Tag Archives: Coronavirus

Bored? Check Your Credit Report

Nobody ever has the time to check their credit reports, go through them carefully, decipher the codes and columns — until they are closing on a new house on Tuesday, and there is a problem.  Then, I get to explain that a credit report dispute takes at least 30 days.

However, when you are sheltering in place or quarantined or social distancing that’s a great time.  You an get a free copy of your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com  .  You are entitled to one free report from each of the three major Credit Reporting Agencies (CRA’s) every year.  (You can get additional free copies for other reasons, like a denial of credit.)  So, start by downloading your credit report.  Then, go through it carefully.  This is the hard part.  Don’t just check the names of the creditors, like with so many things, the Devil is in the details.  Check the payment history, the outstanding balance, the monthly payment amount, the date of last activity (which should be the last time you used or made a payment on the account, it should not be the time the present owner of the account bought it).   Those things can make huge differences in your access to credit.  Make sure they are all correct.

If you find something that is not correct, dispute it.  You will get information for disputing it online.  If you want to do that for a first dispute, fine; but do a screen shot or otherwise record the terms and time of the dispute just in case.  Remember, the Credit Reporting Agencies don’t work for you.  You are not their customer.  Their customers are the people who pay them, and those people are the creditors who report to the CRA’s.  If the first dispute is not successful.  I suggest doing it again, and doing it in writing and sent by certified mail.  Although, I also suggest talking to a lawyer at that point in time.

Elaine

The Bankruptcy Courts Remain Open for Business — Sort Of

The Bankruptcy Courts — even the Oklahoma Bankruptcy courts remain open for business — sort of — despite the order entered Friday afternoon by the Oklahoma Supreme Court basically closing all Oklahoma State courts until May 15, 2020 except for emergency matters in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

First of all, the Bankruptcy courts are part of the Federal court system, not the State court system.  So, this order from the Oklahoma Supreme Court does not effect them in the least.  That does not mean that the Federal Court system, including the Bankruptcy courts, are insensitive to the current pandemic and changes in daily life.

What it does mean is that the Federal court system, including the Bankruptcy courts, are much better positioned to respond to current events.  Essentially all Federal courts went to electronic systems years ago.   The Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Oklahoma has been an all electronic courthouse since 2006.  What that means is that for most purposes the Courthouse doesn’t accept paper.  All filings, including new cases, are done electronically.  Instead of walking into the Court Clerk’s office, standing in line with a bunch of other germy lawyers, then coming face to face with a Deputy Court Clerk to file pleadings, my computer dials up the Court’s computer and they exchange files — quickly, efficiently and antiseptically.  Filing fees are likewise done electronically.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there haven’t had to be some hasty changes at the Bankruptcy Courts.  Traditionally (which means prior to last week) most courts required that all pleadings (like a Bankruptcy Petition) be signed in the lawyer or his staff’s presence, and the lawyer had to retain the original signature on behalf of the court clerk’s office.  More and more Bankruptcy courts around the Country have been changing those rules in the last week or so.  The Western District of Oklahoma, which includes the Oklahoma City metro area and all parts west, entered an order on Thursday March 26, 2020 allowing for the execution of pleadings with electronic signatures.

Traditionally (again that means prior to last week) First Meetings of Creditors (a/k/a 341 hearings) were held in person, at the courthouse in a packed meeting room.  Procedures have come down very recently for those to now be held telephonically.  Hearing dockets are likewise being conducted telephonically.  Now, large contested hearings with witnesses and exhibits and arguments and stuff?  Good luck getting one of those set; but this too shall be accommodated eventually.

Hurricane Katrina really exposed the greater ability of the Federal system to adapt to disaster.  You would think that in the 15 years since then, State courts would have learned a thing or two from their Federal peers.  You would be wrong.

Elaine

Student Loans and the Coronavirus Relief Bills

More details coming soon — like after I’ve read all this stuff; but if you have federally held student loans (as opposed to federally guaranteed or private loans) the current relief bills just became your new best friend.  Ok, so we can complain all we want to about the HUMONGOUS tax breaks for real estate investors included in the bills, but these bills also give considerable benefits for both loans in good standing and loans in default.  More information coming soon.

Elaine

Keep in Touch with your Lawyer!

It is even more important than usual during Coronavirus days to keep in touch with your lawyer — even if all businesses in your area are closed.  Sure, it is always important for all kinds of mundane reasons, like a change of address; but now those worries that are keeping you awake at night?  Call or email your lawyer.  You never know what tricks your lawyer may have stuck up a sleeve, and even if all businesses are closed, lawyers are pretty good about keeping an eye on email.  You might also call the office number.  It might be answered, and it might have a recording giving you information on how to get in touch.

First of all, your lawyer should be keeping a close eye on the various Coronavirus relief bills passing through Congress.  Second, your lawyer should have copies of the actual administrative orders from your Mayor or your Governor closing businesses, etc.  Your lawyer can tell you if they apply to you and how they are or can be enforced.  Your lawyer should also have a feel for employment law issues that may be effecting you, whether you are being told to work or not to work.

A bankruptcy lawyer can also help you with deciding which bills to pay and which not to when money gets really tight.

If you are in a bankruptcy, your lawyer can help you with issues like the reach of the automatic stay and the discharge injunction — that includes helping you shut down the phone calls if some creditor decides bankruptcy doesn’t really apply to them.  If you are in a Chapter 13 plan your lawyer can explain to you what remedies are available to you if you can’t make your plan payments or you need to change your plan terms.

Your  lawyer can also explain to you what court activity is ongoing in your area — are Sheriff’s sales still being held, are foreclosure cases being filed and heard, what about garnishments and collection cases?

Do not just sit at home and make yourself sick with worry.  Lawyers are trained problem solvers.  Sure, we can’t solve all of them, but we can try.

Elaine