The legal definition of a "debt" is a monetary obligation that one party (debtor) owes to another (creditor). Millions of Americans suffer from debt, usually from borrowing large sums of money to make an expensive purchase on a necessary item such as a car or a house. When they are not able to pay, and their bills (typically in excess of $10,000 or more) are not paid for several months, it is typical for a creditor to go to a third party to retrieve the money they are owed. Typically, the third party is a debt collection agency. However, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects creditors from certain actions of these agencies. As with many other states, Maine generally adheres to FDCPA guidelines.
In the state of Maine, in addition to the federal statutes regarding debt collection, Title 32, Chapter 109-A details all relevant state statutes regarding debt collection practices, under what is known as the Maine Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
In the state of Maine, certain debt obligations are no longer legally enforceable after a given period of time, known as the statute of limitations period. Though different debt obligations have differing lengths regarding the statute of limitations period, debtors facing collections attempts on expired debts should recognize their rights. These rights include the lack of ability of original creditors or collections companies to collect on outstanding debts past their statute of limitations period in the civil courts, therefore, effectively rendering them void. Some of the relevant statute of limitations periods regarding Maine debt collection laws include:
The state of Maine, in Title 32, Chapter 109-A, outlines specific rules and regulations regarding the legal and illegal methods of debt collection applicable to the state of Maine. Most notably, these laws commonly mirror those set forth by the FDCPA and other regulatory federal statutes, however, residents of Maine should remain aware of their rights as consumers, as well as their right to lay claims against collection companies that violate these laws.
Harassment by debt collectors, which if deemed harassing by a reasonable person, is illegal in the state of Maine. Forwarding complaints of harassment to the attorney general or the Federal Trade Commission through an attorney will stop illegal or harassing debt collection actions. In certain cases of debt harassment, including those associated with false representation during the debt collection claim, will result in debt collector's losing all rights to make claims on a given debt, as well as civil fines and penalties relevant to state and federal debt collection statutes.
If the debtor does not believe that he/she in fact owes the amount stated by the agent, he/she may challenge it. They must do so in writing via a certified letter from the post office. At that point, the collection agency has thirty days to respond, wherein they must present documented proof of the debt. Furthermore, if the agent continues to harass the debtor, the latter may request that the former stop calling them. However, this does not relieve the debtor's financial obligation to the creditor.
If you have received a phone call from a debt collection agent, you know how intimidating it can be. However, many attorneys can help an individual debtor in many ways:
It is for these reasons that an experienced lawyer can provide you with the help you need to clear your financial name, and protect you from debt collection harassment.