One of the biggest advantages of declaring bankruptcy in Los Angeles is the automatic “stay,” which puts an immediate stop to any collection activities against you, including lawsuits and harassing phone calls and letters from creditors. Creditor harassment is an unfortunate consequence of having outstanding debts that you owe to creditors, but just because you are struggling with unpaid debt does not mean you should be subject to harassing phone calls or abuse by collectors who may go beyond what is legal when attempting to collect a debt from you. Dealing with relentless calls or letters from abusive debt collectors is stressful and annoying, not to mention a violation of the law. If you are overwhelmed by creditor harassment and collection actions related to your debts, contact our Los Angeles bankruptcy attorneys at ibankruptcyattorneys.com as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. Depending on your financial situation and the type of debt you have, bankruptcy may be a good option for relieving your debt and putting a stop to creditor harassment. Our firm is experienced in all matters related to bankruptcy and creditor harassment in Los Angeles and throughout California, and we can help you figure out a solution that works best for you and your loved ones.
Knowledgeable Los Angeles Creditor Harassment Attorneys
If you are having a hard time keeping up with your bills or you haven’t been paying them for a while, then you are probably being flooded by debt collection calls at your home, at work, or on your cell phone. If this describes your current situation, it is important to know what creditors and debt collectors can and cannot do legally. Too often, collectors will take advantage of the fact that the average consumer is not aware of the laws that protect them from creditor harassment. Fortunately for you, our attorneys have a clear understanding of these laws and how they limit what creditors and debt collectors are permitted to do when attempting to collect a payment from you. At ibankruptcyattorneys.com, we pride ourselves on our honest and transparent legal counsel. Our knowledgeable bankruptcy attorneys would be happy to review your case and help you determine what type of bankruptcy is the right choice for you based on your debts and your financial goals. Contact our Los Angeles bankruptcy team as soon as possible to schedule a consultation with our compassionate and competent bankruptcy attorneys.
Creditor Harassment Related to Your Debts
There are laws in place at both the federal and state level that protect consumers from harassment and abuse by creditors and collection agencies. However, unscrupulous creditors may use any means necessary to attempt to get you to repay your debts, including lies or fear tactics, which is against the law. Depending on the methods the creditor uses and how familiar you are with the laws protecting consumers against creditor harassment, you may not even realize that you are being harassed in some cases. The following are some common examples of unfair collection activities that may constitute creditor harassment and abuse in Los Angeles:
- Repeated phone calls from the same debt collector in a short space of time
- Phone calls made or collection letters sent to you at work
- Calling or contacting you at inconvenient times or places
- Contacting you after you have filed for bankruptcy
- Creditor calls that come at all hours of the morning or night
- Threats of violence against you or your family
- Threats that you will go to jail or face criminal charges
- Any attempt to frighten you into paying
- Creditors that use vulgar or obscene language
- Discussing your debt with a third party other than your attorney or spouse
- Calling you without identifying themselves as debt collectors
How Bankruptcy Can Put a Stop to Creditor Harassment
Harassment of any kind is difficult to deal with, but perhaps the worst kind is harassment related to unpaid debts. If you have fallen behind on your mortgage, you have unpayable medical bills, or you find yourself unable to keep up with the monthly payments on your credit card, the last thing you need is to deal with phone calls and letters from your creditors or debt collectors. In this case, filing for bankruptcy may be the best way to stop creditor harassment and halt foreclosure proceedings, wage garnishment and other collection activities against you. There are two main types of bankruptcy in Los Angeles: Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can wipe out (discharge) your unsecured debts within just a few months and get a fresh start without having to repay your creditors. One of the most powerful components of Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the automatic stay, which immediately stops all collection activity by creditors. If you are facing a debt collection lawsuit or other collection actions by one or more creditors and the debts in question are discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the creditors are barred from pursuing any further collection activity against you. Once your Chapter 7 bankruptcy is finalized, the court will issue a discharge order notifying your creditors that you are no longer legally required to pay back the debts and any collection lawsuits against you will be summarily dismissed. Although Chapter 7 bankruptcy can effectively discharge most, if not all, of your debts, not everyone is eligible to seek bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7. In order to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must first pass the bankruptcy means test, which measures your median income and disposable income to determine whether you have any disposable income to put towards paying back your debts. If you don’t pass the means test, you may still be able to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 bankruptcy differs from Chapter 7 bankruptcy in many ways, but it still includes an automatic stay affecting all collection activities by creditors, including debt collection lawsuits and harassing creditor calls. Rather than discharging your debts, Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows debtors with regular income to restructure their secured debts and create a repayment plan under which they pay back certain debts over the course of three to five years. Once you complete your Chapter 13 repayment plan and your remaining debts are discharged, any debt collection lawsuits arising from debts that were provided for or discharged in the bankruptcy proceeding must be dismissed and creditors are no longer permitted to initiate or continue any legal action against you to collect the debts. If you fail to complete your Chapter 13 repayment plan, however, your bankruptcy case may be dismissed and any debt collection lawsuits against you can continue where they left off.
What is the Automatic Stay?
In both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, creditor harassment must stop during the automatic stay, which goes into effect immediately after you have filed the bankruptcy petition. The automatic stay is an injunction issued by the bankruptcy court that halts actions by creditors to collect debts from a debtor who has filed for bankruptcy. If you file for bankruptcy in Los Angeles, the automatic stay can provide some relief from the stress and aggravation of relentless creditor calls and debt collection lawsuits and give you time to regroup and focus on navigating your path to financial freedom.
If the creditor harassment continues, tell the creditor or debt collector that you have filed for bankruptcy and to contact your bankruptcy attorney. If that doesn’t put a stop to the harassment, you can notify the bankruptcy court that the collector has failed to comply with the automatic stay order, in which case the bankruptcy court may impose fines or ask the collector to pay damages. Depending on your situation, you may have a claim under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the federal law that regulates how creditors are permitted to collect a debt from you, including what they can and cannot do when attempting to contact you for payment. The state of California has its own debt collection law – the Rosenthal FDCPA – which provides additional protections for consumers. If collection activities by a creditor or debt collector violate the law, you may be able to file a lawsuit in state or federal court to pursue compensation for damages.
Debt Collection Lawsuits
In addition to preventing creditors from contacting you or engaging in other debt collection efforts, the automatic stay also stops creditors from pursuing lawsuits against you to collect outstanding debts. Bankruptcy is one of the most powerful tools you have in your arsenal for discharging overwhelming debt and eradicating debt collection lawsuits and other collection actions. However, while bankruptcy can put a stop to certain types of civil lawsuits, other legal matters are not affected by a bankruptcy filing, which means there are actions you will still have to address, despite your bankruptcy filing. Criminal proceedings, for instance, may still proceed after a bankruptcy petition is filed. Divorce and child support proceedings may also go forward, even those involving debts related to overdue child support payments. Keep in mind that the effect of a bankruptcy filing on the various types of lawsuits and collection activities you may be facing depends on which type of bankruptcy you file.
How to Handle Creditor Harassment
Many victims of creditor harassment or unfair debt collection practices already feel frustrated or powerless as a result of crushing debt, divorce, medical issues, job loss or some other difficult matter. Being subjected to harassing, annoying or abusive collection actions on top of that can leave debtors feeling defeated and unsure of where to turn for help. If you are being harassed by creditors or debt collectors in Los Angeles, you may be wondering how best to deal with what probably feels like an intolerable situation. First, we recommend keeping a record of any debt collection calls or letters you receive, along with the name and contact information of each person that calls you or sends you letters. If you are receiving repeated phone calls from the same debt collector, keep a log of the time and location of each call you receive (i.e. at home or at work).
How an Assertive Bankruptcy Attorney Can Help
It is also a good idea to contact an attorney to discuss how to put a stop to the creditor harassment you are experiencing. If you decide to file for bankruptcy, your bankruptcy attorney can instruct your creditors to only contact you through your attorney in the future, which can give you a much-needed reprieve from the distressing calls and letters. A good attorney will work hard to provide you with trustworthy legal counsel and will stand up for your rights and defend you against the dishonest and often illegal conduct used by dishonest creditors and debt collectors to threaten or frighten debtors into making payments on their debt. We believe that all debtors deserve to be free from harassment by creditors and debt collection agencies while they explore their options for debt relief. When you hire ibankruptcyattorneys.com to represent your bankruptcy case, our legal team will do everything in our power to help you settle your debt and get your financial situation back on track.
Contact Our Knowledgeable Bankruptcy Attorneys Today
Taking that first step towards filing for bankruptcy in Los Angeles can feel like an overwhelming decision fraught with complications and difficult decisions, all of which can be further compounded by the stress of creditor harassment. If you are facing a debt collection lawsuit or dealing with harassing phone calls or collection activities by creditors, you are not alone. Getting out from under overwhelming debt can be difficult, costly and time-consuming, and an experienced Los Angeles bankruptcy attorney can help you figure out the best solution for your situation, whether that means filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you are being repeatedly contacted or threatened by creditors or debt collectors, call our Los Angeles bankruptcy firm as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation with our skilled attorneys. We can discuss with you how to stop the collection calls and possibly even how to recover compensation from the debt collectors for creditor abuse.