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25

Sep 2020

Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Won’t Chase Underground Debt Collectors

Posted by / in Weekly Posts /

Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Announces They Don’t Chase Underground Debt Collectors

“We are unable to send your complaint to the company for a response.” That’s what the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau told Chuck Sterling. “The company is not in our complaint system.”

Chuck, a former client, received an email today, threatening to “take him into custody” and “transfer to prison” unless he paid a non-existent payday loan of $2471.15. Threatening jail for failure to pay an honest debt–much less a fake one–violates federal law.  The Federal Trade Commission has authority to sue debt collection companies who violate the law, ban them from the business and impose steep financial penalties.  The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has a complaint form on their website and claims to follow up on each one.

The follow up to Chuck was, we’re not doing anything because we don’t know who these people are. Apparently they don’t chase debt collection scammers who are hiding out.

That kind of slack enforcement of consumer protection laws by the CFPB has become more common in the last few years.   

 

 

 

 

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06

Sep 2020

Virginia Homestead Exemption too low to protect this Widow.

Posted by / in Virginia Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

Told a Widow this Week, She’ll Lose her House because of COVID and Business Debts

I had a heart-breaking call this week with a widow, who lost her small shop in the COVID depression.

Small business

Widow lost her small shop in the COVID depression. The Virginia homestead exemption is too small to protect her house.

She has about $65,000 in business debts and no way to pay them. 

If she tries to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy here in Virginia, the bankruptcy trustee will sell her house to pay those debts. Virginia law protects real estate that belongs to a married couple–but she’s a widow.

Bankruptcy is set up by the Federal Government, but each state sets its own rule on how much real estate equity you can protect. (That’s called your homestead exemption.) Thanks to the new majority in the Virginia General Assembly, you can protect $30,000.00 in equity. (Up from $5,000.00. The Virginia homestead exemption had been the lowest in the country.)

This widow has a little over $100,000.00 in equity, so the Virginia homestead exemption isn’t enough for her. She may need to sell the house to get cash to survive, because she lost her business, and isn’t social security age yet.

I like to say I can help almost everyone who contacts me; but I can’t help her.

PS Virginia Homestead Exemption is still near the bottom

While Virginia increased our homestead exemption from $5,000.00 to $30,000.00, it’s still near the bottom of the fifty states. You can protect 100 acres of Texas, 160 acres of Florida.  You could own the entire District of Columbia. Just this week California increased their homestead exemption from $75,000 to $300,000, in the rural counties. And up to $600,000 in in the urban areas.

Here’s a slightly outdated breakdown of the homestead exemption of all fifty states.

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30

Aug 2020

Why You Should (Sometimes) Ask for Arbitration

Posted by / in Before Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts /

Why You Should (Sometimes) Before Bankruptcy Ask for Arbitration

The fine print in your credit card agreement likely gives you–and the credit card company–the right to ask for arbitration.  You can guess that the fine print isn’t in there to help the consumer, but sometimes before bankruptcy you can use arbitration for your benefit.

How Can Arbitration Before Bankruptcy Help You?

Suppose you might need a little more time before you are ready to file bankruptcy. If there’s a warrant-in-debt, and you obviously do NOT want to get garnished. You can ask for a trial and a bill of particulars. Then, for your grounds of defense, you can ask for arbitration. Asking for arbitration can get you another month or more to get ready to file bankruptcy.

Stalling for time is not the idea of arbitration. But since the credit card companies put it in their agreement for their reasons, you have the right to use arbitration before bankruptcy for your reasons.

What should be the Purpose of Arbitration?

The idea of arbitration to to handle things that judges aren’t good at. For example, baseball salaries.

Baseball salary arbitration

Baseball players through their union and the owners have agreed to salary arbitration

Baseball players, through their union, have salary arbitration.  If there’s a pay dispute between the player and the club, a panel of arbitrators decide what the salary should be. There’s no reason for judges to be involved, that’s now what judges do.

A second advantage to both the club, and the players, is that the process is secret. Suppose a baseball club says, “we don’t want to pay what Joe is asking, because he can’t hit the low fastball.” It’s bad enough that the player hears his club bad-mouthing him. It would be even worse to read it in the sports page.

Is Credit Card Arbitration is Anything Like Baseball Arbitration?

The good reasons why arbitration makes sense for baseball salaries does NOT apply to credit card arbitration. If you get sued on a credit card, that’s the kind of thing judges decide all day long. Do you owe the debt? Who do you owe it to? Have they done something wrong trying to collect it? Deciding these things is what judges do.

So why do the credit card companies put arbitration in their fine print agreements? As long as consumers don’t fight back, the credit card companies like judges.  But suppose there’s a problem. Suppose the credit card company–or debt collector–has done something dirty. Then they want to keep it secret.

They put arbitration in their agreements, so they can take your case to a secret place, if they want to. In arbitration, you lose the right to appeal. You have fewer rights to get evidence. And you can’t join with other consumers who have been done dirty in a class action. That’s why the credit card companies are arbitration in their fine print agreements.

Why is Credit Card Arbitration Allowed?

If you had me on the Supreme Court, I’d allow arbitration for baseball players. Because it’s in the union contract. I wouldn’t allow arbitration on credit cards, because you have a constitutional right to a trial by jury. That’s the Seventh Amendment, which gives American the right to a trial by jury in disputes of over $10.00. The actual Supreme Court has said that doesn’t apply to you. Because when you used the credit card, you agreed to the arbitration.

Government can’t take away your constitutional rights, based on some fine print you never even read. But big companies apparently can.

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NORTHERN VIRGINIA BANKRUPTCY LAW OFFICES