Is a collections attorney required to notify/bill you for an amount owed?

This is a discussion on Is a collections attorney required to notify/bill you for an amount owed? within the Consumer Law Questions forums, part of the Legal Questions & Answers Forum category; In early 2011, I fell behind on my HOA dues by three months due to economic hardship. The HOA turned the account over to a law firm that ended of ...

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  1. #1
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    Is a collections attorney required to notify/bill you for an amount owed?

    In early 2011, I fell behind on my HOA dues by three months due to economic hardship. The HOA turned the account over to a law firm that ended of charging me $550 in lawyer fees in addition to the $534 owed to the HOA. I spoke with my cousin who is a lawyer at Portland's largest law firm and he told me that the firm pursuing me was notoriously cutthroat. I paid the amount due and resumed sending regular payments to the HOA on a monthly basis.
    Earlier this week, I contacted my HOA administer to determine if the 2012 HOA dues increase had gone into effect and what the new rate was. She informed me that she couldn’t release any information on my account because it had been turned over to the law firm for collections. This was the first I’d heard of this. According to the firm, when reconciling my debt I had neglected to pay approximately $36 in 2011 to the firm before resuming regular payments to the HOA. The firm has charged me interest on the balance due and a whopping $125 a month in “lawyer fees.” I was never contacted or billed by the firm during this time period, otherwise I would have sent them a check right away. Now they are claiming that they will put a lien on my property if I don’t pay just over $1300 within 10 days. If I want to initiate a payment plan it will cost me an additional $400.
    I contacted the firm and told them that, if they were unwilling to reach a reasonable settlement to me that I will bring my case to small claims court, file a complaint with the FTC, and contact the Oregon Attorney General. They said that I was welcome to do so but they will not budge on the lawyer fees.
    My question is this. Is a creditor or collections agency obligated to contact or bill the debtor if there is a balance owed and the account is accumulating additional fees or are they allowed to simply allow the account to stew while fees compound unbeknownst to the debtor? I read the Fair Credit Billing Act and the Truth In Lending Act but both of these acts seem to deal with creditors as opposed to collection lawyers. I read the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (2004) to determine if there was a bar violation I could report them for. Model Rules of Professional Conduct (2004) Section 1.5 seemed like it may relate to my case but refers specifically to rules governing how attorneys deal with clients. I don’t believe that I can be classified as a client since they are pursuing me as a debtor.
    Am I afforded any protections as a consumer being pursued by a debt collection attorney? If so, where can I find such protections in Federal and/or Oregon law? Is the attorney required to notify and/or bill me of account delinquency or can they legally allow interest and fees to compound unbeknownst to the debtor? Is it likely that a circuit court judge could rule in my favor or is a small claims lawsuit futile at this time? I am also reluctant to pursue such a lawsuit as the Defendant(s) may counter-sue me for attorney/legal fees associated with the case which could very well be hundreds or thousands of dollars.
    If this isn't permissable then how do I prove that they never contacted me?

    I greatly appreciate your feedback.


  2. #2
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    You will likely need to consult with a local attorney to advise you on the specifics of your case. For example, here is a list of rights of debtors in Washington state:
    http://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/doc...ateabbrev=/wa/
    I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice.


 

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