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Can creditors take everything I own if I default on payments?

Some Hamilton County, Ohio, residents live with the daily fear that their home, car or even their furniture and personal belongings will be taken away from them to satisfy a consumer debt on which they have defaulted. If you default on payments, your creditors have the legal right to take you to court to obtain a judgment that authorizes them to use wage garnishment and the forced sale of real and personal property to satisfy the debt.

Ohio law protects you from losing everything you own to a debt collector seeking to satisfy a judgment. It does so by exempting certain property owned by a debtor from execution or wage garnishment. 

For example, a creditor may use a wage garnishment to seize a portion of what you earn each week from employment. If you are paid weekly, an amount equal to 30 times the current minimum hourly wage under federal law may not be taken from you. Other exemptions pertaining to wages and benefits include:

  • Workers' compensation benefits
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Payments received under the Ohio works first program
  • Disability payments

If you own a car, you are entitled to retain the first $3,225 of equity, so unless your vehicle is worth more than that amount, you can keep it. The statute also protects your home up to the first $125,000 of equity, money you have in the bank or on hand up to $400, furniture and personal belongings up to $10,775, books and tools you use in your trade or business up to $2,025, and jewelry up to $1,350.

Depending upon your particular circumstances, the real and personal property exemptions granted by Ohio law might not offer sufficient protection for you from debt collection. A bankruptcy proceeding may stop creditor harassment, wage garnishment and other collection practices. A bankruptcy law attorney might be of assistance in offering you legal advice and solutions to your financial challenges.

This posting is a summary and overview of one aspect of debt collection. It is not offered as legal advice, and its contents are not intended as a substitute for a consultation with a knowledgeable attorney.

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