Debt collectors are nothing if not persistent, even when it is illegal to do so. Especially when in the middle of a bankruptcy claim, the last thing you want to deal with are repeated solicitations from creditors.
According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), there are regulations that collections agents must follow after a bankruptcy claim in order to not break the law. If you have been regularly harassed by creditors during your chapter 7 bankruptcy, continue below to learn how to move forward.
Chapter 7 and Debt Collection
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is one of the most common forms of bankruptcy. When a person successfully files, a bankruptcy trustee uses funds from the debtor’s assets to repay creditors and collections agents. Thus, those who file chapter 7 are released from their duty to repay their debts.
During this process and onward, bankruptcy applicants (such as yourself) are covered under an “automatic stay”. This is a form of protection that legally protects filers from harassment by collections agents.
Aside from certain exemptions (criminal cases, certain eviction notices, certain forms of child support, etc.) any contact from creditors while under an automatic stay could be a violation of the law. This includes:
- repeated emails from debt collectors
- calls or voicemails
- hostility or threats to take legal action if there is no payment
- contact to anyone else in your family regarding the debt
If you have received such contact after filing for chapter 7, then you may be warranted to take further action.
First and foremost, be sure to analyze your situation and get specific dates and times in order. For instance, measure the timing and frequency of contact you’ve received from debt collectors in relation to when you filed for chapter 7.
If only a few days have passed since filing, then it is very likely that collections companies haven’t yet been notified of your bankruptcy. These companies can also be alerted of your bankruptcy plans before it is filed to keep them from calling.
When in doubt, call the companies looking for repayment to inform them of your bankruptcy status. Collectors should be very aware of FDCPA laws and will most likely heed your warnings and stop all contact. However, if contact still continues, it is best to directly contact the bankruptcy court.
Be sure to present all evidence of continued contact (letters, phone records, voicemails, etc.) to prove unlawful harassment. Collectors found of breaking automatic stay rulings and FDCPA law can be fined, sanctioned, or ordered to pay damages.
If your debt collectors continue to harass you, regardless of sanctions or warnings, then their companies can be sued in court. While this is more rare, it has the potential to provide a higher reward and more severe creditor fines than that of a bankruptcy sanction.
Contacting an Attorney
Dealing with collections agents and creditors can be draining, especially after the stressful charter 7 filing process. To give yourself the best chance to end creditor harassment efficiently, consider contacting an FDCPA attorney.
Their merits and knowledge of debt collection law can make all the difference in a case against pesky collectors. They can also help you to organize paperwork, remain in contact with the bankruptcy court, and represent you in any legal situation necessary.
Make an appointment with an FDCPA attorney near you to learn how you can end your debt collection woes for good.