Legal Question in Consumer Law in Pennsylvania
Mother is being sued for Credit Card bill about $900. She is a senior citizen . Income is low but too high for NLS, about $700 from SS and $700 pension. Health issues caused changes in monthly expenses about three years ago due to increase of medications. Other financial obligations have also increased since my brother was no longer to pay her utility bills. Too difficult to keep payments up. Have not made any payment over two years. I understand as well as she that she is still technically responsible for debt, however unable to pay. I know there have been some new Pennsylvania laws regarding debt collection. I do not know if she will be able to appear in court. Cerebellum stroke has left her with some concentration issues. If we do nothing and just leave the process follow thru what will happen? She will still be unable to pay bill. Are there still laws in Pa to protect lien on bank account for consumer debt? I thought at one time PA garnishment was only for taxes, child support & school loans.
1 Answer from Attorneys
Your mother does not have to appear in court. I don't know what new laws you are referring to. I am not aware of anything - I am not saying there isn't a "new" law - I am just saying that I have not heard of anything since I have been in private practice and working in the area of debt resolution..
If your mother does nothing, the creditors have a right to sue her and will recover a judgment. The creditors can then try to enforce that judgment through a process called execution. They will seek to seize and sell any non-exempt assets or levy on non-exempt funds in the bank. There is no wage garnishment in PA. However, Social Security and pensions are exempt anyway and cannot be garnished for debts. Your mother cannot have a bank account with any other person. Nor can she commingle any money with her pension and Social Security money.
You do not indicate what your mother owns. For example, does she own a house or rent? Does she own a car? Judgments in PA are good for 5 years against real property and they can be renewed for an additional 5 years thereafter. Judgments are good on personal property for 20 years. What this means is that they creditor can seek to levy at any time during this 5 or 20 year period. The judgment on the real property will also be a lien on that property and it cannot be sold unless the lien is satisfied. Judgments earn interest at a rate of 6% per year, but the interest accrues on a daily basis so once judgment is entered it will only get bigger.
There is no exemption in PA for motor vehicles or land. However, if these things are liened, they probably are safe from execution.
You indicate there is no money. It depends on who is suing (both the identity of the creditor and the law firm), but most creditors are willing to settle for 50% to 80% of the judgment if you can pay in a lump sum. Depending on your mother's circumstances, they may even be willing to go lower if you were able to come up approximately $500.
I suggest that your mother, if she is able, go and see a consumer law attorney immediately. I know Greg Artim (he is active here at Law Guru) is in the Pittsburgh area. He handles credit card defense. Let an attorney look at this and see if anything can be done. Many times a credit card issuer sells the account to a junk debt buyer who cannot prove that the debt is owed. In such cases, it would be worthwhile to litigate.
Of course, if your mother is interested in resolving the debt outside of bankruptcy or litigation, please have her contact me at [email protected].
Finally, you mention that your mother had a stroke. Unless you have a valid power of attorney which would permit you to handle your mother's legal affairs, your mother is going to have to handle this if she is mentally competent.
What is NLS?