Can a Debt Collector Harass Me Regarding Student Loans?
Student loans-can’t live with them, can’t live without them, can never seem to pay them off. With the cost of higher education skyrocketing and employers demanding a degree for jobs that pay peanuts, the average person must resort to loans to fund their academic interests. It is now a well-established fact that most student loan lenders are predatory, demanding an exorbitantly high rate of interest, shackling our youth to debt, sentencing them to working hard to get nowhere in paying down the principal debt. Throw one of life’s curveballs into the mix-an untimely lay off, a pandemic, an unexpected illness-and suddenly you may find yourself in default.
You have legal rights. We can help.
If you have defaulted on a student loan, odds are you will be hearing from a collection agency. After all, student loan providers contract with various debt collecting agencies. However, these debt collectors must adhere to law when collecting these debts. This means that they cannot leave phone messages that illegally disclose details about your debts to others without your permission, they cannot keep calling people multiple times after having been told that the person who they called did not owe the debt or make illegal calls to third parties in attempts to find the debtor. They can call you, but not harass you.
What Are the Rules for Collecting a Delinquent Student Loan?
Student loans are governed by debt collection laws just like any other debts. You have rights if you are collected by a debt collector regarding a past due student loan. A debt collector must adhere to these rules:
- Debt collectors cannot call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- You cannot be contacted at work if you have told them your employer does not allow personal calls.
- Cannot contact a third-party for anything other than getting contact information for the debtor.
- Cannot harass or abuse the debtor or anyone else contacted about the debtor.
- Cannot lie about the amount owed.
- Cannot use deceptive methods to collect a debt, such as pretending to be law enforcement or claiming that the debtor will be arrested.
However, something important to remember is that these rules are from the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) which applies only to third party debt collectors, aka collection agencies. Courts have held that a loan servicer is not a debt collector. In Maldonado v. Texas Guaranteed Sallie Mae, plaintiff alleged that once his loan was in default, defendant called his place of employment, discussed his debt with his coworkers, left threatening and harassing messages on his voicemail, and spread falsehoods damaging his reputation, thereby violating provisions of the FDCPA. See Maldonado v. Texas Guaranteed Sallie Mae, WL 80184 (2009). The court ruled that since the defendant was the loan servicer, not a debt collector, the FDCPA does not apply to them. See id. This is an important distinction. If you are getting phone calls from the lender itself, they do not have to adhere to rules established by the FDCPA.
What Should I Do If I Am Behind on My Student Loan Payments?
If you are behind on your student loan payments and you are contacted by a debt collector, you do have options. Step one is to make sure the collection agency has the right information. Contact the lender and ask for a statement to see if the amount owed is the same that the debt collector is trying to collect. Once you have established the information is correct, you have several options:
- If you can, settle your debt. If you have funds available, you might be able to negotiate an agreement with the debt collector to pay less than what you owe. While it can be difficult to reach a settlement, it can be worthwhile. You will usually have to pay it off in one lump sum, so you must have the funds available.
- If you have funds available, you can pay the amount owed to catch up the debt.
- Another option is loan consolidation. By doing this, you take out a new loan in the amount of your current loans to pay off the past due balance.
- If your loans are in default, you will need to contact your servicer to set up a repayment plan. If you make your payments on time for three months, you can enter an income-driven repayment plan that you are much more likely to afford.
Consult with an FDCPA Attorney
If you are being harassed by debt collectors, you should consult with a FDCPA attorney who can help you with your debts and help get the collectors to adhere to the laws. Complete our Free Case Evaluation Form today to get your details shared with an attorney in your area who can help you.
With all the student loan upheaval these days, one thing is clear-they’re not going to just go away. The sooner they are dealt with, the better.