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Can you go to "debtor's prison" for not paying your bills? Yes... well, sort of. The answer is somewhat murky in many states.
Here are some basic principals to guide you. Be aware, your local jurisdiction may have different laws and you should always consult an attorney and explain your exact factual situation.
The debts most people incur these days are credit cards and I'll use that as an example. When you "sign up" for a credit card, you are in fact entering into a contract with the card issuer. The basic terms of that agreement are that the credit card issuer agrees to extend you credit with which you make purchases of goods and services and in exchange, you agree to pay the issuer the money back and with interest. Sure, thee is lots of other fine print, but that is the basic agreement. Your contract with the credit card issuer also provides that if you fail to pay the money owed that you can be found in default and the credit card issuer can sue you for breaking your promise to pay back the money you agreed to pay.
If the credit issuer wants to sue you, it commences a lawsuit based on your breach of the contract. You have the right to defend against that lawsuit just like any other if you believe that you are not in breach of your agreement or that there are other reasons you should not be held responsible. If you fail to defend against the lawsuit or if the court does not accept your defense, a judgment can be entered against you. Nothing in that judgment will send you to jail. It is just a finding that you are liable for the debt.
That part is pretty straight forward. It is what typically comes next that gets folks in difficult situations. Once a creditor has a judgment, the law gives it several means to collect that judgment. The creditors can garnish a bank account, place a lien on your house, or ask the court to conduct an inquiry of your assets. Which assets? How much? Well, that depends on where you work, where you live, and what you own. These are questions the creditor has the right to insist you answer in writing. This form is usually called a Financial Disclosure Form or Citation to Discover Assets. The court can order you to appear to answer the questions that your creditor has about your financial assets. If you ignore the writing, or if your writing is confusing, or you don't back it up with pays-tubs, bank statements, tax documents, and so forth, you might get a letter in the mail informing you of a "supplemental examination" in front of a court. When the creditor uses the power of the court to insist you appear, you must show up - if you ignore it then you are ignoring a court order. The court doesn't care much about the debt but it cares a lot about you not showing up, even if you don't have money to pay the debt. That's what can land you in jail. You can be jailed for not obeying a court order to appear - in effect, you are being held in contempt of court.
Thus, the important thing to remember is to always read and understand any papers you receive from a court regarding a debt. Even if you have no money to pay the debt, you are obligated to appear and explain that fact to the court. You cannot be jailed for owing the money, but you can be in trouble if you fail to abide by the Court's orders.
It is important that when you face any financial distress to consult with a professional who can assist you in making the right decisions. Chicago attorney Rusty Paytonhttp://www.attorneypayton.com is an attorney with 24 years experience in bankruptcy, foreclosure and distressed real estate. His firm is located in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Call on him for a free consultation today.
Although for many decades travelers have been welcomed into the homes of relatives and friends and offered the couch as a cheap place to stay, it was not until this decade that this tried and true option was revolutionized by the internet. With the advent of Craigslist, Airbnb, and similar sites, almost anyone and everyone is offering up couches, spare bedrooms and even entire homes for rent as a hotel alternative. While the notion of renting a room in a friendly owner’s home may at first glance seem appealing economically, there are a few words of caution to be offered before you jump in head first.
Renting such accommodations pose risks to both pocketbook and safety. Here is why.
Hotels, motels, bed and breakfast inns are almost universally regulated by local governmental authorities. Local statutes provide for minimum safety and health requirements. Establishments must has work smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, operating fire extinguishers, emergency exit lighting, and posted fire exit plans. I operate a B&B here in Chicago and can personally attest to the fact that each year we get a thorough inspection by the fire department, by the department of buildings, and by the department of health. If we don’t take appropriate measures to protect the safety and health of our guests, we do not get to operate.
Now compare those protections to what you get when you rent a night on a stranger's couch. Has that stranger devoted the same concern and resources to your safety and health? Do you know what you would do in a fire? How would you get out? Is there anyone on-site that can help you in an emergency? Is the location, building and apartment you are renting safe? Remember, you are staying in an unfamiliar city in an unconventional alternative to a hotel, motel or B&B. Ask yourself if the potential savings is truly worth the additional risks posed.
You should also be extremely alert for the potential financial pitfalls of renting such accommodations. If you send money to a stranger you found on the internet, is there going to actually be a place for you to stay when you arrive? Sites such as Craigslist are fertile ground for scam artists of all types. They will often go to great lengths to make their scams appear legitimate with wonderful photos of fantastic abodes near all the sites and available just when you are looking to travel and at unbelievable prices. Beware, they are often adept at making you part with your money. Check out the business and ask for references. Legitimate places to stay in most cities like Chicago has a website, a Facebook page, are on Google+, LinkedIn and other social media sites. Determine how you will get a refund if all is not as promised. Because of recent scams and problems with unregulated vacation rentals, many jurisdictions have adopted new local laws that require registration and licensing. Check the locale you intend to visit and check with the local tourism bureau or visitors center for further information.
Traveling to a new city is always an adventure. Make it a pleasurable, memorable one by heeding these few words of caution.