COVID-19 RESOURCES

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Coronavirus continues to spread throughout the United States. Michigan, specifically metro Detroit, has been hit particularly hard.  We would like to provide you with a few resources or tips that may help you during these trying times.

MICHIGAN UNEMPLOYMENT

If you’ve lost your job you should attempt to contact the State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency and apply for unemployment benefits.  This is their website: State of Michigan UIA.  Under normal circumstances, you can receive up to $362.00 per week for a maximum of 26 weeks.  Due to the coronavirus you can now receive up to $962.00 per week for a maximum of 39 weeks.  With the number of layoffs the website may be particularly slow, but it’s important to apply right away.  You have 28 days from the date of your work stoppage to apply for benefits.  Here is a guide to claiming unemployment benefits in Michigan during Covid-19: UIA Guide.

MICHIGAN JOB OPPORTUNITIES

While a number of companies have been forced to layoff workers, there are over 40,000 jobs from more than 2,000 companies in Michigan looking to hire workers.  You can use the Covid-19 job portal to search for immediate openings.  The website is: COVID-19 Job Portal.

CARES ACT

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress on March 27, 2020. The CARES Act was intended to help business owners with their immediate needs.  Part of the CARES Act includes the paycheck protection program. The program will provide cash assistance through 100% federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during the coronavirus pandemic.  If you’re an employer, and you maintain your payroll, the loans would be forgiven.  This would help workers remain employed and businesses snap-back quicker.  The max loan is equal to 2.5 times your average monthly payroll costs.  You can also use the loan for interest on any mortgage obligation, rent, utilities and interest on any other debt obligations incurred before February 15, 2020. At this point, we have not found any banks accepting loan applications, but you should contact your bank to get more information.

Now, the loans are not automatically forgiven.  You must apply through your lender for forgiveness on your loan.  The application is likely to require documentation of the number of employees on payroll and pay rates, including IRS payroll tax filings and State income, payroll and unemployment insurance filings. Documentation verifying payments on covered mortgage obligations, lease obligations and utilities.

HOUSING & MORTGAGE RELIEF

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has temporarily suspended evictions in Michigan until April 17.  This means even if you fall behind on your rent payments your landlord is prohibited from commencing any eviction action.  Foreclosure sales and evictions of homeowners has also been suspended.  In addition, many mortgage companies are offering forbearance or suspension of their mortgage payments.  The following lenders have programs in place: Ally Bank, Bank of America, Quicken Loans, TD Bank, and Wells Fargo. You should contact your mortgage servicing company as soon as possible to see if you are eligible for any relief due to coronavirus.

It is important to remember that mortgage forbearance is not forgiveness.  You will still have to pay back what you owe, but it may provide you with some temporary relief during these tumultuous times.

OTHER DEBT PAYMENTS

Similar to mortgage companies, many automakers are offering deferred payments.  Ford, Nissan, GM and Toyota have all said they will provide payment relief options to customers affected by the virus, including extensions and deferred lease payments. 

Some lenders are also offering to waive fees to skip a payment on loans.  Lake Michigan Credit Union is waiving all fees to skip a payment on credit cards, auto, boat, RV, 4-wheeler, personal watercraft, snowmobile, or unsecured term loans.

Communicating with your lender during the coronavirus pandemic is best way to increase your chances of continuing a mutually beneficial relationship.

We will continue to update the resources so be sure to check back soon.

Please contact us with any questions.  While we may not know the answer, we will try our best to help point you in the right direction.

The Simple Process of Filing a Bankruptcy Case During the COVID-19 Pandemic

You can file an entire bankruptcy case without leaving your couch. (Photo Credit: Sammy Joonhee)

With all of the changes being made there’s something that has remained constant at Detroit Lawyers, PLLC: our value in establishing an honest, communicative, and open relationship with our clients. We want you to always feel assured that we’re here with you every step of the way. In doing so, we’ve taken the time to outline this entire process from start to finish.

Steps to filing for bankruptcy without leaving your home:

Free Consultation:  

Available through phone call, Zoom conference call, or facetime call

Upon setting up the consultation:

  • We’ll send you an intake form to fill out (this will allow us to determine all of the options available to you).
  • This is a fillable form that can be completed right on your phone, or home computer without the need to print.
  • Not tech-savvy? Not a problem. We will fill the form out with you over the phone and proceed with the consultation.

Retaining our firm:

Once you’ve hired us to represent you, a retainer agreement will be executed.

  • Retainer agreement: Attorney-client agreement outlining the terms and services of our firm will be sent electronically and can be signed electronically.
    • Payment to retain and secure our services: All payments can be made over the phone with a card, or directly on our website at www.detroitlawyers.com/pay
    • Required Documents: A list of required documents specified to your case will be sent electronically along with retainer agreement (see number 3 for elaboration).  

Required Documents:

You will receive list of documents that are necessary to file

How to get documents to us:

  1. Email them (we don’t mind you bombarding our inboxes)
  2. Provide us with your login information and we’ll pull them for you
    • We can also assist with setting up logins to gain online access
  3. Fax them
  4. Take a picture(s) and text them
  5. All of the above

Filing your case:

Due to the court temporarily suspending the requirement to obtain a person’s original signature we can now set your filing appointment to happen via phone.

  • We will set up a time to go over your bankruptcy petition and schedules with you.
  • We will send you a copy of your completed petition for your review.
  • We will get your written permission to affix your signature.
  • We will electronically file your case through the court.

Court Procedure:

New court procedures have been established so that you do not need to physically appear in court for your 341 Meeting of Creditors.

The way your court meeting will be held is dependent on your assigned trustee.

Your hearing will be held a couple of different ways:

  • Over the phone:  We will provide you with a phone number and access code to call on the day of your originally scheduled court meeting. Your court meeting will take place over the phone with us, and your assigned trustee.
  • Interrogatory form: This contains a series of questions you will need to answer. The questions mainly pertain to the information already provided on your bankruptcy petition.

We have personally made this into a fillable form so that you can complete it on your phone, or home computer without needing to print.

Getting your Discharge:

Your case is set to be Discharged 60 days from the date of your court meeting.

How to get your Bankruptcy Discharge:

  • Check your mail!

Day-to-day activities may be limited, but our services and willingness to aid you through these financial difficulties are not. Give us a call or go on our website at any time to set up a free consultation.

Coronavirus Update

Our Commitment to You

At Detroit Lawyers PLLC, we remain focused on continuing to provide outstanding customer service while keeping our clients safe. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak we have implemented changes to our office policies.

  • We are open for business! You can file bankruptcy during the government’s stay in place order. You can stop creditor harassment, wage garnishments and foreclosures. In fact, you can file a bankruptcy case and receive a discharge, without leaving the comfort of your home.

  • In office meetings will now be conducted by phone or video conferencing. We will work by your side from initial consultation to the filing of the case and you can do it all from the safety of your own home.

  • Detroit Lawyers PLLC will continue to comply with the Eastern District of Michigan’s policies and that of its respective Trustees. It remains our goal to continue to push our client’s cases forward and will be working hard to facilitate resolutions and discharges. If at any time a client is uncomfortable proceeding with a telephonic conference requiring attendance at our office, we will seek them an adjournment with no questions asked.

  • In order to keep our clients and staff safe, we ask that you not enter into our building if you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with coronavirus. This includes fever, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat. In addition, please stay home if you have travelled outside of the state or country in the last 14 days.

We understand that as a result of the pandemic, you may have had to make some difficult financial choices. Many are watching their retirement plans dissipate, losing hours at work or being forced to stay home to care for their children. As a full financial services firm, we welcome your questions on how to navigate the next few months. For many folks, the loss of a tax refund or garnishment can be particularly devastating during the current climate. We will continue to offer our clients a quick turnaround from initial consultation to filing to get those garnishments stopped and money back into their bank account as quickly as possible.

If you have any questions, please contact our office at (248) 237-7979 or set up a free consultation online.

Solutions for Unpaid Divorce Attorney Bills

Our office deals with all types of financial obligations. Our attorneys notice patterns in the types of debts we see.  Attorney fees for a divorce is a common debt that drives people into bankruptcy.  

Why are divorce fees so high?

The contentious nature of divorce litigation lends itself to a high number of billable hours and unpaid fees. Because many divorce attorneys charge a nominal deposit, the bill continues to grow and eventually multiply with unpaid interest. Divorce attorneys will stop representing the client once the bill gets out of control. As a result, individuals will hire multiple attorneys on a single divorce. Because each attorney must familiarize themselves with the case, the fees are multiplied.

Many individuals aren’t informed by their divorce lawyers on how to control their fees. Considerate attorneys will send a letter outlining ways to reduce fees such as limiting phone calls and working with legal assistants.

There also is an emotional element in divorce or custody proceedings that make it unlike any other field of law. Divorce attorneys often act as armchair psychologists. Discussing their client’s frustrations and anxiety instead of the legal work at hand. Anger towards their spouse and the need to retain custody of their child at all costs further muddy the waters. In an emotional state, divorce clients will incur exorbitant legal fees ignoring their potential financial implications.

Laura Dern’s character in Marriage Story was a high priced divorce attorney. Hopefully her client wasn’t saddled with too much debt after the divorce.

Inability to Pay

The dissolution of a marriage inevitably results in debt issues on the horizon. The divorce judgment itself outlines an allocation of debt and potential child or spousal support that wasn’t being paid prior to the divorce. People are unable to meet their typical household expenses when their income is cut in half. A monstrous divorce bill on top of that exacerbates these debt problems.

Collection Efforts

Divorce attorneys are uniquely situated to collect on their divorce bill unlike other forms of debt. Divorce attorneys are familiar with the courts and collection attorneys in the field. Therefore, they can quickly get a judgment and collect on their client via garnishment or aggressive collection tactics.

Solutions to Divorce Bill

Many people think that because a debt is owed to an attorney that they cannot get rid of it. They are ashamed that they generated such a large bill. Many have a strong relationship with their attorney so they will sacrifice their financial well being for years to pay a bill that will never go away. The good news is that a divorce bill can be easily discharged in a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. There is no exception to discharge for divorce bills or fees. A divorce bill should be treated just like any other consumer debt such as a credit card or medical bill. An experienced bankruptcy can immediately stop any collections efforts for the divorce bill using the bankruptcy stay.  As an alternative, a debt settlement can result in cutting the bill in half with the right attorney at your side. We encourage our prospective clients to not let one difficult and emotional period in their lives to dictate their entire future. Call our office today to set up a free consultation and we will put a plan together for you.

Detroit Residents Are Overtaxed


A Detroit News investigation found that Detroit homeowners could have been taxed by more than $600 million. As a debt relief company, we meet with many Detroit residents struggling with large property tax debt. A majority of these people are facing tax foreclosure or other financial hardships as a result of their high tax bills.

After the Great Recession, housing values plummeted across the State. However, the tax bills in the City did not follow suit quickly enough. As a result, the residents were overtaxed significantly in the immediate years following the recession that they are still feeling the repercussions for into the 2020s.

The Detroit News provided a handy tool to determine if you were overtaxed. You simply plug in your property address and it will indicate the amount you should actually be paying.

Solutions

If you were overtaxed or are struggling with tax debt, there are a few solutions you can try to lessen the burden.

Appeal your tax Bill

  Once estimating the market value of your property, if it is at odds with the State Equalized Value on your tax bill, then you can appeal your tax bill at your City’s Assessor’s office at any time. Detroit has a specific website to guide you through the process.

Apply for a Poverty Tax Exemption

If you are below the poverty line for your household size, you may be able to eliminate the property tax owed by claiming an exemption. This does not contain fees assessed for solid waste and delinquent water bills. For example if you are a household of three and earn less than $23,036.00, you can eliminate your obligation.

Enter a Payment Plan with Wayne County

Recent years have provided more generous payment plans with the Wayne County Treasurer. The Treasurer has recently flooded television stations with commercials outlining the process. The Wayne County website provides outlines of the payment plans.

File a Chapter 13 Bankuptcy Case

In certain cases, its too late to enter into a payment agreement with the Treasurer or the terms are impossible to meet. A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case will allow you to pay down the past due tax obligations over a three to five year repayment plan. If there is no equity in the property, you can pay even less than the taxes owed through the plan.

Our firm has a vast amount of experience working with property tax issues in Wayne County on both sides of the aisle. Please contact our office for a free consultation to find the best plan for you.

Detroit Lawyers PLLC featured in Jalopnik

The automotive blog, Jalopnik,  conducted a thorough investigation of Credit Acceptance and its practices. Jalopnik examined over twenty years of court records in the 36th District in Detroit and found that one out of every nine people facing a debt collection case was being sued by Credit Acceptance.

Attorney Drew Millitello was interviewed for the story and provided insight on how Credit Acceptance’s collection practice related to bankruptcy.

Check out the article here. The firm is proud to be a part of such an illuminating investigation into a major problem

The article was later republished in the Metro Times. 

If you have a problem with Credit Acceptance or an sub-prime auto lender, give our office a call for a free consultation at (248) 237-7979.

Attorney Drew Millitello featured in the November 7, 2018 issue of Metro Times

Brite Financial

Are you being garnished by Brite Financial?

Has Brite Financial repossessed your vehicle and attempted to sue you for the deficiency?

Do you have a high interest car loan from Brite Financial and your vehicle broke down?

WHO IS Brite Financial?

Brite Financial Corporation is an automobile financing company that works with car dealers to provide financing to high credit risk individuals at a high interest rate. At times, the interest rate provided will be just below the statutory limit at 24.99%. We have found from our experience that Brite Financial is aggressive at repossessing automobiles when an individual becomes past due. After repossession, Brite will sell the vehicle and ultimately sue the individual for the difference between the sale price of the vehicle and the amount the individual owed. This is called the deficiency balance. The deficiency balance can range from a small amount to as much as $15,000.00. Once a Complaint is filed seeking judgment on the deficiency balance, it is very difficult to succeed in court as the contract terms have already been agreed upon. In a vast majority of cases, Brite will be successful in obtaining a judgment. After Brite obtains a judgment, they can begin garnishment proceedings immediately.

Our office has worked with hundreds of individuals who have experienced financial problems as a result of their agreements with Brite.  We have found that the car dealerships that work with Brite have sold a number of vehicles that have problems resulting in the vehicle breaking down shortly after purchase.

HOW OUR OFFICE CAN HELP WITH PROBLEMS WITH Brite Financial?

Detroit Lawyers can stop a garnishment by Brite Financial immediately and discharge any obligation that was previously owed to them.  By filing a bankruptcy case, we will contact it’s attorneys to get the garnishment stopped. If it has taken over $600 within the last 90 days prior to the filing of the bankruptcy case, we will get that money back for you as well.

If your monthly payment owed to Brite Financial is too high as a result of the interest rate, we can reduce the interest rate in a Chapter 13 plan. If your vehicle is over three years old, we can reduce the amount owed on the vehicle to the fair market value of the vehicle.

BITE BACK AGAINST Brite

Don’t accept Brite Financial taking 25% of your paycheck. Do not continue to pay a high interest rate on an old vehicle that is breaking down. Contact our office today at 248 237 7979.

Changes Coming in Michigan Drivers Responsibility Fees?

Michigan Driver Responsibility Fees put the working poor in tough position that they can’t get out of. A cycle of license suspensions and fees follows resulting in a debt exceeding the worst credit card balances. These fees result in drivers saddled with debt for tickets and fees. This is compounded by the lack of a driver’s license which limits job prospects. Its no secret that drivers responsibility fees drive individuals into bankruptcy, where they can discharge fees and get their license back immediately. We have worked with families that have for the sole purpose of getting their license back. However, it appears that there are changes on the horizon in the state of Michigan.

How Did We Get Here?

In 2003, Driver Responsibility Fees were imposed to make up for a budget shortfall. The state legislature could not agree to raise taxes or limit spending, so the decision was made to take the funds from drivers. Public Act 165 of 2003 took effect October 1, 2003 and assessed a monetary penalty owed to the state to drivers convicted of a certain offense.  Offenses such as no proof of insurance or driving with expired license received a fee of $150.00. While the most common offense, driving while license suspended, received a fee of $500.00.  Driver’s Responsibility Fees have been a lucrative source of revenue for the state. Crain’s Detroit Business reports that they generated more than $100 million for Michigan’s budget.

 

Effect on the Community

Because of the fees, as many as 100,00 Michigan residents have had their driver’s license revoked. To get their license back, the drivers must pay all tickets, drivers responsibility fees and a reinstatement fee of $150.00.

Forgiveness Coming?

The Michigan Legislature has recently voted to phase out drivers responsibility fees, which will completely be phased out on October 1, 2019. The House bill seeks to end collection of all fees even earlier by moving up the timeline to September 30, 2018.  This contrasts with the Senate bill which will continue collection activities for six years after assessment. Both bills would need to be approved by the acting governor to become law. Although the house bill is much more advantageous for drivers, drivers responsibility fees will be a thing of the past in the next decade.

This is great news for drivers, but most people can’t wait between one and six years to get their license back. If you have insurmountable drivers responsibility fees, our firm can get your license back immediately. Call 248-237-7979 for a free consultation.

Who is Midland Funding?

Have you received a collection letter from Midland Funding? Is Midland Funding appearing on your credit report?  Is Midland Funding garnishing you or suing you in court?

We have countless potential clients confused when Midland Funding contacts them attempting to collect a debt. These people have never entered into an agreement with Midland Funding so they are in shock when they find out that they owe them a large amount of money.

Midland Funding is a debt buyer.  A debt buyer will purchase debt from another credit card account and then begin to collect on it. Midland Funding purchases debt when the creditor no longer wishes to collect on the debt. This is usually when the account has gone 180 days without a payment or less than the minimum payment has been paid for 180 days  This is also known as a charge off.

Who does Midland Funding work with?

In most cases, credit card accounts work with Midland Funding. Synchrony Bank, who partners with large retailers such as Walmart, JC Penny and Amazon, is one of the largest credit card accounts that sells their debt to Midland Funding. In addition, Comenity Bank, Chase Bank, Citibank, Credit One Bank and Webbank also sell their debt to Midland Funding.

Midland Funding Collection Activities

Even though Midland Funding likely purchased the debt for pennies on the dollar, they will not hesitate to collect on the account for the full amount owed, including interest and fees, using all of the tools at their disposal. Midland Funding will collect via debt collection letters, phone calls and even lawsuits.

Midland Funding has relationships with law firms in the Metro Detroit area who are very skilled and aggressive in pursuing judgments and garnishments. Weltman Weinberg & Reis and Mary Jane Elliott, PC are the two largest firms in our jurisdiction who handle files for Midland Funding. These law firms will file complaints in district court to get a judgment and then immediately begin to garnish wages.  These garnishments take 25% of your paycheck and will continue until the debt is paid off in full.

Midland Funding’s History of Problems

Midland Funding has been sued in 2015 and a consent order provided that Midland Funding engaged in inappropriate collection activities and violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act such as:

-false or unsubstantiated representations about owing a debt

-misrepresenting that they have proof that the debt is owed

-filing misleading affidavits

-collecting on time-barred debt

-excessive calls at inconvenient times

Fight Back Against Midland Funding

If you are being harassed by companies, such as Midland Funding, contact our office and we can help but a stop to it. Midland Funding must comply with the provisions of the FDCPA and we will make sure they are held to it. If you are being garnished, sued or have received any correspondence from Midland Funding, we can put a stop to it immediately. We may even be able to get some money back for you. Fill out our form to see if you qualify or call our office now at (248) 237-7979 to set up a free consultation.

DTE Energy and Bankruptcy

DTE_Energy_logoClients come in to our office due to a variety of financial issues, it could be credit cards, medical bills, collection accounts, mortgage issues or lawsuits.  The majority of our clients would be more than happy to pay their bills, but their current financial position prohibits them from doing so.  In fact, sometimes their financial position even prevents them from paying for necessary everyday living expenses such as rent, gas, electricity and water.

DTE Energy, a major provider of electric and natural gas for metro-Detroit residents, offers a variety of payment programs for those struggling to make their monthly payments.    One of the payment options, BudgetWise Billing, offers clients the ability to make the same payment each month.  The intent is to help people deal with the seasonal ups and downs of your bill.  This means, on any given month, you may have a credit or a balance with DTE even if you are current on your payment plan.

Most of our clients fit into one of the following three categories.

  1. First is the person who is current on their payment plan, but has a balance with DTE.
  2. Second is the person who is months behind on their DTE bills and facing shutoff.
  3. Third is the person who has an old DTE bill that has a balance.

Regardless of your specific situation, this blog is intended to examine how DTE Energy operates if you file for bankruptcy and have a balance on your DTE account.

How is a DTE Bill Handled in Bankruptcy?

Once a bankruptcy is filed, the automatic stay goes into place.  The automatic stay prevents DTE from collecting on any balance owed to them.  More importantly, especially in the winter months, it prevents DTE from shutting off your service.

In order to prevent violations of the automatic stay, which can have serious consequences, DTE uses a database to see if any of their clients who have an outstanding balance have filed for bankruptcy.  If they find a person who has a balance, their current account will be closed and DTE will open a new account.  Next, DTE will then send a notice requesting a client put down a deposit on the new account.  This may seem like a violation of the automatic stay.  However the bankruptcy code, specifically 11. U.S.C. §366, permits DTE to request adequate assurance payments in exchange for continued service.  DTE claims the deposit amount is based on the last 2 months average usage.  However, in our experience we have found that is not always the case and DTE may ask for more.

Receiving a bill for a security deposit payment frequently comes as a shock to clients who are current on their BudgetWise plan.  The client typically does not list DTE because they do not believe a debt is owed, but due to the month their account is currently carrying a balance.

Understandably, this can be frustrating for our bankruptcy clients, but there are options.  First, you can pay the deposit amount and the utility service will be kept on.  Second, you can file a motion with the court to determine what the security deposit for DTE should be.  If DTE responds to the motion, the judge will make a determination of what the security deposit is.

Thankfully, it is not all bad news.  The deposit will be returned if you make all of your payments on time for 12 consecutive months.