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We hope the articles below help you understand your rights as a consumer. You can scroll through the titles, or sort by Practice Area or Topic. You can also use the search feature to locate information by keyword.

Flitter Milz represents people with a variety of problems involving consumer credit and collections. If you have a particular question or believe your consumer rights have been violated, Contact Us for a no cost consultation.

Are Solar Panels Really Free? Things To Look Out For During Solar Sales

There may be a knock on your door by a friendly solar panel sales representative. You may be informed of the benefits of solar power and that by choosing to get panels for your home they would be ‘free’.

Remember the old adage – ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch.’

Free Doesn’t Mean Free or ‘No-Cost’

A solar company sales representative may inform you that by signing up for solar power, you won’t have to pay for the panels themselves — they will be given to you for free.

The trouble is that you will still end up paying each month toward a lengthy contract which could last up to a quarter century. Basically, a solar lease, or solar power purchase agreement (PPA), closely resembles a home mortgage in contract duration than it would an automotive loan. (Think long-term versus short-term).

Solar Leases or PPAs: What Is The Difference? 

Solar Lease. If you opt to enter into a solar panel lease, you contractually agree to pay a monthly fee for the ability to essentially rent the solar system from a third-party vendor.  So, while the sales representative may tell you that by signing up you are getting the solar panels for ‘free,’ you are still locked into a contract for a system that you will have to pay toward for several years.

Power Purchase Agreement. The other model is a PPA, which is where the homeowner chooses to purchase power directly from the solar power company at a certain rate. In this type of arrangement, the solar companies typically make out better financially than the individual consumer, since the company can take advantage of certain tax credits and monetary benefits, being that they are technically the ‘owner’ of the system, while the individual customer still has to pay for a system that isn’t actually theirs.

The ‘Free’ Panels Aren’t Yours

Because both of these types of arrangements – a lease and a PPA – involve paying for electricity-generating equipment over a lengthy contract period, those ‘free’ panels that you were promised may be anything but. Once installed on your home’s roof, you will still end up paying toward an entire system that is leased or rented, for a number of years. In the end, the savings you may reap from the solar generated electricity itself may not be enough to make up for those ‘free’ panels.

Be Cautious…Be Patient…No need to act today.

Many door-to-door solar sales representatives often ask the consumer to make quick, on-the-spot decisions about obtaining solar power for the home. It is not unusual for the homeowner to feel pressured and the need to act immediately.

 

 

Before signing anything consider the following:

1.  Insist that the salesperson provide paper copies of contracts and documents
2.  Read every document that requires your signature or initials.
3.  Get all of your questions answered.
4.  Get all of the salesperson’s promises in writing.
5.  Seek advice from a trusted advisor.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm experienced in evaluating fraudulent sales tactics, such as forgery, identity theft and unauthorized credit pulls by solar panel salesmen. If you feel as though you may have been scammed into leasing a home solar system, Contact Flitter Milz today for a no-cost consultation.

How to Maintain Good Credit During Divorce

Financial Separation is Key

Getting divorced is never easy. Although it is an unfortunate fact of life for more than half of all U.S. couples, parting ways with your spouse doesn’t mean that your credit has to take a hit.

Separating financially is crucial as most married couples share joint assets, such as homes, cars, credit cards and loans. But the division of these accounts can be a messy financial predicament.  It is important for you to protect your credit, and good name, as you work towards an independent life from your spouse.

Credit Impact During Divorce

Joint accounts have joint consequences, and often with the stress of divorce one spouse may have forgotten to make a payment, or assumed the other spouse did. Missed or late payments may result in contact from debt collectors, negative credit reporting and lowered credit scores.  To ensure joint accounts get paid properly and on time take these steps:

1. Calendar payments.
–   Identify accounts: your name v. joint.
–   Create a file for each account.
–   Organize account statements.
–   Calendar payment due dates.
–   Review accounts for payment status.

 

2. Obtain Current Credit Reports.  Transunion, Experian and Equifax are the three main credit reporting agencies. Consumers are entitled to receive one free credit report from each bureau every year.  Sometimes, consumers choose to enroll in a credit monitoring service which enables review of credit reports on a regular basis throughout the year.

How to get credit reports.  We suggest that you send a written request to each credit bureau to obtain a report.  Your letter should include two forms of identification, such as a current driver’s license and utility bill. It takes about two weeks to receive your reports.  While you can also obtain your reports online through www.annualcreditreport.com, this method requires you to agree to terms in a “click” agreement, which could negatively impact your consumer rights.

3. Identify your accounts
Review your reports and identify accounts in your name and those that are joint with a spouse.  Evaluate your reports for errors such as:

            • Inaccurate personal identifying information.
            • Account balance or payment history errors.
            • Duplicate account information.
            • Personal information belonging to someone else.
            • Accounts opened by someone other than yourself.

4. If Inaccurate…Dispute!  After obtaining your credit report, if there are errors, you should send a dispute letter to the credit reporting agency to request that the errors be corrected.  Be sure to enclose documents that support your claim. The credit bureaus have 30 days to respond to your dispute. You may include documents such as, account statements, cancelled checks, court docket information, or collection correspondence that  prove why your claim of an error is valid.

One Dispute Letter Per Error. If you find multiple errors on a credit report, dispute them individually with the bureau. Enclose a copy of the credit report with the error highlighted and your supporting documents. The credit bureaus then have 30 days to respond to your dispute letter.

 

 

The Fair Credit Reporting Act 
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law governing how consumer credit information can be used and distributed. Consumers have the right to see what’s on their credit reports and dispute errors and inaccurate information. Errors not corrected, may violate the consumer’s rights.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz, P.C. represents people in consumer credit matters related to credit reporting accuracy and privacy, abusive debt collection contact and vehicle repossessions which stem from a pending divorce or separation.  Contact Us for a no-cost consultation.

 

Who are the Credit Reporting Agencies?

 

What is a Credit Bureau?

Credit reporting agencies are companies that compile detailed financial information on consumers from various sources.  The information collected is put together into a credit report. When the consumer seeks credit, businesses then contact credit reporting agencies to obtain credit reports to assess the consumer’s financial health. These credit reports may be requested by insurance companies, credit card companies, potential landlords, potential employers, and others that need to evaluate your credit history.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The federal law, commonly called the FCRA, helps to ensure the accuracy, fairness and privacy of the information in consumer credit bureau files. The law regulates the way credit reporting agencies can collect, access, use and share the data collected in consumer reports.

The Big Three:  Transunion.  Experian.  Equifax.

Transunion, Experian and Equifax are the three main credit bureaus.  If a person or business is requesting your credit report, that request may very well be to one of these three national credit reporting agencies. However, there are many other credit reporting agencies, and many of them are tied to specific industries.

Industry Specific Reporting Agencies

Some credit bureaus are businesses that collect data and assign scores for specific purposes.  Usually these types of businesses may check reports before offering you employment, lending money to you or leasing you an apartment.  Some of these bureaus are listed below by industry.

Employment Screening

    • Accurate Background
    • ADP Screening & Selection Services, Inc.
    • com
    • Checkr
    • EmpInfo
    • First Advantage Corporation
    • General Information Services, Inc. (GIS)
    • HireRight
    • Info Cubic
    • IntelliCorp
    • OPENonline
    • Pre-employ.com
    • Truework
    • The Work Number

Tenant Background Screenings

    • Contemporary Information Corp. (CIC)
    • CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions
    • Experian RentBureau
    • First Advantage Corporation Resident Solutions
    • Real Page, Inc. (LeasingDesk)
    • Screening Reports, Inc.
    • TransUnion Rental Screening Solutions, Inc. (TransUnion SmartMove)

Check or Bank Screening

    • Certegy Check Services
    • ChexSystems
    • CrossCheck, Inc.
    • Early Warning Services
    • Global Payments Check Services, Inc.
    • TeleCheck Services

Insurance Screening

    • A-PLUS Property (by Verisk)
    • LexisNexis C.L.U.E. (Auto & Property Reports)
    • Drivers History
    • MIB, Inc.
    • Milliman IntelliScript

Sub-Prime Loan Market
for Auto Loans or Retail Installment Contract

    • Clarity Services
    • CoreLogic Teletrack
    • FactorTrust

Requirements for all Credit Bureaus

The list of credit reporting agencies goes on.  But regardless of the nature or type of credit reporting agencies, each such agency is required to give you at least one free credit report every twelve months.  Requests for credit reports should be made in writing and sent by mail.  For example, you could request a free copy of your credit report from both Transunion and Experian, so long as you have not requested a credit report from these agencies in the past twelve months.  The bureaus may charge for multiple reports requested during the year.

Credit Reporting Errors

Marking Up errors on credit report

Have you noticed any inaccuracies listed on your credit report?  If so, it is highly important that you dispute the errors directly to the credit reporting agency.  Dispute letters should be accompanied by a copy of the credit report with the error highlighted.  The letter should be  sent by certified mail, and should include all relevant evidence and documentation that supports your dispute. If the credit bureau does not correct an inaccurate listing, seek legal counsel.

Seek Legal Counsel

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of inaccurate credit reporting.  Contact Us for a no cost legal review of your credit reports and evaluation of whether your consumer rights have been violated.

Resolution for the New Year: Create a Budget and Avoid Credit Problems

Crafting a household budget is not only necessary to help evaluate spending patterns and measure income versus expenditures, but it also helps to ensure a secure financial future.

When an individual’s debt-to-income ratio rises, meaning that the person is taking on more debt than they are receiving in income, dire financial circumstances may occur for that person, and his or her family.

And if debt starts to get out of control and goes on unpaid for a period of time, debt collectors will no doubt start reaching out, your vehicle could get repossessed and credit scores could plummet.

It All Starts With Budgeting

The discipline of a budget helps keep a focus on income and payments towards all financial obligations.  Develop a plan to meet your obligations and protect your credit rating.

1. Obtain Current Credit Reports
One of the first steps toward keeping on top of your financial picture is to obtain current copies of your credit reports from the three main reporting agencies, Transunion, Experian and Equifax. You are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each credit bureau.

2. Evaluate Credit Reports for Accuracy
A review of your report will point out any negative entries and possibly errors, which could remain as black marks on your credit reports for up to seven-and-a-half years. These listings may affect terms on existing credit or your ability to obtain favorable terms on new lines of credit. If you discover errors on your reports, dispute the errors in writing directly with the credit bureau.

3. Where is your hard-earned money spent?

If you know how much money is coming in versus going out each month, it becomes less likely that you’ll overspend to the point where payments are skipped or missed. Create the budget that you can stick to with a payment schedule that you can meet.  When you stay in charge of your finances, you decide when it’s time to make a new purchase, whether it be for a home, education, a new vehicle, or another personal expense.

4. Develop a Budget that’s right for you.
It’s all about organization and discipline. Gather all of your paperwork, create files for each account, calendar your payments and focus on meeting your financial goals.  These steps will help you meet your goals.

  • Identify your income sources
  • Compile a list of all expenditures: i.e. rent/mortgage, auto loan, insurance, food, credit cards, etc.
  • Categorize expenses: i.e. essential/necessities versus extraneous/unnecessary
  • Develop a plan to satisfy obligations within a specific time period
  • Obtain current credit reports from Transunion, Experian and Equifax
  • Establish both long and short-term financial goals.
  • Develop a plan to meet your goals.
  • Consider ways to earn or save more to help meet your goals

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims with consumer credit problems, such as credit reporting accuracy and privacy issues, abusive debt collection tactics, wrongful vehicle repossession, which stem from over-spending. If you have errors on your credit reports, have received contact from debt collectors, or your auto lender has repossessed your vehicle,  Contact Us for a no-cost evaluation to determine whether your consumer rights may have been violated.

Protecting Your Credit During a COVID-19 Holiday Season

The holiday shopping season is, under normal circumstances, a big stressor on the wallet. But this year proposes to be even more difficult than in years past, given that the global COVID-19 pandemic has led to massive job losses and financial hardships for people far and wide. Although the federal CARES Act offers some flexibility to consumers for payment of debt and subsequent credit reporting, it is important to consider the ramifications of over-spending on your credit rating, credit report and credit score.

Spending Habits Impact your Credit

The danger in over-spending comes when that monthly bill is due, and you are still unable to come up with the cash to pay it off.  Not paying credit card bills on time is one of those factors that will negatively affect your credit score and reports. By keeping spending habits under control, you can protect your credit and improve your ability to obtain new credit.

Buy now, Pay later?  You must be disciplined.

Using a credit card makes it easy to over-spend, especially during the holidays. The freedom of making purchases with a credit card today, could make it difficult to pay the bill the following month if purchases get out of hand.

But not paying obligations timely is one of those factors that will negatively affect someone’s credit score.  When you are unable to pay off your charge card in full at the end of the month, interest will continue to run on those purchases, plus all future purchases, until the entire credit line is paid off.  Your credit score and credit reports can take a hit when your payment history shows missed or late payments.

Monitor your Credit Score and Credit Report

Credit reports and credit scores help reflect an individual’s financial picture. They are tools used to determine someone’s creditworthiness to lenders, help landlords make a determination as to whether you qualify as a trustworthy tenant, and are used by potential employers who are screening job applicants.

 

Credit Reports
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is the federal law that regulates the credit reporting agencies. The bureaus must list consumer’s information accurately.  Consumers may obtain a free credit report every twelve months to check their reports for errors.  When information is listed inaccurately, the consumer must send a written dispute to the bureau and request a correction to the report.

Credit Scores
Credit scores indicate to a prospective lender how likely the consumer is to pay back the obligation on time and in full.  Scores are determined by a number of factors including:

    • The type of credit held by the consumer, such as credit card accounts, home mortgages, vehicle loans, and any other debt.
    • Credit history, as in the length of time someone has held an account.
    • The total amount of existing debt that someone has in his or her name.
    • Payment history, whether scheduled payments are made in full and on time.
    • Credit activity, or the frequency a person has applied for a credit account, as well as the number of credit inquiries.
    • The percentage of available credit used.

Seek Legal Advice

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents people with credit reporting accuracy and privacy issues, contact from abusive debt collectors and wrongful repossession. If you are someone who has suffered a hardship during the pandemic and feel as though your consumer rights have been violated by the credit bureaus, a lender or debt collector, Contact Us for a no-cost evaluation.

 

Solar Power – The Wave of the Future? Beware of scams.

Solar power can be an exciting and environmentally-friendly way to “go green” while potentially saving money on your electric bills.  Often consumers view the change to solar power for their home as an investment in the future with benefits for generations to come.  But before you or your family chooses solar, you should determine if solar is right for you and your home.

Continue reading Solar Power – The Wave of the Future? Beware of scams.

How long can a debt collector pursue an old debt?

Are you getting calls or collection letters about an old debt from years ago? Perhaps you forgot about it, or you simply did not have the money to pay for it at the time.  But now, debt collectors are calling and sending you letters, demanding that you pay up.  You may be asking yourself: What are my rights? Is it legal for the debt collector to demand payment of this old obligation?

Debt Collectors must follow the Law.

In Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and many other states, debt collectors can lawfully attempt to collect a debt no matter how old the debt is. However, federal law prohibits debt collectors from making any false, deceptive, or misleading statements in connection with the collection of any debt. This means that they cannot threaten to sue you when the debt is too old and beyond the legal time period allowable to file a lawsuit.

For example, in Pennsylvania the statute of limitations on a debt is four years from the date of default or the date of last payment. But sometimes debt collectors make misleading statements in their collection letters which suggest or imply that they have the right to sue or offer to “settle” the debt. This type of misleading statement violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. When a collector violates the law, the consumer may pursue a lawsuit against the collector, and the collector will be responsible for the consumer’s legal fees.

Attempts to Collect Old Debt
Even though a debt collector can still make attempts to collect on old debts for which you cannot be sued, you should think twice before volunteering a payment. First, the amount might not be accurate, meaning that you end up paying more than what was required. Additionally, if you make a payment on an old debt, you run the risk of reviving the statute of limitations on the debt, making it possible for the creditor to sue you for the debt when it previously had no lawful basis to do so.

You’ve been sued?  Do not ignore the lawsuit.


Sometimes, the first time someone learns about a debt is through a lawsuit filed against them.  If you have been sued on a debt, it is very important that you obtain legal counsel.  Do not ignore the summons. Instead, you should seek out legal counsel.

Are debts listed incorrectly on your credit reports?

Debts are often reported to the credit bureaus, and then listed on credit reports. These debts must be accurately listed in all respects.  You can dispute any errors that appear on your credit report with respect to a debt, such as an inflated balance or an incomplete payment history.

 

How to dispute errors with the credit bureaus
When you submit a dispute to the credit bureaus, we recommend that you send the dispute by U.S. Mail, Certified Return Receipt, so that you have a good paper trail of your dispute.  For this reason, we recommend that you do not call the credit bureaus to dispute.  Also, do not submit disputes online. In an online dispute, you run the risk of losing important consumer rights buried in the fine print of the terms and conditions.

Also, when disputing, make sure to explain in detail the error pertaining to the debt.  Gather all supporting documents that illustrate the error and provide it to the credit bureau along with your written dispute.  The credit bureau then has 30 days to either fix the inaccuracy or delete the portion of the credit report that you disputed.

What does Charged-Off Debt mean?
There are limits on how long a debt may appear on your credit report.  Debts that have been “charged off” must be removed from your credit report 7 years and 180 days after the date of the charge off.  If such an old debt appears on your credit report, you can dispute this with the credit bureaus to have it removed.

Get Help from a Qualified Consumer Protection Law Firm
Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm experienced in representing consumers who have suffered from abusive debt collection practices and credit reporting errors.  Contact Us for a free consultation and find out how we can help.

 

My Car Was Repossessed. What do I need to know?

Woman stressed over car reposession

A vehicle repossession can often come as a surprise.  In many states, including Pennsylvania, the lender is not required to tell you in advance that it will repossess your vehicle.  Often, your lender will attempt to repossess your vehicle in the middle of the night, when no one is around to stop it. The lender’s repo company will then take the vehicle either to a storage lot or an auction.  But how do you know where they took it, and how do you get it back?

Notice of Repossession is Required

After a vehicle repossession, the law requires the lender to send the borrower a specific notice, addressed to the last known address of the borrower.  This repossession notice—also known as the Notice of Intended Disposition or Notice of Right to Redeem—must be mailed immediately or shortly after the repossession. That notice is important because it is required to contain specific information informing you exactly where the car is, how much it will cost for you to get it back, and how much time you have to do so.  If you do not “redeem” (pay the lender to get the car back) the car will then be sold, and the lender will apply the sale proceeds to your loan balance, which usually reduces but does not eliminate your loan balance.

How Much Do I Have to Pay to Get the Car Back?

In many states, including Pennsylvania, the only way to get your car back after a repossession is to pay the entire loan balance, not just past due payments.  For example, let’s say you missed one $300 payment, prompting the lender to repossess your vehicle.  You owe $10,000 on the loan.  To get the car back before the lender sells it, you have to pay the entire $10,000, plus reasonable repossession expenses.

How Much Time Do I Have to Get the Car Back?

You can get the car back at any time before the lender sells the vehicle, even if the vehicle was already taken to an auction.  In Pennsylvania, the lender is required to hold the car for 15 days before it can be sold. But even after the 15-day period, you have the right to get the car back so long as you can pay the entire loan balance and reasonable repossession expenses.  Other states might permit the lender to hold the car for a shorter time period, such as ten days.  But no matter what, you have the right to redeem until the vehicle is sold.

What Happens if I Can’t Pay to Get My Car Back?

Many people do not have enough money to pay the entire loan balance, and the lender will sell the vehicle at a private or public auction.  You have the right to be present at and oversee any public auction.  The lender—in the repossession notice—should have told you the date, time, and location of any public auction if they intend to sell it by public auction.

If the car is sold, then typically the lender will send you another notice explaining the amount you owe after the sale.  This notice—sometimes called an “Explanation of Deficiency,” must itemize specific information about how much you owe, including the principal balance, the sale proceeds, the repossession expenses, and the auction expenses.

Seek Legal Help to Enforce Your Consumer Rights

If your lender did not give you the required post-repossession notices containing the information described above, you might have a consumer protection claim against your lender.  Your right to receive these post-repossession notices apply even if you were in default on the car loan.  If you feel that your lender failed to give you the information required in these post-repossession notices, contact Flitter Milz for a no cost legal evaluation to determine whether your consumer rights have been violated.

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Credit reporting and the CARES Act

Cares Act on Mask

These are challenging times that we live in.  Many people are forced to live on less income due to job loss, a death in the family, and involuntary pay cuts. Understandably, some people have fallen behind on their monthly payments, and are concerned about the negative impact on their credit reports.

Continue reading Credit reporting and the CARES Act