Financial debt is a stressful obligation that is carried by many Americans. It becomes all the more stressful when a person or institution to whom money is owed (a creditor) hires a debt collection agency to collect from the person owing the money (the debtor). However, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) provides many important protections for debtors from their creditors and collectors. As noted below, citizens of Maryland have additional protections accorded to them in state law.
In the state of Maryland, debt collection laws are governed foremost by the federal statutes set forth in the FDCPA, but also, at the state level, in the conditions and laws set forth in the Maryland state commercial law code, Title 15, under Debt Collection-Special Provisions.
In the state of Maryland, specific statutes regarding the lifetime of a valid, legally enforceable claim on a debt are known as debt collection statute of limitations periods. These periods of time, once expired, extinguish the right of original creditors and debt collection companies to collection on debt claims through civil action, which effectively erases the debt obligation on behalf of an individual debtor. These relevant statute of limitations periods in the state of Maryland include:
The state of Maryland specifically outlines fair debt collection practices under their commercial law code, Title 15, Subtitles 1 through 8. Under Maryland law, a creditor or a debt collection agent may only contact the debtor under certain conditions. Federally, these conditions only apply to debt collection agents, and not to creditors. As with federal law, the collection agent is to follow up with a letter to the debtor within five days, confirming the initial communication and specifying in writing the money owed. Furthermore, creditors and debt collection agents in Maryland must not disclose a debtor's debt unless there is a "legitimate business need." Finally, in a greater way than in other states, debtors in Maryland have the right to file suit against the creditors and collection agents, and to collect damages from them based upon the "emotional stress" caused by the latter's actions.
Harassment by debt collectors, which if deemed harassing by a reasonable person, is illegal in the state of Maryland. These practices, which may include use of abusive, threatening, or violent language, intimidation practices, incessant calling, or use of automated calling in order to harass or intimidate are all illegal. Consumers facing harassment from debt collection companies or agents do have legal recourse. By filing complaints against debt collection companies, a debtor, if their claims are found valid, may invalidate a given company's claim to a given debt, as well as collect damage awards stemming from the harassment.
Several aspects of commercial and business law govern debt negotiation and settlement in the state of Maryland. Foremost, the actions taken during the collections process must be legal and otherwise in accordance with state and federal collections actions, if a valid settlement is to be arranged. Secondly, debtors should be aware of statute of limitations periods regarding their debts. In cases of debtors reaffirming debts through agreements to pay via oral or written contracts, the statute of limitations period on all debts in Maryland is extended by another three (3) years. Having an attorney assist during any debt negotiation or settlement action is important. An attorney specializing in debt settlement cases in Maryland can assist consumers with important and sometimes overlooked matters involving debt settlement, such as:
Because Maryland affords debtors greater protections that in other states, this is even more reason to hire an attorney. It can be difficult to prove that you have been harassed by a debt collection agent or creditor, but an experienced lawyer can help. Under both Maryland and federal law, the debt collection agent may no longer call you without your consent; they must deal directly with your attorney. Finally, your lawyer can also provide you with peace of mind as they negotiate a payment plan that you can afford. Being contacted by a debt collection agent is intimidating, but it does not have to be. A lawyer who knows Maryland law can shield you from harassment, and help you to pay back what you owe, legally and affordably.