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LEGAL TERMS

COLLECTION AGENCY

A company hired by a creditor to collect a debt that it is owed. Creditors typically hire a collection agency only after they have made efforts to collect the d... (more...)
A company hired by a creditor to collect a debt that it is owed. Creditors typically hire a collection agency only after they have made efforts to collect the debt themselves, typically through letters (called 'dunning' letters) and telephone calls. Collection agencies are regulated by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Unfortunately, too many collectors ignore this law.

BULK SALES LAW

A law that regulates the transfer of business assets so that business owners cannot dispose of assets in order to avoid creditors. If a business owner wants to ... (more...)
A law that regulates the transfer of business assets so that business owners cannot dispose of assets in order to avoid creditors. If a business owner wants to conduct a bulk sale of business assets -- that is, get rid of an unusually large amount of inventory, merchandise or equipment -- the business owner must typically publish a notice of the sale and give written notice to creditors. Then, the owner must set up an account to hold the funds from the sale for a brief period of time during which creditors may make claims against the money. The prohibition against bulk sales is spelled out in the Uniform Commercial Code -- and laws modeled on the UCC have been generally adopted throughout the country.

GUARANTOR

A person who makes a legally binding promise to either pay another person's debt or perform another person's duty if that person defaults or fails to perform. T... (more...)
A person who makes a legally binding promise to either pay another person's debt or perform another person's duty if that person defaults or fails to perform. The guarantor gives a 'guaranty,' which is an assurance that the debt or other obligation will be fulfilled.

FAIR CREDIT BILLING ACT (FCBA)

A federal law that gives you rights when an error occurs on your credit card statement. You must notify the credit card company of the mistake within 60 days af... (more...)
A federal law that gives you rights when an error occurs on your credit card statement. You must notify the credit card company of the mistake within 60 days after it mailed the bill to you. The company must then correct the mistake, or at least acknowledge receipt of your letter within 30 days, and must correct the error within 90 days or explain why it believes the credit card statement is correct.

UNSECURED DEBT

A debt that is not tied to any item of property. A creditor doesn't have the right to grab property to satisfy the debt if you default. The creditor's only reme... (more...)
A debt that is not tied to any item of property. A creditor doesn't have the right to grab property to satisfy the debt if you default. The creditor's only remedy is to sue you and get a judgment. Compare secured debt.

LIABILITY

(1) The state of being liable--that is, legally responsible for an act or omission. Example:Peri hires Paul to fix a broken pipe in her bathroom, but the new pi... (more...)
(1) The state of being liable--that is, legally responsible for an act or omission. Example:Peri hires Paul to fix a broken pipe in her bathroom, but the new pipe bursts the day after Paul installs it, ruining the bathroom floor. This raises the issue of liability: Who is responsible for the damage? Peri claims that Paul is responsible, and sues him for the cost of hiring another plumber to fix the pipe and replacing the floor. Paul, in turn, claims that the pipe manufacturer is responsible, because they supplied him with faulty materials. Both Peri and Paul must prove their claims in court; if Paul and/or the manufacturer is found liable, one or both will have to pay damages to Peri. (2) Something for which a person is liable. For example, a debt is often called a liability.

SUBROGATION

A taking on of the legal rights of someone whose debts or expenses have been paid. For example, subrogation occurs when an insurance company that has paid off i... (more...)
A taking on of the legal rights of someone whose debts or expenses have been paid. For example, subrogation occurs when an insurance company that has paid off its injured claimant takes the legal rights the claimant has against a third party that caused the injury, and sues that third party.

S CORPORATION

A term that describes a profit-making corporation organized under state law whose shareholders have applied for and received subchapter S corporation status fro... (more...)
A term that describes a profit-making corporation organized under state law whose shareholders have applied for and received subchapter S corporation status from the Internal Revenue Service. Electing to do business as an S corporation lets shareholders enjoy limited liability status, as would be true of any corporation, but be taxed like a partnership or sole proprietor. That is, instead of being taxed as a separate entity (as would be the case with a regular or C corporation) an S corporation is a pass-through tax entity: income taxes are reported and paid by the shareholders, not the S corporation. To qualify as an S corporation a number of IRS rules must be met, such as a limit of 75 shareholders and citizenship requirements.

TOXIC TORT

A personal injury caused by exposure to a toxic substance, such as asbestos or hazardous waste. Victims can sue for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and su... (more...)
A personal injury caused by exposure to a toxic substance, such as asbestos or hazardous waste. Victims can sue for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.