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How to Get Debt Relief in Illinois

Sarah Edwards | October 27, 2023

Sarah Edwards
Legal Expert
Sarah Edwards, BS

Sarah Harris is a professional researcher and writer specializing in legal content. An Emerson College alumna, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from the prestigious Boston institution.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: If you're struggling with debt in Illinois, SoloSuit can help you find the relief you need.

Suffering from debt can be extremely frustrating and stressful. If you're making only minimum payments, you may not see much of a dent in your overall balance, despite trying to follow your creditor's terms.

For those who have missed payments on their debt, it's common to receive letters in the mail or phone calls from creditors with an intent to collect payment. These calls can come at inopportune times, such as when you're in the middle of your workday.

The average debt held by households in Chicago is $10,670. With rising inflation, high taxes, and a surging cost of living, it's no surprise that residents of Illinois are finding it difficult to pay down their debt while meeting the costs for necessary expenses.

People who are having trouble staying financially afloat may wonder what their best options are to overcome their debt and move forward. Fortunately, Illinois offers several programs that can be used to overcome problems with debt. There are also protections in place granted by both the state of Illinois and the federal government.

What federal protections are in place for debtors?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, protects debtors from unethical collection tactics. Its sole purpose is to ensure that collection agencies and creditors abide by specific rules during the debt collections process so that borrowers are protected from abuse or harassment.

The following are specific behaviors that would be considered violations of the FDCPA:

  • Calling the debtor before 9 a.m. or after 8 p.m. in their time zone
  • Communicating with the debtor when the debtor has acknowledged they have a lawyer
  • Threatening violence unless the debt is paid
  • Causing a telephone to ring repeatedly with the intent to annoy the debtor
  • Not properly disclosing their identity during the debt collection process
  • Leading the debtor to believe that legal action will be taken when it isn't intended

While this list represents a small fraction of prohibited activities, many others are off-limits according to the act. If you feel that a debt collector's actions are abusive or harassing, chances are they may have violated the FDCPA. For help, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

What is the Illinois statute of limitations?

Illinois offers statute of limitations laws that are designed to protect consumers from lawsuits after a debt has aged past a specific period. Once a certain debt has met the requirements set forth by the statute of limitations, it can no longer be pursued against the debtor in a court of law.

The statute of limitations laws established by Illinois include:

Illinois Statute of limitations on debt

Type of debt

Statute of limitations

Mortgage and medical

10 years

Credit card

5 years

Auto loan

4 years

State tax

20 years

Source: FindLaw

Keep in mind that once a debt has passed the statute of limitations, it does not mean you no longer owe it. The original creditor may still contact you in an attempt to recover past due amounts. The key difference is that they can no longer sue you to collect payment. If you start to make payments on the debt, it will reset the clock on the statute of limitations. So, before you send any money to a debt collector, make sure to double check the statute of limitations to avoid getting sued for an old debt.

What debt relief programs are available in Illinois?

There are three main types of debt relief programs in Illinois. These include debt consolidation, debt settlement, and bankruptcy. Each has its requirements, advantages, and disadvantages.

Let's take a closer look at each one.

How does debt consolidation work?

Debt consolidation involves finding a lender willing to give you enough money to pay off your debts under a lower interest rate than you would have if you kept meeting only the minimums. The idea is that instead of making multiple minimum payments to several different creditors, you'll make only one payment to the debt consolidation lender.

This strategy works best for those who have a decent credit score of at least 650. Many lenders offer debt consolidation loans at fair interest rates. Under this method, you can normally pay off your debt in three years or less and save a significant amount of money in interest expenses.

A variation of this method is tapping your home equity for the amount of your debts and using it to pay them off. You'll then restructure your mortgage to either increase the amount of your monthly mortgage payments or extend the length of your loan. However, keep in mind that rising interest rates can impact how effective using home equity can be.

When is debt settlement an option?

For those who are seeking to reduce the value of their overall debt, settlement can be an option. Debt settlement can be attempted on your own or with the help of a debt settlement agency. If you decide to pursue it by yourself, you'll save money in fees, but it's important to have a solid understanding of the process so you can prevent costly mistakes.

Working with a debt settlement agency allows you to hand over all of your account details and let the company negotiate your debts on your behalf. Debt settlement agencies are often able to obtain savings of up to 50% on your debts, but they commonly charge fees that may be 15 to 25% of the overall amount of your debts.

Your credit rating may also suffer until the program is completed since most companies require you to stop making payments on your debt during the program.

Should I consider bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy should never be your first consideration for clearing up debts since it will destroy your credit rating and may make it difficult for you to obtain a place to live, a job, or other loans for several years in the future. However, if you have exhausted all other avenues and don't see a way out, bankruptcy may be the way to go.

Declaring bankruptcy requires that you meet different requirements, and these will vary by state. You will be able to wipe out most debts except for taxes and student loans. To learn how bankruptcy can help you and what you may expect during the process, it's smart to seek legal advice.

Utilize these debt relief programs in Illinois

If your debt has become unmanageable, try using these debt relief programs that were created to specifically help Illinois residents:

  • Illinois Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is run by the Illinois Department of Human Services. The program is for families with children and pregnant women who need temporary cash assistance. Those receiving TANF also receive medical assistance.
  • Mental Health Services: The Illinois Department of Human Services provides extensive services to adults and adolescents who have been diagnosed with mental illness, emotional disturbance or an impaired level of functioning.
  • Illinois Helpline: The Helpline is the only statewide, public resource for finding substance use treatment and recovery services in Illinois. The Helpline refers to hundreds of treatment and recovery providers across Illinois, and we don't operate any treatment programs. Helpline services are always free and confidential.
  • Illinois Housing Help: This program is to keep families stably housed, ensure tenants and landlords are financially secure, and prevent a tide of evictions due to COVID-19. It will provide a combination of emergency financial assistance, legal assistance, case management, and community outreach, to address housing crises for Illinois residents. The program is a multiagency collaboration between IDHS, IHDA, DCEO, and many nonprofit frontline service providers across the state.

Are you being sued for a debt in Illinois?

At SoloSuit, we help individuals who have recently been sued for an overdue debt by providing a free written Answer that can be downloaded and filed with your local court.

If you've been sued for debt in Illinois, the first step to winning your case is to file your written Answer. Your Answer document should include a list of responses to each claim listed in the Complaint document, assert your affirmative defenses, and be filed into the case within the deadline (10 days). You must also send a copy of the Answer to the opposing party.

Draft and file a debt lawsuit Answer with SoloSuit—for free!

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James

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