What Can You Do About Debt Collectors?

Despite the unrelenting COVID-19 pandemic and the protections put in place to protect borrowers from debt collection right now, the business of trying to collect on old debt goes on. Debt collectors are continuing to contact borrowers/debtors by phone at home and at work, by email, and “snail mail”. Debt collection is a big business, with an estimated one in four Americans having at least one unpaid debt currently in collection.

If you are being contacted by a debt collector, you need to know what they are legally allowed to do and what rights you have.

Before going into a detailed explanation of what debt collectors are and what they’re allowed to do, I want to emphasize that in Ohio and most other states, they are definitely not allowed to threaten you by saying or suggesting that a warrant has been issued for you through your local court, and that unless you make arrangements with them immediately to make payments, a sheriff will soon arrive at your door to arrest you. [Read more…]

The Reagan Tokes Act: Does GPS Electronic Monitoring of Parolees Give the Public a False Sense of Security?

It’s the kind of crime that stabs you right in your gut and stays there. A beautiful, vivacious OSU student is attacked, raped and murdered as she leaves her part-time job in Columbus, near campus. Her attacker is subsequently caught and tried for murder, requiring her devastated parents and sister to sit through and even testify at a heart-rending trial. Yes, he’s convicted and sentenced to life in prison. But sadly, that’s not the end to this story, as the family of Reagan Tokes sadly discovered.

The worst part of this story is that this monster was actually wearing an “ankle bracelet” GPS tracking monitor during the time of the offense – on early release from a past rape conviction of a young, pregnant woman. Despite being housed in a “re-entry” program for ex-offenders, his whereabouts were not being monitored by either the GPS provider or the housing center in real-time. Most of us naively believe that if someone on home incarceration wanders outside of designated areas, an alarm must alert authorities to the fact that the wearer is not where they are supposed to be. The Tokes family found out that’s a myth, something the perpetrator surely already knew. [Read more…]

Should a Chapter 7 Debtor Reaffirm on a Home Mortgage?

There are two assets that the majority of Debtors filing bankruptcy under Chapter 7 want to keep if they can:  their car and their home.  While they want to wipe out (discharge) their unsecured debts, they are willing to keep paying their car loans and home mortgages.  And the lenders on both are also eager for the Debtors to keep paying them and keep the collateral, so long as the Debtors are current on those loans. Lenders may prepare contracts to re-commit the Debtor to the terms of the original loan agreement and send them to the Debtor’s attorney for signature by both the Debtor and the attorney, and eventual filing with the Bankruptcy Court.  The Court will approve them, so long as continuing to pay is not an “undue hardship” on the Debtor, meaning that there is enough income left over to make those payments after other monthly living expenses are paid.  These contracts are known as “reaffirmation agreements” or, for short, “reaffs”.

The important thing for a Debtor to understand is that entering into a reaff removes this Lender from the protection of the bankruptcy discharge.  If the Debtor cannot continue to make the payments on the car or house, the Lender can not only take back its collateral, but the reaff gives the Lender the right to go after the Debtor personally for any portion of the balance owed that the sale of the collateral doesn’t cover.  Therefore, entering into a reaffirmation agreement actually benefits the Lender more than the Debtor.

[Read more…]

UPDATE New Ohio Law Goes into Effect 1-18-18 regarding Mugshot Extortion Websites

Earlier this year, I posted the following blog entry regarding Ohio House Bill 6, addressed at ending the practice in Ohio of private mugshot or criminal record websites that require the payment of a fee from an individual in order to have his/her mugshot or criminal records from the site.

Fortunately, this Bill was enacted into law and goes into effect on January 18, 2018.  The new Ohio Revised Code section 2927.22(B) states “No person engaged in publishing or otherwise disseminating criminal record information (i.e., a booking photograph or the name, address, charges filed, or description of a subject individual who is asserted or implied to have engaged in illegal conduct) through a print or electronic medium shall negligently solicit or accept from a subject individual the payment of a fee or other consideration to remove, correct, modify, or refrain from publishing or otherwise disseminating criminal record information.”  Violation of this section is a misdemeanor of the first degree, and each payment solicited or accepted in violation of this section constitutes a separate violation. [Read more…]

What do you need to know when you hire an attorney?

Suppose you have a problem and need to hire an attorney to help you get the best resolution. You get recommendations from friends or go online to find a suitable attorney. You meet with that attorney, and at the end of that meeting, you decide to hire her to take care of the matter for you. She describes briefly what she will need to do, and explains her fee to you. You agree with what she’s telling you. Do the two of you need to put that agreement into writing? [Read more…]

Homeowners Insurance: Will You Be Treated Fairly If You Have to Use It? (Part 3)

In the previous two sections of this blog, I have shared some tips on choosing an insurance company and on how to determine the type of homeowners policy you should purchase. Now it’s time to discuss what happens if you experience major damage to your home, but the insurance company refuses to adequately compensate you on your claim. Unfortunately, those situations typically arise from catastrophic damage to your property, when you are most at risk financially without the coverage. A survey recently conducted by Consumer Reports found that the greater your damages, the greater the likelihood that your homeowners insurance carrier will disagree on the dollar amount to compensate you for the loss, and the greater its delay in handling your claim.

[Read more…]

Ray Rice Domestic Violence Case: Is the Outrage Towards NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Misplaced?

By now, everyone has seen the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his fiancé and knocking her unconscious in an Atlantic City casino elevator.  For the past week, there has been a deluge of articles and stories calling for the removal of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell based upon his handling of the situation and the initial two-game suspension that was handed down prior to the release of the elevator video last Monday.

[Read more…]

Homeowners Insurance: Will You Be Treated Fairly If You Have to Use It? (Part 2)

In my last blog, I explained that a homeowners insurance policy is a contract between you and the insurance company that covers a private residence.   It is a special type of contract under which you are expecting to be protected by the insurance company for certain damages to your property in exchange for paying the premiums. I discussed a few things that you should consider when you choose the company to provide that coverage. In this blog, I will explain the different types of homeowners policies that you can purchase.

[Read more…]

The Impact in Ohio of Riley v. California (Search Warrant requirement for Cell Phones)

On June 25, 2014, the United States Supreme Court issued the landmark decision of Riley v. California, which held that “The police generally may not, without a warrant, search digital information on a cell phone seized from an individual who has been arrested.”  Although the case is too new for any Ohio appellate cases to have applied the standard and reasoning, this blogpost will briefly examine several points of impact that Riley will have on law enforcement and citizens in Ohio.

[Read more…]

Homeowners Insurance: Will You Be Treated Fairly If You Have to Use It? (Part 1)

My blogs usually cover bankruptcy issues, as my practice right now is largely devoted to Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 consumer bankruptcy clients. In assisting clients through the bankruptcy process, many times issues come up regarding homeowners, automobile, or life insurance coverage. It occurs to me that most people have as many concerns and questions about homeowners insurance as they do about bankruptcy, and I plan to devote my next several blogs to this subject.

[Read more…]