Squadrons of NCSL attorneys have fanned out across the United States to sue student-loan defaulters, but they have been running into trouble. In case after case, judges have thrown NCSL's collection lawsuits out of court because NCSL can't produce the paperwork to show that it owns the debt.
And now, in California, NCSL faces another obstacle to its debt-collection efforts. An obscure California statute may make it impossible for NCSL to collect against co-signers on private student loans taken out in the Golden State.
Section 1799.91 of the California Civil Code requires lenders to provide loan co-signers with a specific written notice that warns them of the risk they take when they co-sign a loan. The warning states:
You are being asked to guarantee this debt. Think carefully before you do. If the borrower doesn't pay the debt, you will have to. Be sure you can afford to pay if you have to, and that you want to accept this responsibility.
You may have to pay the full amount of the debt if the borrower does not pay. You may also have to pay late fees or collection costs, which increases this amount.
The creditor can collect this debt from you without first trying to collect from the borrower. The creditor can use the same collection methods against you that can be used against the borrower, such as suing you, garnishing your wages, etc. If this debt is ever in default, that fact may become part of your credit record.Importantly, California law requires co-signers to acknowledge receipt of the statutory warning by signing their names below the cautionary message.
Of course no one should encourage a solvent debtor to welsh on a lawful debt. People who took out private loans held by NCSL should pay them back if they have the ability to do so. But the banks made it virtually impossible for destitute private student-loan borrowers to discharge their private college loans in bankruptcy when they lobbied Congress to pass the so-called Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005. Now, at least, hard pressed student-loan defaulters have some defenses if they get sued by NCSL--particularly in California.
I am grateful to Steve Rhode for alerting me to this important development. Mr. Rhode wrote on this issue in the Get Out of Debt Guy blog site. I'm also grateful to California attorney Christine Kingston for calling Steve's attention to the California co-signer statute and its significance for student-loan debtors.
Stacy Cowley and Jessica Silver-Greenberg. As Paperwork Goes Missing, Private Student Loan Debts May Be Wiped Away. New York Times, July 17, 2017.
Steve Rhode. California Student Loan Co-Signer Statute Helps to Kill Student Loan Debt. Get Out of Debt Guy, July 25, 2017.