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January 2013 Archives

Over 65 and Property Taxes

If you are over 65 years old or disabled, then there is help if you don't have enough money to pay property taxes.It is that time of year again. Christmas and New Years have come and gone, and property taxes are due on January 31st. But what can you do if you don't have enough money left in your bank account to pay your property taxes?Ignoring the problem won't work. If you fail to pay your property taxes and you do not have a lien on your home, you might lose your home to foreclosure due to delinquent taxes. If you have another lien on your home like a home equity loan, the home equity company may pay the taxes for you but you will have to pay them back plus pay them for next year's taxes which will cause your house payment to go up.If you are over 65 or disabled, you may qualify for an exemption on your taxes which will help lower what you owe. However, did you know that you may also be entitled to pay your property taxes in installments without penalty or interest if you make your payments on time?If you are over 65 years old or older, you may be able to pay your property taxes in installments without interest or penalties if the installments are made on time. According to the State of Texas's (see http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/proptax/tx96_295_00/pay00.html):If you are 65 or older and have applied for the homestead exemptions for senior citizens, you may pay your current taxes on your home in four installments. You must pay at least one-fourth of your taxes before February 1 (delinquency date). The remaining payments are due before April 1, June 1, and August 1, without any penalty or interest. If you miss an installment payment, you will have a penalty (12 percent) and also interest (at l percent for each month delinquent) added to the installment amount. You must indicate on your first payment that you are paying your home taxes in installments. Installment payments apply to all taxing units on the tax bill.This same installment plan applies if you are disabled. "Disabled" means either (1) you can't engage in gainful work because of physical or mental disability or (2) you are 55 years old and blind and can't engage in your previous work because of your blindness. If you receive disability benefits under the federal Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Program through the Social Security Administration, you will qualify.If you are still struggling to pay your bills, call 254-633-2876 or email us at info@thekehllawfirm.com TODAY for a FREE, no-obligation consultation to see what an experienced Waco bankruptcy attorney can do for you!

The Military and Payday Loans

In my experience as a Waco Bankruptcy Attorney, payday lenders are the worse people you can owe money to. Interest and penalties can run up to 800% and many individuals complain that they just can't seem to pay them off. I have received numerous frantic calls from clients worried because a payday lender has threatened to put them in jail or told the client that I was lying and bankruptcy laws can't help them. I have yet to see a client go to jail due to a payday loan or a payday that isn't covered by the bankruptcy laws.Since my bankruptcy office is so close to Ft. Hood and Killeen, I see payday lenders prey on our military servicemen and women all the time and it is a tragedy. A few years ago, Congress passed a law making it more difficult for payday lenders to make loans to our military personal, but it is still happening especially on the internet. Just try googling payday loans and military. I learned about some companies that will give special discounts to the military.The law prohibited interest rates of more than 36% to military personal and their families. It also limits the payday lenders ability to ask for a post-dated check or banking information. Furthermore, the law prohibits:
  • Requiring military members to set up an allotment as a condition of receiving a loan.
  • Requiring the use of a vehicle title as security for any loans made to service members and military family members.
  • Using a check or any other access to a member's financial account as security for a loan.
  • Lenders from renewing, repaying, refinancing, rolling over, or consolidating consumer credit using the proceeds of other credit granted by the same lender to the military member.
  • Requiring military members to waive their rights under the Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act, or any other federal law.
  • Denying the opportunity for military members to pay the loan off early, and any penalties for early payments.
  • Any unreasonable clauses in the contract designed to make it difficult for military members to take a creditor to court.
  • States from allowing creditors to violate state consumer loan protection laws for military members who are nonresidents.
The reality is that many payday lenders prey on military families. However, bankruptcy can help. If you are ready to take the next step, call 254-633-2876 or email us at info@thekehllawfirm.com to make a FREE, no-obligation consultation today to see what an experienced Waco bankruptcy attorney can do for you.

Can my employer fire me for filing bankruptcy?

In today's economy, central Texas jobs are hard to come by and unemployment rates are still up. Everyone wants to keep the job they have. As a bankruptcy attorney, I frequently get asked the following question: “If I file bankruptcy, can my employer fire me?”No, your current employer is not allowed to fire you based solely on the fact that you filed bankruptcy. Depending on the type of bankruptcy you file, your employer may never even know about the bankruptcy. Your job is protected under Section 525 of Bankruptcy Code which is federal law. This provision of the bankruptcy code prohibits private employers (i.e., not the government) from discriminating against their current employees based solely on the fact that their employee filed for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy law goes on to state that a public employer (i.e., the government) is not permitted to discriminate against individuals who have filed for bankruptcy who are current or potential employees. This means that your current job is safe from discrimination based solely on the fact that you filed bankruptcy.Are you ready to take the next step and make a FREE, no-obligation consultation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney? Call today at 254-633-2876 or email me at info@thekehllawfirm.com. Let my family help yours.

Bankruptcy Do's and Dont's

Do's Before Filing Bankruptcy1) Breathe. Filing bankruptcy is scary for most people and the process can feel intimidating. You have heard horror stories about what bankruptcy is like and you feel out of control. We know. Just remember, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Millions of people have filed bankruptcy and many are living the American Dream now.   Think about all the things you will be able to do once you are no longer scared to answer the phone, no longer throwing money at the credit card pit, think about the freedom you will find after the bankruptcy is over.2) Be honest with your bankruptcy attorney. They work for you. I tell clients to just tell me the truth and I will deal with what the legal consequences are. That is why you hired an experienced Waco bankruptcy attorney.3) If in doubt, disclose whatever it is to your attorney. I have couples in my office all the time where one person will look at their spouse and say “Do you think we should tell her about …?” Whatever it is, trust me I want to know.4) Ask your bankruptcy attorney questions. If your bankruptcy attorney doesn't have time to answer your questions, then they are not working for you. Filing bankruptcy is overwhelming and difficult to understand for the average person who doesn't deal with bankruptcies everyday. Bankruptcy has its own language and rules that no one except an experienced bankruptcy attorney can understand. When the bankruptcy law changed dramatically in 2005, many good attorneys quit practicing bankruptcy rather than learn the new laws. I spend time with my staff to make sure that we are available for our clients when they have questions. Either I or one of my experienced staff will get back to you if you have a question. That is my promise to you.5) Provide your Waco bankruptcy attorney the documents she requests and fill out the bankruptcy attorney's paperwork completely and accurately. If you have problems, contact your bankruptcy attorney's office and ask questions.If you need help with overwhelming debt, please call today at 254-633-2876 or email me at info@TheKehlLawfirm.com for a FREE, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Waco bankruptcy attorney.Don'ts Before Filing BankruptcyBankruptcy is a great way to obtain a fresh start for the honest debtor. Below are some items that should be avoided if possible. If you are unable to avoid one of the items below, please discuss what you are doing with your experienced bankruptcy attorney first.1) Incurring additional credit card debt or borrowing more money. 2) Loaning or giving money to friends or family. 3) Giving or selling property to others without talking to your Waco bankruptcy attorney first. 4) Paying money to family or friends. 5) Transferring title on automobiles 6) Leaving assets off of the paperwork you received from your bankruptcy attorney. 7) Leaving creditors off of the paperwork you received from your bankruptcy attorney because you want to “save” a credit card. 8) Bank where you owe money. If you bank where you owe money, the bank may freeze your bank account and your bankruptcy attorney will not be able to get the money back.Don't hesitate to contact us at 254-633-2876 or email me at info@TheKehlLawfirm.com to learn more about what to do while preparing to file bankruptcy.

Debt Collection Frequently Asked Questions

Are you behind in paying your bills? Is the phone ringing off the wall? Are you afraid to go to the mailbox? Does your credit report continue to have old charged off debt reappearing even though you have disputed them? If this sounds like you, read on because you may be having problems with a debt collector.The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.Under the FDCPA, a debt collector is someone who regularly collects debts owed to others. This includes collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts on a regular basis, and companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to collect them.Here are some questions and answers about your rights under the Act.

What types of debts are covered?

The Act covers personal, family, and household debts, including money you owe on a personal credit card account, an auto loan, a medical bill, and your mortgage. The FDCPA doesn’t cover debts you incurred to run a business.

Can a debt collector contact me any time or any place?

No. A debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8 in the morning or after 9 at night, unless you agree to it. And collectors may not contact you at work if they’re told (orally or in writing) that you’re not allowed to get calls there.

Can a debt collector contact anyone else about my debt?

If an attorney is representing you about the debt, the debt collector must contact the attorney, rather than you. We provide this service at The Kehl Law Firm once a client has retained our firm. We will take the phone calls and letters for you. If you don’t have an attorney, a collector may contact other people – but only to find out your address, your home phone number, and where you work. Collectors usually are prohibited from contacting third parties more than once. Other than to obtain this location information about you, a debt collector generally is not permitted to discuss your debt with anyone other than you, your spouse, or your attorney.

What does the debt collector have to tell me about the debt?

Every collector must send you a written “validation notice” telling you how much money you owe within five days after they first contact you. This notice also must include the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money, and how to proceed if you don’t think you owe the money.

Can a debt collector keep contacting me if I don’t think I owe any money?

If you send the debt collector a letter stating that you don’t owe any or all of the money, or asking for verification of the debt, that collector must stop contacting you. You have to send that letter within 30 days after you receive the validation notice. But a collector can begin contacting you again if it sends you written verification of the debt, like a copy of a bill for the amount you owe.

What practices are off limits for debt collectors?

Harassment. Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact. For example, they may not:
  • use threats of violence or harm;
  • publish a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts (but they can give this information to the credit reporting companies);
  • use obscene or profane language; or
  • repeatedly use the phone to annoy someone.
False statements. Debt collectors may not lie when they are trying to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
  • falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives;
  • falsely claim that you have committed a crime;
  • falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit reporting company;
  • misrepresent the amount you owe;
  • indicate that papers they send you are legal forms if they aren’t; or
  • indicate that papers they send to you aren’t legal forms if they are.
Debt collectors also are prohibited from saying that:
  • you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt;
  • they’ll seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so; or
  • legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don’t intend to take the action.
Debt collectors may not:
  • give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company;
  • send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency if it isn’t; or
  • use a false company name.
Unfair practices. Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
  • try to collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount you owe unless the contract that created your debt – or your state law – allows the charge;
  • deposit a post-dated check early;
  • take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally; or
  • contact you by postcard.

Can a debt collector garnish my bank account or my wages?

If you don’t pay a debt, a creditor or its debt collector generally can sue you to collect. If they win, the court will enter a judgment against you. The judgment states the amount of money you owe, and allows the creditor or collector to get a garnishment order against you, directing a third party, like your bank, to turn over funds from your account to pay the debt.Wage garnishment happens when your employer withholds part of your compensation to pay your debts. Your wages usually can’t be garnished in the State of Texas.

Can federal benefits be garnished?

Many federal benefits are exempt from garnishment, including:
  • Social Security Benefits
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
  • Veterans’ Benefits
  • Civil Service and Federal Retirement and Disability Benefits
  • Service Members’ Pay
  • Military Annuities and Survivors’ Benefits
  • Student Assistance
  • Railroad Retirement Benefits
  • Merchant Seamen Wages
  • Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Death and Disability Benefits
  • Foreign Service Retirement and Disability Benefits
  • Compensation for Injury, Death, or Detention of Employees of U.S. Contractors Outside the U.S.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency Federal Disaster Assistance
But federal benefits may be garnished under certain circumstances, including to pay delinquent taxes, alimony, child support, or student loans.

Do I have any recourse if I think a debt collector has violated the law?

You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. If you win, the judge can require the collector to pay you for any damages you can prove you suffered because of the illegal collection practices, like lost wages and medical bills. The judge can require the debt collector to pay you up to $1,000, even if you can’t prove that you suffered actual damages. You also can be reimbursed for your attorney’s fees and court costs. A group of people also may sue a debt collector as part of a class action lawsuit and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever amount is lower. Even if a debt collector violates the FDCPA in trying to collect a debt, the debt does not go away if you owe it.

What should I do if a debt collector sues me?

If a debt collector files a lawsuit against you to collect a debt, do not respond to the lawsuit yourself, you should contact us for a free consultation.Are you to stop the phone calls? Call The Kehl Law Firm, P.C. at 254-633-2876 or email atinfo@thekehllawfirm.com today for a FREE, no obligation consultation with an experienced Waco bankruptcy attorney. Welcome to your fresh start!
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