Blog

Call Us312-704-0771

Chicago debt collection attorneys
Recent blog posts

Law Protects Servicemembers During Vehicle RepossessionBefore repossessing a vehicle, an auto lender must confirm whether the owner is a U.S. military member on active duty. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act includes a section protecting active servicemembers who default on their auto loans. The auto lender must obtain a court order to repossess the vehicle. The order may include forms of financial relief not normally given to vehicle owners. Failing to comply with the SCRA can be a criminal offense.

Qualifications

The SCRA applies to people who are away from home while serving as:

...

Nuances of Business to Business Debt CollectionBusinesses are some of the most lucrative clients for finance companies because they need loans to purchase goods or equipment. A well-timed loan can help a business eventually turn a profit and lead to long-term relationships with financiers that benefit both sides. However, businesses are also liable to default on their debts, which may be substantial depending on how much they needed to purchase. Finance companies must use their best judgment in determining how aggressive they should be with business clients.

Personal Communication

Hiring a debt collection agency or taking a commercial debtor to court may sour the relationship between a finance company and a business. Before taking those steps, the creditor can try to settle the debt on a more personal level by:

...

Being Thorough with Citation to Discover AssetsAfter a judge rules that a debtor must repay a creditor, the two parties will often find themselves back in court as part of the debt collection process. The creditor has several tools at its disposal, such as wage garnishment and seizing collateral property. However, the process must start with determining what resources the debtor has available. In Illinois, a creditor can file a Citation to Discover Assets, which compels the debtor to appear in court and answer questions under oath. With this opportunity, it is important for the creditor to ask questions that will help it uncover the debtor’s true asset values.

Leading Up to Court Appearance

The process starts with filing the Citation to Discover Assets with the local court and serving notice to the debtor. As part of the notice, the creditor can request that the debtor prepares specified financial documents for the hearing. Illinois law requires creditors to include an Income and Asset Form as part of the citation. Debtors must respond to a series of written questions meant to determine:

...

Four Ways to Present Reaffirmation Agreements During BankruptcyOffering a reaffirmation agreement to a debtor going through Chapter 7 bankruptcy can allow a secured creditor to receive close to full value on debts for real and personal property. As part of a Chapter 7 debt discharge, a secured creditor normally repossesses properties if a debtor will be unable to repay the loan. However, the creditor most likely cannot hold the debtor liable for any deficiency after resale of the property. With a reaffirmation agreement, the debtor keeps the property as long as he or she can continue making payments. If the debtor defaults, the creditor can repossess the property, and the debtor would be liable for any deficiency after resale. Knowing the risk this may pose their clients, bankruptcy lawyers will discourage debtors from signing reaffirmation agreements. Creditors need to inform debtors of why a reaffirmation agreement may be to their advantage:

  1. Property Importance: Some collateral property during a bankruptcy has greater value to a debtor than others. A debtor may be more eager to hold onto real estate and personal vehicles than luxury items. Thus, debtors will be more receptive to proposals that allow them to retain possession of important properties.
  2. Realistic Plan: A court will reject a reaffirmation agreement that puts an undue burden on the debtor. Debtors must also be current on their debt payments in order to enter an agreement. Creditors should understand whether debtors will have the financial means to make payments after bankruptcy. If a debtor does, the creditor can explain why it is reasonable to reaffirm the debt.
  3. Short-Term Debt: In some situations, the remaining debt on an agreement may be small enough that the debtor could repay it in a year or less. Offering short-term repayment plans that allow them to keep their properties may be more palatable to debtors.
  4. Modifying Loan: The debtor may need an extra incentive in order to reaffirm a debt. The creditor can present an agreement that lowers the burden on the debtor by reducing the monthly payments or interest rates. A better deal may entice a debtor to reaffirm.

Reaching an Agreement

Debtors must state their intention to reaffirm debts before their debts are discharged during Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Though either party can file a reaffirmation agreement, creditors are most often the ones to initiate the discussions. Reaffirmation agreements must be filed within 60 days after the first meeting of creditors. A Chicago creditor’s rights attorney at Walinski & Associates, P.C., can help you negotiate a reaffirmation agreement with your debtor. Schedule a consultation by calling 312-704-0771. 

...

Convenience Fees Not Allowed Without Consent in Debt AgreementDebtors have multiple payment methods they can use to transfer money when repaying debts. Some forms of payment incur additional convenience fees, such as when debtors use credit cards or money orders. Creditors have at times formed agreements with the third-party vendors to share these convenience fees. However, they should examine state laws and their contracts with debtors before entering such agreements. Creditors and debt collectors are often prohibited by law from collecting convenience fees and may be punished for doing so.

Federal and State Law

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act states that a debt collector cannot institute a fee that increases the amount a debtor owes unless:

...

Six Reasons to Object to a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy PlanWhen facing bankruptcy, some debtors prefer filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead of Chapter 7 bankruptcy. A well-constructed Chapter 13 repayment plan can prevent property foreclosure and repossession while clearing the filer of debt obligations. Creditors can benefit from Chapter 13 bankruptcy, as well, but only if the debtor creates a fair and reasonable plan. Creditors must examine repayment plans for possible objections before the plan reaches its confirmation hearing. Failing to object in time allows an unjust repayment plan to become legally enforceable. There are several objections that a creditor can make before the plan is confirmed:

  1. Understated Debt: A debtor’s proposed repayment plan may exclude certain debts that he or she is required to repay. Priority debts must be part of the repayment plan. Mortgage and auto payments may also need to be included if the debtor wants to keep the related properties.
  2. Insufficient Payments: Unsecured creditors must receive compensation from the repayment plan that is at least equal to what they would have received by liquidating properties in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This is the tradeoff that debtors must make in exchange for keeping those properties.
  3. Withholding Disposable Income: Plan payments must use whatever income is left over after necessary living expenses and other financial obligations. Some debtors will try to hide how much money they make so they do not have to repay as much of their debts.
  4. Unsustainable Payments: A repayment plan should be based on what the debtor will realistically be able to afford. The plan may fail if the debtor cannot prove he or she will have the income to maintain those level of payments.
  5. Unqualified Debtor: A debtor is allowed to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy only if he or she meets certain requirements. The debtor does not qualify if he or she has insufficient disposable income, is behind on income tax payments or has debts that exceed the legal limit.
  6. Bad Faith Plan: The debtor must be honest and fair with his or her creditors when creating a repayment plan. Any evidence that the debtor tried to deceive his or her creditors may terminate the plan.

Outcome

If the court upholds your objection, the debtor will have to revise the plan or abandon filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The debtor may still be able to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy if he or she does not qualify for Chapter 13. A Chicago creditor’s rights attorney at Walinski & Associates, P.C., can identify objectionable aspects to a debtor's bankruptcy repayment plan. To schedule a consultation, call 312-704-0771.

...

FHA Loans Add Extra Steps to Mortgage ForeclosureThe Federal Housing Administration, through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, offers protected loans to help lower income borrowers obtain mortgages. The FHA insures the loan, which gives the lender greater certainty that it will be compensated in case of default. As part of the FHA insurance, the lender must follow federal guidelines in contacting borrowers when they default on the mortgage. Failure to document compliance can halt foreclosure efforts on the property.

In-Person Meeting

According to the Code of Federal Regulations, the lender must have or attempt to have a face-to-face meeting with the borrower before the borrower has missed three months of required payments. If the lender does not have the meeting, it must show that it made a reasonable effort to contact the borrower, including:

...

Be Careful When Creating Intercreditor AgreementsWhen a debtor borrows money from multiple creditors, an intercreditor agreement can be helpful in determining the rights of each creditor. The primary purpose of the agreement is to establish which creditor receives priority in case the borrower defaults on its debts. The higher-priority lender is called the senior creditor, and the other lender is called the junior creditor. In the event of default, the agreement may state that the senior creditor must be repaid in full before the junior creditor can take action on the debt. However, the agreement can also include provisions that will protect the junior creditor in case the senior creditor takes action that impairs the junior creditor's ability to collect on its debt. Depending on the severity of the action, a court can decide to strip the senior creditor of its priority claim on the debt.

Impairment

An intercreditor agreement is based on the junior creditor knowing how much the senior creditor must be repaid before the junior creditor can file a claim on the defaulted debt. Following the agreement, a senior creditor may act on its own to increase the borrower’s debt obligation by:

...

The Risks in Working with Debt Settlement CompaniesWhen debtors are worried about their ability to repay their creditors, they become susceptible to people who offer quick fixes. Some debt settlement companies are taking advantage of this by advertising misleading debt relief claims to debtors, such as:

  • Being able to eliminate debts in months without bankruptcy;
  • Stopping calls from debt collectors;
  • Relieving their debts without affecting their credit ratings; and
  • Allowing them to continue the same lifestyle with no consequence.

Debt settlement companies tout their services as a win for all parties. The debtor relieves his or her debt, and the creditor receives some compensation for the debt. As a creditor, you know the downside of working with debt settlement companies. They ask debtors to send payments to them instead of you, delaying your reimbursement by years. Once the company has accumulated enough of the debtor’s money, it will come to you with a lower settlement offer than what you may have been able to negotiate directly with the debtor. However, the debtor may have more to lose than you from using a debt settlement company. You can help yourself and your debtors by explaining the drawbacks to them:

  1. A debt settlement company cannot stop you from contacting them about their outstanding debts. Instead, you are more likely to contact them because they have stopped making any payments.
  2. You are not obligated to work with a debt settlement company. Some companies regularly make unacceptable settlement offers or are generally disreputable.
  3. The debt settlement company’s plan will increase their debts. A debtor may need to stop paying you for years in order to save enough money to make a settlement offer. During that time, you are likely to add interest to what is owed.
  4. They may pay more using a debt settlement company than if they had negotiated directly with you. Besides the company’s fees, there is a tax obligation. The IRS considers any debt that you forgive to be taxable income for the debtor.
  5. Nothing is stopping you from suing them for their outstanding debts. If the court rules in your favor, you may use tools such as asset seizure and wage garnishment to collect your debt.
  6. The debt settlement process will hurt their credit ratings. Intentionally missing debt payments will affect how future creditors will view them.

Reaching an Agreement

...

Fast-Tracking Foreclosure on Abandoned PropertiesWhen a lender concludes that it must foreclose on a mortgage, it likely wants to get through the process as quickly and smoothly as possible. The sooner the lender can reclaim the property, the sooner it can try to find a new buyer and recuperate the cost from the failed mortgage. However, the foreclosure process does not work quickly. While this is inconvenient for all mortgage lenders, the situation is most dire for those trying to foreclose on an abandoned property. Recognizing this problem, Illinois is one of the few states to have a fast-track foreclosure law.

Foreclosure Process

Illinois is a judicial foreclosure state, meaning the lender must go to court to receive a judgment on the foreclosure. The process includes:

...

Bankruptcy Law Allows Debtors to Continue Retirement ContributionsA Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee in Illinois recently objected to a debtor’s request to exclude $200 per month from his disposable income in order to contribute to his 401K retirement plan. The trustee questioned the motivation of the decision because the debtor had not made any contributions to the plan in the six months prior to filing for bankruptcy. However, an Illinois bankruptcy court denied the objection, stating that the debtor was within his rights. The ruling shows how bankruptcy courts treat retirement plan contributions as a protected expenditure.

Chapter 13 Plans

As opposed to Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves creating a repayment plan instead of liquidating assets. Qualified debtors must submit documents that detail their:

...

Bank of America Stuck in Debt Collection Dispute with ClientIllinois trial and appellate courts have been going back and forth on a debt collection case between Bank of America and a small business owner. Bank of America is suing the former owner of All About Drapes for the remaining value of an unpaid loan, plus interest and legal fees. The business owner counters that he was induced into signing the loan agreement because the bank falsely claimed that his previous line of credit was expiring. The trial court has twice ruled in favor of Bank of America in a summary judgment, but the appellate court overturned that decision each time.

Case Details

The business owner had originally created an open-ended line of credit with LaSalle Bank. He would borrow money to help him through the winter months — when his business was slow —  and paid the bank back at a two percent interest rate. Bank of America purchased LaSalle Bank in 2008, and the business owner began seeing an August 2009 maturity date on his bills. The owner explained to multiple employees at the bank that his line of credit did not have a maturity date. The bank insisted that:

...

New Regulations Target Payday Loan IndustryThe Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has created new regulations meant to protect borrows against risky short-term and long-term loans with balloon payments. Commonly known as payday loans and vehicle title loans, these types of loans are usually issued in storefronts and online to consumers who need immediate cash and have difficulty obtaining a traditional loan. The CFPB claims that creditors who issue these loans use unfair and abusive practices by giving loans that they know consumers will be unable to repay and being overly obtrusive in their collection methods. With the new regulations, the CFPB hopes to make the payday loan industry adhere to some of the standards established in other credit industries.

Which Loans Are Affected

The CFPB says that the rules will apply to two types of loans:

...

Successor Liability Can Hold Companies Accountable for DebtsA company that has extensive debts has many means by which it can attempt to avoid its creditors. One such way is when a second company purchases the debtor company and its assets. The debtor company often no longer has its own assets that its creditors can claim. Creditors may instead seek compensation from the second company that purchased the debtor company. However, Illinois law presumes that a buyer is not responsible for the debts and liabilities of the company it purchases. Business owners may try to abuse the law by essentially continuing to run a company under another name, while dodging creditors. Fortunately, Illinois courts allow creditors to claim successor liability in order to collect debts from successor companies. The creditor must prove one of four established exceptions that transfer debt liability to a successor company.

Expressed or Implied Transfer of Debt

Successor liability claims are most simple to prove when the successor company has a written or verbal agreement to assume the debts of the company it purchased. However, the successor company can also expressly state that it is not liable for the previous company’s debts. In some cases, the purchasing agreement does not mention debt liability. Creditors can examine the agreement to determine if there is an implied assumption of the debt. A court may interpret the assumption of a contract or obligation from the previous company to imply the assumption of other liabilities.

...

Using Citation to Discover Assets with DebtorsCreditors who take legal action against uncooperative debtors can view their debt retrieval as happening in two overarching stages. The first stage is receiving a court judgment that quantifies the monetary amount that the debtor owes the creditor. The second stage is retrieving the judgment debt from the debtor. Judgment enforcement of a debt can require further legal measures. Though the debtor is legally obligated to compensate the creditor, the debtor may claim financial hardship in order to delay or deny repayment. Creditors can use a citation to discover assets, which forces the debtor to disclose all of his or her available assets.

Citation of the Debtor

When a creditor files a citation to discover assets, the debtor is given notice of a court date that he or she must attend. At the hearing, the debtor is placed under oath and must answer questions about his or her available assets, including:

...

Piercing the Corporate Veil to Collect DebtOne of the purposes of forming a corporation is to separate the debt liability of the business from its shareholders. When a corporation defaults on its debts, the creditor is often limited to collecting the debt from the corporation itself. If the corporation has insufficient assets or dissolves, it becomes more difficult to retrieve the full debt. However, courts will allow a creditor to seek compensation from a corporation’s shareholders in certain situations. The practice is called piercing the corporate veil, and its success depends on the type of corporation and how closely the shareholders are connected to it.

Piercing the Veil

Illinois courts are likely to protect shareholders from personal liability in a corporate debt case. When deciding whether to pierce the corporate veil, a court is instructed to consider:

...

Four Ways to Modify a Loan to Avoid DefaultWhen debtors are struggling to pay off loans, creditors often consider loan modification before taking more drastic legal action. Foreclosure and repossession are surer ways to recuperate money or assets from a debtor, but those methods may fail to collect the entire value of the loan. By using loan modification, the debtor still has a chance to fully repay the loan, often with added interest. Creditors are taking a risk when agreeing to a loan modification:

  • They are permanently changing the loan agreement in a way that may benefit the debtor; and
  • They are trusting that the modification will be enough to help the debtor repay the loan.

In some cases, a loan modification only delays necessary legal action to recover a debt. Creditors must judge whether the debtor is likely to repay the loan and whether the modification is worth the effort. There are several ways to modify a loan in order to assist a debtor:

  1. Forbearance: The creditor can temporarily reduce or suspend loan payments, with the agreement that the debtor will repay the difference when the forbearance period has ended. Forbearance is best used when the debtor is going through temporary financial hardship that he or she expects to recover from.
  2. Term Extension: The creditor can add years to the loan repayment schedule. The value of each payment will go down, but the overall interest paid on the loan will increase. The creditor must determine how long it is willing to delay reimbursement of the loan.
  3. Interest Rate Reduction: The creditor can temporarily or permanently reduce the interest rate on the loan, thereby lessening the payments. The money lost from the reduced interest is often added to the principal of the loan.
  4. Principal Reduction: This modification is the least favorable for creditors because it decreases the value of the loan that the debtor must repay. Creditors may forgive a portion of the debt in hopes of increasing the chance of retrieving the remaining debt. However, the creditor is accepting a loss on the loan.

Best Option

...

Involuntary Bankruptcy Useful in the Right SituationsDebtors who lack the means to repay creditors protect themselves by filing for bankruptcy. They can liquidate assets or create reorganization plans, after which their remaining debts may be discharged. Though creditors may be unable to retrieve their full debts, they are often forced to cooperate with the debtor in the bankruptcy to retrieve what they can. However, creditors have the ability to initiate bankruptcy with uncooperative debtors. Involuntary bankruptcy is a lesser-used debt retrieval method because it only benefits creditors in certain situations.

Filing for Involuntary Bankruptcy

There are several requirements when using involuntary bankruptcy against a debtor:

...

Guarding Against Electronic Fraud During Debt CollectionCreditors are increasingly utilizing Automated Clearing House networks as part of their payment systems during debt collection. Electronic payments are more than convenient for debtors – they have become expected. However, the impersonal nature of online transactions makes it susceptible to fraud. Cyber criminals are attacking both creditors and debtors, with the goal of accessing private accounts and syphoning money to themselves. Creditors must take action to protect themselves and their customers from online fraud or risk losing substantial amounts of money.

How Fraud Happens?

All online businesses and consumers are vulnerable to phishing scams and malware attacks. Cyber criminals use these techniques to steal identities and access financial accounts. Because of the urgency involved with paying debts, criminals target creditors and debtors:

...

Legal Process for Repossessing a VehicleWhen a debtor fails to pay installments on a car loan, an auto lender may have no choice but to repossess the vehicle. Alternatives would be to refinance the loan or to allow the debtor to repay the money owed in a lump sum at a later date. However, the debtor must have a history of reliably making payments before the lender considers those options. Repossession is the surest way to recover money after the debtor defaults on a loan, though the lender may still not recover the entire loss. When repossessing a vehicle, you must follow a legal process that gives the debtor notice and a chance to repay you.

What Allows Repossession

Your right to repossess the vehicle should be clearly stated in the loan contract. Loan agreements typically include security interests, which are properties that can be used as collateral in case the debtor fails to pay the loan. In a contract for a vehicle payment plan, the vehicle is the security interest. When a debtor does not make a scheduled payment, he or she has violated the contract. The security interest identified in the contract will legally allow you to repossess the vehicle as collateral.

...
Illinois Creditors Bar Association Chicago Bar Association Illinois State Bar Association
Back to Top