• Consumer Protection Law and Advocacy — Chicago, IL

Consumer Rights Litigation Conference

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Seattle, Washington is set to host the National Consumer Law Center’s Consumer Rights Litigation Conference on November 10-13, 2022.  As an invited panelist, Stacy Bardo will address the practical impact of TransUnion v. Ramirez on Fair Debt Collection Practices Act cases.

Stay tuned for conference and agenda updates.

NACA Spring Training

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Stacy Bardo of Bardo Law, P.C. is pleased to announce her participation as an invited speaker at the National Association of Consumer Advocates’ Spring Training.  Together with Andrew Milz, Stacy will be guiding other attorney advocates through how to Handle Cases Post- Judgment, including:

  • When to appeal
  • How to collect your judgment
  • Ascertaining defendant viability
  • Petitioning for attorney fees

This will be NACA’s first in-person gathering since COVID and Stacy welcomes the chance to be back with her consumer advocate colleagues from across the nation.

When: May 11–14, 2022

Where: Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, Phoenix, AZ – Hotel Site

Tracks: Auto, FCRA, and Case Valuation and Damages

NACA is a nationwide organization of more than 1,500 attorneys who represent and have represented hundreds of thousands of consumers victimized by fraudulent, abusive, and predatory business practices.

 

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New Debt Collection Rules In Effect

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New debt collection rules are in effect. Starting November 30, 2022, the CFPB’s debt collection rule changes now apply. While some rules leave consumers vulnerable to increased debt collection contact, others provide clarity and greater protection. Let’s take a look at the most important changes.

First, debt collectors must contact consumers before reporting a debt to the credit reporting bureaus. This allows debts to be negotiated, disputed or paid before it negatively impacts credit.

Second, debt collectors must provide expanded dispute or “validation” notices.  The new model notice gives consumers multiple options for disputing debts.  For example, “this is not my debt,” or “the amount is wrong” are now listed right on the collection notice as options to check off.

Third, debt collectors are now specifically restricted from suing on debts that are past the statute of limitations.

And finally, debt collectors should not call more than seven times within seven consecutive days about a specific debt.  More than this is now presumed to be harassment.

The new rules also contain specific provisions related to collecting debts via e-mail, text or social media.  Check out the CFPB’s rule highlights at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/understand-how-cfpb-debt-collection-rule-impacts-you/.

For more information on your debt collection rights, visit http://bardolawpc.com/services/#.

Virtual Consumer Law Training

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The National Consumer Law Center’s Virtual Training session includes key updates on new debt collection laws. Stacy Bardo of Bardo Law, P.C. will engage new and experienced attorneys in practice tips, caselaw updates, and litigation strategies.

From NCLC:
“This year’s Consumer Rights Litigation Conference (CRLC) will delve into every aspect of consumer law, including full tracks on Auto Loans, Credit/Banking, Credit Reporting, Debt Collections, Mortgages and Foreclosures, Student Loans and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), in addition to many individual courses on ethics, litigation, practice issues and more. Sessions will take place between 12:00 PM and 6:30 PM Eastern standard time (EST) every day, and one conference registration fee will allow you to attend as many sessions as you’d like. For those sessions you miss, we will be recording them for later viewing. We’ll also have plenary addresses from high-profile speakers, strategy summits, legal tech talks, networking opportunities, and even a few social gatherings to allow us to connect virtually.”

https://web.cvent.com/event/f6229835-4764-4a6e-a4a0-ff0bb2717aa4/summary

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Struggling Renters Protected By New CFPB Rule

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) just added new rules to protect struggling renters.  Effective May 3, 2021, debt collectors must advise renters of their rights in eviction actions.  With nearly 9 million households behind on rent due to COVID-19, there is still need for greater eviction protections.

Debt collectors were always prohibited from misrepresenting their tenants’ eligibility for eviction protection.  Now, however, they need to affirmatively disclose any right to seek temporary eviction protection.  The debt collector must make the disclosure in writing, either with the eviction notice or lawsuit, and the disclosure must be clear and conspicuous.

Full details available at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-rule-clarifies-tenants-can-hold-debt-collectors-accountable-for-illegal-evictions/.

Non-compliant debt collectors can be liable for up to $1,000 in statutory damages plus actual damages and attorney’s fees for failing to comply with the new rules.  If you have been served an eviction notice without notice of these rights, contact our office today.

 

NACA’s Spring Training 2021 (Autofraud Track)

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Stacy Bardo and Andrew Milz of Flitter Milz (https://www.consumerslaw.com/) selected Co-Chairs for NACA’s Spring Conference, Autofraud Track.

Stay tuned for more details at https://www.consumeradvocates.org/ as we plan new consumer law training for advocates across the country.

Agenda to include:

  • Winning strategies for consumers in warranty, repossession, and finance fraud cases
  • Subpoenaing the right documents from federal and state agencies and discovery methods
  • Client counseling for repossessions and deficiency balance defense
  • Class action remedies and options

 

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The COVID-19 Effect: Managing Mortgages

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Thanks to the National Association of Consumer Advocates for this informative content.

Mortgage delinquencies hit a five-year high in May as COVID-19 battered the economy and household finances. With record numbers of Americans out of work, many are concerned about being able to keep up with payments on their homes.

State and federal governments quickly enacted protections to help millions remain in their homes during the pandemic. But as infections continue to surge and the economy remains sluggish, families are struggling to afford to stay in their homes. There are options to help consumers get through this unpredictable and difficult period.

• All about forbearance – Forbearance is when a mortgage servicer or lender allows a homeowner to pause or reduce their payments for a limited time. “If your mortgage is currently in forbearance, and that forbearance is coming to an end, reach out to your servicer at least thirty days before the forbearance will end to make repayment arrangements,” said Judith Fox, Clinical Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School. “Many servicers only granted homeowners 90 days of forbearance. However, the CARES Act provides for 180 days and an additional 180 days, for a total of one year of forbearance,” Fox said. “Do not wait until you have missed a payment. If you are in forbearance, but cannot resume making payments, request an extension.”

While the moratorium on foreclosures may be expiring, consumers are still eligible for up to one year of forbearance, followed by a loan modification.

Homeowners whose mortgages are not federally-backed may be granted forbearance and other assistance from their loan servicers. Be aware, these programs may come with additional fees or other charges. Borrowers should ask their servicers about these details.

• Keep an eye out for errors – Borrowers who receive an accommodation from their mortgage servicer should continue to monitor their monthly statements and their credit reports to ensure information about their accounts are accurate. Equifax, Experian, and Transunion are offering free weekly credit reports to all consumers through April 21, 2021.

• Make payments when possible – Forbearance allows homeowners to temporarily skip some payments now. However, homeowners will still need to make up for the mixed payments. Those who can afford to pay their mortgage should continue to do so to avoid having to potentially pay more later on.

• Watch out for scam artists – Homeowners should be wary of companies claiming they to offer mortgage assistance, especially those requiring upfront fees. It is illegal for these companies to take payments before producing results the homeowner is satisfied with. The Federal Trade Commission has more information on how to spot mortgage scams and what rights homeowners have.

• Consult with a housing counselor – A non-profit housing counselor sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development can help worried homeowners figure out their best option. This service is low-cost and often free.

• File a complaint – “If you are unable to reach your mortgage loan servicer, file a complaint with the online Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaint (database),” said Prof. Judith Fox. When the CFPB receives a complaint from a consumer, it sends the complaint to the complained-about company which is then urged to respond to the consumer and the CFPB within a reasonable time.

• Seek legal assistance – But first: “Keep your documents and keep your notes from all your interactions with your mortgage company. It will help you keep track of what’s happening, and help your lawyer help you if something goes wrong,” said Jeff Gentes, an attorney at Connecticut Fair Housing Center.

If a homeowner’s mortgage servicer refuses to comply with the CARES Act or other applicable laws, it may be time to get legal representation.

Consumers Ascending thanks Professor Judith Fox of Notre Dame Law School and Jeff Gentes of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center for their help with assembling these tips and resources.

Bardo Law, P.C. is a proud member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.
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National Association of Consumer Advocates
1215 17th Street NW, 5th Floor, Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202.452.1989 | Fax: 202.452.0099

Representing the Pro Bono Client

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Stacy Bardo will speak at “Representing the Pro Bono Client: Consumer Law Basics 2020.” This annual event is sponsored by PLI, the Practicing Law Institute, and will be a Live Webcast.

Agenda to include:

• Introduction to the Fair Credit Reporting Act
• Overview of State and Federal Restraints on Debt Collection
• A Primer on Automobile Fraud
• Representing the Unsecured Debtor
• Mortgage Servicer Litigation
• Assisting Student Loan Borrowers
• Developing a Working Relationship with Legal Services Organizations

Stacy is a frequent guest lecturer, serving on panels hosted by, among others, the Chicago Bar Association, the National Consumer Law Center, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the Illinois Creditors’ Bar Association, and the Lawyers’ Trust Fund of Illinois. In 2018, Stacy joined PLI’s faculty for Representing the Pro Bono Client: Consumer Law Basics and is thrilled to be asked back in 2020. She has also been honored to present at PLI’s 23rd and 24th Annual Consumer Financial Services Institutes.

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CVLS Launches New COVID-19 Mortgage Relief Program

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Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (“CVLS”) just announced its launch of a COVID-19 mortgage relief program. Right now, the CARES Act allows struggling homeowners with federally-backed mortgages to seek mortgage relief. Payments may be paused for between six months and one year and once payments resume, homeowners may qualify for loan modifications or other payment options.

Homeowners must request assistance and they have a limited time to do so. Therefore, CVLS created a toolkit to help these homeowners determine if they qualify and complete the process.

Check out more details at the CVLS website https://www.cvls.org/get-legal-help/covid-19-relief/.

We are proud to spread the word about CVLS’s new program. Bardo Law, P.C. has successfully obtained results for homeowners subject to unfair mortgage servicing practices and remains here to help.

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Committed to Consumer Justice – COVID-19 Action Plan

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As we face challenging times, I want to assure our clients, friends, and colleagues that we remain committed to consumer justice. While the firm will be employing remote work for the foreseeable future, and courts are now closed to non-essential business, here is what we are doing:

(1) maintaining contacts – potential and current clients will receive calls or e-mails back within 24 hours and we can continue to employ remote conferencing when necessary;

(2) continuing work – while judges will not be seeing most litigants or their counsel face-to-face, both Illinois and federal courts require e-filing so motions and complaints will continue to be filed and discovery will proceed as swiftly as practical;

(3) extending courtesies – we always believe in having good working relationships, even with our opponents, and we will, with client permission, adapt and be as flexible as possible to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of witnesses, court reporters, and each other; and

(4) reflecting – without the hustle of a daily commute or a rush to court, we can continue to be strategic and plan ahead.

In sum, we remain “open” for business, working on current files, and speaking with new clients to evaluate their cases. Do not hesitate to reach out with questions, concerns, to request an update or just to say hi. Stay well, be kind, and let’s work together to help our community.

Yours very truly,
Stacy M. Bardo