Debt Settlement in the Peach State

As economic difficulties around the country continue to worsen, tens of thousands of Florida consumers have reported problems with credit card accounts and bills they cannot easily pay. Unfortunately, many of these same borrowers have been led to believe that bankruptcy is their only solution to seemingly intractable debt loads, and, particularly for those Florida heads of households who have staved off external help as long as possible hoping that they could repay their debts through ordinary means, the new alternatives toward bankruptcy such as debt settlement remain unknown to the people that could best take advantage of these programs. Much as Chapter 7 debt elimination bankruptcy does still maintain some advantage for a certain sort of consumer – consumers with minimal earnings and no assets (including household furnishings) to speak of, more exactly – a host of options currently awaits the borrower who’ll spend the necessary hours researching these new strategies. Make no mistake, all Florida residents with the capacity to repay their obligations without unduly taxing their household budget should attempt to satisfy their various accounts by traditional measures. However, with the economy of Florida and the nation as a whole so tenuous at this very moment, it behooves the considerate borrower to look at every strategy and pay special attention to the debt settlement solution.

Thanks to their onslaught of television and newspaper advertisements around Florida, Consumer Credit Counseling remains the most well known of all of the debt relief alternatives, and, indeed, the program does boast lower interest rates and substantially lower payments for those Floridians who’ve signed on for their services. Still, much as the Consumer Credit Counseling programs may alleviate many of the tensions that follow from lender harassments (and their accompanying collection agencies), reduced payments and simplified statements still do not equal debt liquidation. The Consumer Credit Counseling companies’ solution only helps aid their Floridian clients suffer through their bills in the short term while the actual debt is just put aside for a later date. There will be no hope of the balance liquidation offered through Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, and, for that matter, entrance to the Consumer Credit Counseling program also threatens other alternatives such as debt settlement since the borrower essentially admits that they could attempt to satisfy the balances on their own. Given the dramatic shifts of costs of living that exist around differing parts of Florida, Consumer Credit Counseling should be very cautiously approached. It may still be a more beneficial alternative when compared to Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, depending upon the individual Florida household’s specific desires and capacities, but there’s yet every reason to look at the other possibilities now at hand.

Debt settlement, while a somewhat innovative method of satisfying unsecured loans that Florida borrowers would otherwise be unable to repay, has been around for a number of years. Through negotiation with the lenders, experienced and certified debt settlement counselors attempt – successfully, almost always, for those borrowers that the settlement companies agree to work with – to argue for a significant reduction of existing balances. The process is both legal and justifiable. Indeed, since debt settlement essentially requires the repayment of some part of the loans, Florida borrowers should consider debt settlement more ethical than the Chapter 7 debt elimination program. In the best of all possible worlds, consumers would simply be able to reduce household expenses or raise their gross income so as to pay back their lenders month by month. Alas, in these lean times (with every Florida employment market from Jacksonville to Miami dropping jobs by the bucket load), even the most conscientious borrower may need some professional assistance, and there are certainly smoother roads toward unsecured debt liquidation than bankruptcy. Once again, much as debt settlement may not seem as familiar to ordinary Florida consumers, it’s most certainly worth any debtor’s time to investigate the option.

Within debt settlement (as with Consumer Credit Counseling or Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection), there will be a schedule of repayment that asks each Florida borrower involved with the program to send their money directly to the settlement company on time each month. When first talking to the counselors, this is one of the important initial questions that Florida consumers must ask: how long will the debt settlement process take? In general terms, the professional will guarantee a schedule of no longer than five years for the settlement process in order to prime the credit card representatives for balance reductions. However, should the borrowers not demonstrate enough household income (also taking into account their other debts untouched by settlement plus whatever costs of living expenses in their area of Florida) to be able to satisfy the remaining amounts within sixty months, the debt settlement company may not be able to take them on as clients. Remember, payments must be low enough that the borrowers – with some degree of deprivation to be expected; remember, the point of debt settlement is to erase all credit card bills and similar obligations – could still maintain their household while attempting to estimate the family budget for Florida in the seasons to come. If the debt settlement company does not truly believe that the borrowers would not be able to fulfill their monthly stipend through the settlement process, they will have no choice but to deny the borrowers’ entreaties. This is yet another difference between debt settlement and Consumer Credit Counseling: CCC companies never refuse a client and have no problem whatsoever letting those clients continue along with low monthly payments (and ever accruing interest) for years and years to come.

In Florida, there is far less potential for damage to recalcitrant consumers compared to their brethren around the country. Florida’s debtor laws guarantee residents a number of liberties surrounding over due accounts which most Americans suffering through such tribulations would dearly wish to enjoy. Much as every state has their own laws preventing creditors and collection agents from unfair harassment of borrowers, Florida specifically forbids lenders from any communiqu├ęs with their clients once a Florida resident signs a “cease and desist” notice and mails the notice to the appropriate parties. Even beyond the automatic stay granted those consumers filing for bankruptcy or the leverage that an attorney may grant, merely providing formal notification of the desire to avoid correspondence or communication with the creditors will mean that Floridians are legally protected. Furthermore, the state of Florida has enacted statutes which – for the most part – utterly vouchsafe the home and the wages of borrowers who cannot otherwise repay their creditors. Much as these laws serve as an aid to Florida consumers attempting to satisfy their loans one payment at a time, the statutes also aid the debt settlement process since the lenders have more to lose should they continue to force the issue. There’s always a chance of legal action, still, no matter the legislative safeguards, since creditors are reserved the option for law suits to recover their funds, but Floridian consumers have far more opportunities for debt settlement negotiation from positions of strength.

Every debt settlement company shall demand some money for their services, but the overall fees could differ greatly from program to program. Annual administrative fees are fairly common place, there are bills to be filed, but a few of the less reputable companies add on monthly expenses. None of these extraneous charges should be particularly large or notable, but they accumulate over time and are signals of other potential concerns. Florida borrowers should keep in mind that they will want to investigate each debt settlement business thoroughly before signing along with their program. Any sincere exploration of debt relief programs, whether Consumer Credit Counseling or debt settlement or another approach, depends upon both the reputation of the companies and the level of trust that the consumer may or may not develop with the counselor they will be working with. Contact the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau and the Florida state attorney general’s office to see if there are any complaints from past customers. Check on line to try and suss out the company’s reputation. In truth, since the debt settlement industry remains a fairly recent endeavor, many Florida consumers have utilized the internet and found remote debt settlement firms that did just as good of a job (often, at reduced costs) as the store fronts larger cities may offer.

There are, of course, expenses to be paid. Florida consumers shall find disadvantages with any such program that intends to carve away financial obligations already spent. Borrowers accepted into the debt settlement system will find harmful consequences as to credit ratings and FICO scores though they will be much less dramatic than what would be felt from bankruptcy protection. Furthermore, lenders could always call the debt settlement counselor’s bluff and initiate legal actions for seizure of property or wage garnishment, and, without the automatic stay guaranteed by bankruptcy protection, representatives of the creditors – or, worse, the collection agencies they’ve hired – may continue to harass and threaten borrowers for payment. The debt settlement solution does not guarantee success. Furthermore, the debt settlement program will not do away with Florida borrowers’ past credit problems. Anything that the three credit bureaus (Equifax, TRW, and TransUnion) have recorded upon the borrowers’ histories shan’t be easily removed unless the information could be proven false. A few years ago, the United States congress passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act which was intended to ensure that all data documented on the credit reports would be demonstrably accurate and that lenders which could not back up the black marks they had presented to the credit bureaus must withdraw their notations. Unlike Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, which can stay upon a credit report for as long as a decade, negative payment records only last for seven years, and, while debt settlement does not score the same as a defaulted loan, there’s still repercussions from debt settlement as to FICO scores.

This is an important distinction. While the debt settlement company shall dole out funds to the creditors, the primary responsibility – the entire responsibility, in the eyes of the law – for the actual debts falls to their clients. In many ways, this should be considered an asset for Floridian consumers, and this is one of the reasons that debt settlement solutions are better received in terms of credit ratings and FICO scores. Since Florida debtors retain liability for their credit card debts and other unsecured obligations covered under the debt settlement negotiation process (unlike the Chapter 13 discharge or effective default that Consumer Credit Counseling engenders), they gain positive points within the vaguely understood Fair-Isaacs scoring system which all of the three credit bureaus employ for every payment made on time. However, while that aspect of the debt settlement program should certainly be seen as positive, Florida residents must remember that – since the responsibility for the obligations remains their own – they need check up on the settlement company to make sure the bills paid arrive promptly. Even the most respected of debt settlement firms shall occasionally make a mistake, whether from computer malfunction or lender schedule alterations notated too late, and it’s up to the individual Floridian to talk to the credit card representatives and discover whether or not the payments are being made. For that matter, though this should seem common sense, Florida borrowers would also be wise to ensure that the reductions of interest rates and balances promised from the debt settlement company are seen on the actual statements.

The effectiveness of debt settlement negotiation depends upon a shared realization between the lenders and the debt settlement professionals about the looming possibility of bankruptcy protection. After credit card accounts or similar unsecured loans have turned delinquent, lenders have a set variety of what they could reasonably do in order to recover their funds. Fees accrue, of course, interest rates escalate (sometime exponentially), and negligible minimum monthly payments become unfathomable burdens. Remember, despite their many threats, the lenders would much prefer that the borrowers would simply repay what’s owed rather than having to go through the trouble and expense of fighting a case in the Florida courts. Delinquencies, though there are tax breaks involved, help no one: the lenders won’t get paid and the borrowers’ credit ratings are effectively destroyed. If at all possible, the credit card companies will want to try and work out a payment schedule that their clients can afford, and, if it seems that Chapter 7 debt elimination bankruptcy would be attempted, the creditors will jump at the chance to negotiate a debt settlement alternative even if they have to give up more than a third of the funds owed. After all, even if they end up asking for only forty or fifty percent of the original balances, the guarantee – or, at least, the word of a respected debt settlement company – of some money is better than nothing.

It’s important for consumers to maintain cordial relationships with their lenders, but Florida residents should also remember that representatives of the credit card companies have a vested interest in keeping their clients paying interest rates for as long as they could. The credit card conglomerates will have their own form of consolidation programs with lower interest, perhaps even offering minimal cuts to balances, but they will virtually never be the best alternative available for unsecured debt elimination. No matter how friendly the lender reps may seem, they’re hardly likely to discuss other sources of relief: debt settlement, especially. For ordinary Florida consumers, the debt balances themselves should be considered beyond negotiation. Credit card companies will not soon bend down to the demands of Florida consumers without professional representation. Unless the lenders are convinced that their competitors are ceding precisely the same percentage of funds owed, they have no reason to do more than shrug away past over limit fees and vaguely lower their interest rates. Much as debt settlement negotiation may seem like more of an idea than a craft, creditors need to know both that a reputable company honors their clients’ promise of repayment and that all lenders shall be treated equally. To this point, it may even be necessary for Florida consumers to intentionally skip payments so that their debt settlement counselor could have proper leverage for the eventual negotiations. This shall hurt any Florida borrower’s credit scores in the short term, true, but – should the debt settlement company shave off nearly half of their clients’ debt load through a series of phone calls – the savings should be certainly worth the temporary reduction of credit scores.

Of all the financial strategies borne upon the diminishing impact of bankruptcy protection in the modern world, debt settlement seems to have met the most success for aggrieved Florida consumers struggling with credit card burdens. Still and all, there are warning signs to be avoided. Every debt settlement company shall demand some money for their services, but the overall fees differ greatly from program to program. Annual administrative fees are fairly common place, there are always bills to be filed, but a few of the less reputable companies add on monthly expenses. None of these extraneous charges should be particularly large or notable, but they accumulate over time and are signals of other potential concerns. There’s so much to be analyzed before any decision should be made by a Florida household attempting to juggle their debt obligations against prospective earnings. For home owners absolutely convinced that they will soon receive sufficient money to cover their accumulated bills, equity loans – despite the plunging Florida real estate markets – may genuinely be a worthwhile solution. Certainly, for borrowers that have weathered genuine calamities and have no assets worth protecting, Chapter 7 bankruptcy remains a much needed port against the creditor storm. Given the space constraints of an article such as this, there’s just no way for your authors to pretend that they could honestly advise any Florida borrower of the most beneficial debt liquidation maneuvers without taking a close look at their financial standings.

At the same point, while so many Florida residents fight against their mounting bills, relief from credit card bills has become a necessity for any consumer who does not believe he or she could easily eliminate their amassed unsecured burdens within a reasonable amount of time. Considering the state of the economy (and the nature of compound interest), there’s no reason Floridian borrowers should presume that their debts shall grow more manageable without a decisive strategy and the assistance of professionals trained in the practice of financial solutions. As should be clear from the paragraphs written above, we believe debt settlement – for those Florida consumers who can show enough demonstrable income and the right sort of debt (some credit card companies yet resist the program) – to be the gold standard of all of these programs, but it will be left to the individual borrower to discover for themselves what shall work best for their own household. No debt scenario is alike. Some Florida borrowers found themselves in this predicament through thoughtless spending beyond their means while others, struck by medical emergencies or familiar distress, simply had no other choice. As we have written, there’s as many different debt solutions available to Florida residents as there are debt portfolios, and, much as we strenuously recommend the debt settlement option, every consumer must inevitably speak to a professional debt analyst themselves.