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Massachusetts law about debt collection

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on debt collection law.

Table of Contents


Attorney General's guidance on stimulus payments and debt collectors, March 17th, 2021: The Office of the Attorney General has released a guidance memo which in part states that economic impact payments issued according to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 are exempt from seizure by creditors and debt collectors.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced an interim rule on Monday, April 19th, 2021, that will allow tenants to sue debt collectors who violate the CDC's national ban on evictions. Attorneys for landlords and other debt collectors who wrongly evict tenants could also face federal and state prosecution. Debt collectors must now provide tenants notice of their rights under the CDC's eviction ban in writing and on the same date an eviction notice is served.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 93, § 24 Licensing of collection agencies

MGL c. 93, § 49 Debt collection in an unfair, deceptive or unreasonable manner. Outlines prohibited activities in debt collection

MGL c.235, § 34 Property exempt from execution

MGL c. 260 § 2 
"The statute of limitations for consumer-related debt is six years. This period applies to credit card debt and oral and written contracts. However, if the debt collector has obtained a judgment against the debtor, the statute of limitations extends to 20 years."

Massachusetts regulations

209 CMR 18 Conduct of the business of debt collectors and loan services

940 CMR 7 Debt collection regulations

Court rules

Civil Procedure Rule 8.1 Special requirements for certain consumer debts

Civil Procedure Rule 55 Default entry
Must comply with Rule 55 prior to seeking a default or default judgment under Rule 55.1

Civil Procedure Rule 55.1 Special requirements for defaults and default judgments for certain consumer debts

Federal law

Amendment to Fair Debt Collection Practices Act due to COVID-19

CARES ACT credit reporting protections
This article explains how consumers can protect their credit reports by enforcing the protections offered by the CARES Act.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Federal Trade Commission
The primary federal law governing consumers' rights in debt collection.

Selected case law

Armata v. Target, 480 Mass. 14 (2018)
Regulations prohibiting calling a debtor more than twice a week, unless the creditor truly cannot reach the debtor or leave a message, apply to a creditor who did not reach the debtor but chose not to leave a message. Helpful discussion of state and federal law. 

Dorrian v. LVNV Funding, LLC, 479 Mass. 265 (2018)
"This court concluded that a “passive debt buyer,” i.e., an entity that buys debt for investment purposes and then hires licensed debt collectors or attorneys to collect the debt on its behalf, was not a “debt collector” within the meaning of G. L. c. 93, § 24, and therefore did not need a license to operate."

Klairmont v. Gainsboro Restr., Inc., 465 Mass. 165 (2013).   
In Klairmont, the SJC explained that a specific Attorney General’s regulation was subject to the confines of Chapter 93A, and violation of the regulation alone would violate Chapter 93A “only if the conduct leading to the violation is both unfair or deceptive and occurs in trade or commerce.” 

Schaefer v. ARM Receivable Management, Inc., (US Dist. Ct. Mass., July 19, 2011)
A debt collector does not have to tell a debtor that interest may accrue. A debt collector can continue to contact a debtor to seek "voluntary repayment of a time-barred debt."


Court forms for consumer debt collection (Civil Rules 8.1 and 55.1)
Forms to use for collection actions against consumers involving debts arising out of revolving credit agreements (effective January 1, 2019)

Web sources

The Attorney General's guide to fair debt collection, Mass. Attorney General
A brief guide outlining your rights under fair debt collection laws

Attorney General's guidance for child tax credit payments, Mass. Attorney General, July 16, 2021
"Because advanced payments of the child tax credit under Section 9611 are exempt under state law, any action, or threat to take action, to garnish, attach or otherwise seize these funds to collect or attempt to collect a debt violates the Attorney General’s Debt Collection Regulations."

Consumer rights for domestic violence survivors in Massachusetts, National Consumer Law Center, 2011
"The information in this packet is intended to help you: Separate your finances from your abuser; Deal with any existing debts; Stay financially independent in the future and avoid traps and scams; and Get more help and information with these issues."

Credit repair, Nolo, 2020
Includes a chapter on negotiating with creditors and debt collectors. Requires library card for access.

Credit repair kit, Nolo, 2016.
Offers information on credit repair and management techniques. Requires library card for access

Debt collection, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
"Did you know that debt collectors generally can’t call you after 9 p.m.? Learn about debt collection, harassment, and more by searching or browsing. Debt collection issues can be challenging. You don't have to face them alone. Our resources can help you understand how debt collection works and what your rights are.” Includes 5 sample letters to send debt collectors.

Debt collection frequently asked questions, Federal Trade Commission
What to know about debt collection, what to know about old debts, how to report a debt collector. There is no statute of limitations on billing for an old debt, but there are statutes of limitations for filing lawsuits and for reporting the debts to the credit reporting agencies.

Debt collection in the information age: new technologies and the fair debt collection practices act, 99 Cal. L. Rev. 1601 (2011)
This article "outlines the challenges new technologies pose, analyzes the areas of tension that cannot be resolved under the current FDCPA framework, and recommends three areas of reform."

Debt collection laws in Massachusetts,
"If you live in Massachusetts and you’re dealing with a debt collector, or you're facing a collection lawsuit, it's important to know what debt collectors can and can't do."

Debt collectors disguised as Facebook "friends", 65 Rutgers L. Rev. 923 (Spring 2013)
"Solutions to prevent violations of the fair debt collection practices act on social media platforms."

Debt negotiations: common mistakes,
Avoid these common pitfalls when you are negotiating with creditors to reduce debt.

How to protect your clients' cash and assets under new Massachusetts personal property exemptions, by Robert J. Hobbs and Hon. Carol J. Kenner, NCLC, 2011
Terrific piece that explains changes in exempt property law with examples illustrating when rights should be asserted and plenty of cites to relevant laws

I have debt - help!, Mass. Legal Help, September 2019
Great resource covers rights and responsibilities, credit reports, debt collectors, going to court, What can I do about my bills?, Which debts do I pay first? and more.

If a creditor takes you to court for unpaid bills, Mass. Legal Help, October 2019
Covers everything you need to know about being sued for debts, with all the steps in the process

Implementation of Mass. R. Civ. P. 8.1, Special requirements for certain consumer debts and Mass. R. Civ. P. 55.1, Special requirements for defaults and default judgments for certain consumer debts, December 2018
Helpful information on basic procedures in the courts handling rule 8.1 and 55.1 matters.

The Massachusetts debt collection regulations - latest consumer class action trend, National Law Review, April 2019
Explains the "unfair and deceptive acts" under MGL c.93A that are defined by the regulations in 940 CMR 7.00. Great overview of the types of conduct by creditors that are prohibited.

No fresh start in 2020: Will states let debt collectors push families into poverty in the wake of a pandemic?, National Consumer Law Center, October 2020. A survey of state exemption laws covering wages, your home, your car, your bank account, and your possessions.

Paying the debts of a deceased relative: who is responsible?, Findlaw
"After a relative dies, the last thing grieving family members may expect are calls from debt collectors asking them to pay their loved one’s outstanding debts. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, a surviving relative usually has no legal obligation to pay the debts of a family member who has died. In fact, the rights of surviving relatives are covered by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you."

Protecting credit reports during COVID-19 crisis, NCLC, April 2020

Solve your money troubles: get debt collectors off your back , Nolo, 2021
Includes information on secured debt, negotiating with your creditors, student loans, credit cards, bankruptcy and more. Requires free library card for access

Substantive defenses to consumer debt collection suits, Mass. Legal Services
"Extensive materials from a training on defending debt collection suits. Topics covered include: Interviewing clients and evaluating cases, Collection case procedures in district court, Supplementary process." Includes "an overview of the law as well as forms and sample pleadings."

Print sources

ABA Consumer Guide to understanding and protecting your credit rights: a practical resource to maintaining good credit, ABA, 2017

Collection law (Mass. practice v.48-48A), West Group, with supplement.

Consumer law (Mass. practice v.36), West Group, with supplement. §§20.1-20.116 Debt collection.

Fair debt collection, 9th edition. NCLC, 2018.

Handbook of civil procedure in the Massachusetts district court, Supplementary Process, chapter 13,​​​​ Lawyers Weekly, 2018.

Surviving debt, NCLC, 2019.
Includes basic debt survival strategies and dealing with specific types of debt. Also includes sample letters.



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Last updated: September 30, 2021