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Debt Collection Laws in Indiana: A Comprehensive Guide

What is Debt Collection and Why Does it Matter?

Have you ever missed a payment or two on a loan, credit card, or other debt? If so, you‘ve probably dealt with debt collectors trying to get that money back. Debt collection is big business – and it’s important to know your rights under Indiana law.Debt collectors play a crucial role in the credit system. After all, if nobody paid their debts, banks and lenders would go out of business. But there are strict rules on what they can and can’t do when trying to collect. We’ll cover all the key debt collection laws for Indiana in this guide.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

This is the big one – the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law that governs debt collection for personal, household, and family debts. It spells out prohibited practices and gives you the right to dispute debts.Some of the key FDCPA rules are:

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  • Debt collectors can’t harass or abuse you with threats, obscenities, or repeated calls intended to annoy
  • They can’t lie about the amount owed, who they are, or threaten illegal actions
  • They have to identify themselves as debt collectors in all communications
  • They can’t discuss your debt with others without your permission

If a collector violates the FDCPA, you can sue them in state or federal court for damages. The law applies to third-party debt collectors, but not to original creditors collecting their own debts.

Indiana’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act

Indiana has its own law regulating debt collection practices – the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. This prohibits deceptive acts in consumer transactions, including debt collection.

Some key provisions are:

  • Debt collectors can’t misrepresent the amount or legal status of a debt
  • They can’t falsely threaten legal action that they don’t intend to take
  • They can’t repeatedly call with the intent to annoy or harass
  • They must provide written notice about the debt before filing suit

Violations can result in actual damages, attorney fees, and up to triple damages in some cases. The law applies to original creditors as well as third-party collectors.

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Indiana

In Indiana, the statute of limitations on most debts is 6 years from the date of default or last payment. This includes credit cards, loans, medical bills, and other consumer debts.Once the statute of limitations expires, the debt is considered “time-barred” and the creditor can no longer sue you for it. However, they can still try to collect through other means like calling or sending letters.It’s important to know that making even a small payment on an old debt can restart the clock on the statute of limitations. So be very careful about reviving expired debts.

Debt Collection Licensing Requirements

Indiana requires debt collectors to have a license from the Indiana Secretary of State. This applies to agencies located in Indiana as well as out-of-state collectors pursuing Indiana residents.Licensed collectors must follow certain rules, like providing a debt validation notice within 5 days of first contact. Unlicensed debt collection is illegal and can result in fines or other penalties.You can check if a collector is licensed and file complaints through the Indiana Secretary of State website.

Dealing with Debt Collectors in Indiana

So what should you do if debt collectors start calling? Here are some tips:

  • Ask for written validation of the debt amount and creditor details
  • Send a debt validation letter within 30 days to dispute the debt
  • Tell them to only contact you in writing if you want the calls to stop
  • Keep careful records of all communications
  • Don’t ignore real legal threats like a summons – respond appropriately
  • Consider consulting an attorney, especially if you’re being sued

Debt collectors have to follow the rules. If they violate your rights under the FDCPA or Indiana law, you may be able to get compensation through legal action.

Bankruptcy and Debt Collection in Indiana

If you‘re struggling with overwhelming debt, bankruptcy may be an option to get relief from creditors and debt collectors. Indiana has bankruptcy exemptions that allow you to protect certain assets.Filing for bankruptcy automatically stops most debt collection efforts through the automatic stay. Creditors who violate the stay can face penalties. Bankruptcy can eliminate or reorganize debts you can’t pay.However, bankruptcy has long-term credit consequences, so it’s a decision that requires careful consideration with the help of an experienced bankruptcy attorney.

Dealing with Medical Debt in Indiana

Medical debt is a huge issue, and it’s treated a bit differently than credit card debt under Indiana law. The state has some specific protections for medical debt:

  • Hospitals must provide plain language billing statements and notices
  • They can’t charge interest or fees on medical debt
  • They must offer reasonable payment plans based on your income
  • Debt from medically necessary care can’t be raised as a defense to stop treatment

Even so, unpaid medical bills can still end up with debt collectors. Know your rights and don’t let them bully you into paying debts you legitimately can‘t afford.

Student Loan Debt and Collections

Student loans are another area with special debt collection rules. Federal student loans have collection limits like:

  • No statute of limitations – they can pursue the debt indefinitely
  • Loan rehabilitation options to get out of default
  • Potential for wage garnishment, tax refund seizure, and benefit offsets

Private student loans are treated more like other consumer debts when it comes to collections. But income-based repayment isn’t an option, so these can be very difficult to manage.

Responding to a Debt Collection Lawsuit

If a creditor or debt collector sues you over an unpaid debt, you can’t just ignore it. That will result in an automatic judgment against you. Instead, you need to respond by the deadline, typically 20-30 days.Some potential defenses in a debt lawsuit include:

  • Lack of proof that you owe the debt
  • Statute of limitations has expired
  • Creditor failed to provide required debt validation
  • Violations of the FDCPA or state debt collection laws

You’ll need evidence like account statements, payment records, and documentation of any violations. Consulting a lawyer is highly advisable, as these cases can get complex.

Debt Buyer Laws in Indiana

When original creditors give up on collecting a debt, they often sell it to debt buyers for pennies on the dollar. These buyers then try to collect the full amount from you.Indiana has some specific laws around debt buyers, including:

  • They must have documentation proving they own the debt
  • They can’t revive expired debts through improper litigation tactics
  • They are subject to the same debt collection laws as original creditors

Debt buyers are notorious for using aggressive tactics and suing over questionable debts. Be very cautious and get legal help if you’re sued by a debt buyer.

Payday Loan Debt and Collections

Payday loans are small, short-term loans meant to be repaid with your next paycheck. But their high fees and interest rates can make them very difficult to pay off.Indiana has laws regulating payday lenders, including:

  • Loans are capped at $605
  • Lenders can only charge finance charges up to 15% of the principal
  • Loans must be for at least 14 days
  • Lenders can’t pursue criminal charges for defaulted loans

Even with these laws, payday loan debt can quickly spiral out of control. Debt collectors may use aggressive tactics, so know your rights if you default.

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