Archive | Garnishment

Can They Garnish My Wages???

Several inquiries this week on this hot topic. Debt collector calls person and says that they are going to start legal processing and wage garnishment if the person doesn’t pay $500 by 6 p.m.  Pretty scary threat, huh?  Well, let’s think this through.  If you owed me money and I could garnish your wages, why would I call you?  Why would I bother?  I would simply garnish your wages and get my money.  Sounds easy, right?

Fortunately, that’s not how it works, especially in Pennsylvania.  To begin, wage garnishment generally cannot occur unless a court says that it should occur (administrative wage garnishments can occur on student loans, this does not require a court proceeding) .  This generally means that there has to be a lawsuit and you have to lose.  Even after you lose, the case has to be one that fits into the permissible wage garnishment sections.  PA only allows wage garnishment in very limited circumstances… back rent, child support and related family law/divorce issues, restitution, certain student loans, and certain out of state judgments that are properly transferred into Pennsylvania.

So a debt collection lawsuit for a credit card is not one of the listed entries for which a wage garnishment can occur (again, unless there is a valid out of state judgment that is properly transferred into PA).  If you live here and you work here and you are sued here, there is no possibility of wage garnishment in PA if you are sued on a credit card claim.

So why does the debt collector make the wage garnishment threat?  Because it works, it scares you, it places you in a position of complete fear.  Nobody wants to have their wages garnished, right?  You would do anything to avoid the wage garnishment, at least that is the debt collector’s thinking.  They are scaring you into paying, which is completely ILLEGAL.  A debt collector cannot make a threat that it cannot legally carry out.  The law that protects you when the debt collector makes such a threat is called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short).  The FDCPA gives you the right to sue any debt collector that violates the law, AND IT REQUIRES THE DEBT COLLECTOR TO PAY YOUR LEGAL FEES.  Think about that for a minute… the debt collector has to pay your attorney to sue them.  It’s a truly wonderful law that we use on a daily basis.

If a debt collector has threatened you with wage garnishment, rather than getting scared, take the time to ask him/her some questions.  Get their name, address, phone number, any contact information that you can, and then contact our office.  We would be happy to offer you a free, no obligation review of your issue.

 

Posted in Garnishment

Can a Collection Agency Garnish Wages?

We often have clients calling us who are scared out of their minds… “the collection agency said that they were going to garnish my wages if I don’t pay them $1000 right now”.  Please don’t fall for this scare tactic.  Despite their threats to do so, a collection agency cannot garnish wages in Pennsylvania.  Wages can be garnished in PA only under very limited circumstances, such as for taxes, some student loans, family/support issues, restitution on certain criminal matters, certain landlord tenant scenarios and for some out of state judgments that are transferred into PA.

Because most people do not understand the legal process, I will explain how it works.  In Pennsylvania, a Plaintiff (the party doing the suing) must first file a lawsuit against the defendant (the person who allegedly owes the money).  The plaintiff must win, obtain a judgment, and then hope that there is no appeal.  At that point, they have a final judgment.  After final judgment, the Plaintiff can commence execution proceedings (possibly garnish a bank account, levy, depositions in aid of execution).  Even in this instance, they CANNOT garnish wages while those funds are in the hands of the employer.

Posted in Collection Agencies, Garnishment, Illegal Threats

Checking Account Garnishment

Can my checking account be garnished?  Huge topic at our office right now. The answer is a big MAYBE. It really depends upon the circumstances. First off, let’s explain that a checking account garnishment cannot occur in any circumstance until the creditor obtains a judgment against you (there are limited exceptions, but for purposes of this article we are focusing on credit card lawsuits). No judgment equals no garnishment.  So my first piece of advice is to discuss your situation with a consumer attorney… most of us offer a free consultation.  If a creditor threatens checking account garnishment before obtaining a judgment, they may have violated debt collection laws.  If they threaten, at any time, to garnish a spousal joint account, again, they may have violated debt collection laws. Spousal joint accounts are not subject to garnishment unless the creditor obtains a judgment against both spouses.

My second piece of advice is to defend the lawsuit… in most instances.  Most collection lawsuits in Pennsylvania are initially defective, that is, they are legally insufficient. The court does not automatically know this, you have to raise this issue with a process called Preliminary Objections.  This places the Court, and the creditor, on notice that they need to produce “more”… more documents, more contracts, more statements… MORE!

In the event that you lose a collection lawsuit, then yes, your checking account is subject to a garnishment, if it is not a spousal account.  (Other joint accounts, such as those between friends, parent/child, or other relatives, can be subject to a bank account garnishment if you lose the lawsuit).  There are minor exceptions to garnishment of those funds, but for the most part, the entire account up to the judgment amount is subject to a garnishment.

Contact our office today at 412-823-8003 or 1-888-536-6644 for a free consultation regarding checking account garnishments.

Posted in Garnishment, Lawsuits

The Garnishment Threat

The collection agency calls and says that you better pay up.  If you don’t pay, then we’ll garnish your wages.  Believe it or not, that can be a great phone call to receive if you live in Pennsylvania.

This is a common threat that is issued by the collecton agencies.  It works very well for them because nobody wants their wages to be garnished.  Unfortunately, it is also an illegal threat. 

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that do not allow creditors to  garnish wages.  There is no exception to that law, at least not when a collection agency or credit card company is involved.  Wage garnishment for credit card debt cannot occur in Pennsylvania, period. 

Regarding the threat, as I said above, it is illegal.  There is a federal law known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short) that protect consumers.  One of the main components of this law is that a debt collector cannot make a threat that it cannot follow through on, or it can’t make a threat that is illegal.  Since wage garnishment is not permissible, by law, in Pennsylvania, making such a threat is illegal. 

The FDCPA gives you the right to file a lawsuit against a debt collector that makes this sort of illegal threat.  There is a statutory $1000 damage penalty, along with an imposition of reasonable attorney fees.  In that regard, your attorney is free.

Call our office if you have been threatened with wage garnishment in Pennsylvania.

Posted in Collection Agencies, Garnishment, Lawsuits

PA Wage Garnishment Law

Can a collection agency garnish my wages?  In a word, NO!  Only under very limited circumstances does Pennsylvania law permit the garnishment of wages, and a debt owed to a collection agency is not one of them. 

Garnishment of wages is a seizure of wages while they are still in the control of the employer, and have not yet been paid out to the employee. An employee’s wages, salaries and commissions may be taken from an employer through appropriate legal procedures to satisfy five kinds of debts:

  • judgments for child or spousal support
  • PHEAA student loans
  • room and board for four weeks or less
  • back rent on a residential lease
  • obligations relating to final divorce distribution

Your wages cannot be garnished for any other purpose, including debt owed to a credit card company/collection agency. Garnishment of wages can only be accomplished only by a court order directed to the employer and no such court order can be issued without fair notice to the debtor/wage earner. Other than the kinds of debt listed above, no other debt or legal obligation can give rise to wage attachment in Pennsylvania. Federal laws such as IRS garnishment procedures may be used to garnish wages of Pennsylvania residents, but only through the federal court system

Posted in Collection Agencies, Garnishment

Is PA Wage Garnishment allowed?

Only under very limited circumstances does Pennsylvania law permit the garnishment of wages. Garnishment of wages is a seizure of wages while they are still in the control of the employer, which have not yet been paid out to the employee. An employee’s wages, salaries and commissions may be taken from an employer through appropriate legal procedures to satisfy generally five kinds of debts:

  • judgments for child or spousal support
  • PHEAA student loans
  • room and board for four weeks or less
  • back rent on a residential lease
  • obligations relating to final divorce distribution

In PA, generally, your wages cannot be garnished for any other purpose. Garnishment of wages can only be accomplished only by a court order directed to the employer and no such court order can be issued without fair notice to the debtor/wage earner. That means, in most cases, that a lawsuit has to be filed, and a judgment against you has to be issued.  Other than the kinds of debt listed above, no other debt or legal obligation can give rise to wage attachment in Pennsylvania. Federal laws such as IRS garnishment procedures may be used to garnish wages of Pennsylvania residents, but only through the federal court system.

Posted in Garnishment

What does Garnishment mean?

Garnishment is the act of directing a business that is holding funds (such as a bank) or who is about to pay wages (such as an employer) to an individual who allegedly owes money to someone else to place a freeze on that money and distribute it to a creditor. Garnishing funds is also a warning to the party who is holding the funds (the Garnishee) not to pay them, and to inform the Court as to how much money is being held. If the garnishee (such as a bank or employer) should mistakenly give the money to the individual who is the account owner or employee, the Garnishee will be liable to pay the creditor what it had coming, up to the amount of the funds that were held by the Garnishee.

There are two types of garnishments that arise more frequently than others… bank account garnishments and wage garnishments.  Let’s start with the easy one… wage garnishments.  In Pennsylvania, wage garnishment cannot occur except under very limited circumstances, usually related to student loans, taxes, or spousal/child support.  A creditor cannot garnish wages in PA.

The more difficult one, bank account garnishments.  A creditor can garnish a bank account IF it obtains a judgment against you in a court of law. They have to beat you first before they can garnish.  A spousal bank account cannot be garnished unless the creditor obtains a judgment against both husband and wife ( very rare in credit card cases).  Any other joint bank account (parent/child, friend/friend, sibling) can be garnished IF the creditor first obtains a judgment.

Please contact our office at 412-823-8003 or 1-888-536-6644 for any questions regarding garnishments.

Posted in Garnishment


Credit Card Lawsuits

If you are faced with a credit card lawsuit, whether its an original creditor or a junk debt buyer, contact my office at 412-823-8003 right away. We offer a free, no obligation review of any credit card based lawsuit that is filed in PA.

FDCPA Attorneys

Many Debt Collectors threaten people, that's a fact. Threats of wage garnishment, jail, fraud charges and contacting employers, friends and relatives happens every day to people just like you. The truth is that most of these threats are illegal. If a debt collector is threatening you, contact our office at 412-823-8003 for a free initial consultation.
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