Sacramento area residents who consult my law firm often have questions regarding their rights with regard to creditors who contact them once they have become delinquent paying their credit card bills or home mortgages. This situation often times becomes extremely frustrating or frightening for a person already under significant amount of stress due to his or her turbulent financial situation.
Once a debtor falls behind on his or her credit bills a creditor can become particularly bothersome. In fact, often times, the creditor becomes downright obnoxious. These measures are typically an attempt by the creditor to shame or persuade a debtor into paying the balances owed or make a last ditch effort to recover some portion of the debt. I have heard numerous horror stories regarding the extreme and sometimes outrageous behavior creditors have taken in order to “persuade” a debtor to pay. This sort of conduct by creditors is shameful. Fortunately, California law provides that a creditor’s outrageous conduct can be stopped! However, in order for a debtor to silence the aggressive debt collector, one must have a grasp of the creditor harassment law that applies to him or her in California.
Both federal and state law protects individual debtors from a creditor’s harassment. This includes both methods and conduct employed by the creditor against a debtor. The National Fair Debt Collections Practices Acts (NFDCPA) is the federal standard that limits the measures a creditor may engage in to collect a debt owed to them. California’s counterpart is referred to as the Rosenthal Act and is laid out in California Civil Code § 1788.
California’s creditor harassment law states specifically that creditors cannot repeatedly call you just to make your phone ring to annoy you; they cannot be obscene or profane; they cannot threaten the use of physical violence; creditors cannot say or imply that failure to pay a debt is criminal (except for the extreme case where it would be true, such as if you committed fraud, for instance; but not paying a typical debt is in no way criminal); or refuse to tell you who they are collecting on behalf of (i.e., which credit company is their client); nor can they pretend to be a lawyer; there are lots of things that the law prevents a creditor from doing to collect the debt. This law was specifically designed to help people just like you and me.
There are particular measures you can take as a debtor to take advantage of the California creditor harassment law and NFDCPA. Both laws permit you to substitute a lawyer in your place, so that all attempts made by a creditor to contact you must be made to your attorney instead. If you are receiving harassing phone calls from a creditor and interested in obtaining relief from the chaos the creditor attempts to create, you should call a Sacramento Bankruptcy Attorney who is familiar with the tactics employed by creditors and has experience dealing with preventing the harassment. Of course, your attorney will be able to remind the creditor of the elements of NFDCPA and the Rosenthal Act and demand that the creditor discontinue contact. This should provide you with enough breathing room so that you will no longer be afraid to answer your own phone.