Fast Answers to Your Most Pressing Debt Collection and Credit Reporting Questions
Can a collection company call multiple times per day? Can a creditor really increase your interest rate if you cannot pay your bills? If you have a question about debt collection, credit reporting, or any other issues related to consumer law, our FAQ section might provide the answer you need right now. If it doesn't, contact us using the contact form or the toll-free number and we'll answer it for you within 24 hours!
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What should I do if I find mold in my military base housing?
When you own your home, you make every effort to keep it in good repair and to make sure it is a comfortable and safe environment for your family. When you are leasing a property, the condition of the home is often out of your control because the landlord is responsible for major repairs. With most residential leases, renters have the law behind them in getting a dangerous situation such as the presence of black mold corrected by the landlord. However, when you are leasing a house on a military base from a private contractor, you may feel like you don’t have the same rights as a private citizen. I am here to assure you that you do have a right to safe housing and that mold growing in the home is definitely a serious problem for health and safety.
Why Mold Is So Dangerous
Certainly, spreading areas of black stuff is unsightly on the ceiling of your shower stall or around an air conditioning vent, but you may wipe it down and think the problem is solved. When the source of the problem is a leak or constant dampness, however, toxic mold will keep coming back. Mold is actually a living fungus that grows in warm, damp, and humid conditions and spreads by releasing spores, a kind of microscopic seed. When these spores are released into the air inside a home, they are breathed in and come in contact with skin. Why is that bad? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mold can cause:
- Allergy symptoms, such as wheezing, stuffy nose, and itchy eyes
- Irritated skin
- Shortness of breath
- Neurological symptoms, such as mood swings and tremors
- Respiratory infections
These symptoms are often mistaken for other illnesses, but having your home tested for mold can confirm it as the cause of your family’s medical complaints.
A Common Problem on Military Bases
When military housing was privatized in 1996, management companies took over responsibility for houses on base from the Department of Defense. Toxic mold has been a recurring problem on bases across the country, from Camp Pendleton in California to Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach. Families have reported mold blooms across the ceiling, around air vents, under carpeting, and in bathrooms and basements. Their children have suffered from severe respiratory infections and asthma. Management companies such as Lincoln Military Housing have repeatedly shirked the costly job of mold remediation and have allowed their residents to continue to get sick.
How a California Attorney Can Help You
No matter where in the U.S. you are serving your time in the military, I can help you take on your landlord when you are struggling to get mold removed from your base housing. There are both federal and state laws requiring your landlord’s cooperation in providing you with safe housing or allowing you to leave without penalty and I will apply those laws to your situation to help you protect your family. Contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400.
Why is base legal refusing to help me with my housing issue?
One of the perks of serving in the military is having access to free legal services. With offices on most bases across the country, military attorneys (judge advocates, or JAG) are available to help servicemembers with a myriad of legal issues, from writing a will to representing a servicemember in a divorce or legal separation. In some cases, the legal assistance office on your base can also help with housing or landlord problems, but only if your housing is not managed by a private contractor. Unfortunately, less than two percent of base housing is owned and managed by the Department of Defense (DoD); the remaining 98 percent is privatized and your base legal office will not be able to represent you in a dispute.
Tenants Get Lost in Deal Between Military and Private Landlords
Because the military has contracts with the property management companies running its base housing, it would be a conflict of interest for military lawyers to sue landlords. This arrangement hurts servicemembers in multiple ways. While state or local law may allow a tenant to withhold rent until a repair is made, servicemembers do not have this option when their housing allowance goes straight to the landlord. Tenants in base housing also cannot report dangerous conditions to local authorities because their inspectors will not be permitted on base.
What Can You Do If You Are Stuck in This Trap?
While you may be advised to the contrary by your landlord and by the legal assistance office on your base, you do have the right to hire your own private attorney to represent you in a landlord dispute. Regardless of the contract between your landlord and your employer, you are entitled to exercise your rights under local, state, and federal laws and, as a Marine and consumer attorney in private practice, I am uniquely qualified to represent you when you are living with mold, rodents, lead paint, or other uninhabitable conditions.
Call Me for a Free Consultation
No matter which branch of the military you are in or where you are stationed, I am available to hear your story and discuss your options. Call me at 855.982.2400 or fill out the form on this page for a free case review. You have rights and I am here to protect them!
Can I leave base housing due to uninhabitable conditions?
If you are living with rodent feces, black mold, lead paint, no heat, or dangerous structural damage in a rental house on a military base, you have every right to move your family out to a safer location and you should not be penalized for doing so. However, it’s unlikely that the private company who is managing the housing on base will let you go that easily. In order to exercise your rights, you will probably need a lawyer to fight for you.
Your Right to Habitable Housing
All branches of the military at bases across the country have contracted out management of housing to private partners such as Lincoln Military Housing. The Department of Defense did this 20 years ago because the military could not afford to repair older housing or build new housing. However, on many bases, these companies have done a terrible job of maintaining, repairing, cleaning, and removing pests from the housing they now manage. As a result, servicemembers are finding themselves living in substandard housing that is making them and their children ill.
It’s important to understand that—even though you live on federal property and your landlord is a government contractor—you still have the same tenant rights that everyone else in your state has. One of those rights is the right to housing that is habitable.
The Cost of Moving Out of Your Military Housing
What has unfortunately been happening at bases like Camp Pendleton in California is that families have had to move out of their base housing because their landlord has refused to remove hazards like mold and rodents, making the house unsafe to live in. Fearing for their safety, these families have spent thousands of dollars to move and have also lost security deposits or even been charged cleaning fees by their landlords. This is not only unacceptable—it is illegal. If you have reported the problem to your landlord and they have failed to fix it, rendering it uninhabitable, the landlord has broken their end of the lease. They have also violated federal law by constructively evicting you without a court order.
What Can You Do About it?
The sooner you call me, the more I will be able to help. If you have taken pictures of the conditions in your home and you have a record of the complaints you have filed with your landlord, we will be in a strong position to sue them to not only get your deposit returned, but for additional damages as well. Even if you don’t have solid documentation, do not hesitate to call me for help. No matter where you live, I will go to work protecting you right to livable housing. Contact me online and I will be in touch as soon as possible.
Can I sue my military base landlord if my housing conditions are unlivable?
Far too many of our men and women in uniform are finding themselves living in base housing that is in sub-standard condition. Not only are these servicemembers and their families dealing with houses that are in disrepair, but they are living with rodents, black mold, and peeling lead paint. If you are in this situation, you may have been told that as a member of the military, you can’t sue the military. However, on most military bases, including Camp Pendleton, housing is owned and managed by outside contractors, not the military. These landlords are subject to the same laws as any other property owner and, therefore, can be sued when they violate your rights.
State Tenants’ Rights Laws
Every state has tenants’ rights laws, and they all protect renters in pretty much the same way. The part of the law that applies in this situation is the right to a habitable residence. This means that the landlord is required to do whatever it takes to maintain your property in a safe and livable condition. If your house on Camp Pendleton has dangerous black mold in the vents, for example, your landlord—in this case, Lincoln Military Housing—must take measures to remove the mold. Simply cleaning and painting over it is not the same as mold remediation. If you have informed your landlord of the problem and given them adequate time to take care of it, you have the right to sue them if they fail to make your house habitable.
Constructive Eviction Under SCRA
As a servicemember, you are also protected under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). One of the provisions of the law states that you cannot be evicted from your home without a court order. If you are forced to move your family out of military housing because rats, mold, or lead paint is making them ill, this is a form of eviction known as constructive eviction. If you sue your landlord under the SCRA and win, you can be released from your lease without penalty and you may also be owed damages.
Will Base Legal Help?
Despite the other valuable services base legal provides to you, this is one area where they will not be able to help. Because your landlord is a military contractor and the military can’t sue their own contractors, you will need to get outside legal help to sue your landlord under SCRA or state tenants’ rights laws.
As a Marine myself, I understand the sacrifices you are making to serve your country and I am committed to fighting back against housing contractors who refuse to ensure that members of our armed forces and their families have access to safe housing. If you are being blamed for the condition of your house or are looking to get out of a lease without penalty, contact me as soon as possible. I represent servicemembers in housing disputes across the country.
Why am I being contacted by multiple debt collectors for the same debt?
It’s confusing enough to get a call about an old debt you didn’t know you had, much less to get calls from multiple people about that same debt. Believe it or not, this happens all the time. While it doesn’t necessarily indicate fraud, it could mean that someone somewhere along the line has violated your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and not only will you not owe the debt, THEY may owe YOU damages. Let me explain.
Debts Are Often Sold Multiple Times
It is often not worth a creditor’s time to work too hard make you pay what you owe. After all, collecting debt is not their primary role. The creditor may be a credit card company, whose purpose is to lend money and collect it, but it could also be a medical clinic, cable or cell phone provider, or your town’s tax department. These service providers will send bills for several months, perhaps adding fees with each month you don’t pay, maybe calling you to follow up, and that’s about all they have the time and resources to do. After that, they will likely sell the bill to a collection agency. They may sell it for 10 cents on the dollar, but at least they have some money back in their pockets.
Now the debt collector has the potential to collect on the full amount of the debt they bought for a fraction of that. And they are often successful. People are more threatened by a collection agency calling than the cable company, for example, and many pay up without a fight. However, if the debt collector has made several attempts and can’t get anything from you, he will probably sell the debt on to another agency, maybe for 25 cents on the dollar. He has made a bit of a profit, and now a third agency has your information and will start calling you. This is how you end up with multiple agencies trying to collect the same debt, but it doesn’t mean you are in any more trouble than you were when you first missed the payment, even if it feels like it.
How This May Mean You Have a Case
No matter who is contacting you about the debt, they have to be able to provide documentation of the validity of the debt. They have to show how much you owe, to whom you originally owed it, and that it is actually YOU who owes it. As debts are sold again and again, documents and contracts are often lost. If a debt collector is contacting you without having all of this documentation in order, he is violating the law.
Call Me If You Are Confused
If you are being contacted about a debt you suspect has been sold multiple times, try my FREE debt collection blocker and then call me. My advice is always free, and I don’t collect a fee unless we win damages for you.
Should I panic if my debt is “sent to legal?”
No, you should not panic, but you should respond. This is a common threat from creditors and debt collectors to try to scare you into paying a debt that may not even be yours or may be more than you actually owe. So, what can a creditor’s legal department do? It’s more a question of what they have to do to prove you owe the debt. Let me explain.
Is it an Empty Threat?
When a creditor threatens to send your debt to legal, what he is really threatening you with is a lawsuit. What he’s hoping is that the threat will be enough to get you to pay what they say you owe, because they don’t really want to take legal action. Fortunately for them, the tactic often works. People panic when threatened with a lawsuit and decide to just pay the debt, regardless of whether the debt is really theirs.
Even when the creditor or debt collector does follow through and file the lawsuit, many defendants don’t respond to the suit and the creditor wins by default. At this point, the court will order you to pay the debt. Now you are really on the hook.
Remember That the Burden of Proof Is on Them
So what should you do when threatened with a lawsuit? First of all, call me! I will help you defend yourself against the suit. Our chances of winning are good, because now the burden of proof is on the debt collector. He must be able to provide solid proof that the debt is yours, that the amount is accurate, and that he is the one who is owed. Because debts can pass through many different hands as they are sold to collection agencies, key documents can be lost. If the debt collector cannot produce the required evidence, you will owe him nothing and he will even have to pay your legal fees.
Contact Me When You Are Being Threatened
If you are being threatened over a debt that you don’t believe is yours—or even if you know it is yours—don’t be scared into giving in, but don’t ignore it, either. Contact me online or call my office directly at 855.982.2400 to learn more about your options. I am committed to protecting the rights of Californians and fighting against unlawful debt collection practices.
What is the right way to dispute a credit report error?
We all know there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. Disputing an error on your credit report is no exception. You can protect a possible lawsuit against the credit reporting agency when you file a dispute the right way the first time. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and California law, you have a right to an accurate credit report, and credit reporting agencies are required to investigate all disputes. However, unless you take certain steps when filing your dispute, you may jeopardize your consumer rights.
What Californians Should Do When Filing a Dispute
If you have found a mistake on any one of your credit reports—congratulations! The fact that you reviewed your reports and paid attention to what should and should not be on them is a great first step to protecting your rights. What you do next is just as important. As a California consumer attorney, I advise all consumers to do the following:
Always Dispute Credit Reporting Error With the Credit Bureau
Even if the mistake is actually the fault of a creditor, you will have to inform the credit reporting agency of the mistake, not just the furnisher of the false information. While it is not illegal for a credit bureau to report inaccurate information, it is illegal for them not to investigate your dispute.
Preserve the Credit Report Evidence
If you are claiming that a credit reporting agency failed to investigate your dispute, you will have to provide documents to prove that you reported it and you will need evidence of the harm the error has caused you. Make copies of everything you send to the credit bureau, send everything by certified mail, and keep any documents that show that the error on your report has cost you, such as denials of credit, increasing interest rates, etc.
Never Use the Online Credit Reporting Dispute Option
The strongest claims against credit bureaus are detailed and provide evidence. There is very little room on online dispute forms to do this. Instead, mail a letter that details how the information on the report is wrong and include evidence that proves the mistake. Keep a copy of all of this and send it by certified mail so you have a receipt.
Call An Experienced Credit Reporting Error Attorney!
Who has the time to deal with all of this? I do, that’s who! I know you’re busy and finding the time to track down evidence, write a detailed letter, etc. can be impossible. When you contact me, however, I will guide you through the process—at no cost to you!
I know it’s hard to believe, but I will help you make those errors go away and may even be able to get you compensation, and I won’t charge you a thing. My fee comes if and when I successfully sue a credit reporting agency on your behalf—and not before. Learn more about how this works here, then contact me online or, better yet, call me directly at 855.982.2400!
Am I covered under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act?
Considering that this powerful legislation protects servicemembers from high interest rates, penalties for breaking leases, and some civil court judgements, it’s important that you know whether you are covered or not. Simply put, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) applies to all active-duty military personnel—but does that apply to you? Find out here!
What the Law Says About SCRA
The SCRA was enacted in 2003 and has been amended several times since then. The law is designed to ease financial burdens on servicemembers during periods of military service. Under the law, the following servicemembers are covered:
- Full-time active duty members of the five military branches (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard)
- Reservists on federal active duty
- Members of the National Guard on federal orders for a period of more than 30 days
- Servicemembers absent from duty for a lawful cause or because of sickness
- Commissioned officers in active service of the Public Health Service (PHS) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- Servicemembers’ dependents, including a spouse, children, and any other person for whom the servicemember has provided more than half of their financial support for the past 180 days
For most servicemembers, SCRA protections begin on the date they enter active duty military service. For military reservists, protections begin upon the receipt of certain military orders. If you are still not sure if you are eligible for the benefits provided by SCRA, do not hesitate to call me to find out!
How I Help Servicemembers Protect Their Credit
If you think someone isn't respecting your SCRA rights, call me and I will evaluate your case—for FREE! Not only does the law provide for criminal penalties for violators of SCRA, it also entitles you to sue the violator in order to fix what they did wrong and to pay attorney fees if we win. So you truly have nothing to lose by calling me if you think your rights have been violated. As a Marine Reservist myself, I am proud to help those serving in our armed forces.
Contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400 and let's talk about how I can help!
How Can I Avoid Being A Victim Of A For-Profit College Scam?
The promised education benefits were one of the reasons you joined the service to begin with. Serving your country is a great way to pay for the education you have always dreamed of. Now that you are ready to use these benefits to attend college, don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of by a for-profit college that is just out to get your money.
What Is a For-Profit College?
Simply put, a for-profit college is an institute of higher learning that is run by a private, profit-seeking company. They typically offer flexible class schedules, including evening and online classes that are very tempting for students who have a full-time job or are raising a family. While some of these schools are reputable, others have been found to make promises to students that they can’t keep. Students are left with a hefty bill and no job prospects.
How To Protect Yourself From For-Profit School Scams
Unfortunately, the money you can get as a servicemember to pay for college makes you a target for these disreputable schools. Follow this advice to protect yourself:
Be Wary Of The High-Pressure College Sales Pitch
Schools that are just out for your money will often pursue you aggressively. A high-pressure sales pitch should be a red flag that something is not right. Do not allow yourself to be rushed into making a decision. Take your time to consider multiple options.
Research Graduation Results For The College You're Considering
You are going to school to prepare for a career, right? So it’s a good idea to look at each school’s graduation rates and job-placement statistics rather than just taking a TV ad or salesperson’s word for it.
Compare The Costs Between The School You're Considering And Other Universities
While their schedules and locations may be convenient, for-profit schools often cost more than public colleges and universities. Take the time to compare costs and look for public colleges that offer flexible scheduling and satellite campuses.
The actions of certain for-profit colleges are truly despicable, particularly when they set their sights on those who have served our country. However, it’s up to you to protect your education benefits so that you can make the most of your future.
The Cardoza Law Corporation Looks Out for Servicemembers
As a Marine myself, I am happy to provide helpful information like this to our men and women in uniform. If you believe your civil rights have been violated as an active-duty servicemember, contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400 to see if I can help set things right.
Do I need to file a police report if I am filing an identity theft report with the FTC?
If someone has stolen your identity and taken out a loan or opened a credit card in your name, you have work to do. There’s no way around the fact that identity theft is a major pain, but if you don’t take the necessary steps to undo as much of the damage as you can right now, the pain could get even bigger. The first thing you should do to protect yourself from the problems the thief is going to cause in your name is to tell the authorities what has happened.
Report Identity Theft To The FTC
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) acts as a kind of clearinghouse for identity theft reports. When you go to their website at www.identitytheft.gov, you will be guided through a series of questions to report the theft. Once you have given them all the information you can, a report will be generated that can be offered as proof to any lender or business that disputes your claim of identity theft. You will also need the report when you file a police report.
Filing An Identity Theft Report With Local Law Enforcement
Most identity thieves steal the information they need “virtually,” meaning they get your bank account numbers or Social Security number through online sources, not out of your wallet. So why would you report the theft to the local police? After all, the thief is most likely not your neighbor—or even a resident of California or the U.S. The reason you file a police report is to create an official record of the theft even if you don’t expect the thief to be caught. At the local police station, you should be prepared to show them the following:
- A copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report (See? I said you would need it!)
- A government-issued photo ID
- Proof of your address (a mortgage statement or utility bill)
- Any proof you may have that a theft occurred (credit card statement, collection notices, etc.)
Your goal in reporting this to the police is not to get them to catch the thief, but to get a copy of the police report. Ask them to attach your FTC complaint to your report. You may have to be firm and insistent with the officer—but also calm and patient—because they may see it as a waste of their time.
Identity Theft Is Not a Waste of My Time!
If you’re getting nowhere with the FTC or the police, check out my identity theft toolkit to walk you through the steps to recovery. If you are being harassed by a lender or collection agency over debt that is not yours, you may be able to take legal action to stop them. If that’s the case, don’t wait any longer to call me. I will look into your situation and help if I can. The best part is, I will do all of this FOR FREE! If you are owed damages for harassment, I will file suit and take my payment only when I win on your behalf. Now is not the time to bury your head in the sand and hope this goes away. Take action today!
Contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400.