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Loan shark pushed woman to homelessness, makes recompense when confronted with attorney

All of Hannah Richard’s money was going toward what seemed like never-ending payments on a $2,000 auto title loan she had taken out to fix her car after an accident. An auto title loan is a loan for a small amount of money and for a short time. To get an auto title loan, you give the lender the title to your vehicle – for example, your car, truck or motorcycle. You also pay the lender a fee to borrow the money. You usually have to repay the loan in 30 days. These types of loans can easily trap someone like Ms. Richards in a downward spiral of debt.

As the debt snowballed, Ms. Richards (name changed to protect client privacy) was no longer able to pay her rent. The 61-year-old, had to leave her long administrative career because of health issues, and was reduced to couch surfing and living out of her car. Yet the loan company insisted she still owed them nearly $1,600, even after she paid them more than double the original loan amount.

Ms. Richards turned to Legal Aid, where attorney Katherine Hollingsworth, paralegal Kristen Nawrocki and social worker Dani Lachina worked on her case. Despite being homeless, Ms. Richards had kept all her financial documentation. Armed with this evidence, Ms. Hollingsworth contacted the lender’s attorney, who was quick to offer to drop the lien, return the title, and give Ms. Richards $1,000.

“When she went to the lender herself they were unsympathetic,” said Ms. Hollingsworth. “But the company seems to have made a business decision to offer a quick settlement if they are contacted by a lawyer.”

In addition to saving Ms. Richard’s car from wrongful repossession and recovering some of the thousands she had paid in fees and interest over the course of the loan, Legal Aid helped connect her to affordable housing options. Now that her monthly income isn’t disappearing into an endless loan payment, Ms. Richards is in a better position to move into stable housing.

“I’m very grateful for the help,” Ms. Richards says of her Legal Aid experience. “My attorney and paralegal were extremely thorough, professional and caring. They made the nightmare end.”

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