Do you have a credit or debt question for the experts?

It’s that time of year. The holidays are over and the bills are starting to arrive.

Did you overspend for Christmas? Have you made a new year’s resolution to get your financial house in order and want some help?

If you have a credit or debt question — including one that affects your mortgage or a possible foreclosure — please ask it below.

Experts from CredAbility, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that helps consumers deal with debt, will answer many of them starting next week. Thanks.

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

23 comments Add your comment

Sid

January 18th, 2011
8:04 am

Thank you in advance for your help. Over the past few years the value of my home has dropped from $112,000 to $70,000 or less.Some of the foreclosures in the neighborhood went for $25,000 to $40,000. My credit score when I purchased my home six years ago was 742, now it is less than 500 because my bank dropped my credit limit on the card from $18,000 to $5,000. Why because I stopped using the cards. I have considered bankrupcy or debt consolidation to eliminate the debt. The value of the home will possibly never be recovered in equity. I want to know if debt consolidation or bankruptcy should be considered.. Thank you for your assistance.

Lisa

January 18th, 2011
8:40 am

I recently was discharged from a chapter 7 bankruptcy, and wanted to know whats the best way to start my credit over? I get numerous offers for cars but I want to go slow and not get into to much debt all at once.

Collins

January 18th, 2011
8:41 am

I would like to close some of my credit cards with high credit limits (but, with zero balances), since I don’t use them much. How do I do that without hurting my credit rating?

John

January 18th, 2011
8:46 am

Approximately 13 years ago, I had major surgery at a time when my business partner had let our health insurance lapse. I ended up owing more than $80,000 in medical bills out of pocket. I have paid every provider in full exept for the hospital and have reduced that debt from almost $60,000 to less than $35,000. I have never been sued but gbegan sending them money years ago and finally agreed (but not in writing) three years ago to a payment of almost $300 per month that was supposed to be permanent. Recently I was called again and asked to up that payment significantly. With wage freezes and furloughs, i actually make less than I did three years ago. Do I even have a legal obligation to pay this money anymore? What are my options?

Stacey

January 18th, 2011
8:46 am

Is it good to make settlements with collection agencies to get rid of your debt or should you pay the total debt amount that you owe?

Desparate

January 18th, 2011
8:54 am

I need a fresh start. I’m 52 and my credit score is below average. The thing is I have only car, house, and two open accounts with a credit union. Everything else is either closed or written off. I really want to get on track. What do you suggest?

Tee

January 18th, 2011
9:22 am

I would like to purchase a home within the next five years; my credit isn’t the best right now. Most of my accounts are seven to ten years old and other accounts have been closed or written off; what can I do to lower my debt and become a homeowner?
Thanks

GrammarKing

January 18th, 2011
9:23 am

My fiancee and I have about $4000 in combined credit card debt. However, we have been contributing 10% of our monthly paychecks to our respective 401(k) accounts for a few years (we are in our mid-20s). I have heard that carrying debt is a poor use of my money. Would I be better off reducing my 401(k) temporarily and shifting the same amount to my credit card bills until they are paid off and then reinstating my 401(k) contribution? I understand the time value of money, and reducing my retirement contributions now could have a multiplied effect later in life, but I also would prefer to remove the ball and chain that is debt as much as possible. Any advice? Otherwise, we are in decent shape financially.

missy

January 18th, 2011
10:17 am

I took out a loan for $3,000 back in 2004 and it went into default in 2005. The account has been charged off. During the last five years, the total for that loan has ballooned to over $6,000 due to interest and fees. If the loan is charged off, then why is it still accuring interest? My credit score is being affected by this charge off. On all my other accounts, I have paid on time for over 3 years now but my credit score is still in the high 500s. I would like to buy a home within the next two years and I would like to know what my options are to resolve the debt.

jp

January 18th, 2011
10:41 am

so what if ive paid off and no longer have a credit card and now only owe for a car and house payment and the credit score may be lower than i would want it to be but now i pay cash and save more of my money and get more items now than when i was paying all of those fees and my balance we was still high, now the thing about this if more people pay with cash sooner or later the cards will notice they lost much money and will want to get people back in debt again so they will make money, Thank God they change the credit system, for a broke man like me that now learn that the old time way of paying for what you want without over paying for it is big saving and now i get to have more than my bank have of my money, shame on those smart people who did not know that one day they will be the one who need people well we really need each others. so if you have paid off, charge, and clear all your old debts good for you now learn to pay cash again for what you want and see how much you will have then take the saving to put down or pay cash for a car, house, or the things you once over paid for. think about it people you the winner not the banks this time.

dt

January 18th, 2011
11:10 am

You should pay what you owe but at the same time when you fall on hard times, it seems as the entire Credit Reporting scheme is very one sided and inaccurate and the burden falls on the consumer to fix. I had an car accident, totaled my car. My insurance settled with the finance company within one week meaning they received the check overnight in one week. A week later I financed a new car with the same company, there was a defiency but it was added into the new loan. However, one week later I received notice from a credit bureau stating that the finance company changed my status from “Paid as Agreed” to “Bad Debt, Collection, Skip”. Of course I contacted the company and it stated it was a mistake, but yet they are not able to fix it until one month. This seems very odd to me that you can simply add “false” information on my credit but yet can’t take “accurate” information off the same way. Companies should be held accountable for posting inaccurate and false information on your credit and get hefty fines for doing so. Maybe it would prompt them to be more diligent in their reporting practices.

Also I don’t see the point in paying off, outstanding debt since they already damaged your credit, they most likely won’t take it off which still affects your credit rating even if you pay off the creditor. So what is really the incentive. In a hurting economy I rather keep the money and have my credit damaged then paying that extra money and still be in the same position maybe they need to think of a better way to deal with overdue consumers and give them a reason to break their neck to pay their old bills.

Also that they can report the same debt over and over because a new company took it over.

I don’t know for someone that has has good credit and due to the down turn fell on hard times, which considerably damaged my credit. I am now reconsidering if I really should break my neck and pay these debtors but it seems impossible to fix the credit, I may be better off not to worry about it and save the cash. Just not worry about financing anything ever again.

Eric

January 18th, 2011
12:26 pm

I was recently forced to relocate from Atlanta to Chicago in order to keep my job. I purchased a home in 2008 for $210,000. I was forced to sell it through a short sale for a whopping $83,000. I was always on-time with my mortgage payments and had pretty good credit prior to this problem. My score was around 735. Do you know how this short sale is going to effect my credit and for how long? Ultimately I would like to rebuild my credit and purchase another home in my new home state, but I realize that is going to take some time. Also, my credit score is lower than it should be due to a chapter 7 bankruptcy 9 years ago. It was due to fall off my credit report this year, but obviously I worked hard to repair my credit after bankrupty and haven’t had a single late pay since. I’m concerned how this will effect my credit…what happens if I have to purchase a new vehicle for some reason? Will I be able to secure a loan? Bottom line is that this new lower credit score was beyond my ability to control. Given the current economic situation I am 100% sure there are thousands of people in my position. Will loan companies take that into consideration, or will they take a hard-nosed approach to loans to people with damaged credit? Thanks.

Ashley

January 18th, 2011
12:53 pm

In 2009 I bought a house and made my final apartment move out of The Berkshires at Lenox.

To note I was out of work for 6 months during 2009 but still always paid my rent and bills on time. The Berkshires has a major rat problem due to that they keep their garbage collection under the apartments. So they periodically put down rat poison and one time in the summer right after I lost my job one of the rats died, either inside or right by the air conditioning vent in my living room. Needless to say the place reeked. I notified the landlord, they kept saying they would do something but they never did. So it the middle of summer I had to live in an apartment barricaded in my bedroom with no air conditioning. Within a few days I was extremely sick but with no health insurance I couldn’t go to the doctor. It was 3 weeks before I got better and this really hurt me in my ability to look for a job.

So as soon as I got another job I moved ( I found a house quickly ). When I moved out I cleaned the place thoroughly and took pictures. The only thing that was amiss was the carpet. A year earlier the apartment next doors water heater burst and flooded their apartment. I was the one who actually reported it. I noticed water in my kitchen and they came in and cleaned that up but never checked anywhere else. When I moved out I discovered that under my bookshelves that the carpet ( which had been next to the wall of the apartment where the water heater burst ) their was mildew which effectively ruined the carpet.

I asked them for a walk-through but they never showed. Later on I got a bill for cleaning since they said I hadn’t cleaned the kitchen ( false I have pictures ), bathroom ( false I have pictures ), carpet ( true – but not my fault and I have pictures ).

I refuse to pay these people, but they keep telling me that since I didn’t get a walk-through I can’t dispute the claim. Now I have a collection on my credit from Nov 2009 that they keep submitting like its a brand new claim. I checked my credit report and it says the collection is for 01/01/2011. It’s only $200. I can pay it easily, but it just doesn’t seem right.

jennifer

January 18th, 2011
1:10 pm

I have several credit cards on which I do not carry much of a balance (I usually charge and pay off a couple of hundred dollars a month just to keep them active). I have a 15 year credit history exclusive of these cards, so I do not really need them to bolster that aspect of my credit rating. Would it reflect better on my credit report if I closed the accounts to show that there’s no worry that I’m going to run up more debt, or does it look better to have them open to lower my debt to credit ratio?

[...] Do you have a credit or debt question for the experts?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Thanks. Thank you in advance for your help. Over the past few years the value of my home has dropped from $112000 to $70000 or less.Some of the foreclosures … [...]

tl

January 18th, 2011
2:12 pm

dt, I’m with you. 10 years ago we had over 40k in credit cards and had a home owner financed to a couple that bailed on us after 2 years. I had to make a choice of paying the now 2 mortgages or paying the credit cards until I could sell the home. I chose to make the mortgage payments and therefore, stopped making my credit card payments for nearly 2 years. The home sold after that two years and I immediately started paying down our credit cards which were at least 40% higher than the balance when I stopped due to interest fees. Out of the new bal of 56k, we paid them all down to approx. 18k prior to my husband losing his job. That’s been nearly two years now and the balances have once again grown to around 23k due to interest. Our original debt has been paid to all our card holders and the remaining balances are all interest. We are no longer in the position to pay like we were so now we’re getting leins placed on our home and even had our bank account garnished…all for interest. Like most others, I’m considering bancruptcy. I just hate to have to file after all the years we made our payments and the balances we brought down but it not seeming to matter in their eyes. Our credit is screwed so what’s my incentive to try do right any longer?

Propertymgmt

January 18th, 2011
2:15 pm

@Ashley Call the corporate office for the apartment complex and ask to speak to the regional manager for the area. Explain to him or her what you stated on here and then threaten to take them to small claims court for the 200.00. The manager office is in the wrong because they HAVE to do a walk thru with you when you move in and when you move out. This is how a lot of the apartments make their money. A lot of people do not know they are entitled to a move out inspection and the aprtment complex will do what they like and will charge whatever they can to make money. They will also do this if you move out and do not give enough notice . It’s how they make their money. So keep on fighting this. The mgmt company and the leasing office will grow tired of hearing from you and will probably drop their claims and zero out your account.

Ashley Ferrell

January 18th, 2011
4:31 pm

Had a van re-possessed (tried to make pmt arrangements but weren’t accepted) now abour 2 years later I get a letter from a Judge that indicates that a judgement has been granted to a collection agency for more than the beginning total of the van. I was never summoned to court especially by a judge – I called the collection agency and they want me to pay $300 a month for 72 months. Is this legal? Should I pay? I don’t want them to be able to garnish my wages – I would end up paying more than $300 per month. Help!!!

Robin

January 18th, 2011
8:49 pm

I has credit card debt around 30,000. I am maxed out. If I was to go through a debt consolation company, who would you recommend.

Kevin D. Johnson

January 18th, 2011
9:25 pm

Thanks for offering your advice. This is great, and consumers need it. Let me know if there is anyway I can help. http://www.NewCreditRules.com.

Lisa

January 19th, 2011
10:35 am

Hi
I have a credit card and due a refund from a company will the credit card company allow me to go into credit with them or do I have to use the card to have a debt before I can get my refund applied?

tl

January 19th, 2011
12:49 pm

Ashley, I got a copy from a court as well. It wasn’t long after that when they garnished my checking account. I have a friend that works for a law firm (collections) and she told me they send letters out to all major banks and once they find out where you bank at, they submit the court papers to bank. She said the only way around it is to change accounts every six months. I know it’s a pain to do it but unless you want your checking account wiped out, it’s the only choice if you can’t settle with them. That or keep your money at home like I do now. We put just enough in the account to cover our expenses.

BoA refi sucker

January 20th, 2011
4:31 pm

BoA is now holding up my loan because of a alleged collection amount (~$900) that only shows up on 1 of 3 credit reports and my credit score is over 750. Is it legal to require me to pay that alleged debt before they will close the loan? BTW, if it is related to an emergency I had in CO in 2006, I was told way back then by my insurance company and the hospital that all was paid in full. Thanks.
In addition, I locked the rate September 23, and they are only now raising this issue even though they knew about it that day. Mortgage rates have gone up tremendously and I can’t just go somewhere else and get a 4.0% fixed loan for 20 years with no points!