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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

Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 93, s. 24: Licensing of collection agencies
MGL c. 93, s. 49: Debt collection in an unfair, deceptive or unreasonable manner. Outlines prohibited activities in debt collection
MGL c.235, s.34: Property exempt from execution

Massachusetts regulations and administrative opinions

209 CMR 18 Conduct of the business of debt collectors and loan services
940 CMR 7 Debt collection regulations

Federal law

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."

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."

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

Consumer Advisory-New rules reduce predatory debt-collection practices, improve consumer protections, Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, 2011

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 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 Negotiation Firms , Nolo.com
"It's usually wise to steer clear of debt negotiation firms. Here's why."

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, June 2012

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, June 2012
Covers everything you need to know about being sued for debts, with all the steps in the process

Is there a statute of limitations on billing for bad debts?, Archived page by former Attorney General
"There is no statute of limitations on billing for bad debts, but there are statutes of limitations for filing lawsuits and for reporting the debts to the credit reporting agencies. Although these do vary depending upon the type of debt, in general there is a six year statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit to collect upon a debt, and a seven year statute for reporting bad credit. It is rarely a good idea to decide not to pay a good debt if you are relying wholly on the statute of limitations, because there are more complicated issues involved, including when these may be tolled, or extended, or even when the statutory period has begun to run. But for your question, even if the statute of limitations has run, as long as a collector follows the debt collection rules and is not harassing you, they may continue to make reasonable collection efforts, short of going to court."

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."

Solve Your Money Troubles: Get Debt Collectors Off Your Back , Nolo, 2017
Includes information on secured debt, negotiating with your creditors, student loans, credit cards, bankruptcy and more. Requires 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."

Time-Barred Debts: Understanding Your Rights When It Comes to Old Debts, Federal Trade Commission
Important information about your options if a debt collector contacts you about an old debt.

Vehicle Repossession, Federal Trade Commission
Not specific to Massachusetts, includes general information on what happens if your car is repossessed, including details such as what happens when a creditor sells your car, what happens to your personal property inside the car, and more.n rights should be asserted and plenty of cites to relevant laws

Print sources

Collection Law, Mass. Practice v.48-48A , West Group, with supplement.

Fair Debt Collection, NCLC, 2014.

Handbook of Civil Procedure in the Massachusetts District Court, 4th ed., Supplementary Process, chapter 13,​​​​ Lawyers Weekly, with supplement. 

Contact

Phone

Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com

Address

Administrative office (no law library at this location)
2 Center Plaza
9th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: July 5, 2018

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