Debt Collection

  • What can I do if I am being harassed by Creditors?

    The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law to protect consumers from unfair and abusive behavior by debt collectors. If you believe you are being harassed by a creditor, visit this link for general information:

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    Can someone repossess my things?

    Yes, in some cases. People sometimes put up something that they own or are buying as “collateral” or “security” for a loan. For example, when you borrow money to buy a car, the car is usually collateral and the creditor can repossess it if you don’t make your payments. People often put up their household goods as collateral for loans from finance companies, and their household goods can then be repossessed if they don’t pay back the loan.

    Creditors must follow certain rules when repossessing personal property:

    • Creditors must act peacefully if they repossess anything. They cannot break into your garage or your house.
    • You do not have to let creditors into your house or on your property if they are trying to repossess, unless they have a court order. If you order them to leave, they have to go.
    • Within five days of taking possession of the item, the creditor must provide written notice explaining the default of the loan and the amount the debtor must pay to repossess the property.

    Please keep any notice of sale as to the repossessed item. It the notice is wrong, it can be used to defeat the creditor’s claim in the future. Always contact an attorney immediately after receiving court papers.

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    What can a creditor do to collect a debt I owe them?

    People can collect money from you only if they follow the law. This includes filing a lawsuit, obtaining a court order showing the debt is your responsibility and filing an order with the court to collect the debt. If you are working, a creditor can take a part of your paycheck every pay period to collect a debt. This is called wage garnishment. Your wages can only be garnished IF you have been sued, AND the creditor has won a judgment against you. The creditor must serve you with notice at least 15 days before the garnishment order is filed with the court. A creditor can take up to 25% of your wages every pay period. If you get a notice of garnishment or bank attachment–see a lawyer immediately. There are some exceptions for debts from the government. The internal revenue service and some student loan entities may be able to collect money without a lawsuit.

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    Types of property a creditor cannot take to repay a debt

    The law says that some property is so important for you and your family that it cannot be taken by your creditor (unless you put it up as collateral). This is called “exempt” property. If a creditor is attempting to take your property, you must file a request for a hearing with the court in order to protect your exempt property. This must be done within five days of your receipt of the notice from the court. If you do not assert this right, you will lose your right to this property if a creditor holding a judgment takes action against you. The most important kinds of exempt property are:

    • A place of residence (up to $132,900)
    • Cash on hand (up to $450, unless the cash comes from one of the exempt sources listed on the previous page)
    • Clothing
    • Most household goods, furniture, appliances (up to $12,250 total and individual goods cannot exceed $575)
    • A car, if it is worth less than $3,675 or if its value, over and above what you owe on it, is less than $3,675
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    Types of Income Creditor Cannot Collect to Repay a Debt

    Your creditors cannot take money from the following:

    • Welfare Check (OWF or Disability Assistance)
    • SSI Check (Supplemental Security Income)
    • Unemployment compensation check
    • Veterans Administration Check
    • Other retirement income
    • Wages (up to approximately $940/month and if you make more than $940, you may be subject to a 25% garnishment.)
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    What practices are off limits for debt collectors?

    Harassment-Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact. For example, they may not:
    • use threats of violence or harm;
    • publish a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts (but they can give this information to the credit reporting companies);
    • use obscene or profane language; or
    • repeatedly use the phone to annoy someone.

    False statements- Debt collectors may not lie when they are trying to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
    • falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives;
    • falsely claim that you have committed a crime;
    • falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit reporting company;
    • misrepresent the amount you owe;
    • indicate that papers they send you are legal forms if they aren’t; or
    • indicate that papers they send to you aren’t legal forms if they are.

    Debt collectors also are prohibited from saying that:
    • you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt;
    • they’ll seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so; or
    • legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don’t intend to take the action.

    Debt collectors may not:
    • give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company;
    • send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency if it isn’t; or
    • use a false company name.

    Unfair practices. Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
    • try to collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount you owe unless the contract that created your debt – or your state law – allows the charge;
    • deposit a post-dated check early;
    • take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally; or
    • contact you by postcard.

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    What if I believe I do not owe the debt or I want proof of the debt?

    If you wish to dispute the debt or request verification of the debt, send a letter requesting verification of the debt to the debt collector within 30 days of receiving the initial letter. The debt collector must not contact you again unless the collector sends proof that you owe the money.

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    Can a debt still affect my credit even if it’s several years old?

    Even if your debt is several years old and the deadline for filing a lawsuit to collect it has expired, your debt still may be reported to the credit reporting companies and will negatively affect your credit score. Accurate negative information may stay on your credit report for up to seven years; bankruptcies stay on your credit report for 10 years.

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    My debt is several years old. Can debt collectors still collect?

    Yes. Debt does not expire or disappear until you pay it. If a debt is valid, you still owe it until you pay it off, no matter how much time passes. However, the law limits the amount of time during which a debt collector may take legal action to collect a debt. Statutes of limitation vary depending on the type of debt.

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    Where can I file a complaint about a debt collector?

    If you have a problem with a debt collector, or other service submit a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at

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  • Directions for Responding to a Debt Collection Lawsuit:

    Directions for responding to a debt collection lawsuit

    Sample Motion for Extension of Time to Answer

    Sample Answer

    You must complete and file the forms right away. You only have 28 days from the day you received the Complaint to file an Answer or ask for more time to file an Answer. You can always check the status of your case on the court website. The Franklin County Municipal court and Common Pleas court websites allow you to search using your name to bring up the current case:

    If you do nothing, your creditors could ask for a default judgment and if granted, you will be required to pay the amount your creditors say you owe. You will be at risk for having your wages garnished and bank account attached.

    Once you are served with a complaint, it is necessary to file an answer to the complaint. If you need more time to seek legal counsel or figure out how you want to answer, it is best to file a motion for an extension of time to file an answer. Courts usually allow someone an extension of 28 days to seek legal counsel. If you need more time, first file the extension of time and then you should receive notice in the mail if the court grants your extension. A sample answer and a sample motion for extension of time are included on this site. You may need to adjust the heading to make sure the correct court is listed on the heading.

    How to fill out the motion for extension of time and/or answer


    1. Caption:

    Both the answer and the motion for extension of time to file an answer will have the same heading.

    • The top part of the Motion is called the “caption.” You need to fill in the name of the Court, the case number, and information about you and the other party. You can copy this information from the caption on the Court papers that you got from the other side.
    • The party who sued you is the “Plaintiff.”
    • You are the “Defendant” acting “pro se” – which means that you do not have an attorney yet and you are representing yourself.
    • In the Motion, you tell the Court that you are looking for an attorney to help you in this case.
    • In the answer, you are answering or responding to statements in the Plaintiff’s complaint.
    2. Body:
    • Motion for Extension of Time – Fill in your name on the first line after Defendant, and Sign your name After “respectfully submitted.” Be sure to include your address and telephone number in the lines below your name.
    • Answer – In order to complete the answer, it is necessary to have a copy of the Plaintiff’s complaint in front of you. Specifically, look at the numbered paragraphs containing statements. The statements will say things like “Defendant defaulted on her loan and owes X amount of money.” Determine which statements you agree to and which statements you disagree with. It is also possible to conclude there is not enough information or you can agree to part of paragraph 2, but disagree with the rest of it. If you agree to all of the statements in the Complaint, the Court will rule against you because there is no dispute. Ask yourself, do I owe this debt? Do I know I owe exactly the amount they are claiming? Determine which paragraphs you agree to and which paragraphs you disagree with and list them in the body of the sample answer.
    3. Certificate of Service:

    You must tell the other side what you are doing. You must show the Court that you told the other side what you were doing. The Certificate of Service is necessary to include with both the answer and the motion for an extension of time. To complete this part of the form, here’s what you need to do:

    • Fill in the day, the month and the year.
    • Fill in the name and address of the plaintiff’s attorney. You should be able to find the name and address of the plaintiff’s attorney right on the summons. You can also find the attorney’s name and address at the end of the Complaint that was sent to you. You can also usually find the name and address on the court websites listed above.
    • Sign the Certificate of Service.
    4. Serve Opposing Counsel:
    • Make two photocopies of the entire form (heading, body, and certificate of service). Keep the original and one photocopy and you will mail the second photocopy to the plaintiff’s attorney.
    • Mail one photocopy of the form to the attorney who filed the complaint. You may wish to ask the post office for a Certificate of Mailing. A Certificate of Mailing proves you mailed the Motion on the date you mailed it, to the person to whom it was addressed. You will have to pay a fee for a Certificate of Mailing. You do not have to request a Certificate of Mailing. You do not have to mail the Motion by certified mail.
    5. The Journal Entry:

    The Journal Entry is only necessary to file with the motion for an extension of time. It the last part of the sample motion. It is right after the Certificate of Service. The Journal Entry is the Order that the Court will sign after ruling on your request. You do not need to fill this out. The Judge will do this. Tell the Clerk of Courts that you have an Entry attached for the Judge to sign.

    6. How to file the entire court form:

    Within three days of mailing either the motion or the answer to the other side’s attorney, you must file with the Clerk’s office at the appropriate Court.

    To file the Form with the Court follow these steps:

    • After you have mailed the photocopy of the Motion Form to the other side’s attorney, you should go to the Courthouse. You must file the original Motion Form with the Court Clerk. You must file the Motion with the Court Clerk within three days of mailing it to the other side.
    • Give the original Motion Form and the remaining photocopy to the Clerk. Ask the Clerk to file-stamp the original and the photocopy.
    • The Clerk will keep the original and place it in the Judge’s file so the Judge can read it.
    • The Clerk will return the extra time-stamped photocopy to you. You should keep your copy in a safe place. It proves you filed the motion in the right court and on the date that is shown on the file stamp.

    KEEP IN MIND: If for any reason you change your address at any time during this case, you must tell the Court and the other side (the Plaintiff or the Plaintiff’s attorney). The Court and the other side will use the address on file to send decisions and other notices to you.

    Download Directions

    Directions for responding to a debt collection lawsuit

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau –


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