Massachusetts law about debt collection

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

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, October 2019.
Covers everything you need to know about being sued for debts, with all the steps in the process. Scroll down for topics which include Exemptions, Over 60 or disabled, and General info on debt.

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/collection

MGL c.246, § 28 Wage garnishment

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
Explanation of special requirements here.

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
Explanation of special requirements here.

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 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."

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.

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."

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 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 in the wake of a pandemic?, 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.
"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 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.
"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

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, 9th edition. NCLC, 2018.

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.

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

Contact

Last updated: September 23, 2022
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