Answers To The Most Common Collections Questions From Defendants
What is a wage garnishment, and how much can they take?
Wage garnishment means that a creditor has the right to take a person’s earned wages to pay off a debt. Federal law limits the amount that can be taken or “garnished” to 25% of a person’s disposable income per pay period or the amount “by which your weekly wages exceed 30 times the minimum wage,” whichever amount is lower.
Pennsylvania does not allow for wage garnishment in most cases. Pennsylvania does allow for a creditor to garnish a bank account if a judgment has been obtained. Only one creditor can garnish a person’s wages at any one time, typically. Joint bank accounts in Pennsylvania cannot be garnished unless the judgment is against both spouses.
If a creditor or debt collector puts a lien on my home, can they sell it and evict me to satisfy my debt?
If your home was used as collateral for a loan, it’s possible that the home may be repossessed or foreclosed upon to pay off the debt. If the home was not used as collateral (an unsecured loan, for example), it is unlikely that the home will be taken or foreclosed upon. People who are behind on their mortgage may be able to negotiate a loan modification.
Can I negotiate with a creditor to pay back a lesser amount after the court has issued a default judgment?
In most cases, yes. You can negotiate a deal and agree to pay a lump sum that is a percentage of what is owed or create a payment plan to pay off the debt over time. A written agreement is usually in your best interest. For very large debts that involve a business, it may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney who works in collections and debt settlement.
How do property levies work?
A property levy is a taking or seizure of your property. This is usually done to pay off taxes that are owed. A levy is not a lien. A lien is a claim against a portion of the property. A levy can and will take all of the property to pay off a debt. When a person or business owes money to another person or business and a judge issues a writ of execution to the creditor, that means the creditor can enlist the sheriff to seize the property of the debtor. The property is sold at an auction to pay off the debt. A property levy may be challenged in some situations.
Can my Social Security benefits be garnished to pay my debts?
In short, no, your Social Security benefits are not subject to garnishment. Several sources of income are not typically accessible to creditors. These include your disability payments, retirement funds (an IRA, for example) and child support that you receive. If you are divorced and receive alimony payments, these cannot be garnished for most types of debt. However, the wages you earn and any income that you take in from investments are usually fair game for creditors and can be garnished or taken to pay off your debt.
Do I have to do anything after my judgment is paid in full?
Yes. The creditor (the person or business that is owed money) should file an acknowledgment of satisfaction of judgment. If your debtor (the person or business that owed you money) has paid what is owed, then any liens on the debtor’s property should be removed. As a debtor, you should update your credit report to show that you paid off the debt.
Get Answers To All Of Your Collections Questions
Drew Salaman has helped both plaintiffs and defendants understand their rights, obligations and options for over 40 years. He can help you, too. Whether you are a business seeking to recoup a debt owed, a person who never received their personal injury judgment or someone in the midst of a lawsuit, Drew can give you the guidance you need to get resolution. Call 215-642-0731 or email Drew at the firm.