Aggressive Debt Collection

In today’s challenging economic times it is sad that it has become increasingly difficult for the individual to utilize the only bailout he’s every going to see—the fresh start offered by filing bankruptcy.  Banks have become increasingly hostile to their debtors.  It is ironic that big banks, which required government bailouts just to stay afloat, ignore the law and chase after debtors like a pack of hungry wolves.  This overly aggressive debt collection is shameful and unnecessary.  Filing for bankruptcy is supposed to end the constant phone calls from creditors harassing individuals in debt.  At this point one almost expects the banks to send a couple of large, burly, guys named Moose and Rocko after their debtors.  The calls and harassment have to stop.  They are not only a shameful practice but an illegal one as well.

When bankruptcy is filed the court automatically warns all creditors to halt collections attempts or they will be penalized by way of fines and attorney’s fees.  This fundamental element of American bankruptcy law is intended to offer debtors some respite as they get their finances in order.  Once the bankruptcy is finalized this stay becomes permanent for most debtors.  They are now free to live in a world where creditors are not hounding them day and night to pay debts they cannot afford.  Many banks and other creditors often, either intentionally or unintentionally, ignore this stay.  Many banks employ an assembly line approach to harassment.  They use automatic phone dialers and a computer system not programmed to weed out individuals who have filed for bankruptcy.  In a recent case, Bank of America contacted a couple thirty-eight separate times after they had filed for bankruptcy harassing them for payment.  Bank of America ignored protests from the couple and their attorney, stating that they did not care about bankruptcy and would continue to call.  The court penalized Bank of America $10,000 for the incident which the bank gladly handed over as merely the cost of doing business in today’s banking world.  It is sad that an industry so poorly stewarded that it required public funded bailouts to survive has turned around and attacked the very people who funded those bailouts.

Bankruptcy is not very high up on anyone’s to-do list.  People file for bankruptcy as a last resort to get out from under mountainous piles of debt.  They file as a result of medical issues, loss of income or divorce.  Some attorney’s for these banks have argued that their lack of a computer system with the ability to flag cases in bankruptcy offers them a defense to the fines levied by the courts.  It does not.  The law does not have to comply with the banks.  The banks have to comply with the law.  If they do not want to pay these fines as a way of doing business, they need to develop a method of flagging bankruptcy cases and halting their harassment of those people.  If you have filed for bankruptcy and are still being harassed here are four things to keep in mind.  First, the banks continued harassment must be “willful”.  They may try to tell you that, because their disorganized approach, they did not know you filed for bankruptcy.  This is not a defense.  Keep track of the amount of times they call you and hire an attorney.  Second, do not jump right into a lawsuit if the bank calls you the day after you file.  They must be allowed some time to get their affairs in order.  If the harassment continues for a month you have grounds for a lawsuit.  Third, keep a phone log of the date and time of your creditors calls.  Do not let them threaten you into making a payment on a debt listed under the bankruptcy.  Fourth, check you credit report sixty days after you file for bankruptcy to make sure it does not list you owing money to any of your creditors.  If you have filed for bankruptcy you have protection from continued harassment.  Stand your ground and do not be intimidated.

My Take
Being in debt can be a traumatic experience.  That trauma is only exacerbated by the constant harassment from creditors.  If you have fallen so far into debt that filing for bankruptcy has become necessary do not let this harassment continue.  The bankruptcy laws in this country understand that constantly being called by your creditors can be an awful experience.  They are designed with he very purpose to end these calls.  Do not let the banks ignore them and continue to torment you.  If the harassment continues, be smart.  Record the dates and times of their calls.  Contact an attorney and move forward with a complaint.  The more people who fight back, the better chance there is that the fines will become too hefty and the banks will stop their illegal practices.

 

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Expected Behavior from a Legal Representative

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Risk/Rewards of Buying Foreclosures

If you are in the market for a home, it is hard to look at the rock-bottom prices of foreclosures and not feel that you could snag a great deal.  I mean, after all, homes don’t sell for half price every day.  However, buying troubled properties presents a frustrating, time consuming, hassle filled with potential risks.  Before you decide to take the plunge you need to be certain that you are prepared for the worst case scenario.  There is no telling what problems the property may have in store for you.  When you buy a foreclosed home, you buy it as is.  There are no warranties.  You have to be ready to invest in a fixer-upper that may come with a laundry list of problems.  However, you may also be able to snag a gem of a home for a bargain basement price.  The foreclosure market is full of flux and uncertainty.  It is not for the faint of heart and, in the worst case scenario could be a major let down.  But it may just land you a great home and a great investment.

The Risks

There are many risks when buying foreclosed homes.  Many of the homes have been sitting unoccupied and unattended for some time.  This can lead to all kinds of damage to the home.  Rotting wood, rusty pipes, you never really know.  What you thought was a great deal could end up being a major headache.  Many foreclosures are handyman’s dreams.  They are projects that need someone who has the time, energy, and know how to get these homes back into working order.  To make matters even worse, in a minority of cases owners who were foreclosed on purposely destroy their former homes.  They may dump cement down drains and, quite literally, render the home useless.  You may end up with nothing more than the land and a shell of a house.

The Rewards

The major reward to buying a foreclosed home is the price.  Properties are routinely listed at up to half off their appraised value.  This can offer a great way for people to move into a home they would normally not be able to afford.  There are tons of stories of families being able to afford their first home because of its drastically reduced price as a result of foreclosure.  If you do extensive research and play the market right you may be able to find a great home for a basement price.  It is recommended that you hire a reputable real estate agent or a lawyer who specializes in handling foreclosure sales to represent you.  They will likely have a better idea of what to look for when evaluating a home and they will be able to lend a hand with the difficult paperwork that comes with purchasing a foreclosed home.  Always have the home inspected before you decide to make an offer.  If you take all of the proper precautions there is not reason why can’t save a bundle and find the home of your dreams for an absolute bargain.

Buying foreclosed homes can be a risky business.  These are homes that represent the failed dreams of their previous owners, some of whom did not leave quietly.  However, most homes, not just foreclosures, present minor problems and require some sort of work and repair.  If you prepare and take the proper steps to ensure that the home you are looking to invest in or buy has not been destroyed y0u can find a real gem of a property.  Buying foreclosures is not for the lazy or faint of heart.  It is a complex labor intensive process that can lead to the home of your dreams.

My Take
I would be wary before I invested in a foreclosed home.  I could get over the fact that the home itself represents the shattered dreams of the previous owner, but just about every foreclosed home I have ever seen has been in serious need of repair.  My uncle flips homes for a living and can attest from experience that no job repairing a home is routine.  You often don’t know the extent of the problems until you actually get in and begin to do the work.  One small job can lead to five bigger ones and suddenly your bargain fixer-upper has racked up a massive repair budget.  No matter how much you prepare there are still going to be surprises hidden around every corner.  However, I do understand the appeal of buying a house for half of its appraised value.  If you are dead set on looking to purchase a foreclosure be sure to do your homework.  Hire a real estate agent or attorney and be sure to have the home inspected.  It is up to you to do everything you can to ensure that your investment doesn’t go down the drain.

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Foreclosure

Today’s harsh economic climate has led to an increase in foreclosures.  It is important for consumers in today’s market to know and understand what exactly foreclosure is.  Foreclosure is the specific legal process by which a lender attempts to recover the balance of a loan, or force the sale of assets as collateral for the loan, when the debtor has stopped making payments.  Foreclosure can occur with any type of property but it is most often used in relation to real property.  Real property is a legal term referring to immovable property, most often a home.  Home foreclosures skyrocketed after the housing bubble burst several years ago.  People have fallen behind on their mortgage payments in record numbers.  If you find yourself in this situation it is important that you understand the foreclosure process and what options you have once a lender begins foreclosure proceedings against you.

Types of Foreclosure

In the United States there are two forms of foreclosure commonly used, namely, judicial sale and power of sale.  Foreclosure by judicial sale, more commonly called judicial foreclosure, involves the sale of mortgaged property under the supervision of the court, with the proceeds going to pay the outstanding sum of the mortgage.  Under this system, the lender initiates the foreclosure proceeding by filing a lawsuit against the borrower in court.  Parties must be notified of foreclosure actions against them and a judicial decision is handed down after brief exchange of pleadings.

Foreclosure by power of sale, also known as non-judicial foreclosure, is authorized by many states if a power of sale clause is included in the mortgage.  The process involves the sale of the property by the mortgage holder without the supervision of a court.  This process is generally much faster and cheaper because the parties avoid the expensive logjam that is the court docket.

Foreclosure Process

In a non-judicial foreclosure proceeding the defaulting party will be served by the lender with a notice of default (NOD).  The NOD gives notice to the defaulting party of the lender’s intent to sell the property in a manner consistent with the statute.  In most states the only government official involved in a non-judicial foreclosure is the county recorder who merely records any pre-sale notices.  In order to stop this type of foreclosure the defaulting party must either cure the default or use other lawful means, such as file for bankruptcy, to stop the sale.  This kind of foreclosure process is far more efficient than its counterpart.  However, by removing the court, a certain amount of oversight is taken out of the process.

In a judicial foreclosure, the lender files for foreclosure in  court.  The court then serves the defaulting party with notice providing them with a court date.  On that date the parties appear in court plead and, generally, the case is decided by summery judgement for the lender.  The court then oversees the auctioning off of the property at a sheriff’s auction.  The proceeds are used to pay off the defaulting party’s debt.  This process is much longer and more expensive because it involves the courts.  Court fees and an overstuffed docket make this type of foreclosure far less efficient.  However, there is a sense of fairness as the proceedings are overseen by the court.

Foreclosure can be a difficult process to go  through.  The prospect of losing your home can be daunting.  Remember that foreclosure can be a long drawn out process, which can give you a chance to remedy the situation.  If your goal is to save your house be sure to keep up with all your homeowners insurance payments and property taxes.  It is important to keep up on all the expenses you can afford.  Although foreclosure is a very trying process to go through, you have to remember to keep your head up and stay positive.  Foreclosure is a long, drawn out, process and you cannot know what the outcome will be.

My Take
If you are in danger of being foreclosed on it is important that you stay calm and focused.  In today’s market you definitely are not alone. There are thousands of people undergoing the same thing.  I would recommend contacting an attorney for help if you can.  Remember that the process is long and drawn out, possibly giving you the opportunity to recover before foreclosure procedures are finalized.  It is important that, if you find yourself involved in foreclosure proceedings, you get informed, investigate all of your options, stay positive and work hard to ensure that things work out.  

 

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Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

If you have been hit hard by the Great recession and find yourself in financial hot water, it is important to understand the different forms of bankruptcy.  Chapter thirteen bankruptcy allows individuals to undergo financial reorganization supervised by a Federal Bankruptcy Court.  The goal of chapter thirteen is to allow income-receiving debtors rehabilitation as they pay off their debts according to a court approved plan.  Chapter thirteen is different from chapter seven, which offers complete relief of most debts.  Chapter thirteen is more akin to debt consolidation.  There are restrictions regarding who can file a chapter thirteen bankruptcy claim.  An individual must have the necessary disposable income required by law.  There are limits on the amount of debt a person applying for chapter thirteen can have.  Their unsecured debt must be less than $360,575 and their secured debts cannot exceed $1, 081, 400.  The applicant cannot have a bankruptcy petition dismissed by the court 180 days prior to their current filing.  Bankruptcy is a serious proceeding that should only be used as a last resort to your debt crisis.  That being said, it offers you the possibility to make your debt easier to handle, allowing you to get back on your feet and plan for a successful future.

Advantages to Chapter 13

Chapter thirteen offers people several advantages over chapter seven liquidation.  Most significantly, chapter thirteen offers individuals the opportunity to save their homes from foreclosure.  Filing under this chapter allows individuals to halt foreclosure proceedings, and may cure delinquent mortgage payments over time.  Another advantage is that people may be able to reschedule secured debts and extend them over the life of a chapter thirteen plan, which may reduce the payments.  Chapter thirteen also contains a special provision that may protect co-signers and other liable third parties.  Also while under a chapter thirteen plan the individual in debt has no contact with creditors.

How Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Works

Individuals preparing to file for chapter thirteen bankruptcy must gather a list of all creditors and the amounts and natures of the claims, the source, amount, and frequency of the debtor’s income, a list of all the debtor’s property, and a detailed list of the debtor’s monthly living expenses.  Married individuals must gather all of this information for their spouse, regardless of whether or not they are filing a joint petition.  Once a petition has been filed, collection actions are stayed against the petitioner’s property.  As long as the stay is in effect, creditors generally may not initiate or continue lawsuits, wage garnishments, or even make telephone calls demanding payments.  Between twenty-one and fifty days after the petition is filed the chapter thirteen trustee will hold a meeting of creditors.  At this meeting, the trustee places the debtor under oath, and both the trustee and creditors may ask questions. The debtor must attend this meeting and answer the questions regarding his financial affairs and the proposed terms of the plan.  If a husband and wife file a petition together, they both must attend the creditors’ meeting and answer questions. In order to preserve their independent judgment, bankruptcy judges do not attend the creditors’ meeting.  The debtor and the creditors generally resolve their issues with the plan either during or shortly after the creditors’ meeting. Generally, the debtor can avoid problems by making sure that the petition and plan are accurate, and by consulting with the trustee before the meeting.  After the meeting of creditors, the debtor, the chapter thirteen trustee, and those creditors who wish to attend, will come to court for a hearing on the debtor’s chapter thirteen repayment plan.

 

My Take
Many people right now are feeling the ill effects of the economic downturn.  Chapter thirteen bankruptcy offers you an escape from the constant collection calls and creditor harassment.  In my opinion it is a better option than chapter seven liquidation.  Chapter thirteen gives you the chance to save you home from foreclosure and to protect any third party co-signers.  You must think carefully before filing a petition for bankruptcy.  It is not a simple get out of jail free card.  Bankruptcy will remain on your credit record for years to come.  That being said it does offer some respite to those who have fallen so far into debt that there is no other foreseeable remedy.  Being in financial hot water is nothing to be ashamed of.  Thousands of families around the country have found themselves struggling during these rough economic time.  Bankruptcy is a life preserver for those who can no longer stay afloat.  

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Dollar Amounts for Child Support

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Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Filling for bankruptcy can be a long, confusing, process.  Unfortunately, in this tough economy bankruptcy filings have skyrocketed along with unemployment.  The most common form of bankruptcy filing is a chapter seven liquidation filing.  If you find it necessary to file bankruptcy you may feel embarrassed and worried about what the future will hold.  These feelings are normal, but unnecessary.  You are not alone in your financial troubles, and, although it should be used only as a last resort, bankruptcy offers a way to relinquish your debt and give yourself a fresh start.

The ability to file for chapter seven bankruptcy is available to both individuals and businesses.  Individuals who reside, have a place of business, or own property, in the United States have the ability to file for chapter seven bankruptcy in United States Federal Court.  Chapter seven bankruptcy, like other forms of bankruptcy, is not available to people who have had a bankruptcy case dismissed within the last one hundred and eighty days.  In chapter seven bankruptcy, the individual is allowed to keep certain exempt property.  The value of property that can be claimed as exempt varies according to jurisdiction.  Assets not claimed as exempt are sold at auction to repay creditors.  There are certain kinds of unsecured debt that are discharged.  However, not all forms of debt can be discharged.  Child support, spousal support, property taxes, student loans, and fines or restitution ordered by a court cannot be discharged by chapter seven.

There are several different methods for filing chapter seven bankruptcy.  You can file yourself by filling out the Federal Bankruptcy Forms online.  The templates are essentially the computer versions of the paper forms.  They are available as Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat formatted templates.  Although these forms are available on the computer they do not come with any instructions to guide the debtor through filling them out.  As a result these forms are time consuming, complex and confusing.

Another way to file for chapter seven bankruptcy is to purchase bankruptcy software.  Bankruptcy software allows the user to interact with a webpage and shields them from dealing with the actual, complex, bankruptcy forms.  The software asks the debtor questions reminiscent of an interview setting.  The debtor will provide their name and address along with a list of their creditors, assets and other pertinent financial information.  The software then takes that information and uses it to fill in the complex bankruptcy forms and emails them to the client to print off and take to court.  Although these programs are convenient and helpful, they do make mistakes.  It is impossible for the computer to digest all of the information needed and place it in the correct box on the form.

An alternative to the do-it-yourself methods for people who cannot afford a bankruptcy lawyer is to hire a non-attorney bankruptcy petitioner.  Non-attorney bankruptcy petitioners are trained professionals available to fill out the mountainous load of complex paperwork involved with filing bankruptcy.  These professionals are available both in person and over the computer.  Contacting them over the computer is much like using bankruptcy software.  The debtor inputs his information into the computer, but instead of being filled out by a computer program it is manually filled out by a trained professional.  However, many debtors who do not know the law do not provide the correct information.  If the professionals are not provided with the correct information, they will make mistakes while filling out the forms.

The best and most surefire way to file for bankruptcy and ensure that your forms are correctly filled out is to hire a bankruptcy attorney.  Attorneys are legally trained professionals and understand all of the nuances and complexities of bankruptcy law.  The only way to ensure that your filing goes smoothly is to hire an attorney.

My Take
With the downturn in the economy, bankruptcy has become more common.  If you are in financial hot water and are considering filing for chapter seven bankruptcy don’t be embarrassed or worried.  It is a long, complex, process but there are methods to help you through it.  The best way to deal with filing bankruptcy is to hire an attorney.  However, if you cannot afford an attorney, working with a trained, non-attorney, petitioner or purchasing bankruptcy software are also helpful choices.  I would not advise diving into the paperwork on your own unless you are an attorney or are familiar with the bankruptcy process.  The paperwork is long, confusing, and complex.  Unless you have worked with it before it will take you a significant amount of time to finish.  Bankruptcy is a complicated process, however, there are tools available to help make the process go smoothly and get you back on your feet as soon as possible.

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