Home Consumer Protection Debt Collection Laws in Massachusetts

Debt Collection Laws in Massachusetts

muccilegal September 25, 2022

If you are in debt to an individual, business, or any other organization and are experiencing pressure to pay your debt or are facing a lawsuit you should make yourself aware of Massachusetts debt collection laws. These provide protection against unfair or illegal treatment by debt collectors. Unfortunately, all too often, debt collection agencies or individual debt collectors, use abusive, unfair or intimidating behavior in order to recover debts. Paperwork documenting debt ownership is often missing or unclear and this can mean that in some circumstances you may be asked to repay a debt you do not owe or do not owe in full.

Debt collection laws do not prevent you from paying a debt you know you owe, but they can help to protect you from harassment, pestering and incorrect information the debt collector has about you.

Massachusetts debt collection laws are similar to, although not exactly the same, as the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If you believe that the debt collector has not complied with either or both laws, you may be able to use this breach of the law to provide you with a defense in a debt collection lawsuit in which you are a defendant.

Massachusetts debt collection laws

Is your debt justified

Even if a debt is legitimate, there are laws that prevent the debt collector, acting on behalf of creditor(s), from failing to provide specific information about the debt, harassing you, embarrassing you, intimidating or threatening you.

More specifically, the state’s laws prevent the debt collector from:

  • using threats of any kind, whether they are verbal or physical;
  • calling you at your home in any one week more than twice about a particular debt;
  • calling at unsocial or unreasonable times of the day or night;
  • calling while at work if you have asked the debt collector not to;
  • deliberately embarrassing you before others about your debt;
  • using deceptive or unfair behavior to recover a debt;
  • calling you anywhere at any time without identification;
  • contacting you if you have already arranged to be represented by a lawyer;
  • going to your home more than once in a period of 30 days unless you have given permission to do so;
  • going to your home outside of normal waking hours.

How state laws deviate from the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The federal debt collection legislation, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, is very similar to the state laws, with only one significant difference. This is that the state laws apply not just to debt collectors who are operating on behalf of creditors (a common situation), but to the original creditors, lawyers who work on behalf of creditors, third party debt collection agencies and any buyer of delinquent debt who uses a debt collection agency to recover the debt.

What happens if the debt collector files a collection lawsuit against you?

debt collectors must comply with state debt collection laws

The debt collector will typically attempt to get you to repay a debt without filing a lawsuit. This is because taking legal action through the court can be expensive – especially if the collector doesn’t win the suit. If you don’t pay the debt for whatever reason, the debt collector can file a lawsuit against you on behalf of the creditor. Normally, there will be a period within which you are expected to make a response to the filing of the lawsuit. If you do not respond in time, something which can happen quite commonly, the plaintiff may then be awarded what is called a ‘default judgment’. Basically, this is an acknowledgement that you have neither paid back the debt nor countered the allegations made against you within the response period. If the plaintiff is given the default judgment, then you may find that measures can be taken against you to recover the debt, whether you believe it is fair or not. Typical ways that might be allowed are wage garnishment or a levy imposed on your bank account.

This doesn’t mean that debt collectors always win a debt collection case. For a start, their lawsuit can only be filed if they comply with some quite specific state rules (Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure 8.1) governing debt collection lawsuits. The plaintiff in the lawsuit must be able to provide:

  • verification of the defendant’s address;
  • confirmation that the suit is to be filed before the statute of limitations has expired (6 years);
  • an affidavit which gives full details about the debt, including copies of documents which establish when the debt first occurred, what it was for and the terms and conditions of the debt;
  • an affidavit which provides information about the original creditor, including their name, any current debt owner if this is different, the chain of debt transfer from the original creditor to the current owner of the debt and dates of last payment, if any, of any debt.

Default judgments

According to Massachusetts law, a plaintiff cannot obtain a default judgment, even if the reason for requesting this is because you have not responded in time to the filing of the lawsuit, unless certain conditions are met. These include supplying an affidavit stating that:

  • any lawyer acting on behalf of the creditor has read through the documentation required by Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure 8.1 (as detailed above);
  • the lawyer states that all documentation meets the requirements of Rule 8.1; and
  • the request for a default judgment for the amount stated is justified.

For more information, visit our website Mucci Legal or contact us for a free initial legal consultation today.

Free Consultation

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Practice Areas