Debt collectors usually contact consumers by phone or by mail, but recently debt collectors started to take new approaches to contacting consumers...
Figuring out how to pay off your holiday debt or other credit card debt can be a daunting, challenging task. Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. has created a list of tips and tricks to help you eliminate your debts, become debt free, and avoid receiving calls from debt collectors...
Columbus, Ohio residents in the 614 area code receive an extremely high number of robocalls. Robocalls are automated messages sent to a consumer’s phone that are typically annoying and unwanted...
We are proud to announce the promotion of Andrew Gerling to shareholder at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A...
Can a debt collector call you during the holidays? It Depends
Getting a phone call from a debt collector during the holiday season can ruin your holiday spirit. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) restricts the actions of debt collectors, protects consumers, and punishes debt collectors with unruly, bad behavior. Troy Doucet, the firm principal here at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A., shares advice regarding the FDCPA and how to deal with unruly debt collectors during the holiday season in the article “Can a Debt Collector call you during the holidays?” in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The FDCPA punishes debt collectors who contact consumers with repetitive, harassing behavior and restricts them from calling consumers at inconvenient times. Calling in the middle of the night or calling a consumer at work are typical examples of an inconvenient time, but holidays may also be arguable inconvenient and a violation of the FDCPA.
Under the FDCPA, consumers are allowed to send a written letter asking a debt collector to stop calling. After, the debt collector may contact the consumer one more time to inform them they plan to take legal action. If the debt collector continues to contact the consumer after the letter, then a consumer litigation lawyer at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. can help determine if the FDCPA has been violated. Once a consumer has legal representation, the debt collector cannot contact the consumer directly without permission of the lawyer.
In Ohio, lawsuits dealing with the FDCPA allow fee shifting. This means if the lawyers at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. can help you win a lawsuit against a debt collector for bad and unruly behaviors, the debt collector will have to pay all of our attorney fees for you. Contact an experienced lawyer at (614)944-5219 for your consultation today.
Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. Wins Lawsuit Against a Debt Collector
Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. won a lawsuit against Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC for debt collection harassment and violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Our clients sought out our assistance after Portfolio continued to notify them about their debts after they had legal representation and failed to show proper verification.
In 2015, Student Legal Services, Inc. helped our clients by sending a letter asking for verification for some of the debts Portfolio notified them about. Under the FDCPA, a debt collector cannot contact a consumer without permission once they have a lawyer involved.
Portfolio responded by sending a letter directly to our clients verifying another debt, not the debts requested. Portfolio continued to contact our clients by mail and eventually phone about various debts. Portfolio violated the FDCPA by continuing to contact our client’s after they had legal representation.
Portfolio admitted liability through an offer of judgement and paid our clients $2,001 in statutory damages due to collection harassment and violations of the FDCPA. In Ohio, FDCPA lawsuits that create statutes are also violations for a Consumer Sales Practice Act (CSPA) lawsuit and both allow fee shifting. Therefore, Portfolio is required to pay Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. reasonable attorney fees, rather than our client.
Double Jeopardy in the World of Debt Collecting
Is it illegal for a debt collector to seize your paycheck if another collector already has? Troy Doucet, the firm principal here at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A., shares advice and legal knowledge regarding the issue in the article Can a Debt Collector Come After Me if My Wages Are Already Being Garnished on Credit.com.
Doucet advises that a consumer lawyer should be contacted to help you when a debt collector is trying to seize your wages for something your wages have already been seized for. You as the consumer have the right to a hearing if you are being put at a disadvantage by two sources simultaneously for the same reason. Debt collectors do not always communicate with each other so there is a possibility this could happen. If the collectors are targeting you for different debts though, your possessions could also be at risk.
Debt collection laws vary state to state. In Ohio, a debt collector cannot take your wages or possessions without suing you and being awarded the right to first. Debt collection harassment is also a difficult action for a consumer to deal with. If you feel you are being targeted for debt that is not yours, a letter sent through the mail is the proper way to end this harassment. If you send a letter and are at fault for the debt then the collector may contact you one last time to inform you that they intend to take legal action. You can access more information on doucet.law regarding how to send the letter and what to include in the letter by clicking here.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects consumers federally from debt collectors. The FDCPA protects consumers from being contacted in the workplace and ensures a written letter is the correct way to end collection harassment. The FDCPA also helps collect damages from debt collectors at fault and helps enforce that the debt collector will cover the charges for your attorney fees in the end if the collector is found at fault.
Can my old landlord hire a debt collector to sue me for moving out of my apartment early?
A debt collector is allowed to contact someone to collect on a valid debt. Before determining whether a debt collector is allowed to contact someone in a particular situation, the underlying legal situation first needs to be evaluated.
When two people enter into a lease to rent an apartment, they usually sign a contract to be jointly liable to the landlord for payment of the rent. If either party breaks the lease, then the landlord has the right to sue either party for recovery of all the lost rent. That lawsuit can include late fees or other charges authorized by the lease. The legal doctrine that allows a landlord to sue either tenant (or both tenants, at the choice of the landlord) is called “joint and several liability.” Rather than suing, a landlord can appropriately place the account with a collection agency to collect on the unpaid rent.
A separate contractual relationship governs the relationship between tenants. Usually, two people entering into a lease agree to split the cost, where each side agrees to pay a certain amount towards the total rent. If one of the tenants stops making payments, then the other tenant has a claim for breach of contract against the non-paying tenant. The paying tenant can even pay the entire rent due to the landlord themselves to prevent a breach of the lease, and then sue the non-payer for breaching their agreement to split the cost.
Assuming valid contracts exists, moving out of town is generally not a good enough reason to get out of a lease. There is no requirement that the landlord agree to allow someone out of a lease early, and no requirement for the landlord to agree to shift all of the payment responsibility onto the other tenant. There is also no requirement for the other tenant to agree to accept all the liability for the entire lease and allow the other tenant to move out early. It would be pretty unfair to the roommate left behind to have to pay all of the money to the landlord each month when they entered into the lease thinking they would only have to pay half. Thus, if one of the tenants moves out early, that person should not be surprised if they are sued by both the landlord and/or the other roommate for amounts not paid.
That all said, landlords have a duty to mitigate their damages by trying to rent out the property immediately after eviction. They cannot wait around for months in order for their damages to compound and then sue for a much bigger number than if they took appropriate steps to lease the unit to someone else immediately. In our Franklin County, Ohio, for example, landlords are generally only able to collect about two months of future rent as damages even if the lease had six months left on it. The landlord can also sue for fees and costs allowed by the lease or allowed by the law. That would require looking at local law, and raising failure to mitigate damages in the court case, probably through a lawyer.
One final note on the issue of whether a debt collector is acting appropriately. A debt collector is only allowed to demand that amount of money which is actually owed and is bona fide and reasonable. Thus, if the debt collector is adding fees or costs which are not allowed by the terms of the lease (or are prohibited by law), then the debt collector might still be liable under the FDCPA for collecting on an inflated debt. That kind of lawsuit could wipe out the rent claimed as due and cover your attorneys’ fees, even if the balance of the underlying debt was otherwise valid. An experienced consumer lawyer could help there, which is what we do. Call (614) 944-5219 if you are in Ohio.
Ohio Attorney General Special Counsel Now Subject to FDCPA: Gillie v. Law Office of Eric A Jones, LLC
In May, the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals determined in Gillie v. Law Office of Eric A. Jones, LLC, No. 14-3836, that attorneys working as contracted debt collectors for the Ohio Attorney General are subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Attorney General’s office, which is responsible for collecting debts owed to the State, often contracts attorneys to act as debt collectors under the title of “special counsel.” Along with this special counsel title came the letterhead of the Ohio Attorney General’s office, which was used when collecting consumer debt on behalf of the State. It is now likely a deceptive act under the FDCPA to use that letterhead, and thus a violation of federal law.
The FDCPA was passed in 1977 to protect consumers from abusive debt collection practices. Congress found that debt collection agencies often operated with the mentality that debt was to be collected at any cost, creating incentives to mislead, or sometimes bully consumers into paying their debts. However, in passing the act, Congress made exemptions for employees and officers of the State when collecting debts owed to the government. Whether or not Ohio Attorney General special counsel was protected under these exemptions was a fundamental issue that the Sixth Circuit Court had to decide.
The plaintiffs, Pamela Gillie and Hazel Meadows, filed a lawsuit against several law firms acting as special counsel for the Ohio Attorney General. They argued that the use of the Attorney General’s letterhead was intentionally misleading, and therefore a violation of the FDCPA. After a lower district court ruled in favor of the defendants, the decision was appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court. The court determined that whether or not the special counsel debt collection letters were misleading was a matter best left for a jury, but held the FDCPA did apply to special counsel acting for the Ohio Attorney General when collecting medical debts for the State.
The Sixth Circuit Court determined that special counsel was in no way considered to either be employees or officers of the State of Ohio, despite their use of the Attorney General letterhead. Because of their nature as contractors for the State, the court determined that any special counsel attempting to collect consumer debt for the Ohio Attorney General was subject to the FDCPA. In this case, special counsel was acting to collect past due OSU medical debts.
The Sixth Circuit Court determined that special counsel is subject to the FDCPA when attempting to collect consumer debts for the State, due to the nature of their relationship with the Ohio Attorney General. Because they were contracted by the Attorney General, and not hired or appointed, they are not protected under the exemptions they claimed. This firm believes that the letters will likely be determined to violate the law, and that the consumer/debtors will recover under the FDCPA. If you think that you may have been affected by this practice, then please call Doucet & Associates at (614) 944-5219.
How to Stop Debt Collection Calls
Debt collection agencies use a wide range of tactics to collect on past-due accounts. Many are illegal, including:
• Threatening arrest or jail time; • Calling employers about the debt; • Robocalling or texting a cell phone; • Calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.; • Saying liens will be placed on income; • Threatening violence; • Telling a lie, misstating the debt; and • Mailing a letter with false information in it.
Consumer lawyer Troy Doucet of the Dublin-based law firm Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. says consumers have the right to stop collection calls and letters. He explains that the most straightforward method is to write a letter to the collector asking it to stop calling. Collectors must comply with any written demand. Thus, Doucet recommends you make a copy and send it certified mail. Debt collectors are not required to stop calling if the request is only over the phone – the cease and desist demand must be in writing.
Another way to stop the collection agency from calling is to retain a lawyer. The moment a collection agency is aware of legal representation it must immediately stop calling and instead work directly with the debtor’s attorney. There is no written requirement here – merely telling the collector you are represented by counsel ends their ability to contact you further. However, Doucet notes that you must tell them your attorney’s name and phone number when asked.
The federal law governing debt collectors is called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The law has considerable teeth, and the damages available to people under the law include requiring the collector to pay all attorneys’ fees and expenses. The law is designed so that any single violation of the law – including calling after a cease and desist letter is sent – triggers the law’s full protection and damages. Doucet recommends that anyone being harassed by a debt collector seek out legal representation. As he puts it, “going through a tough time in life does not give a debt collector the right to walk all over you.”