What to do When You Are Unable to Pay a Payday Loan

I received a payday loan and am unable to pay it. Can I be arrested and prosecuted for theft or fraud?

I received a pay day loan and was unable to pay through my bank account because my account was closed. I called and tried to make payment arrangement. The company declined and said they need entire payment. Can I be arrested or prosecuted for theft or fraud?

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Bill's Answer
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You cannot be arrested for a delinquent . There is no “debtors prison” as that concept was outlawed after the Civil War. Collection agents can pester you and even sue to obtain a judgment against you — but unless you did something fraudulent or criminal, jail is not in your future.

You need to protect your ability to have a checking account. Lenders base payday loans on checks/debits to secure loans, to make it easy to collect through the borrower’s bank account, and to encourage loan renewals to prevent checks used to get loans from bouncing. Read the Bills.com article to learn how to stop automatic withdrawals from your bank accounts.

Your banker can advise when it makes sense to close your account and open a new one to get control of loan payments and stop escalating Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF) fees generated by repeated attempts to collect on the check held by the payday lender. Contact your banker quickly, before payday loans cause your account to be overdrawn. If your bank closes your account due to repeated overdrafts, you may be placed on a list that will make it hard to get a checking account for five years. Your bank or credit union can also help you stop payment to lenders that electronically access your bank account. If the loan is not paid, lenders in some states can take action under civil bad check laws. In most states, however, lenders cannot file a criminal case for passing a bad check.

If you default on your payday loans, the lender can take the same action as any other unsecured creditor to enforce a defaulted debt. Generally, their collection efforts will start with telephone calls and dunning letters demanding that you pay the balance of the loan. If the payday loan company refers your accounts to a collection agency, you can usually stop the telephone calls by sending a cease communication demand letter, commonly called a cease and desist notice, to the collection agency. A federal law called the (FDCPA) states that third party collectors must stop calling you if you notify them in writing to do so. Several states, such as California and Texas, extend many of the regulations in the FDCPA to cover original creditors as well.

If the creditor or collection agency cannot coerce you to pay through standard collection tactics, such as threatening phone calls, the creditor may decide to file a lawsuit against you to obtain a judgment against you for the balance of the debt. If the lender sues and obtains a judgment against you, it can then take steps to enforce the judgment as allowed by your state law. The most common methods of enforcing a judgment are wage garnishment, bank account levies, and property liens. To learn what actions a creditor can take to enforce a judgment in your state, see the Bills.com resources and .

Payday Loan Installment Plans

You may be in luck. Eight states regulate payday loans with statutes requiring lenders to set up an installment repayment plan if an account reaches the maximum number of rollovers allowed by law and the debtor declares that he/she is unable to pay the balance due. Read the Bills.com to find how states regulate payday loans. If your state requires repayment plans, and the lender still won’t accept payments, call your state regulator of payday loans, usually an assistant Attorney General, and complain. You should get the results you want after the Attorney General’s office becomes involved.

If you are not in one of those states, you may want to consider simply making payments to the lender anyway to pay down the balance of the loan over time. In most states, the rollover limit will soon be reached, and the interest rate the lender can charge will be capped by state law. If the lender will not accept your payments, simply put what you can afford aside until you have enough money to either payoff the loan or to offer a settlement. Read up on the regulations in your state to find the best strategy for your situation.

ills.com offers more information on the page, and answered reader questions about payday loans in , , , , , , , and .

If you do not repay a payday loan, the payday loan company has several legal remedies, including wage garnishment, levy, and lien. See the Bills.com resource to learn more about the rights of creditors and debtors.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.

Best,

Bill

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