NYC Financial Justice Law
Hotline Legal Clinic Resource Material Systemic Advocacy Annual Reports
NEDAP's Financial Justice Law Project employs multiple strategies to combat high-cost, discriminatory consumer finance practices in New York City. Through the project, NEDAP:
- Operates a financial justice hotline and community legal clinic, providing free legal advice to thousands of low income New Yorkers each year, on a wide array of consumer finance issues.
- Produces self-help and know-your-rights material - in English and Spanish - that individuals use to defend themselves against abusive lending and debt collection practices, and to gain access to fair and affordable financial services.
- Advocates for policy and corporate reform, using information gathered through client work, to stem the tide of abusive credit in low income neighborhoods and communities of color.
- Builds the capacity of legal services and community-based organizations to address consumer financial justice issues, through training, coalition work and legal support.
Case Example: Mr. C
Mr. C is 41 years old and lives in Queens with his five children. He recently lost his job and is receiving unemployment benefits. A community organization referred Mr. C to NEDAP because he was denied housing based on two court judgments that appeared on his credit report.
It turned out that Mr. C had been sued by debt collectors, but was never served with court papers in either case. NEDAP helped him file pro se papers to dismiss one of the cases, because the time limit for filing a lawsuit had expired, saving Mr. C $6,562, plus six years’ interest. On the second case, NEDAP provided him with advice about his legal defenses, which enabled him to settle a $5,400 debt in court for $500.
NYC Financial Justice Hotline
NEDAP's NYC Financial Justice Hotline assists low income New York City residents facing discriminatory banking and credit practices. The Hotline advises callers about their rights in the areas of debt collection, credit reports, identity theft, payday and tax refund loans, and other financial justice matters.
Hotline staff emphasize self-help solutions wherever possible, providing callers with information about their legal rights and options, and tools to resolve their problems successfully. The Hotline provides services in English and Spanish, and has served thousands of callers since 2005.
In 2006, NEDAP launched a Community Legal Clinic to provide one-on-one legal consultation to low income New Yorkers, particularly women, on a range of consumer finance issues. A major priority of the Clinic is to help low income New Yorkers facing debt collection lawsuits defend themselves successfully in court. Clinic staff also help clients correct mistakes in their credit reports, resolve identity theft problems, and write effective dispute letters to debt collectors and financial institutions.
NEDAP partners with community groups to hold Legal Clinics in neighborhoods throughout New York City. Staffed by NEDAP attorneys and paralegals, the clinics provide free legal services to organizations' members and clients. Click here to find out how your organization can host a clinic.
NEDAP has prepared a series of resource materials addressing consumer rights and how to resolve common problems. The materials are available on our website in English and Spanish, and by mail upon request.
NEDAP also produces informative, consumer-focused episodes of On the Money, our monthly cable television show. Past episodes include "The Truth About Credit Reports" and "Straight Talk about Debt Collection: Your Rights Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act."
Case Example: Ms. P
Ms. P, a 35-year old immigrant from India, earns $18,000 per year and supports a family of three. She last used credit cards in 1998. A decade later, she received a stream of letters from a debt buyer, alleging that she owed an old credit card debt of $17,000. Although she didn’t think that she owed the money, she entered into a payment plan because she was anxious and unaware of her rights.
Ms. P struggled to make payments under this plan for two years, until a legal services organization referred her to NEDAP. NEDAP helped her write a letter to the debt buyer requesting verification of the debt, under federal and local law. Unable to verify the debt, the debt buyer ceased collection attempts, closed the account, and agreed to correct her credit report.
Information gathered from the hotline and legal clinic informs NEDAP's advocacy and coalition work, as we press for policy changes that will benefit our clients and their communities long-term. For example, NEDAP worked for two years to eliminate a loophole in state law that allowed debt collectors to freeze bank accounts containing exempt income, such as Social Security, public assistance and child support. In 2008, our efforts paid off with passage of the landmark Exempt Income Protection Act, which protects bank accounts and prevents debt collectors from seizing New Yorkers' subsistence income.