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What You Need to Know About Georgia’s Debt Collection Laws

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In a Nutshell

If you’re a consumer in Georgia, the FDCPA is your best line of defense against unfair debt collectors, but it’s not the only law that can help. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about what debt collectors in Georgia can and cannot legally do when trying to collect money.

Written by Natasha Wiebusch, J.D..  
Updated July 30, 2021


Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), debt collection agencies are prohibited from engaging in unfair or deceptive practices while trying to get payment from you. They’re also prohibited from harassing you or calling you at inconvenient times. 

If you’re a consumer in Georgia, the FDCPA is your best line of defense against unfair debt collectors, but it’s not the only law that can help. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about what debt collectors in Georgia can and cannot legally do when trying to collect money.

What Debt Collectors in Georgia Are Allowed to Do

Debt collectors can’t do or say anything they want. In Georgia, state and federal laws regulate how debt collectors can communicate with you, when they can call you, and what they can say. Still, there are things that debt collection agencies can do that you should be aware of if a collector contacts you.

They can garnish your paycheck.

Debt collectors can file a lawsuit to get what’s called a civil judgment against you for the debt you owe. This court judgment allows the collector to take money directly out of your paycheck through what’s called wage garnishment. Collectors can only garnish part of your disposable income. Your disposable income is the amount of money you’re paid after deductions like taxes.

Under Georgia law, the following limitations to wage garnishment apply:

  • A collector can only garnish up to 25% of your weekly disposable income or the amount of your weekly disposable earnings that exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wage, whichever is less. Currently, 30 times the minimum wage is $217.50.

  • If your disposable income is less than 30 times the minimum wage, then collectors cannot garnish any wages. 

Again, a debt collector can’t garnish any wages unless they have a court judgment against you. Not showing up to court does not help you avoid a judgment. If you don’t appear at the hearing, the debt collector can win a default judgment.

They can seize money or assets.

Bank Accounts

If a debt collector wins a civil judgment, they can also ask your bank to give them money from your personal bank accounts. But, in Georgia, certain types of income and accounts cannot be garnished, such as unemployment benefits, ERISA qualified retirement and pension benefits, child support, and disability insurance benefits, among others. The law exempts these types of income from garnishment.

To protect these income sources, you’ll have to make sure that you can prove the money is exempt. If a judge can’t verify that the money in the bank account comes from an exempt source, then you might not be able to protect it from garnishment. There are a few things you can do to prevent this from happening:

  • Create a separate bank account for exempt income. 

  • Cash checks that are exempt from garnishment instead of depositing them in your bank account.

Liens on Property

After getting a civil judgment against you, a collector can also attach a lien to your property. A lien can be attached to real estate or personal property, like valuable art or cars. To attach a lien to real estate, the collector would need to take the judgment to the court in the county where the real estate is located and register the judgment with the court clerk. 

If a collector would like to attach a lien to personal property, then they would register the judgment at the court in the county where you live. For example, if you live in Atlanta, but your boat is often on a lake in Gainesville, they would still register the judgment in Fulton County Superior Court.

Repossession

If your debt is a secured debt, the debt collectors can also repossess property that was purchased using the money you borrowed. The collector would then sell it to get some of their money back. In the state of Georgia, a debt collector can do this without a court order. This is often called self-help repossession.

They can keep adding interest charges to your debt.

Prejudgment Interest Rate Charges

Before a debt collector gets a judgment against you, they can continue to charge interest on your debt. The maximum interest rate they can impose before they get a judgment against you for the debt is called the prejudgment interest rate. This rate depends on whether you and the original creditor, the lender you originally borrowed money from, agreed to an interest rate by contract.

For example, let’s say you got a credit card from a bank and agreed, via contract, that the interest rate on any credit card debt would be 12.9%. This means the collector can continue to charge 12.9% interest on the remaining debt while they await judgment from the court. 

If a creditor lent you money without agreeing to a particular interest rate, then in Georgia, the debt collector can charge you up to 7% interest while they wait for a judgment.

Post-Judgment Interest Rate Charges

After getting a judgment against you, the maximum post-judgment interest rate collectors can charge is either the interest rate agreed by contract or the Federal Reserve prime rate plus 3%. The Federal Reserve has a list of the current prime rate.

Protections Offered by the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) 

The FDCPA protects those in debt by restricting what debt collectors can do or say when they’re trying to collect a debt from you. Major protections under this law include: 

  • When debt collectors first contact you, they must inform you that they are from a debt collection agency.

  • Debt collectors must provide you with their contact information.

  • Collectors must verify your debt by sending you a verification notice within five days. This notice must contain specific information or it’s considered invalid.

  • Debt collectors cannot harass or abuse you. Harassing behavior includes calling you repeatedly, threatening violence, using profane language, embarrassing you, or threatening to sell the debt.

  • If you request that a collector stop contacting you, they must stop.

  • If you request that a collector stop contacting you at work, they must stop.

  • Debt collectors cannot call you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. local time. 

  • Debt collectors cannot engage in deceptive or unfair practices.

  • If you’re represented by an attorney, collectors must contact them directly instead of contacting you.

The FDCPA is a very helpful federal law, but it doesn’t prohibit everything. For example, the FDCPA does not cover contact or calls from the original creditor.

State Laws Protecting Debtors in Georgia 

In addition to the FDCPA, many states have passed laws to help protect consumers from unfair debt collection tactics from debt collection agencies. 

Georgia Law Protects Certain Property

First, Georgia law protects consumers by limiting what creditors can take from you to pay off the debt. Specifically, Georgia law prevents creditors from seizing exempt property

The Georgia Industrial Loan Act (GILA)

The GILA is a consumer protection law that regulates debt collection practices for loans that are $3,000 or less. It provides many of the same protections that the FDCPA does, including prohibiting collection agencies from threatening, harassing, lying, or engaging in unfair practices to collect money from a consumer. 

Additional protections under the GILA include:

  • Requiring most lenders to have a license to offer loans of $3,000 or less. Some lenders are exempt from this requirement.

  • Limiting the fees, late charges, and interest a collection agency can charge on existing debt.

The Georgia Fair Business Practices Act (GFBPA)

If the debt collector engages in unfair business practices, you may have rights under the GFBPA. The GFBPA protects consumers by prohibiting companies doing business in Georgia from making false statements about their services or about another business’ services.

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Georgia

In Georgia, if a debt collector wants to get a court judgment to collect on a debt you owe, they have a deadline. This deadline is called the statute of limitations. Debt collectors can lose their right to collect on old debts that are past the statute of limitations. The timeline to file a lawsuit depends on the type of debt:

  • Credit cards: 6 years

  • Written contracts: 6 years

  • Contracts NOT in writing: 4 years

  • Promissory notes: 4 years

That said, though debt collectors can’t legally force you to pay back time-expired debt, they may still try. And, even though the debt is expired under Georgia law, it will show up on your credit report for seven years, which is longer than the statute of limitations.

If the collector gets a judgment against you, then they have 20 years to collect on that judgment.

How to Stop Calls From Debt Collectors

Cease-and-Desist Letters

Often, if you submit a written request to the debt collector asking them to stop calling you, they must honor your request. This request is called a cease-and-desist letter. Here at Upsolve, we’ve drafted a sample cease-and-desist letter that you can use to stop collectors from calling you. If you continue to receive unwanted calls, you can submit a complaint with the CFPB or Georgia's Attorney General.

It’s important to remember that even when debt collectors can’t communicate with you, they can still take you to court to garnish your paycheck or seize your assets.

Filing for Bankruptcy

You can also stop calls from debt collectors by filing for bankruptcy. Under federal law, there are two types most folks file: Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the quicker of the two, allows you to discharge most of your debt. But, you may lose assets that are not exempt under Georgia law. These assets will be used to pay back certain creditors. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can keep your assets, but you’ll have to make payments towards your debts under a 3 - 5 year long payment plan.

Bankruptcy also prevents civil judgments and wage garnishments. This is a great way to help you keep your money and reduce the stress of having to defend yourself in court. If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy to get debt relief, you have options. Upsolve’s free app can help you file for bankruptcy on your own.

You may want to find an attorney to help you with debt collection issues or related legal issues like eviction, foreclosure, or repossession. You may also want to contact an attorney for legal advice if you need help collecting a debt that is owed to you. For example, if your employer owes you back wages.

How to Find an Attorney

You can search for an attorney by searching the State Bar of Georgia’s website, which maintains a statewide directory of attorneys by practice area. Also, if your family is low-income, you might qualify for free legal help from one of the following organizations:

Let’s Summarize...

There are federal and state laws that prohibit debt collectors from engaging in abusive practices while trying to collect on a debt. While these laws limit debt collectors, they may still be allowed to garnish your wages, continue to charge interest, and seize your assets. You can stop calls from debt collectors by writing a cease-and-desist letter or filing for bankruptcy.

Upsolve can help eligible Georgians file for bankruptcy. You can also get a free bankruptcy evaluation from an independent attorney.



Written By:

Natasha Wiebusch, J.D.

LinkedIn

Natasha started her career as a lawyer representing labor unions and other investors in multi-state class action lawsuits. Passionate about the civil rights elements of her cases, she moved into practicing employment law to represent employees against discrimination of various ki... read more about Natasha Wiebusch, J.D.

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