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John Griffin Watts
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John Watts’s Answers

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  • If my mother died in Jan.2008, & a judgement was placed on her property (life est.) in 12/2009, how can it be removed?

    My Mom deeded her property to kids, holding a life estate in 1997. She died in Jan. 2008. Her granddaughter (same name - first & last, using same address) let a car be repossessed. The lawyer for the bank filed a judgement against my Mom's p...

    John’s Answer

    To make sure I understand your situation:

    Mom kept a life estate.
    Kids had the remainder interest.
    Grand daughter had NO interest in the property.

    Granddaughter takes out a car loan and gets sued for a deficiency and the collection lawyer put the lien on the property that the granddaughter had no interest in.

    Is this correct?

    If so, then I think the judgment/lien against the property is invalid. You need to get it removed in court. There are several ways you can do this:

    1. Get the company that has the judgment to recognize the error and agree to release the lien.
    2. Sue to "quiet title" -- that is to show there is no lien on this property.
    3. Pay to satisfy the judgment.

    My suggestion is the first option is the best.

    You can do this on your own or you can hire a lawyer.

    If you have questions feel free to reply to this comment or contact my office directly.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Watts & Herring, LLC
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Missed my court day, stop garnishment, family member sick and hospitalized in another state and I had to be there, what do I do?

    tried to talk to someone at the court house but they said nothing can be done

    John’s Answer

    I think you had a court date but you missed it because you had to be with a family member and so now you have lost your court case resulting in a garnishment. Is this correct?

    If so, there is a very limited time to ask the court to "vacate" or "undo" the judgment based upon what has happened to you with the family sickness, etc.

    Get with a lawyer ASAP on this as the time period can be as short as 14 days.

    You are welcome to contact my firm if you like and we can see what the court file says and what your options are -- you can call us at 205-879-2447.

    Sorry you are dealing with this -- take action quickly to preserve your options....

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Is there a better way to pay on a judgment that will not just cover the interest each month?

    I am paying on a judgment, $100/mth, with a balance of $6582. I requested a payment history from the collection agency and was shocked to see that I now owe more than what the beginning balance was. Apparently my $100/mth has just been paying ...

    John’s Answer

    Most judgments in Alabama make 12% which means you face an uphill battle only paying $100 a month but you should be making progress. Get a detailed breakdown of the interest and payments from the collection lawyer or whoever has this account now.

    As others rightly mentioned, you can look at filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy and get rid of the debt or settle the debt. Nothing "talks" like a lump sum of money.

    Best wishes

    John G. Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Question about Statute of Limitations on debt...

    If I pay for six years upon a debt, does the debt become barred after six years? I told the creditor this, however, they came back and said that the SOL does not apply because I have been paying it for six years? Can someone explain the SOL ...

    John’s Answer

    As mentioned, it depends on the type of debt but normally the statute of limitations is 3-6 years in Alabama.

    The question is, "When does it start to run?"

    So have you ever been late on this debt?

    Did you stop paying for a period of time and then started back paying?

    Are you being sued?

    Is the creditor threatening to sue you?

    Lots of factors. I suggest you get with a consumer lawyer in Alabama to get specific answers to your situation.

    As one of the other lawyers mentioned, bankruptcy can be an option. I think it is an extreme option but when needed it is extremely effective.

    You may have the ability to sue a debt collector (if it is a collector you are dealing with) under the FDCPA -- Fair Debt Collection Practices Act -- it simply depends on what the collector is saying and threatening.

    Best wishes and congratulations for starting the process of discovering your legal rights -- you need to know your rights in order to take the right action.

    John G. Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • I have old telephone bills from 2006 on my my credit report when I lived in Michigan. What's the statue of limitations?

    I opened a cell phone account in 2006. I switched to a different company in 2008. In 2011 a collection agency bought the debt. I currently live in Alabama. Im not sure what I should do

    John’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    Figuring out which state law applies on statute of limitations can be tricky as sometimes the contract itself will tell us but in your case you have moved between states. Not sure where you were when stopped paying on the cell phone.

    Alabama is generally 6 years on a written contract which it sounds like Michigan is as well.

    Probably the time limit has passed or will pass shortly on suing you. If it has not, there is no minimum to sue in Alabama. I've seen debt buyers (collectors who buy old debt) sue over 600 dollars. Silly, but they do it.

    If you allegedly defaulted in 2008, it should come off your credit report around next year.

    You can choose to ignore it for now or, if it is causing a problem you can, you can always send a simple dispute letter to the debt collector.

    Hope this helps and if you need additional information you can contact a lawyer to answer any more specific questions.

    Thanks!

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • My contract was started in 2006, a collection agency bought it in 2011. Will it fall of my credit from the original date?

    Im trying to get my credit together. As a teenager, I messed it up pretty bad. I have things on my report from 2006 thru 2008 that's still on my report. If a collection agency buys it, is it 7 years from the day they buy it that it falls of or doe...

    John’s Answer

    Here's the quick version.

    Negative info stays on your credit report 7 years from the date of the first major delinquency. So, regardless of when you entered into the contract, when did you fall behind on it?

    The fact that a debt buyer or collector obtains your account has NOTHING to do with how long it stays on your report. We go from the original date you had the major delinquency.

    It could be bought and sold 100 times and it does NOT impact when it falls off your report.

    There are three time periods when dealing with collectors.

    How long someone has to sue (generally 3-6 years).

    Collect (no time limit with exceptions).

    Credit report (7 years from delinquency).

    You should sit down with a lawyer and go over your situation. To answer these questions we look at the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and other laws such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). All of these can be useful in dealing with debt collectors.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • What does it means transferred to recovery<claim filed with the government> estimated month and year this item will be removed

    This is what is on my credit report for a student loan I co-signed for.

    John’s Answer

    This sounds like a student loan or other type of government related benefit -- maybe a govt backed mortgage loan.

    So the company has written the loan off (it is still owed) and has gone to the government asking for reimbursement.

    Normally negative info stays on your credit reports for 7 years so the credit reporting agency is giving you an idea of when they think the negative info will drop off.

    If you think the information reported is inaccurate, you need to take certain steps to dispute it.

    Best wishes!

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • What is the statute of limitations in the state of alabama for being forced to pay a past credit card balance?

    Just received a call today about a past due credit card, the last time I paid a bill was 4/27/08. Just wondering if the sol has expired to have to pay this debt back. The credit card was suppose to be paid by my ex wife in a court order in our dev...

    John’s Answer

    As John mentioned, the statute is normally not going to be over 6 years.

    If you last paid on 4-27-08, then the first missed payment would have been around that time in May 2008. So you are very close on the six years.

    Keep in mind that there are THREE time limits involved in debt collection.

    1. Time to sue you -- statute of limitations.
    2. Time to credit report -- about 7.5 years from when you first missed a payment. The technical answer is 7 years after the first major delinquency. So you probably have another year or year and a half on this.
    3. Time to collect -- unlimited.

    Be careful about paying on a debt that is past the SOL (statute of limitations) as the collector will argue this restarts the SOL. Its not quite that simple but why give them this argument?

    If the debt collector threatens to sue you (or does sue you) after the SOL is over, this violates the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act).

    If the debt collector credit reports (or threatens to credit report) after the 7 year period for credit reporting, this violates the FDCPA.

    If the collector harasses you -- lies to you -- calls family members (other than spouse) --- calls neighbors, etc. this can violate the law.

    Best wishes and if you want a free information package including a book on stopping debt collectors, contact my office through our website or by calling us.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Shocking department store credit account closure & a letter from collectors. How I proceed without damaging my credit?

    Hello, I have had a credit card from Kohl's department store (no delinq for many years. All of a sudden I received a letter from a collection agency stating that Kohl's received information that I've contemplated filing for bankruptcy ( which is ...

    John’s Answer

    Ron's advice is critical -- pull your real credit reports to see what is being reported.

    Get with a consumer lawyer -- Ron or me or someone else -- in Alabama to find out your rights.

    This is an odd situation and I would carefully look at this debt collector and what they are saying and doing. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects you from abusive debt collectors and if this collector is saying you have defaulted (by "thinking about bankruptcy") and you have to pay the full amount in 30 days, etc. this may violate the law.

    I'll say again this is a strange situation I have never heard of in representing hundreds of consumers against debt collectors. So either it is a new tactic, there is a scam going on, or something else is happening.

    Best wishes with this and I hope you get to the bottom of it ASAP.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Should I pursue and action in Federal or State court?

    Recently after "losing" documents 17 times or allowing them to go stale Bank of America sold our mortgage just as we finished the trial for HAMP. I have read that several employees have stated they were told to "lose" paperwork, sometime throwing ...

    John’s Answer

    You should get with a foreclosure defense lawyer who is familiar with RESPA and the new CFPB rules.

    These new federal rules prohibit this type of conduct where Bank of America and other mortgage companies routinely lose or ignore paperwork that you send in.

    There ways to fight this using what are called "request for information" and "notice of error" requests.

    Up until January of this year this type of misconduct could occur and it was sometimes hard to fight back against it. But as of January, you have a lot more rights.

    Get with a lawyer in Connecticut who is familiar with this type of law.

    At least in Alabama, on this type of violation, we would file this case in federal court. We can get into federal court because of the amount were demanding but also for the separate reason that you're suing under federal law.

    I wish you the best and hope that you are successful in your dealings with Bank of America.

    John G. Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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