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A Guide to Debt Collection Matters in Massachusetts
Creditors want to be paid for their services and products as quickly as possible. Ideally, payments are delivered in a timely fashion, but life is far from ideal. Debt collection in Massachusetts is a complicated process, especially if you aren’t sure how to go about it. State and federal laws provide protection to debtors, and you need proper guidance to remain compliant. Therefore, it’s best to consult a Massachusetts commercial collection lawyer before dealing with matters of debt collection.
Following The Laws of Debt Collection in Massachusetts
There’s a common problem among debtors: they promise to pay by a certain date, but they fail to follow through. Even with “guaranteed” repayment, it’s very difficult to find a way to encourage a debtor to repay you. Though you may be able to take the matter to Massachusetts small claims court or seize the debtor’s property, that’s not always the best solution. You may need that customer in the future, and you have to abide by state and federal laws.
State vs. Federal Debt Collection Rules
Like all other states, Massachusetts has laws on fair debt collection. Some of these rules are different from those in other parts of the country, which is why it’s important to pay attention to. For instance, Massachusetts’ Fair Debt Collection Policies put limits on how you can pursue a debtor. A borrower can report you for the following prohibited practices:
- Communicating with anyone other than the debtor, such as an employer or a family member
- Sending threatening or embarrassing letters or using foul language during phone calls
- Threatening a debtor with an arrest or jail time
- Mimicking the judicial process to convince a debtor that they’re in legal trouble
- Harassing communications (such as calling before 8 am or after 9 pm)
Even a request for a post-dated check is a reportable offense. As long as a debt collector’s actions are unreasonable and deceptive, debtors can file claims.
Massachusetts’ laws cover debts incurred for personal, household, and family purposes. Consumer debts, such as unpaid rent, auto loans, condo fees, are not covered by the law. There’s a six-year statute of limitations on civil debts, which means you can collect only within that period. The clock starts ticking when the debtor makes his or her last payment, and the restriction covers written and oral agreements.
Validation and Compliance
Massachusetts law requires you, as a collector to send a written notice to the debtor within five days of initial notification. The notice must contain:
- The debt’s amount
- The creditor’s name
- A statement that the debt will be deemed valid if the consumer doesn’t file a dispute within 30 days
- A statement that, if the consumer files a dispute within the 30 day period, the creditor will send verification to the consumer
It is not necessary to provide written notice before you file small claims in Boston. However, if notice is given, you can’t proceed with a suit concerning a disputed debt without first verifying the debt and sending proof to the consumer.
Seizing a Debtor’s Property
It’s possible to capture property so you can recover from another company’s debts. However, some items cannot be seized, as they’re protected by federal and state law. The laws of Massachusetts prevent creditors from seizing a debtor’s furniture, appliances, clothing, or cemetery plot. Books and livestock can be seized and sold, but there’s a limit on these items’ value.
Finding a Debtor
Though you may need help finding a debtor, the state’s debt collection laws make it very hard to do so. Sometimes, debtors cease communications, which only makes things worse. DIY debt collection is possible, but the process is overwhelming for many. If a debtor is nowhere to be found, consider asking an attorney for help.
Debt collection is a complicated process, and to avoid legal trouble, it’s best to do everything strictly by the book. A Boston debt collection attorney will help you recover what you’re owed without disobeying the rules, protecting your finances, your interests, and your reputation.
How a Collections Lawyer Can Help
An ethical debt collection lawyer will provide regular updates when a debtor responds to his or her messages. Some debtors receive several settlement offers, and you’re allowed to reject or accept them at any time. With an attorney’s assistance, you’ll be kept aware of what’s going on between the debtor and the law firm.
When finding a business or an individual that owes a debt, it’s crucial to proceed prudently and to comply with applicable state and federal collection laws. Your conduct toward a debtor should be honest, ethical, and fair. To the extent possible, communications should be clearly documented.
Only a skilled debt collection attorney in Boston can help you avoid the punitive damages that come with unethical and unlawful collection attempts. If you need help and support, you’re in the right place. Our firm is staffed by professionals who will protect your interests, help you comply with the law, and reclaim what’s rightfully yours.