Can a Creditor Harass Me After Bankruptcy Discharge?
When consumers file bankruptcy, they often wonder whether a debt collector can still collect on a debt discharged in bankruptcy. The answer: No. Creditors must cease trying to collect discharged debt from bankruptcy filers.
Why Can’t Creditors Collect a Debt From Me After Filing Bankruptcy?
Generally, the moment you file a petition for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, the bankruptcy court issues an automatic stay on dischargeable debts. This is an automatic court order issued upon the bankruptcy filing. During this time, a creditor can’t collect a “consumer debt” and must stop collection efforts. If collectors are in violation of this bankruptcy law, they could face legal action (including financial penalties).
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), creditors are not allowed to harass a debtor (i.e., repetitive phone calls to annoy consumers, using abusive language, and more) before or after they file for bankruptcy. If you’ve already filed for bankruptcy and received a discharge order, but your creditors are still pursuing collection activity on discharged debts and/or harassing you, you may be entitled to compensation.
Contact Ziegler Diamond Law today to speak with an experienced Florida consumer protection attorney. Continue reading to learn more about creditor harassment limits under the FDCPA and the federal bankruptcy code.
Creditor Limits Under The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
Whether you’re in the midst of a bankruptcy case, have already received a bankruptcy discharge, or are considering Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a debt collector does not have the right to harass you. That means you should immediately notice drastically reduced collection efforts the day you file bankruptcy.
Generally, a creditor may not engage in the following types of debt collection activities (regardless of the debt incurred):
- Repetitive calls in attempts to annoy debtors
- Make unlawful or unfounded threats if you can’t pay
- Use abusive language
- Contact you after you’ve asked them to stop (in writing)
- Make misleading statements misrepresenting themselves or the consequences of not paying the debts incurred.
- Report falsified information on your credit report
- Directly contact debtors who have an attorney (and they know it)
It’s important to note that the FDCPA applies to most personal and individual debts. However, it does not apply to business debts. If you’ve suffered unlawful debt collection efforts resulting in violations of the FDCPA, our consumer protection attorneys are here to help.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to collect monetary damages of up to $1,000.
Can Creditors Collect After Chapter 7 is Filed?
Once a petitioner files for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, bankruptcy law dictates that creditors can’t pursue debt collection efforts after the filing (typically 3 – 4 months until the discharge order).
When Can a Creditor Pursue Debt Collection Activity After Bankruptcy is Filed?
Generally, a creditor may not attempt to collect a debt after Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing unless the creditor files, serves, and is granted a Motion for Relief from the Automatic Stay. In that case, a creditor can resume lawful debt collection activities (including calls, letters, and legal action) against the debtor for unsecured debts.
Additionally, creditors can’t pursue debt collection efforts on a debt discharged in bankruptcy. Regarding secured debts, a creditor may revoke a debtor’s property after the first 30 days of the automatic stay issuance.
Can Creditors Come After You After Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
Similar to Chapter 7 bankruptcy, individuals who file bankruptcy under Chapter 13 shouldn’t have to worry about most creditors pursuing collection activity against them or their property (from the date of the bankruptcy petition filing). However, a significant difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 is the length of the automatic stay.
Understanding a Motion to Dismiss For Material Default
Since Chapter 13 is a debt repayment plan, the automatic stay is typically in effect for 3 – 5 years or until the bankruptcy case concludes, but there are exceptions.
That’s especially true if you’re concerned about debt collection activity for secured debts or you’ve missed payments and your Chapter 13 trustee files (and is granted) a “Motion to Dismiss for Material Default.” In that case, debt collectors can continue trying to collect on the debt amounts owed (including the interest and fees incurred during the automatic stay period) prior to the bankruptcy filing.
With that in mind, if you’ve missed a payment in your Chapter 13 repayment plan, it’s essential that you immediately contact a bankruptcy lawyer for support as soon as possible. However, regardless of the circumstances, a creditor doesn’t have the right to make harassing phone calls or otherwise violate your consumer protection rights.
What To Do If Your Consumer Rights Are Violated
If you’ve filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but your creditors are still harassing you or attempting to collect on the discharged debt, they may be in violation of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code as well as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
What Happens if a Creditor Pursues Debt Collection Activity After Filing Bankruptcy?
If a creditor violates bankruptcy law by pursuing collection activity after a court issues a bankruptcy discharge on your debt or during the automatic stay period, the bankruptcy court can sanction a violation of the automatic stay and find the creditor in contempt. In that case, the court can impose fines, assess attorney fees, and force the debt collector to pay damages to the defendant.
What Happens if a Creditor Violates the FDCPA?
On the other hand, if a creditor violates your consumer protection rights at any time, they can also face fines, be ordered to pay damages, and potentially face other legal actions. Generally, the most common consumer complaints filed against creditors include but are not limited to the following:
- Harassment of the debtor by debt collectors, including calls after 9 P.M. or before 8 A.M.
- Unlawful demands for debtors to pay excessive or illegal interest rates, fees, or other charges.
- Failure to send consumers written notice of the debt owed.
Contact a Proven Consumer Protection & Bankruptcy Lawyer Today
In most cases, people who seek to have their debts discharged in bankruptcy don’t have the income or resources to repay all of their debt obligations. With that in mind, it doesn’t give creditors the right to violate laws under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code or the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act if you cannot make payments on your debts.
At Ziegler Diamond Law, we’re dedicated to protecting your consumer rights and helping you get your life back on track after experiencing overwhelming debt. Whether you need bankruptcy assistance or want to pursue legal action against unlawful debt collectors, we’ve got your back.
Contact us today to speak with a consumer protection and bankruptcy attorney you can trust.