And what constitutes reasonable practice on the part of one to whom one owes a debt?
I have paid the debt...but am pissed off because I had to do it via using a credit card that I keep untouched for emergencies, and which has a 20% interest rate!!! I acted in a hurry, and thought it had a normal interest rate when I used it....(got a letter a day later from the company saying they had hiked their rates to 20%...the norm is 12 to 13%)
I'll do the mea culpa first up. I should have contacted the company (my thrice accursed strata management company...the ones who keep not fixing things and such) to discuss the debt. I made a few attempts to, but I have to call from work, and they had me on hold too long. But that is definitely my mea culpa. Have to agree, this would have been the best way to approach the issue (& always keep track of details such as date, time, phone number, person spoken with, what was said, or time you attempted to contact them, & how long you were kept on hold).
As is the way with matters financial, this was a double whammy.
I had just made a final commitment to travel overseas with a friend, and bought the ticket.
Then.....a year ago, at a meeting I couldn't attend (they hold them at 6.00 pm, and I am often still at work then)...the company apprised us of two major up-coming works that would need to be planned for....a new roof, and major lift maintenance.
The meeting agreed to an ongoing levy to accumulate enough money to pay for these. This raises my strata fees to over $1,200.00 a quarter, which I have been struggling to pay, but so it goes.
I thought the roof thing was a year or so away and there'd be enough money saved by then...(hence going OS)....but apparently it moved into crisis mode...and there was a special meeting to approve the roof replacement. Fair enough.
You'd have to check the rules of the body corporate, in relation to decisions made, timeframes, etc.
By then, we had saved more than half the cost. I did my best to go to the meeting (I would have given a proxy vote if I thought I couldn't get there) because the proposed options were to do a special levy payable in a month, or to allow people 6 months to pay, or for the company to arrange a low-interest loan for people.
I was budgeting for about $2,000 and had a very clear preference for the time to pay.
As it happens, I was on Intake all day, and, at 4.50 pm when I was packing up and getting ready to leave, a call came in re child sexual abuse with an injury. Kid needed an immediate medical and the on-call psycho-social person for that night had just called in acutely ill...so, I got away about 9.00 pm.
Anyhoo, the meeting decided that we would not use any of the accumulated savings for the roof, but levy ALL the money, with several thousand above quote for unexpected expenses with one month to pay.
Might be useful to have someone you trust as a permanent proxy - they could also get information from the meetings to you immediately after the meetings.
My share of that was $5,500.
What's happening with the accumlated savings??
That was 2 months ago....with great difficulty I had managed to pay $3,200 of that.
During that time I received one bill, for the normal $1,200 per quarterly levy (I didn't have to pay that until 30th July) and noting I still owed $2,300 of the $5,500....but no demands that I pay it and no threat to charge me interest on the remaining sum, as they usually do if you are behind...I thought they had decided to be pretty flexible, and was happy with that.)
On 25th June I found a letter in my letter box from the company, dated 4th June, saying that if i didn't pay the outstanding amount (which they had wrong) by 11th June it would be placed in the hands of debt collectors.
Once again, contacting the company immediately on the Monday, clearly noting date of the letter, date received, & incorrect amount etc etc as a negotiating point.
Never having received such a letter I freaked and paid by credit card. (It was Friday night and I couldn't talk to the company.)
They always use threatening terms, & use language that sounds faintly legalese to attempt to scare people into making payments they can't afford nor sustain.
I'm now cursing myself because it seems to me that I could quite reasonably have argued that I was clearly paying the debt off, and given that, that the threat was unreasonable, and continued to pay it off without incurring 20% interest.
(They hadn't sent the bill to the collectors even though I responded after the date they said they would do that. I assume the threatening letter got put in someone else's letter box and there was a delay in the person who got it putting it in mine.)
I am a novice at such things.
The letter said the debt collector would bill me hundreds for collecting the debt.
Am I right that while I was paying off the debt in reasonable chunks that the threats were rather harsh? Do companies tend to make those threats for a while before they hand over debt?
For future refernce, it would have been advantageous to have the payment plan in writing, signed by both yourself & a representative of the powers that be. With any payment plan, as soon as you miss one payment, they will demand the full amount owing.
(I have lived here for 10 years and always paid the buggers!)
DO debt agencies charge hundreds? I imagine they charge something!!!
Different companies charge differently - some charge admin fees, some charge interest - most are happy to work out affordable payment plans.
I'll bloody well get legal advice before I do a knee-jerk thing like that again!
One short term solution is to research cedit cards (try looking at http://www.infochoice.com.au/), find one that has a low interest rate for transferred balances, & go with that. Check the details on this though, as some cards automatically default to their higher, normal interest rate when you start making new transactions on it.
Another option would be to contact a Financial Counselling service (which should be a free service), or a community legal service, & seek their assistance.
Lastly, you could approach the credit card provider, & ask to access their financial harship program - it may buy you 3 months moratorium on interest.