you do receive a collection call, federal and state law regulates when collectors can call and what they can say. According to the California Department of Consumer Affairs, a debt collector can only call you between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Calls at one or two in the morning are not legal. Further, the debt collector cannot threaten you with jail time or use profane language.

Also, you can stop debt collectors from calling you completely by sending a written letter asking them to stop contacting you unless it is to tell you they will no longer collect or that they will file a lawsuit against you.

What are my defenses in a debt collection lawsuit?

Having a lawsuit filed against you can be a frightening proposition, but you may have several effective defenses on your side.

A collection agency cannot collect a debt that is too old. California Code of Civil Procedure Section 337 states a lawsuit must be filed within four years of a breach of contract. You may also have other defenses. For example, if the debt is based on a contract that does not exist, if you did not receive the product, or if you are a victim of fraud or identity theft.

There are many more defenses, and there are exceptions to each of these defenses, so please contact an attorney in order to learn if these defenses apply to you. But just because a lawsuit was filed against you does not mean that you will automatically have to pay the debt immediately or in full.

What does it mean to be judgment proof?

Even if you may not have a defense, you may not be obligated to pay the debt. Federal and state law protect certain types of assets and income in order to allow people to pay for their basic needs and keep personal items. As a result, even if a debt collector obtains a judgment against you, they may not be able to collect. If you only have enough income and assets to pay for your basic needs, the debt collector can be prevented from collecting from you. This concept is called being judgment proof.

Although you may be judgment proof, you will still have a judgment on your record and your credit history will suffer. However, for people who already have poor credit histories or only have a small, fixed income, being judgment proof can save you time and money.

Typically, if you have a judgment against you, the creditor will attempt to collect through a bank levy or garnishment of your wages. However, if you work, under federal law the collectors can only take up to 25 percent of your wages. If you are living on public benefits like social security or veterans benefits, collection cannot occur unless you receive a very high amount. Further, most private pensions and federal pensions are protected. In order to claim your property as exempt, you must file a claim of exemption form (Judicial Council form EJ-155). You can review Judicial Council form EJ-155 at www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp for a more expansive list of exempt benefits.

In addition, federal and state law protect the value of your home. If you claim a homestead exemption, you may prevent any type of sale due to a lien on your home if the equity on your house is below a set amount. If you are over 65, disabled, or 55 years old or older with an annual gross income of $25,000 (if single, $35,000 if a couple), up to $175,000 of the equity in your house is protected. So if you own a house that is worth $250,000, and owe $100,000 in the house, the $150,000 in equity is protected.

Also, if you own a car, up to $2,300 of the equity of your car is protected. Household items are also protected. Even your more valuable items, such as jewelry and antiques, are protected up to $6,075.

Although these options are not perfect, they provide you with some protection against abusive debt practices.

For more information, please view the Department of Consumer Affairs website at dca.ca.gov.

If you believe you have been a victim of unfair debt collection claims, please contact the Attorney General at oag.ca.gov/consumers or 800-952-5225.

This column is only a basic overview of debtors rights. If you have any questions about being judgment proof or other debt collection questions and are over 60 years of age, please call Legal Services of Northern California at 643-0054.

Antonio Valdez is the senior project staff attorney with Legal Services of Northern California.

Antonio Valdez

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Hood-Courtland: Small towns boast interesting facts

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1

 
Opponents: State water plan will destroy Delta

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1, 5 Comments | Gallery

Vallejo Symphony launches new season Sept. 21

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Prolific pears rule Courtland area

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

1 critical after 2 shot at Fairfield bus stop

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A1, 22 Comments | Gallery

 
New role for symphony conductor begins next year

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Vallejo festival will celebrate Wilderness Act anniversary

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Vacaville man convicted of fifth DUI

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 8 Comments

 
Suisun police plan holiday weekend checkpoint

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 4 Comments

 
No plea as Vacaville homicide suspect appears in court

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 9 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Solano continues to deal with earthquake

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
Bunting earns praise for role in paint case

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
Fairfield police log: Aug. 27, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A8

 
Suisun City police log: Aug. 27, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A8

Weather for Aug. 29, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B14

 
.

US / World

Mom won’t be charged in school confrontation

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
California Supreme Court pick confirmed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Assembly approves statewide ban on plastic bags

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Feds to resume leasing for fracking in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

High school buddies followed similar path to jihad

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Drugs killed Oklahoma inmate in troubled execution

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Gun tourism grows in popularity in recent years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
Obama sets no timeline for action on immigration

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

4 killed in New Mexico crash of medical flight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
US rebukes Oklahoma for ditching school standards

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Suit claims police brutality at Ferguson protests

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

 
Flight diverts to Boston over reclined-seat upset

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

Testimony wraps up in former Va. governor trial

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
Q&A: Few laws govern children at shooting range

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Obama rules out US military action in Ukraine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
UN Security Council meets on Ukraine crisis

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Russian columns enter Ukraine; leader urges calm

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Europe seeks role in postwar Gaza

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13 | Gallery

UN: Armed group detains 43 peacekeepers in Syria

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
A look at the Islamic State militants in Syria

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Jihadists kill dozens of captured Syrian soldiers

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
UN: Ebola disease caseload could reach 20,000

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Attempt to call missing jet may alter search area

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13 | Gallery

 
.

Opinion

How about keeping our ISIS plan secret?

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11, 25 Comments

 
What should the US do about the Islamic State?

By Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis | From Page: A11, 4 Comments

 
Question of the week: Is US policy on hostages correct?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

More ways to help stop bullies

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Aug. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Aug. 29, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

How do I deal with my overweight cousin who smells like cat urine?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B13, 1 Comment

 
Horoscopes: Aug. 29, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B13

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Aug. 29-Sept. 4

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Review: Ex-007 actor spying again in ‘Nov. Man’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Review: ‘As Above’ so-so

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Review: The case against binge-watching TV

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Entertainment calendar: Aug. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

 
Jolie, Pitt wed privately at chateau in France

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
.

Sports

Borland returns pick for TD, 49ers beat Texans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Carr’s 3 TDs lead Raiders past Seahawks 41-31

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Prep football preview: Rio Vista looks to get back to playoffs

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Angels rally in 10th for 4-3 win over Oakland

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Record-setting Petit leads Giants past Rockies 4-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Mickelson in a bind with 4 straight playoff events

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Weakened US team aims for world basketball title

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Rise in flags makes NFL defenders wary of contact

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

After Rice, NFL increases domestic violence bans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
USC coach accepts some blame in Shaw situation

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Williams overcomes 3 early double-faults to win at U.S. Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
Local youngster will play baseball on national stage

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B9, 1 Comment | Gallery

Week Zero prep football capsules

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B9

 
Signups for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

Stewart returning to competition after fatal crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

 
Sports on TV/Local sports for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B11

This date in sports history for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Power looks for elusive IndyCar title at Fontana

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

.

Business

M235i revives classic BMW memories

By Ann M. Job | From Page: C1

 
Average US 30-year mortgage rate at 4.1 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Obama touts revised economic growth numbers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
US economy grew at brisk 4.2 pct. rate in Q2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Ukraine conflict weighs on markets; Retailers fall

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Abercrombie name to shrink from clothing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment | Gallery

Survey: Americans’ pessimism on economy has grown

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Apple to unveil next products at Sept. 9 event

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment | Gallery

.

Obituaries

Frank W. Moy Jr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Gary Allen Person

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B13

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B13

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B13

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B13