FAQ:; What is a "Debt Relief Agency"

Susanne M. Robicsek
Charlotte NC Bankruptcy Attorney
(704) 377-0776

NC Bankruptcy Lawyer in Charlotte North Carolina for Chapter 7 / Chapter 13

What Is A Debt Relief Agency?

Under the Bankruptcy Act of 2005, anyone who gives bankruptcy advice is now called a "Debt Relief Agency", and must include specific language stating that they are a debt relief agency and they assist people with filing bankruptcy cases. Even people who don't actually file bankruptcy cases for people may be included in the definition of a Debt Relief Agency. This language is required to be included in any advertisements or on anything that might be a way for new clients to find them. Additionally, certain Notices and Disclosures are required to be given to all potential assisted persons (debtors) within a few days of the first advice.

There is no test you have to take to become a Debt Relief Agency and the definition isn't clear. You just are one if you give any advise about bankruptcy. One thing that I have noticed is that if you speak to someone about bankruptcy and you don't see the required language, you can be sure that the person is probably not even aware of the very basics of the bankruptcy laws. (Now if you do see it, it doesn't mean they are knowledgeable - just that they know they have to use the language.)

There is some question about whether a lawyer is a Debt Relief Agent at all, or whether or not all the requirements for Debt Relief Agents can be held against lawyers.

If lawyers are Debt Relief Agents, then all bankruptcy lawyers are Debt Relief Agents. However, not all Debt Relief Agents are lawyers so this designation can be misleading. Someone might be a Debt Relief Agency under the law, but they might not have any qualifications to provide advise about bankruptcy nor can they help someone file for bankruptcy.

Be sure you know who you are speaking to, what their qualifications are, and that you know they are skilled in their field. There is no test or course you have to pass to be a "Federal Debt Relief Agent." Remember, only a lawyer can give legal advise.

To require a lawyer to call themselves a Debt Relief Agent is, in my opinion, a very silly rule that was put into the new law. As a bankruptcy attorney with over 20 years experience concentrating in bankruptcy law, I resent the government lumping me into a category that implies that a non-qualified/non-lawyer does the same thing that I do.

The only reasons I can think of for Congress requiring this language is that they thought that people were being tricked into bankruptcy and wanted all advertisements to be clear on the nature of services. Perhaps it was an issue but it was probably wasn't involving a lawyer. Or maybe they just wanted to make it harder for people to find lawyers hoping it would cut down on the number of bankruptcy cases filed. I don't really know, but it seems stupid to me.

I have never encountered anyone who was tricked into bankruptcy, at least not by an ethical lawyer. I, and the lawyers I know, usually prominently display "Bankruptcy" as a service we provide and we are clear about what we are doing for the client.

I have known people who were tricked into bankruptcy, most often by non-lawyers in scams involving mortgages. But the people who tricked debtors into bankruptcy aren't following the laws to begin with and they probably aren't using the required Debt Relief Agency language either. I have seen instances where cases were filed by companies or individuals who prepared bankruptcy documents, and who said they were helping people try to stop foreclosures or settling their debts and the people didn't really understand that they were filing bankruptcy. I have seen cases where the preparers even forged signatures so the people didn't even know they had filed bankruptcy (The people that I met with needed to hire me to help fix the mess the non-lawyers created, and for many there were problems that I just couldn't fix anymore.)

The main thing to be sure of is to pick your representation carefully. You want someone qualified to help you and who will take the time to explain the law to you and be sure your questions are answered. Don't rely on the fact that they call themselves a Debt Relief Agency because it doesn't mean very much.

It generally accepted under the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, anyone who gives bankruptcy advice of any kind must include the language that the are a Debt Relief Agent in all advertisements, and this can include petition preparers, some Credit Counselors (Debt Management Programs), or even non-bankruptcy lawyers who mention bankruptcy, ministers and financial counselors! People with no experience must include the language too, so don't rely on the title to indicate that they know what they are doing. My guess is that the majority of people complying with this law are the bankruptcy lawyers who are following all the rules anyway, and that many of the people who should comply and give the Debt Relief Agency notifications are not doing so.

A few lawsuits have been filed by lawyers challenging certain of the Debt Relief Agency requirements, but until the law is settled many bankruptcy lawyers are complying with the Debt Relief Agency provisions. I may be required to call myself a Debt Relief Agency, but what I really am is a lawyer who has concentrated in bankruptcy law since 1988! And not every Debt Relief Agency can say that.

Why Are Bankruptcies On The Rise?

The Law Office of Susanne M. Robicsek
1701 Scott Avenue Charlotte North Carolina 28203
phone:704 / 377-0776
fax: 704 / 377-0775

DISCLAIMER: This message is intended as a general discussion of legal issues and not as a statement of fact, legal advice or a legal opinion; Personal opinions may also be expressed. No attorney-client relationship is created by this message; Do not act or rely upon law-related information in this communication without seeking the advice of an attorney licensed to practice in the relevant area.
The Law Office of Susanne M. Robicsek is
a Federally Designated Debt Relief Agency
under the Bankruptcy Code.
I file bankruptcy cases for people in financial need,
and have been doing so since 1989.

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Charlotte NC Bankruptcy Lawyer Concentrating In Consumer Bankruptcy Since 1988
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