Even if you have the best lawyer on Earth, you are the most important person involved in your case. People ask me all the time what they can do to protect themselves from bad debt collectors, mortgage lender abuse, harassing telephone calls, credit card lawsuits, and being ripped off by their home or auto lenders. While I love helping people deal with their legal problems, the fact is that there is a lot you can do to protect yourself without a lawyer.
Have you been sued? You need to know How to Answer a Complaint.
If you don’t answer the Complaint, you lose. It is just like you went to court and the judge and jury found you liable for everything the creditor or collector was asking for, even if you don’t owe the money. Once a court finds that you owe the money, you cannot undo the judgment, even if you genuinely don’t owe a dime. So if you’ve been served with a lawsuit, call a lawyer or answer on your own.
Are you facing foreclosure? Know What to Expect.
In Alabama, foreclosures can happen fairly quickly. Fortunately, new federal regulations forbid foreclosures before you’re 120 days delinquent, and if you sent them a written loan modification application at least 37 days before the foreclosure date, they cannot foreclose until they’ve evaluated your application and given you an answer. Once they foreclose, they still can’t forcibly kick you out until they’ve sued you for ejectment.
Are crazy charges popping up on your mortgage statement? Get a complete explanation by sending them a Qualified Written Request.
A QWR is a written letter sent to your mortgage servicer (not necessarily the originator or owner of your note), asserting some sort of mistake and demanding correction. Basically, if you think they’re screwing up your mortgage loan and you write a letter telling them what you think they’re doing wrong (i.e. charging you for insurance when you already paid for your own insurance; not honoring a loan modification; failing to credit you for payments made on time, etc.), they have 30 days to fix it or explain to you why they’re doing it right. If they don’t respond or fix the problem, you can sue them.
Is some company you have never heard of asking you for money? Send them an FDCPA Validation Request.
I recommend that everyone sends a validation request to every collector you hear from. First, it gives you useful information on the debt, and possibly will clue you or your attorney in on defenses if they decide to sue you later. Second, they can’t collect from you until they’ve provided some sort of evidence of the debt. And most importantly, he validation request is a crucial way to preserve your rights, particularly if you dispute the debt. It requires the collector to amend your credit report to note that the account is disputed. If you have other accounts with that collector, they cannot apply your payments to a disputed account.
Is false information appearing on your credit report? Send a Billing Error Dispute Letter to the alleged creditor and file a Written Credit Report Dispute with the Credit Bureaus.
False credit report information is one of the biggest problems that Alabama consumers face today. It costs the citizens of this state millions in lost credit opportunity, higher interest rates, and harms business as well. If something is wrong with your credit, it is important to take the right steps to fix the problem. If it starts with a credit card overcharge or identity theft, you need to write a dispute to your credit card company. The Fair Credit Billing Act says that if you dispute a charge and write a dispute letter within 60 days of seeing it on your statement, the credit card company cannot hold you liable for the charge without first investigating it and reasonably determining that you personally made the purchases.
You also must write a letter to the credit reporting agency who is putting out the report. Your dispute letter should be clear and concise and should state exactly what is wrong and what must be done to fix it. They have 30 days to respond. If they don’t fix it, you sue them.
Clicking the links in blue will lead you to example documents you can use to suit your own needs. More info can be found at www.consumerfinance.gov. Or you can call me at 251.272.9148.
Finally, it is important to know the difference between being proactive and trying to be your own lawyer. If you’ve tried to handle these problems on your own and still have not gotten them to fix the problem, it may be time to get an attorney involved and put some real heat on those who are violating your rights. I offer a free consultation and handle most of these cases on a contingency fee basis – meaning that I don’t charge you anything unless we win some money.
Peace be with you.