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FDCPA-ceaseThe Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and its Florida counterpart, the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, (“FCCPA”) require a debt collector or creditor to cease all collection efforts once a consumer acts to preserve their rights.  But you have to ask first, and in writing by sending a cease and desist.

Under 15 U.S.C. Section 1692c(c) if a consumer notifies the debt collector, in writing, to cease further communications OR if the consumer notifies the debt collector, in writing, that he or she refuses to pay the debt, the debt collector cannot communicate with the debtor, with 2 exceptions.

  • (a) to advise consumer collection efforts will cease; or
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blue-pearlA recent GAO report showed just how poor of a job that the Department of Education and its various servicers are doing in communicating and explaining options to reduce student loan debt.  This is the primary reason why so many people are being declined Public Service Loan Forgiveness.  So I’d like to recognize and thank employers and schools that are picking up the torch and helping to get student loan relief for their employees.

This week, Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners, allowed me the opportunity to join Ken Russell of Principal Life to help explain student loan options to their interns at their veterinary hospitals.  Turns out veterinaries have doctor sized student loans but not doctor sized pay.  My aunt is employed by Mercy/Methodist hospital up north which is now giving out resources to its employees to help them understand and apply for income driven plans.  I commend employers who recognize that we are in a student loan crisis and have taken the time to help get needed information to their employees.  This year, we also put on a seminar for upcoming graduates of University of Tampa on what to expect and how to minimize their student debt.  Both employers and schools see the problem.

Relying only on the Department of Education and their array of servicers is turning out to be a miscalculation that is costing former students their future.  The servicers pay their customer service employees more money to cut calls short – short call durations = bonuses.  If sued, the servicers claim that they do not represent the borrowers, they represent the student loan creditors.  And finally, both the servicers and the Department of Education argue that the federal Higher Education Act preempts any state consumer protection laws.  We do not believe that is true and the issue is up on appeal right now in the Eleventh Circuit.

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgI’m still seeing a ton of misinformation out there.  A perfect example of this is someone who consulted with us yesterday and granted us permission to tell her story to hep others.

First, this client, we’ll call her Debbie, is a retired teacher who had $73,000 in Parent Plus loans.  She was told two different (what I can only say were lies at this point).  First, her servicer told her that if she didn’t pay her Parent Plus loans, her son would be responsible for them.  Not true.

Second, even though she was a teacher, she was told that she would not qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.  While this may have been technically true under her former loan types, the servicer conveniently omitted the fact she could consolidate and apply for ICR in order to qualify for PSLF.  Omissions are usually seen as another form of a lie.  The borrower is left with the false impression that nothing can be done and they are stuck.  Keep in mind that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program was created specifically to encourage people to obtain degrees, often expensive Masters’ degrees, and go into the lower paid education field.

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgIt’s difficult for laypeople (and sometimes bankruptcy attorneys) to believe there are legal options to reduce student loan debt after hearing for years that “student loans are nondischargeable in bankruptcy”.  Well, this is not always true.  They can be discharged – or partially discharged – and brand new payment terms set up.

Take a look at a review posted yesterday of one such case by Aaron:

  • Christie and her staff where very professional honest and straight to the point with my student loans! I was struggling with private loan monthly payments that I could not afford in which was affecting my credit.
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pslfI heard from a client today who attended one of our student loan seminars recently.  Many of her colleagues in the military recently submitted their PSLF applications and are now starting to get back denials.  Despite completing the ten years of payments while working full time for Uncle Sam, PSLF relief is being denied due to what amounts to loopholes.  The most common reasons are they have the wrong loan types or wrong payment plans.  So as I thought, many people still don’t know they have a problem!

Kathy wrote:

  • I cannot THANK YOU both enough for all the help and guidance getting my loans back on track for future forgiveness.  It’s a huge weight lifted knowing that now I have an end date to look forward to!! 🙂  I will absolutely write a review for you and have been talking you up to my fellow vets in the same position as me.  Quite a few of them recently tried to submit for loan forgiveness after 10 years of public service only to realize the same thing I did after your talk, Christie – that they did not have the correct loan type to do so.  I hope they reach out and utilize your expertise.
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Graph-Growth-in-SLs
I’ve been invited by the Tampa Bay Bankruptcy Bar Association to speak about student loan debt and what can be done – both inside and outside of bankruptcy.  This is for the Consumer luncheon on the fifth floor of the federal courthouse if any local attorneys are interested in attending.  You don’t have to pre-register, it’s free and there’s pizza!  I’ve got lots to cover, some new things going on and the results are fantastic!  Just check out our reviews and what our clients are saying!

This graph above should show why we have a problem with student loan debt – its tremendous growth even since the recession in ’08 is crazy.

Also, notice in the graph below, while our mortgage delinquencies are back to the lowest they’ve ever been, student loan delinquencies are the highest they’ve ever been — and more than credit cards, auto and mortgage debt.

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Giraffe-feedingOur associate attorney, Barbara Leon’s anniversary was today and she had the day off.  What did she choose to do:  Feed a giraffe.  Pretty cool.  A baby too.

I’m sure her husband Leo is around somewhere…

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robocallsRobocalling case law has been rapidly evolving over the past few months.  The latest case out of Tampa’s Middle District, is the case of MELANIE GLASSER, individually & on behalf of all others similarly situated Plaintiff, v. HILTON GRAND VACATIONS COMPANY, LLC. Defendant., No. 8:16-CV-952-JDW-AAS, 2018 WL 4565751, at *5 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 24, 2018) (Judge Whittemore) (holding at summary judgment that defendant’s dialer is not an ATDS and discussing a dialer that automatically enters the number but requires a clicker agents to push the “make call button” to control the pace of the calls doesn’t alter that the clicker agent’s actions were “integral to initiating outbound calls” …  “accordingly, it matters not that the computer actually dials the number forwarded to it by the clicking agent. Rather, the focus is on the agent’s human intervention in initiating the calling process.”).

Despite this case initially looking bad for consumers, there was some good language in the case – its just that the evidence wasn’t presented in this case for the telephone system to fall under the definition of an autodialer.

“Relevant here, ACA Int’l left intact earlier FCC rulings that “the ‘basic function’ of an autodialer is to dial numbers without human intervention:” For instance, the ruling states that the “basic function” of an autodialer is the ability to “dial numbers without human intervention.” 2015 Declaratory Ruling, 30 FCC Rcd. at 7973 ¶ 14; id. at 7975 ¶ 17. Prior orders had said the same. 2003 Order, 18 FCC Rcd. at 14,092 ¶ 132; 2008 Declaratory Ruling, 23 FCC Rcd. at 566 ¶ 13.”

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https://www.tampabankruptcylawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/07/christie_d._arkovich_p.a_1_small.jpgWhen you contact your private student loan company, you likely will be told the only options are: 1) a payment amount that is much higher than you can afford, or 2) to make an interest only payment which makes no dent whatsoever on the loan balance.  Stop that.  Read below.  Then call us.

Our latest Google review from Matthew:

My daughter and I contacted Christie last December regarding loans that I had cosigned for.  Navient was unwilling to offer an affordable payment.  They offered an interest only payment, and late payments were killing our credit. With Christies guidance we did exactly what she suggested and we were able to reach a settlement for around 30% with an affordable monthly payment.

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