Debt: Your Legal Rights and Obligations

Debt: Your Legal Rights and Obligations

Learn what you can do to protect certain property from creditors and debt collectors and how to meet your legal obligations to them.


How Can I Protect My Property from Creditors?

Owing money does not mean that debt collectors can take your property. They may say if you don't pay them, they will take steps to garnish wages or take property. However, neither of those things can happen unless the creditor sues you in court, and wins. If that happens, the creditor has a "judgment" against you. 

Read More

By: Iowa Legal Aid


What Can I Do When I Owe Taxes, Court Debt or Other Debts to the State of Iowa?

You cannot register your car. Your operator, hunting, or professional license has been suspended. The state is garnishing your wages or bank accounts. The state is offsetting benefit payments and tax refunds.These are all signs that you may owe money to the state of Iowa. If you owe the state of Iowa for certain kinds of debts, your license may also be suspended.

 There are many kinds of debts that you can owe the state. These include:

  • Unpaid taxes
  • Unpaid court costs or fines from civil, juvenile or criminal cases 
  • Overpayments of state benefits like unemployment, FIP, etc.

Read More

By: Iowa Legal Aid


Creditor Threats

Health problems, job loss, the death of a spouse and other events can make it hard to pay your bills. Creditors and debt collectors may contact you and threaten to take your income and property. You should know that federal and Iowa laws protect certain property from being taken by most of your creditors.

Property Generally. Most creditors cannot generally take your property without first filing a lawsuit and getting a judgment against you. (Note that creditors who make loans secured by property like your car or motor home can sometimes take back the secured property without first suing or getting a judgment.) If a creditor sues you and gets a judgment, Iowa and federal laws allow you to keep certain kinds of "exempt" property. 

Read More

By: Legal Hotline for Older Iowans


Dealing With Medical Debt

Illness and injury can cause stress in our lives. When illness and injury lead to medical bills not covered by health insurance or other assistance, the stress can greatly increase. This stress does not help anyone get better or stay healthy. Medical debt can also destroy financial security and cause other family problems. It is important to plan for medical expenses. Equally important is knowing how to deal with medical bills when you have no money to pay them.

Medical debt is very different from other debt. The choice is whether to protect your very life with health treatment rather than have a new car, new clothes, or a new home. With severe health problems, we often do not have any options other than seeking treatment. Protecting yourself in advance from medical debt should be your first priority.

Read More

By: Legal Hotline for Older Iowans


Debtor’s Exams

If you owe money under a court judgment, you may be ordered to go to the court for a debtor's exam. Do not ignore this court order. The person or company trying to collect on the judgment is called the judgment creditor.

What is a debtor's exam?
A debtor's exam is a way for the judgment creditor to find out what property or assets you have that can be used to pay on your judgment. Before asking the court for a debtor's exam, the creditor must have tried without success to collect on the judgment debt. At a debtor's exam both the debtor and the creditor (or their attorney) will have to appear in court. The creditor or their attorney may question you under oath about your property and assets. The judgment creditor may only seek payment for what you owe under the judgment.

Read More

By: Iowa Legal Aid


Payday Loans

What are Payday Loans?
A payday loan business is a “Delayed Deposit Services Business.”
Also known as “Cash Advance Loans” or “Check Advance Loans.”
A payday loan business will, for a fee:

  • Accept a post-dated check, or
  • Accept a check with the current day’s date and holds the check usually until the next payday.

Since these are high risk loans, the lender will only give you cash for a large fee with the promise from the customer to pay the amount of the loan, fees, and interest usually in two weeks or next payday.

If you do not pay back the loan on time, the lender will try to collect not only the original amount, but also 325% interest and penalties.

Payday loan businesses must get a license every year from the Iowa Division of Banking.

Read More

By: Iowa Legal Aid


The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a federal statute passed by Congress to allow military members to suspend or postpone some civil obligations so that the military member can devote his or her full attention to military duties. The original Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) was passed during World War I. The statute was reenacted during World War II, and was later modified during Operation Desert Storm.

Read More

By: Iowa Legal Aid


Ask an Attorney – What Should I Do if I’m Behind on Credit Card or Mortgage Payments?

If you are having trouble making your credit card or mortgage payments, you may want to speak with an attorney in order to find out the options that could be available to you. Each situation is unique. What this video for more information about next steps that you may want to consider.