The repeated and harassing phone calls from creditors and debt collectors were one of the reasons you filed your chapter 7 bankruptcy petition; it was supposed to make the bill collectors stop! But many consumers have found this is not always the case and creditor harassment after chapter 7 is far more commonplace than it should be. So what can you do to make it stop? Well, that depends on why it is happening.
Why Does Creditor Harassment After Chapter 7 Occur?
Creditor harassment after chapter 7 can happen for a few reasons:
- You just recently filed your petition and the creditor has not had time to get notice
- Your petition did not include the creditor or it had the wrong address listed
- Notice of your filing slipped through the cracks and did not get attached to your account
- The debt was sold to another company that is unaware of your bankruptcy filing
- The creditor is simply ignoring the law
Before you can stop a creditor from harassing you after you have filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, you must determine why they are still doing it.
How to Determine Why a Creditor is Still Harassing You and Make them Stop
If you filed your bankruptcy petition in the last week or so, your creditor may not have had enough time to get the notice of the filing and properly process it. This is oftentimes the case with very large companies who must follow various procedures that include a number of different employees in order to update your account in its computer systems. Give your creditors 30 days to stop harassing you and in the mean time, simply let them know that you have filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. If you have your case number, give it to them, as this may help speed up the process of getting them to stop calling you.
Creditor harassment after chapter 7 should not occur any later than 30 days after filing and if it is, you will need to take action to stop it. The first thing you should do is simply ask the creditor if they are aware that you have filed a chapter 7. If they are not, provide them with the cause number and if that is not enough, ask where you can send notice, if it is a new case, or your discharge order, if your case has already been closed. If it is a collection agency or law firm harassing you, ask for the original creditor's information as well. Once you know who the original creditor is and where to send the notice, you will need to check to make sure the creditor was included on your petition. If they were, send them the notice or the discharge order. If they were not, you may need to reopen your case and should contact an attorney to discuss your options.
Once you are sure that a creditor was listed in your chapter 7 filing and has received notice of it, you can assume that they are still harassing you because they are simply ignoring the law. So then what?
When Creditors Ignore the Law
A large number of cases of creditor harassment after chapter 7 occur because the creditor simply chooses to ignore the law and continue its collection efforts. Creditors do this hoping that you will not know your rights or how to enforce them and cannot afford an attorney to help you, so you will just pay them in order to stop the harassment. So what are your rights and what if you cannot afford an attorney to help you enforce them?
You have the right to be free of creditor harassment after chapter 7. As soon as your chapter 7 bankruptcy petition is accepted by the court a federal stay goes into effect. This stay prohibits any of the creditors or debt collectors listed on your petition from attempting to collect the debt from you in any way. The stay is effective until your case is decided or a specific creditor asks for, and obtains, relief from the stay from the bankruptcy court. If a specific creditor is granted relief from the stay, only they may resume collection attempts. If your case is dismissed, the stay is no longer in effect and all of your creditors can resume all of your creditors are prohibited from ever attempting to collect on the debts again and from reporting late or missed payments to the credit reporting bureaus.
An experienced attorney will not charge upfront costs; you only pay if you get paid.
Oftentimes when a person experiences creditor harassment after chapter 7 their instinct is to contact the attorney who represented them in their bankruptcy case. This makes perfect sense, but may not be the first thing you should do. Once your bankruptcy case is closed and your debts have been discharged your bankruptcy attorney has done everything you paid them to do and any new issues will likely cost you more money. So, what you really need to do if you are experiencing creditor harassment after chapter 7 is contact an attorney experienced in creditor harassment and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
How Can a FDCPA Attorney Help Me With Creditor Harassment After Chapter 7?
While a bankruptcy attorney may be able to reopen your bankruptcy case in order to ask the court to stop a creditor from harassing you, there will very likely be legal fees involved, and what will this really accomplish? The creditor is already required by federal law to leave you alone, so why pay an attorney to go back into court and ask that they again be ordered to leave you alone? You might not have to. Creditor harassment after chapter 7 could be a violation of the FDCPA. If this is the case, an experienced FDCPA attorney may be able to not only get the creditor to stop harassing you, but they may have to pay you!
If you are experiencing creditor harassment after chapter 7, please contact our office at 1-800-219-3577, for a free, no obligation consultation.