In Massachusetts, debt relief protection offers a vital lifeline to individuals struggling with overwhelming financial burdens. This protection, governed by both state and federal laws, is designed to provide residents with various options to manage or eliminate their debts. Massachusetts law ensures that debt relief measures such as bankruptcy, debt settlement, and credit counseling are accessible so that its citizens can work to regain financial stability. These protections also include safeguards against unfair practices by creditors and debt collectors, ensuring that the rights of debtors are respected throughout the process. 

Debt Relief Options

In Massachusetts, residents seeking debt relief have several options available to them. The most common methods are as follows:

  • Debt Settlement: This involves negotiating with creditors to pay a lump sum that is less than the total amount owed. It is often handled by debt settlement companies and can result in significant debt reduction but might negatively affect your credit score.
  • Debt Consolidation: This is the process of combining multiple debts into a single, larger debt with more favorable pay-off terms, such as a lower interest rate. This can be achieved through a debt consolidation loan or by transferring credit card balances to a single card with a lower interest rate.
  • Credit Counseling: Non-profit credit counseling agencies can provide advice on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. They can also help you set up a debt management plan (DMP), where you make monthly payments to the counseling agency, and they pay your creditors.
  • Bankruptcy: As a last resort, filing for bankruptcy can provide relief from overwhelming debt. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can discharge most debts, while Chapter 13 involves a repayment plan. It is important to consider the long-term impact on your credit and the legal implications before choosing this option.
  • Consumer Protection Laws: Massachusetts has strong consumer protection laws that can provide some relief from aggressive debt collection practices. Understanding your rights under these laws can be beneficial.
  • Do It Yourself (DIY) Negotiation: Some individuals choose to negotiate directly with their creditors to lower interest rates, waive fees, or work out payment plans.

Debt relief laws and regulations in Massachusetts are designed to protect consumers and provide them with options to manage or eliminate their debts. Some of the relevant laws that are helpful to know about are the following:

  • Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA): While this is a federal law, it is enforced in Massachusetts as well. The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect debts. This includes restrictions on when and how often debt collectors can contact debtors, and it gives consumers the right to request that a debt collector stop contacting them.
  • Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act (Chapter 93A): This state law provides additional protections against unfair or deceptive practices by businesses, including debt collectors. It allows consumers to sue for unfair or deceptive acts or practices and potentially receive significant damages plus attorney’s fees.
  • Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection: In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations on how long a creditor or debt collector can take legal action to collect a consumer debt (for example, credit card debt and personal loans) is generally six(6) years from the date of the last payment.  
  • Exemptions in Debt Collection: Massachusetts law provides certain exemptions to protect debtors from having all of their property seized by creditors. These exemptions include a certain amount of equity in a home, a motor vehicle up to a specific value, household furniture, and apparel.
  • Bankruptcy Laws: While federal law governs bankruptcy, Massachusetts residents can choose between federal exemptions and state exemptions when they file for bankruptcy. As already discussed above, bankruptcy can provide a way for individuals to discharge or reorganize their debts.
  • Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights: This law applies specifically to student loan borrowers in Massachusetts. It provides protections against deceptive practices by student loan servicers and requires these services to be licensed by the state.
  • Debt Settlement Services Regulation: Companies offering debt settlement services must be licensed in Massachusetts. These regulations ensure that debt settlement companies do not engage in deceptive practices and provide clear disclosures to consumers.

Choosing the Right Debt Relief Option

When determining what is the right debt relief option, it is important to assess your own financial situation. You will want to examine the long-term picture in terms of how different debt relief options can affect your credit scores, as well as your financial health. You will also want to be vigilant and recognize if there are warning signs of debt relief scams, and be educated on how to report suspected scams to the Massachusetts authorities. Each of the debt relief options comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. While the above laws offer protection and avenues for debt relief, it is always advisable to seek an experienced debt relief and bankruptcy attorney regarding your individual situation. Contact Logan A. Weinkauf, P.C. for a consultation. Our firm will counsel you and help you choose the right solution for your needs and circumstances.