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U.S. Passports Can Now Be Revoked for Unpaid Taxes — Can this Expand to Include Unpaid Federal Student Loans?

Right now no.  Although there are signs that U.S. Passport holders could face a revocation of their passports in the future for defaulted federal student loans.

The reason I say this is because of a new law signed by President Obama in late 2016, implemented in 2017, and now in 2018 is beginning to effect the passports of folks with tax delinquencies.

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Punitive damages are increasing as more people start challenging errors on their credit reports.

“Errors” is a funny word.  A creditor will likely claim that it was an unintentional “error” that they reported negative information on your credit.  But as it really an error?

Punitive damages are on the rise around the nation as more and more people and their consumer attorneys fight back over false information reported on their credit.  Inadequate training of personnel, sloppy record keeping, debts being bought and sold repeatedly has led to greater frequency of credit report errors.  Errors that can cause consumers thousands of dollars in increased credit costs.  The lower someone’s credit, the higher interest rate they can be charged when borrowing money.  A lower credit rating for consumers as a whole potentially increases the bottom line for financial institutions across the board.

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Initially, twenty some years ago, I worked on the side of the student loan companies.  Whenever someone in the State of Florida sought to discharge federal student loan debt in bankruptcy, I was often trial counsel for the student loan company.  Our clients ranged from Sallie Mae, ECMC, TERI and USA Funds.  Our track record was excellent – I recall losing only one trial down in Miami.  It wasn’t really due to any great lawyering skills, it simply  was very difficult to discharge student loans in bankruptcy.  I traveled around the state handling trials and appeals in Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Fort Myers and even Miami area – it may have been Fort Lauderdale – all I remember is it was a long way down there!

Why did I do that type of work?  Well, I felt grateful for my own loans and believed in the system and wanted to help to make sure it was around for future borrowers.  I would not be a lawyer today if it weren’t for the student loan system.

But you could say I’ve seen the light since then.  Today, I work for borrowers.  Nowadays, it’s nearly impossible for the vast majority of student borrowers to actually pay off their debt.  When I graduated back in 1992, I owed 45k and my first job right out of law school paid 40k – roughly a 1 to 1 ratio.  Fortunately, it was never hard for me to pay off that debt.  But nowadays, I’ll see 3 to 1 ratios all the time, i.e. someone owing 90k in loans, but only making 30k.

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Fortunately, there are several laws that provide both protection and damages for consumers facing errors on their credit reports.  These include the Fair Credit Reporting Act (the “FCRA”), the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (“FACTA”) and most recently the Dodd-Frank amendments.

Credit reports are not only key to obtaining a home, vehicle, and credit cards, but they are also very important in obtaining employment, security clearances, insurance etc.  Even if negative credit doesn’t prevent you from obtaining any of these things, you’ll pay a much higher interest rate if your credit has been damaged.

Pull your credit regularly to make sure your creditors are following the law and not causing you harm.

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During the mortgage meltdown, many homeowners received financial assistance from a fund set up by Florida called Florida’s Hardest Hit Program.  This was primarily for folks whose income dropped during the recession.  Due to lack of funds, the program has now ceased taking applications.

However, there is one assistance program still open – the Florida Elderly Mortgage Assistance (ELMORE) program.  This program offers as much as $50,000 to elderly homeowners who have reverse mortgages.

To qualify all persons must meet certain criteria listed here:  ELMORE

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consumer-protectionMost of our debt collection laws in Florida apply only for consumer debt, not business debt.  Sometimes the answer is not quite clear as to what type of debt is involved.  What if for instance you operate a business and took out a loan, but signed a personal guarantee.  Sometimes, that personal guarantee will have language referring to the debt being for personal, family or household use.  That would likely make the guarantee a consumer debt.

By the way, that terminology comes from the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”), Fla. Stat. Section 559.55-559.77 which defines a consumer debt as a debt incurred for “personal, family or household use.”

What happens if you buy a house, live in it for years, but then ultimately end up moving and renting it out?  Or you rent out a room while you are living there?  Commericial or consumer debt?

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Both tenants and third party investors should be very happy that a new federal law goes into effect on June 23, 2018, that protects tenants in foreclosure.  Basically additional notice is required and the tenants even have the right to remain in the unit for the remainder of the lease.  A copy of the law (that had previously expired in 2014) is at the link below for the specifics:

While titled the “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act,” the Act is generally called “the Crapo bill” after its lead sponsor, Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho. With a few exceptions discussed below, the changes either carve out exceptions from compliance with consumer statutes or codify consumer protections that at least certain industry players are already following on their own.

Tenant Protections After Foreclosure of Landlord’s Property

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Servicemembers’ Protection from Foreclosure

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, 50 U.S.C. § 3953(c), provides protections from foreclosure for covered personnel where their residential mortgage loans were extended prior to their active duty. Originally this protection extended for only 90 days after the person left military service, but this period was extended to nine months and later to one year, but with a sunset at the end of 2017. Section 313 of Public Law No. 115-174 restores the one-year period and eliminates the sunset, making the one-year period permanent.

  • This is good news for our armed forces who are facing foreclosure now or in the future.  The one year protection has been re-established after it expired last year and has been made permanent!
Published on: asked us recently:  where does someone start to make sense of it all – when mounting student loans are crushing them and they don’t know what to do.

  • That’s exactly where our clients stand, there is so much information out there, some accurate, some not so much, and it’s hard to tell what even applies to your specific loans.
  • Then we have student loan servicers who vary in their training of their customer service reps – you’ll get 3-4 different answers when you call for example.
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Desperate mother, teacher, bus driver and student loan captive for life.

This is the actual signature line of a client who we are helping with her federal student loans.

The short version of her story:  she paid 10 years of consecutive and timely payments only to be told that she had to start all over again with ANOTHER 10 years of payments simply because she had the wrong loan type — and NO ONE at her servicer ever told her this.

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