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Debt Collection Laws in North Dakota: A Comprehensive Guide

Ever feel like debt collectors are hounding you? Well, you’re not alone – and there are laws in place to protect you from harassment. In this article, we’ll break down the key debt collection laws in North Dakota, so you can stand up for your rights.

What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that governs how third-party debt collectors can communicate with consumers and what practices are prohibited. It applies to personal, family, and household debts like credit cards, auto loans, medical bills, and more.Some key protections under the FDCPA include:

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  • Debt collectors can’t harass or abuse you
  • They can’t lie or use deceptive practices
  • They have to identify themselves as debt collectors
  • They can’t discuss your debt with others
  • They have to honor written requests to stop communication

But what if the debt collector violates these rules? You may be able to sue them in state or federal court. The law allows consumers to recover actual damages plus up to $1,000 in additional damages.

North Dakota Debt Collection Laws

In addition to the FDCPA, North Dakota has its own laws regulating debt collection practices within the state. Here are some highlights from the North Dakota Century Code Chapter 13-07:

Prohibited Practices

  • Debt collectors can’t threaten criminal prosecution or violence
  • They can’t use profane, abusive, or obscene language
  • They can’t repeatedly call to annoy or harass
  • They can’t advertise for or threaten to sell a debt to coerce payment

Communication Restrictions

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  • Debt collectors must identify themselves and notify you that it’s an attempt to collect a debt
  • They can only contact you between 8am-9pm
  • They can’t contact you at work if you’ve told them your employer prohibits it

Legal Actions

  • Debt collectors have to provide written notice at least 5 days before suing on a debt
  • They can’t threaten legal action they don’t actually intend to take
  • If they sue, they have to file in the proper county where you live or signed the contract

What happens if a debt collector violates North Dakota law? You may be able to recover actual damages, plus additional damages up to $500 per violation.

Understanding the Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the time period a creditor or debt collector has to sue you over an unpaid debt. In North Dakota, it’s generally:

  • 6 years for open accounts, notes, and oral contracts
  • 6 years for written contracts
  • 4 years for sale of goods

But here’s the kicker – making a payment or acknowledging the debt in writing can restart the clock. So be careful about reviving old “zombie” debts.

Responding to Debt Collectors

When a debt collector contacts you, you have some key rights under the FDCPA:

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  • You can request debt validation within 30 days
  • You can tell them to only contact you in writing
  • You can tell them to stop contacting you at all (except to confirm they’ll stop)

It’s generally advisable to put any requests in writing and send them via certified mail to create a paper trail.If a debt collector violates the law, you can:

  • File a complaint with the FTCCFPB, and your state Attorney General
  • Consider suing them in state or federal court

Dealing with Creditor Harassment

Even creditors you originally owed money to have to follow rules when collecting debts. Some key restrictions in North Dakota include:

  • They can’t harass or abuse you
  • They can’t make false statements
  • They can’t engage in unfair practices
  • They have to identify themselves as attempting to collect a debt

If an original creditor violates these rules, you may be able to sue them under the North Dakota Deceptive Acts or Practices law.

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Understanding Wage Garnishment

In North Dakota, creditors can potentially garnish your wages after getting a court judgment. But there are limits:

  • They can only take 25% of your disposable earnings
  • If you’re head of household, they can only take the lesser of 40% or the amount over 40 times the federal minimum wage

What’s disposable earnings? It’s what’s left after legally required deductions like taxes, Social Security, etc.You may be able to use exemptions to protect some of your income from garnishment. An attorney can advise if bankruptcy is an option to stop garnishment.

The Importance of Keeping Records

Whenever dealing with debt collectors, it’s crucial to keep detailed records:

  • Log all phone calls with date, time, parties involved, and notes
  • Keep copies of all letters, emails, texts, etc.
  • Get debt validation letters and notices in writing
  • Record the names of anyone you speak with

Having this documentation can help if you need to dispute violations or take legal action.

When to Seek Legal Help

While you can represent yourself, having an experienced debt collection attorney on your side provides key advantages:

  • They understand complex debt laws and regulations
  • They can advise you of your rights and options
  • They can deal directly with debt collectors on your behalf
  • They can defend you if legal action is taken
  • They can potentially settle debts for less than owed

Many attorneys offer free initial consultations, so it’s worth exploring your options, especially if you’re facing harassment or potential litigation.

Debt Collection FAQs

Q: Can a debt collector call me at work?
A: Not if you’ve told them your employer prohibits those calls.

Q: Do I have to pay interest and fees on an old debt?
A: It depends on the type of debt and state laws. Consult an attorney.

Q: Can debt collectors take my Social Security benefits?
A: Federal benefits like Social Security are generally exempt from garnishment, with some exceptions.

Q: How long do unpaid debts stay on my credit report?
A: Most negative items remain for 6-7 years from the date of first delinquency.

Q: Can I be arrested for not paying debts?
A: No, debtors’ prisons were abolished in the 1800s. Debt is a civil, not criminal, matter.

Key Takeaways

  • The FDCPA protects you from abusive debt collection practices
  • North Dakota has additional laws regulating debt collectors
  • Know your rights like requesting debt validation and telling collectors to stop contacting you
  • Keep detailed records of all communications
  • Consider legal help if you face harassment or potential litigation
  • Understand debt collection time limits and wage garnishment rules

Dealing with debt is stressful enough – don’t let unscrupulous collectors make it worse. By knowing your rights and options under the law, you can take control and handle things properly. And if you need assistance, qualified legal help is available.

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