There were several parts to the stipulation that we signed so that we could make payments on our debt. One of them was that we were to use payment coupons, which we would need to ask for every six months. Another part dealt with how much we had to pay, and when it had to be at the law office that was handling the business for the out-of-state collection agency. Someone – possibly our lawyer – had added in that if we should fall into default, the agency would give us 30 days grace to make it up (with added interest, of course). The one thing I should have mounted in a frame on the wall was that if I defaulted, it meant an automatic judgment on my credit report. If you follow the link, you will note that a judgment is given when a person loses to a creditor in a lawsuit. Here you can read in last week’s post that my lawyer had gone to court, but the creditor’s lawyers never showed up. There never was a lawsuit.
|Pawpaw, Meemaw, and Sam|
From September 2006 through November 2009 we paid, and paid on time. Let me put a parenthesis here to add in a bit of family history. From 2006 through 2009, all three of our children got married, and two of them had children. In July of 2009, right before our daughter’s wedding, my father-in-law passed away. My beloved Bubba dog died in December as did a much-loved cousin. Then, on March 24, 2010, my mom went Home.
“Honey, they didn’t cash our check.”
We missed our December payment date. The law office called us, and my husband authorized an electronic funds transfer, and asked for more payment coupons. We asked for the coupons twice more, but never received any from that point on. We missed the January payment as well, and authorized another electronic payment for January and February. At that point, I put a payment reminder in my Outlook, and kept track of the dates. But my husband noticed that the collection agency was not cashing all of our payments. He asked me what I thought about it (translated meaning what he should do about it) but my brain barely had enough room to take in the fact that my mother was dying. If I thought about it, I figured that an accountant could probably figure out something. I didn’t understand that an accountant thinks that if you send someone a payment, they will cash the check. Who knew?
Being unsure of what was going on with the payments, Harry began calling the law office in March, and asking how much we still owed. If either of us had been able to think at that point, our 20/20 hindsight shows we should have been digging through bank statements and having conversations with the “gentlemen” in the law office.
In May, the law office dude told Harry that one more payment of $150.00 would do it. He gleefully wrote the check in June, then called to see if they had it. They said they had it, confirmed it was the last payment, and they would send a statement “as soon as the check clears.” We moved on with our lives, and yes, it was stupid, but we did not follow up on that phone call. We talked about it, but we were woefully ignorant in the ways of collection agencies, and unfortunately assumed that no news was good news. We never got the statement.
One fine spring day this year, I went to the mailbox, and found a letter addressed to me from the law firm who was handling the business for the out-of-state collection agency that held our stipulation. It contained the news that I had defaulted on our payments as of May, 2010, and that they had petitioned the court to put a judgment on my credit report. A week later, I got the court document that the judge had approved the judgment, and that we now had to make up the payments we missed and pay all of the original interest that they had waived in the stipulation. It all came to about $9000.00.
To be continued