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The Consumer Law Group, P.C.
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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some initial questions many clients have when they first contact The Consumer Law Group, P.C.. The questions below can address many initial concerns you may have. If you don't find the answers here, you may contact us for answers to more complex questions or questions specific to your case.

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  • How can I stop a debt collector from contacting me?

    If a collector contacts you about a debt, you may want to talk to them at least once to see if you can resolve the matter – 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. If you decide after contacting the debt collector that you don’t want the collector to contact you again, tell the collector – in writing – to stop contacting you. (See our Form Letters.) Here’s how to do that:

    Make a copy of your letter. Send the original by certified mail, and pay for a "return receipt" so you’ll be able to document what the collector received. Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again, with two exceptions: a collector can contact you to tell you there will be no further contact or to let you know that they or the creditor intend to take a specific action, like filing a lawsuit. Sending such a letter to a debt collector you owe money to does not get rid of the debt, but it should stop the contact. The creditor or the debt collector still can sue you to collect the debt.

  • Can a debt collector contact me any time or any place?

    No. A debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8 in the morning or after 9 at night, unless you agree to it. And collectors may not contact you at work if they’re told (orally or in writing) that you’re not allowed to get calls there. It is best to advise the debt collector in writing not to call you at work. (See our Cease and Desist Letter)

  • What types of debts are covered?

    The FDCPA covers personal, family, and household debts, including money you owe on a personal credit card account, an auto loan, a medical bill, and your mortgage. The FDCPA doesn’t cover debts you incurred to run a business.

  • How do I stop collection calls?

    In order to protect your rights under the FDCPA, you must place debt collection accounts in "disputed status" as soon as bill collectors or debt collection agencies contact you about debts that you believe are invalid, inaccurate or don't belong to you. Send a letter through certified mail with return receipt requested so debt collector cannot claim you never told them to stop calling or writing you. You should keep a copy of this cease and desist letter template for your records. This letter can be sent to any debt collection agency as well as the attorney who collect two or more debts per year. (See Cease and Desist Letter)

    Once they receive your cease and desist letter, they are required to stop all the communications except to notify you about the actions that will be taken against you. Use this letter as your consumer rights are outlined in the FDCPA law.

  • Can the funds in my bank account be seized or frozen by collectors?

    The answer is yes. If you owe creditors, collectors, or anyone else money, they can obtain a money judgment and have the funds in your bank account frozen, or they can seize them outright.

    Outstanding Debt Can Result in Wage Garnishment

    Whoever holds a judgment against you can go to someone else who owes you money or is holding money for you, like a bank, and intercept that money through a wage garnishment or garnishment of your bank account.

    Anyone who owes you money, or holds money for you, is called the "garnishee defendant"—and through the garnishment process—can be forced to reveal to the court how much money they owe you. Then, the court can require, through an order called a Writ of Garnishment, to force the bank or your employer to pay a certain part of the money owed to you, into the court registry.

    After receiving payment, the court turns the money over to whoever holds the judgment. In order for someone to garnish your wages or bank account, they need to know someone who owes you money or where you bank or where you work before they can proceed with a garnishment action. The garnishment process costs a small fee plus the costs of serving the papers. You will more than likely have to pay these fees as well.

    Note: Only disposable earnings and the amount set by state law can be garnished from wages. Ask the clerk of the court for the correct amount in your state.

    Usually a creditor or debt collector cannot garnish unless it first gets a judgment against you. Do not ever fail to go to court for a debt you dispute because often, if you do not show up, a judgment will be obtained and the amount will be difficult, if not impossible, to change.

    Debt Collectors Are Held to Standards, and Harassment is Illegal

    The actions that debt collectors are allowed (or not allowed) to take when attempting to collect from you are governed by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. We frequently encounter situations where collectors are either ignorantly or willfully violating the regulations of the FDCPA when communicating with consumers. If you’ve experienced any of the following at the hands of a debt collector, it’s possible you&rsqou;re being illegally harassed:

    • Being yelled at or otherwise verbally abused, including being threatened with jail time,
    • Being repeatedly contacted, even after explicitly requesting to not be contacted,
    • Being contacted at places inconvenient to the debtor (you), including your place of employment AFTER requesting that contact be stopped,
    • And more.
     

    Read more about what’s allowed under the FDCPA here. If you suspect that you’re being illegally harassed by a debt collector and you’d like to make it stop, contact us today at 804-282-7900 to speak to an experienced consumer protection attorney.

  • What are the Statutes of Limitation on a debt?

    There are laws that require suit to be filed within a certain number of years after the creditor had a right to sue, or after default. If you made a payment on a debt whose statutes of limitation is about to expire, it can re-start the statutes of limitations period.

    Virginia Statutes of Limitation:

    • Open account: 3 years from the last payment or last charge for goods or services rendered on the account.
    • Written contracts (non-UCC): 5 years.
    • Sale of goods under the UCC: 4 years.
    • Virginia Judgments: 10 years, and renewable (extended) to 20 years.
    • Foreign judgments: 10 years.

  • Are charged off debts still collectable?

    Charged off debts are still collectible, even years later, unless the statute of limitations has expired. Most creditors usually sell accounts they deem worthless to third party debt collection agencies called Junk Debt Buyers. When creditors sell an account, they sell all rights to the account as well so only the new legal owner of the account can collect the debt. Although debts expire, collectors still have the right to try and collect on old debts. If the statute of limitations has expired then the debt collector cannot file suit on it or threaten to since it is a violation to threaten legal action on an non-collectable debt.

  • How does FDCPA help me?

    Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors (not creditors) from engaging in abusive, deceptive, and unfair practices. The FDCPA does not apply to your original creditor. It regulates only debt collectors’ conduct. If you are being harassed by a debt collector, please fill out our Fair Debt Questionnaire or contact us at 804-282-7900.

  • If I am unhappy with the way my vehicle is performing, should I stop making payments on it and let it be voluntarily repossessed?

    No. The lender has nothing to do with any mechanical problems your vehicle is having. If you stop making payments, the lender could repossess the vehicle, sell it for less than you owe, and still sue you for the difference. If the car is sold, that makes a case against the dealer difficult because the car is evidence.

  • If I am unhappy with the way my vehicle is performing, should I stop making payments on it and let it be voluntarily repossessed?

    No. The lender has nothing to do with any mechanical problems your vehicle is having. If you stop making payments, the lender could repossess the vehicle, sell it for less than you owe, and still sue you for the difference. If the car is sold, that makes a case against the dealer difficult because the car is evidence.

  • How does a voluntary repossession of a vehicle hurt me?

    A voluntary repossession will be put onto your credit report and as such, will make your credit score lower. Also, it really does not help much, other than possible avoiding a claim for some of the costs of repossession. After a vehicle is voluntary repossessed it will be sold by the lender at auction, and if the purchase price at the auction is less that what you still owe on the vehicle, the lender usually files a lawsuit against your for the difference. Thus, voluntarily taking the car to the lender or dealer, rather than having them come to your home or employment to repossess the vehicle, only saves the possible claim for towing costs and any embarrassment when the tow truck drives off with your car and the neighbors are watching.

  • How does a voluntary repossession of a vehicle hurt me?

    A voluntary repossession will be put onto your credit report and as such, will make your credit score lower. Also, it really does not help much, other than possible avoiding a claim for some of the costs of repossession. After a vehicle is voluntary repossessed it will be sold by the lender at auction, and if the purchase price at the auction is less that what you still owe on the vehicle, the lender usually files a lawsuit against your for the difference. Thus, voluntarily taking the car to the lender or dealer, rather than having them come to your home or employment to repossess the vehicle, only saves the possible claim for towing costs and any embarrassment when the tow truck drives off with your car and the neighbors are watching.

  • How can a consumer find out the history of a used vehicle prior to purchase?

    The consumer can obtain an AutoCheck report and a CarFax report. Both require a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and a small fee. The consumer can also obtain a DMV title history through NMVTIS. The best way for a consumer to know for sure about the vehicle’s prior history is for the consumer to have the vehicle inspected by a licensed body shop expert.

  • What should a consumer do about claims against a dealership that has gone out of business?

    Often this question comes up when a dealership closes and vehicles that were traded in on the purchase of another car have liens that never get paid off by the dealer. The lien holder sends a letter to the consumer that their monthly payment is late on a loan they thought had been paid off by the now defunct dealership.

    This scary problem scenario does not have an easy or quick solution. The first step is to contact your state dealer board. Almost every state has an administrative agency that may be a subdivision of your state's Department Motor Vehicles or is independent. Virginia has the Motor Vehicle Dealer Board (804-367-1100, Toll Free 877-270-0203, Fax 804-367-1053, or www.mvdb.virginia.gov). Confirm what they know about the dealership closing; find out if the dealership has an insurance bond which most states require the newer dealership to post since it has no track record for being a stable, well-managed dealership; and get the insurance company's name address and where claims are to be filed. Then you contact this insurance company about your claim. Often the bond requirement is a minimum of $25,000, to cover all claims. Thus you should make your claim as soon as possible since the policy limits will be exhausted by other people in your same situation.

    Once the bond is exhausted, or if there is no bond, many states have a monetary fund sustained by dealership licensing fees, which has been established to reimburse persons who have suffered loss or damage in connection with the purchase or lease of a motor vehicle due to illegal actions of licensed or registered motor vehicle dealers or salespersons. The amount of the claim will have limits ($20,000 in Virginia), and only covers actual damages and attorney fees, as opposed to punitive damages. Additionally, there may be a limit of the aggregate amount of claims that will be paid for one dealer ($100,000 in Virginia). Virginia's fund is called the Motor Vehicle Transaction Recover Fund. See the Virginia Motor Vehicle Dealer Board's web site noted above for more information. Usually, you must obtain a legal judgment against the dealer for fraud in order to recover. While this may sound daunting, usually the dealer does not respond to the lawsuit and at trial you simply have to put on the evidence of its failure to pay off the trade-in, show the court the late payment notices you received, and show how much this has damaged you monetarily.

    This process will take several months; so, before you embark on that route you have to make a preliminary decision: should you make payments on the trade-in you no longer possess or own in order to preserve your credit rating, or, if you cannot afford that, advise the lender what happened, and watch it try to find the trade-in and then sell it and get a deficiency judgment against you for the difference between what you owe it on the trade-in and what it was able to sell the vehicle for at auction. Your lawsuit would be for any monetary loss this has caused you (including damage to your credit), as well as legal fees and punitive damages. But remember the most you can recover from the Transaction Recovery Fund is $20,000 in Virginia, assuming other claims have not exhausted the $100,000 ceiling.

  • What is the Virginia Lemon Law and how does it work?

    Summary of the Virginia Lemon Law:

    Under the Virginia Lemon Law, a "Lemon" is a vehicle that has a problem that "significantly impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle" to you. In addition, you must have given the dealership an opportunity to repair the significant problem (or problems), and the dealership has not been able to do so within a reasonable number of repair attempts.

    Note: If it has been more than 18 months since the first owner purchased or leased the vehicle, then it does NOT fall under the Virginia Lemon Law. That being said, there may be other protections under the law. Please contact our firm for more information.

    The Virginia Lemon Law in Greater Detail:

    A vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, or moped used substantially for personal, household, or family purposes) can be a "lemon" if it meets one of the following criteria within 18 months of the manufacturer's limited warranty going into effect with the first owner:

         1.   If the same "significant" problem is worked on 3 times (i.e. you have 3 repair orders), and the problem still exists after that—then it's a lemon.

    Or

         2.   If you have a sudden, life-threatening defect that affects the drive-ability of the vehicle, and it still exists after one repair attempt, then you have a lemon. 

    Or

         3.   If the vehicle has been in the shop 30 or more calender days for ANY significant problem or defect, and there is still something legitimately wrong with the car, then it's a lemon.

    If the dealer has not fixed the problem(s), you must then notify the manufacturer about these problems IN WRITING.  (Do not notify the manufacturer by e-mail, fax, or by phone.) When notifying in writing, it is preferable to notify them by certified mail, so that you can prove the manufacturer received your letter.)  Send a Certified/Return Receipt requested letter to the manufacturer.  Make a copy of your signed letter for your own records (SEE Sample Letter to Put the Manufacturer on Notice). 

    In your notice letter, please include the following pieces of information:

         1.   Identify your vehicle by its year, make, model, and VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).

         2.   List the dates you have taken it back to the dealership—and for what problems. State that you want the problems corrected once and for all.

         3.   Include a copy (you keep the originals) of each repair order.

         4.   Request a buyback under the Virginia Lemon Law if they are unable to fix the problems.

         5.   Keep a signed copy of your letter.

         6.   Send the letter Certified/Return Receipt.  The manufacturer has 15 days from their date of receipt to at least contact you to schedule a final repair. (Ideally, the final repair will begin during the 15 day period.)  The date will be stamped on the green card when you receive it back from the Post Office.  If the manufacturer does not contact you to schedule a final repair within 15 days, wait out the 15 days and then call The Consumer Law Group at 804-282-7900.  If the manufacturer contacts you, makes a final repair attempt, and the problem returns, then call The Consumer Law Group at 804-282-7900.  If the manufacturer offers to buyback or to replace the vehicle, call The Consumer Law Group at 804-282-7900 to make sure the manufacturer is paying you what you are entitled under the Virginia Lemon Law.

         7.   Keep the green certified, return receipt card (where the recipient signed for the letter and dated it) and store it with a copy of your letter.

    A Virginia Lemon Law lawsuit must be filed within 18 months of the warranty first going into effect with the first owner of the vehicle.  However, if you have filed for arbitration prior to this 18-month period expiring, then your deadline to file suit is extended by 12 months from the date of any decision made by the arbitrator. If you are unsure about any of this information, please call our firm.
     

  • What types of vehicles are covered by Virginia's Lemon Law?

    Cars, pickup trucks, motorcycles, mopeds, snowmobiles, and the chassis portion of a self-propelled RV, which were either purchased or leased, and are used "in substantial part for personal, family or household use."

  • Your Credit Report: What should you know?

    In today's rocky economy, having good credit standing is vital for the typical consumer. Few of us go through life without needing to borrow money from a bank or finance center. Whether you are approved for the loan and at what interest rate depends largely on your credit history. At The Consumer Law Group, we understand the importance of maintaining good credit. In the interest of promoting consumer fairness and awareness, we have provided the following summary of rights and protections you are afforded when it comes to your credit. If you've ever applied for a charge account, a personal loan, insurance, or a job, someone is probably keeping a file on you. This file might contain information on how you pay your bills or whether you've been sued, arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. The companies that gather and sell this information are called Consumer Reporting Agencies, or CRAs. The most common type of Consumer Reporting Agency is the credit bureau. The information sold by Consumer Reporting Agencies to creditors, employers, insurers, and other businesses is called a consumer report. This generally contains information about where you work and live and about your bill-paying habits. In 1970, Congress created a law that gives consumers specific rights in dealing with Consumer Reporting Agencies. The Fair Credit Reporting Act protects you by requiring that Consumer Reporting Agencies furnish correct and complete information to businesses for use in evaluating your application for credit, insurance, or a job.

  • Was I denied credit because of a bad credit report?

    If you applied for and were denied credit, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act requires creditors to tell you the specific reasons for your denial. For example, the creditor must tell you whether the denial was because you have no credit file with a Consumer Reporting Agency or because the Consumer Reporting Agency says you have delinquent obligations. This law also requires creditors to consider, upon request, additional information you might supply about your credit history.

  • How do I locate the Consumer Reporting Agency that has my file?

    If your application was denied because of information supplied by a Consumer Reporting Agency, that agency's name and address must be supplied to you by the company you applied to. Otherwise, you can find the Consumer Reporting Agency that has your file by calling those listed in the Yellow Pages under credit or credit rating and reporting. If it was Experian, Trans Union, or Equifax, use the information below or on our home page.

  • Do I have the right to know what the credit report says?

    Yes, if you request it. The Consumer Reporting Agency is required to tell you about every piece of information in the report and, in most cases, the sources of that information. Medical information is exempt from this rule, but you can have your physician try to obtain it for you. The Consumer Reporting Agency is not required to give you a copy of the report, although more and more are doing so. You also have the right to be told the name of anyone who received a report on you in the past six months. (If your inquiry concerns a job application, you can get the names of those who received a report during the past two years.)