Legal Aid is devoted to assisting low-income individuals and families in addressing financial pitfalls and scams that may prevent them from climbing out of poverty and achieving economic stability.
The Consumer Unit works with community organizations to educate clients about important issues and to effect systemic changes on issues which may hurt the low-income community.
Consumer Matters We Handle
- Mortgage Foreclosure
- Bankruptcy/Debtor Relief
- Mortgage Predatory Lending
- Collection (Repossession/Garnishment)
- Collection Practices/Creditor Harassment
- Predatory Lending Practices
- Payday Loan
- Loans/Installment Purchases
- Public Utilities
- Unfair and Deceptive Sales Practices
Please see our Foreclosure page for information.
Please see our bankruptcy page for information.
If you are having problems making your car payments but your car has not yet been repossessed, you should contact the creditor to attempt to make arrangements for payment. Ohio law does not require the creditor to give you a notice before attempting to repossess your car. Repossession can occur at any time if you have fallen behind on your payments.
Once your car has been repossessed, the creditor must send you a notice of sale of your vehicle. This notice must:
• Tell you the date, time and location of the sale
• Notify you of the minimum sale price for the car
• Advise you that you will have to pay the difference between what you owe on the car and what the car sells for at auction.
You may attempt to contact the creditor to redeem the car before it is sold.
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is not currently representing people in this type of case.
You may be able to find an attorney who can help you by contacting:
Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
Lawyer Referral Service
If no lawsuit has been filed against you, call your credit card company to attempt to work out an arrangement for payment.
If a lawsuit has been filed against you for a credit card debt, contact Legal Aid immediately. Although we are unable to directly represent consumers in credit card collection cases at this time, we may be able to give you information and resources to help you prevent the lawsuit from progressing further.
Once a court decision is entered against you, the credit card company or collection agency may seek to garnish your wages or your bank account. To do this, a separate request must be filed with the court, and you will have the opportunity to request a hearing on the garnishment. No more than 25% of your paycheck (after taxes) may be garnished.
For help in determining how to handle your debt, contact:
Consumer Credit Counseling
12200 Fairhill Road, Suite C140-A
Cleveland, OH 44120
Visit the Ohio Legal Services website for information regarding debt collection.
Federal law allows specific categories of borrowers to get a discharge (cancellation) on their student loans. You must fit within one of the categories listed below:
- You did not have a high school diploma or GED at the time of enrollment. The student loan must be from 1986 or later.
- The school closed while you were enrolled or within 90 days of when you withdrew from the school. The student loan must be from 1986 or later.
- You did not complete the program, and the school did not properly return part of the loan to the lender. The student loan must be from 1986 or later.
- You had a status or condition at the time of enrollment that was a legal barrier to employment in the field. The student loan must be from 1986 or later.
- You were in a security guard program, but had a felony criminal record.
- You were in a nursing assistant or custodial maintenance program, but you had a physical or mental disability that prevented you from working in those fields.
- You did not have a high school diploma AND a high school diploma is necessary to take a license or certification exam that is required for the job.
- The borrower is now deceased or totally and permanently disabled.
- The borrower’s signature on the loan application was forged.
If you fit into one of these categories, you can begin the process of discharging your loan at the U.S. Department of Education website.
If you do not fall into one of these categories, you are not eligible for a discharge on your student loan. You must contact your lender to determine what options you have for payment. In circumstances of extreme financial hardship, a student loan may be discharged through bankruptcy.
When a person wants to file a civil case, the court requires that person to pay a filing fee to start the legal process. Also, a person who is a party to a case and wants to ask the court to do something by filing a “motion” or a “counterclaim” must also pay a fee. In order to fully participate in a legal proceeding, courts often require payment of many different costs and fees.
In many situations, you can file your documents in court without payment or with a lower payment if you also file a “poverty affidavit.” A poverty affidavit is a written, sworn statement that you are low income and do not have enough money to pay the fees. You will need to list your income, assets and dependents on the affidavit. Once you file a poverty affidavit in a case, the clerk will either not charge you any money or will only charge a small fraction of the normal fee to file most other documents in the same case.
You can complete a poverty affidavit at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, even if you are not represented by an attorney from Legal Aid. If you need a poverty affidavit, go to any Legal Aid office during normal business hours (note recent changes) and request the form from the receptionist. Be sure you also have the form notarized, which Legal Aid can do as well. You will need photo identification to have the poverty affidavit notarized.
After you complete a poverty affidavit, you must take it to the clerk of courts where your case is being heard. The poverty affidavit will only apply to that specific case. If you have another case at the same or a later time, you will need a second poverty affidavit. Also, in Ohio, the poverty affidavit allows you to file documents in a case without payment or with lesser payment but does not eliminate all fees. At the end of the case, you might still be responsible for some fees such as court costs.
This article was written by Legal Aid attorney Anne Sweeney and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 1. Click here to read the full issue.
Beware! A new telephone scam is sweeping throughout Northeast Ohio and is targeting members of the Hispanic community, though everyone should be on guard. Those affected by this scam report that they received a phone call and were told that a close family member of theirs had been kidnapped, and in some instances, the scammer was able to provide that family member’s name. The scammer then asks for a sum of money to be wired or the family member will be killed. Please be aware of this scam and immediately contact the police if you receive one of these calls.
This article appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 1. Click here to read the full issue.