The coronavirus outbreak that has hit the globe has had tragic effects on individuals, families, and businesses worldwide. Indeed, many have suffered pangs of loneliness in an effort to social distance; others have contracted the disease, COVID-19, themselves–in some cases, this has resulted in death; others have lost loved ones; and many have lost jobs or have suffered financial hardship. In response to the latter, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has recently issued emergency regulations pertaining to debt collection rules during the pandemic. Here’s what you should know–
The Purpose of the Emergency Regulations
In a time when the solvency of many of Massachusetts’ citizens are threatened as a result of this worldwide pandemic, the purpose of the emergency regulations, as found in the direct language of the regulation (940 CMR 35:00), is to “protect consumers from unfair and deceptive debt collection practices during the State of Emergency declared by the Governor of Massachusetts on March 10, 2020.” To be clear, the state of emergency declared in Massachusetts is still in effect.
Your Rights Under the Regulations
Under the regulations, debtors have certain rights, and creditors are prohibited from taking certain actions. To be sure, the regulations prohibit a creditor from:
- Filing or threatening to file a new collections lawsuit against a debtor;
- Initiating or threatening to initiate wage garnishment, asset seizure, wage withholding, etc.;
- Visiting the household of a debtor;
- Communicating with a debtor in a public place.
Note that while the above regulations pertain to most debts, such as credit card debt, they do not pertain to mortgage debt or rental debt from a tenant.
In addition to the above regulations, which are contained in the first part of the regulations, it is also prohibited for a debt collector to engage in communications with a debtor, including telephone communications, unless the debt collector is requested to do so by the debtor.
The regulations will stay in effect until 90 days after being issued (the regulations were issued on March 26) or until 30 days after the state of emergency is lifted, whichever is earlier.
What to Do If Your Rights Are Violated
During this uncertain time, understanding your rights and your options may feel confusing. At the law office of Deborah Gold-Alexander, Attorney at Law, we want you to know that you have options if your rights are violated. You should tell the debt collector to stop contacting you. You should also contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (AGO) in order to file a complaint. To assist you in this process and to provide you with an overview of your rights and options, you should also call an experienced attorney.
Reach Out to Deborah Gold-Alexander, Attorney at Law Today
If you have questions about the regulations pertaining to debt collection that are in effect while Massachusetts is in a state of emergency in response to COVID-19, or if you believe that your rights as a consumer have been breached, please do not hesitate to contact our Massachusetts law firm. Deborah Gold-Alexander has over 30 years’ experience and is ready to advocate for you.