Jan 28

By Katie Lannan, State House News Service – Lowellsun.com

An effort to repeal a new law dealing with foreclosed properties hit a roadblock last week, after a review by Attorney General Maura Healey concluded the state constitution would prohibit a referendum on the law.

Activists in December filed a petition seeking to have the law — which limits the timeframe for foreclosed property owners to file a title challenge — suspended and put on the ballot as a referendum.

Healey’s office was charged with determining whether the law, which went into effect on Dec. 31, was legally subject to the referendum petition process laid out in the Massachusetts Constitution.

Laws related to the “powers of the courts” are excluded from the process, and Healey’s review found that a section of the law expanding the jurisdiction of the housing court falls under that category.

“I recognize that nothing in the remainder of the Act purports to restrict or confer court jurisdiction,” Healey wrote in a letter to Secretary of State William Galvin. She goes on to say that an act must be viewed as a whole in determining whether it is subject to the referendum process, and because the jurisdiction expansion is not “incidental and subsidiary to the remainder of the Act,” the law as a whole is excluded from the process. [read more]

Jan 27

By Space Coast Daily

Behind in paying your bills?

You might find a debt collector calling. But the law says how and when they can do that.

For example, they can’t call before 8 a.m., after 9 p.m., or while you’re at work if the collector knows that your employer doesn’t approve of the calls. Collectors may not harass you or lie when they try to collect a debt. And, if you ask them in writing to stop calling, they have to stop.

Even if a debt collector stops calling, the debt is still there, and you still need to deal with it.

So, if a collector contacts you about a debt, you may want to talk to them at least once to get the story. See if you can resolve it – even if you don’t think you owe the debt, can’t repay it immediately, or think that the collector is contacting you by mistake.

The collector must send you a written “validation notice” telling you how much money you owe within five days after they first contact you. The notice must include the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money.

If you don’t want the collector to contact you again, ask for the collector’s mailing address and tell them – in writing – to stop contacting you. [read more]

Jan 26

By David Porter – Associated Press

Ever had a debt collector on your back for money you knew you didn’t owe? Listen to the story of Steven Psaros and take heart.

The Great Recession forced Psaros into foreclosure on the house he had bought in this northern New Jersey town in 1999.

Then, another blow. A debt collector demanded about $11,000 in homeowners’ insurance, money Psaros claimed he didn’t owe under terms of a mortgage refinance signed several years earlier.

He fought back in court and, in a ruling that could change how law firms handle debt collection, a federal judge held last month that the firm representing the debt collector could be liable for damages even if it didn’t know its client was relying on incorrect information.

Some experts see the ruling as a game-changer in foreclosure actions, which by their nature target people who are under emotional and financial stress.

“Think of the psychological state of people going through foreclosure,” said Seton Hall law school professor Charles Sullivan, who specializes in contracts and employment law. “They can’t pay their mortgage and they think they’re going to be in foreclosure. They’re not looking at the papers, and if they are, whether it’s $360,000 or $370,000, neither is a sum they can pay. They may not even seek an attorney. But attorneys in the past didn’t have the tools this this decision now gives them.”

The debt collection industry is a top source of complaints from consumers, according to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Formed in 2011, the bureau began collecting complaints in its system in mid-2013; by the end of that year, it had received more than 30,000 complaints about debt collectors. [read more]

Jan 25

By Avis Thomas Lester – Urban News Service

Affluence is no antidote to foreclosure.

In Prince George’s County, Maryland — one of the United States’ wealthiest majority-Black jurisdictions — the foreclosure crisis has hammered several solidly middle-class communities. These include Perrywood, a neighborhood of two-story homes near the county seat in Upper Marlboro; Marleigh in Bowie, where the local homeowners association mows the lawns of foreclosed residences that the banks don’t maintain; and Fairwood, where the median income is $170,000, according to the U.S. Census.

“They didn’t understand what it meant to take out a second mortgage, to refinance or to receive a subprime loan, they just made purchases,” said Bob Ross, president of the NAACP chapter in Prince George’s County. “So when the bubble burst, they were stuck.”

NAACP New York State Conference economic development chair Garry Anthony Johnson calls foreclosures “an epidemic” for people of color.

“It’s a troubling reality that African-Americans and other minorities continue to experience disproportionately high levels of unemployment, poverty and foreclosures,” Johnson said.

Housing counselors and other experts told Urban News Service they blame unscrupulous lenders for the crisis. At a time when many prospective buyers were eager to purchase and as home prices skyrocketed, some lenders took advantage by offering Black buyers discriminatory loans, these observers said.

“They were products that were predatory in nature where the interest rates were inflated, there were prepayment penalties if you tried to pay the loan off or refinance and balloon payments,” said Charles R. Lowery Jr., the NAACP’s director of Fair Lending and Inclusion. “You wouldn’t get a loan that was suited to you, but the broker and the lender would make money because they sold it to you. That was their only concern.” [read more]

Jan 21

By Stephanie Cumings – Bloomberg BNA

A debt collector can’t blame its attempts to collect a discharged debt on a typo in the debtor’s address.

Judge Tim A. Baker agreed that the creditor should have realized the debt had been discharged, but the attempts to collect didn’t rise to the level of harassment and abuse like the debtor claimed.

Kristie Buckley received a discharge in bankruptcy, which included the discharge of three debts that were being collected by Afni, Inc., a collections agency. Afni updated its system to reflect that Buckley’s AT&T and T-Mobile debts had been discharged, but neglected to do the same for the DIRECTV debt.

Five months after the discharge, Afni obtained Buckley’s credit report in order to formulate a strategy to collect the DIRECTV debt and eventually sent Buckley a letter attempting to collect part of the debt in lieu of the full amount. [read more]

Jan 20

By Diane Wilson – ABC11

Once you pay off the debt, you expect not to hear about it again. But Fredrick Burwell was shocked when he was charged again for a debt that he says he paid off 9 years ago.

The debt happened back in 2006. Burwell says he was sent a check to cash and then wire back the majority of the money. When he cashed the check he thought it was good, but days later he learned it was actually a bad check. Fredrick realized he had been scammed. Fredrick ended up owing Bank of America the amount the check was cashed for. Fredrick says he made some payments to Bank of America and then in February of 2006 paid off the entire debt.

“When I paid the money, I asked the cashier to write down that I made the payment and who she spoke to, and she stamped it her teller number and the date when it was paid,” Fredrick said.

He kept the proof for nine years and never thought much about it until the IRS took a portion of his tax return because he says Bank of America sent in a cancellation of debt request.

“They took $1,377 from me because of what Bank of America did,” Fredrick said. [read more]