Massachusetts law about debt collection

Laws, regulations, cases, web and print sources on debt collection law.

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Table of Contents

Best bets

Debt collection laws in Massachusetts, Nolo.com.
"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."

If a creditor takes you to court for unpaid bills, Mass. Legal Help, 2023.
Covers everything you need to know about being sued for debts, with all the steps in the process. 

Money and property protected from collectionMass. Legal Help, 2024.

  • Scroll down for topics which include Exemptions, Over 60 or disabled, and more.

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. 106, Article 9 Secured transactions
Securing debt with liens on personal property.

MGL c. 235, § 34 Property exempt from execution/collection

MGL c. 246, § 28 Wage garnishment

MGL c. 260, § 2 Contract actions; actions upon judgments or decrees of courts of record
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. (See: MGL c. 260, § 20)

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
See also an explanation of special requirements.

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

Civil Procedure Rule 55.1 Special requirements for defaults and default judgments for certain consumer debts
See also an explanation of special requirements.

Federal law

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 cases

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.

Bertolino v. Sequium Asset Solutions, LLC, Civil Action 22-11139-JGD (D. Mass. Apr. 18, 2023)
This case formally adopted the 2nd Circuit (NY) holdings interpreting the Fair debt collection practices act (FDCPA). The Judge found that a collection agency did not violate the FDCPA by sending a letter to a debtor proposing to settle her debt for a portion of the balance owed while not specifying whether interest was accruing on the debt.  Nor did they violate the Act by not providing a deadline as to the offer to settle and leaving it open-ended.

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."

Forms

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

Attorney General's guidance for child tax credit payments, Mass. Attorney General, July 16, 2021.
Payments of child tax credit are "public assistance" and cannot be taken for debt collection.

The Attorney General's guide to fair debt collection, Mass. Attorney General.
A brief guide outlining your rights under fair debt collection laws and what creditors can and cannot do. Includes how to file a complaint against a debt collector.

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. ... 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 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, Nolo.com.
Avoid these common pitfalls when you are negotiating with creditors to reduce debt.

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 2021: Will states let debt collectors push families into poverty as pandemic protections expire?, National Consumer Law Center, November 2021.
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.
"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."

Protecting wages, benefits, and bank accounts from judgment creditors, National Consumer Law Center, 2020.
Helpful information to protect your income and assets.

Substantive defenses to consumer debt collection suits, Mass. Legal Services.
Materials from a training on defending debt collection suits. Provides an overview of the law, procedures in district court, supplementary process, sample forms and sample pleadings.

Print sources

Collection actions : defending consumers and their assets : credit card, medical, criminal justice, other debt, NCLC, 2024.

Collection law: debtor/creditor practice, procedure, remedies, 4th ed. (Mass Practice vols. 48-48A), West Group, 2015 with supplement.

Consumer law, 4th ed. (Mass. Practice v. 36), Thomson Reuters, 2021 with supplement. Sections 20.1-20.116 Debt Collection.

Fair debt collection, 10th edition. NCLC, 2022.

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

Solve your money troubles by Amy Loftsgordon, Nolo, 2021. (2023 eBook available with library card).

Surviving debt, NCLC, 2023.
Includes basic debt survival strategies and dealing with specific types of debt. Also includes sample letters to debt collectors.

Contact   for Massachusetts law about debt collection

Last updated: June 6, 2024

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