Massachusetts Debt Collection Laws
There are a number of regulations covering debt collections both at the federal and state levels in this country. Many of those laws are recently enacted or updated, protecting consumers from unfair or unreasonable collection processes when they have unpaid, past due, or defaulted debts owed to another party, a debt collector, or agency. The primary federal laws include the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Many states have additional laws, which add to or clarify the federal laws, protecting their citizens. However, there are exceptions in many cases, and anyone having difficulty paying debts can benefit from the advice of a debt settlement attorney to help them obtain their rights and clear their financial record.
Debt Collection in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has oversight of the debt collection activities and regulations in the state. Many of the state laws mirror federal laws concerning debt collection; however, there are additional protections for residents of Massachusetts, including the requirement that Debt Collection Agencies must be licensed in the state, with renewals required each year.
Massachusetts Statute of Limitations
There are a number of statutes regarding statutes of limitations in Massachusetts, and many vary depending on the type of debt and the type of creditor. However, in general:
- Massachusetts has no statute of limitations on billing a debtor for bad debts
- The statute of limitations on debt collection lawsuits is 6 years
- The statute of limitations for negative credit report entries is 7 years
Collections Practices and Rules for Massachusetts
In most cases, Massachusetts follows the federal laws for debt collection practices. However, there are some additions.
Legal Collections Actions
- Debt collectors have the right to contact consumers through phone calls, faxes, emails, letters, or personal visits
- Creditors are allowed to send written notice to the debtor at their place of employment within 30 days of the original contact, as long as a copy of that notice is sent every 6 months thereafter, and the debtor has not made a request in writing for such notification to stop.
- Collection agencies are required to stop all collection contacts if required by the debtor to do so, although they may pursue any legal collection actions, such as filing suit or repossessing the property in question
Illegal Collections Actions
- A creditor may not prevent a debtor or their attorney from inspecting any documents upon which their collection efforts are based
- Any form of harassment, threats, or false statements by a creditor or collection agency including calls or visits to the home at unreasonable times, such as before 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., without the debtor’s consent
- Contacting or visiting the debtor’s employer once they have notified the creditor that the debtor’s employer does not approve, except to repossess property or serve court papers
- Threatening any negative or punitive actions if they are illegal or if there is no real intention of performing those actions
- Taking any actions that result in an additional expense to the debtor
- Contacting the debtor more than 2 times in any 7-day period or more than 2 times in any 30-day period at a place other than the debtor’s home, for each debt owed
- Contacting the debtor if they have an attorney representing them and have notified the creditor of that fact
- Contacting any other member of the debtor’s household with detailed information or hold them responsible for the debt
Laws for Debt Harassment in Massachusetts
It is against both federal and state laws for a creditor to harass a debtor in the state of Massachusetts as long as such contact would be deemed harassment by a reasonable person. Victims of harassment may contact the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General to file complaints.
Massachusetts Debt Negotiation and Settlement Rules
Every debtor has the right to contact a creditor and attempt to settle their debt at a reduced rate. Indeed, many creditors who have been attempting collection for some time or who are aware that previous owners of the debt have done so would be anxious to settle a debt, even at a reduced rate, rather than have the debtor go into bankruptcy, at which point they may receive nothing at all, or nothing for a very long time.
Help from a Massachusetts Debt Collection Attorney
Debt collection has become big business in today’s challenging economy. Many consumers may not even know who holds their debt or how much the current holder paid to own it. As a result, many creditors are more open to settlements at reduced rates in order to clear such debts from their books. An experienced Massachusetts debt settlement attorney can learn the status of any debt and negotiated favorable settlements that will save the debtor money and assure that their credit record will be cleared as soon as is legally and reasonably possible.