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Can credit card companies file liens on your home or sue for the delinquent amount plus fees and penalties even though a card is an unsecured debt?

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Yes. Most credit cards and other revolving accounts are unsecured. A consumer can be sued within the statute of limitations (as established by state law) and in accordance with the card holder agreement. If a judgment is granted, the creditor may place a lien against any real property, garnish wages and take any other action allowed by law.
Any consumer faced with such a threat/possibility needs to research their state's laws. Find out what the statute of limitations is in their state and whether or not their debt can be acted upon in the manner you have described.

Credit Card companies, sell account to third parties. Those are the people that initiate any legal action. Sometimes it is an agency that works with a law firm, sometimes it is group of collection attorneys. Every state Ehas a set of exemptions (property exempt from creditors action) they can be used in bankruptcy or lawsuits. You can find out what those exemptions are and how they apply in your situation by doing a simple web search ("Name of State" bankruptcy exemptions)
EDIT TO ABOVE: Original creditors may themselves take legal action via an external attorney.

ADDITIONAL EDIT TO ABOVE: This question is posted to the Estate area, and readers should be aware that a person's debts are handled differently following death.

First, states limit the recourse (how much a creditor can collect) a creditor has to the value of the Decedent's estate. This means that creditor's cannot make the decedent's heirs and beneficiaries liable for the Decedent's debt. (Although debt collectors frequently misstate or avoid disclosing this information, hoping that a decedent's spouse or relative will pay the bill.)

Second, depending on your state, a surviving spouse may be liable for the decedent's debt beyond the value of the estate, in others state laws limit the surviving spouse's liability.

Third, depending on your state, some property, for example joint tenancy property, may pass free of creditor's claims (except for secured claims.)

Fourth, most states have a system to apportion the decedent's debts between various creditors, and apply priority- who gets paid first.

Fifth, most states, whether an estate is administered in probate or by a trust, have a "creditor's claim" procedure. This controls how a creditor may seek to enforce the debt against a decedent's estate, and reduces the statute of limitations.

Sixth, In California, for most unsecured non-government (think MediCal, Federal and State taxes) creditors, there is a universal one year statute of limitations for claims against a decedent which runs from the decedent's death. If a creditor does not file suit in this time (or file a creditor's claim against the decedent's estate or trust) they are barred from recovering the death.

Finally, proper application of state law to cut off a decedent's creditors normally requires the assistance of an attorney and filing of the appropriate pleadings in probate court.

END OF ADDITIONAL EDIT

No. An unsecured debt is not secured by property. It is unsecured, meaning the creditor takes a risk in whether or not the debtor will pay back the debt.The creditors usually purchase insurance for security of a default by debtors.
EDIT TO ABOVE: The above information is incorrect. With unsecured debt, such as a personal loan or credit card, a lender can place a lien on property to secure repayment if a judgment has been obtained, the laws for that state permit it, and it has been granted by the court.

Most people don't know that most credit card companies now have arbitration clauses in your contract with you. Research arbitration and credit cards on the internet. Two credit cards just got two judgments against a friend of mine, and he paid more than double what the original debt was, because you have to pay for the arbitration, even though you don't get to participate in the hearing. They send you something saying they have been awarded an award against you, and 6 months or less later you get a judgment from the court. You are not allowed to attend the court hearing, tell your side or anything. This is the biggest rippoff in the world and 90 percent of people with credit cards probably don't know they have an arbitration agreement, because it comes as a bill stuffer, that most people don't read. I cut up all my credit cards when this happened to a friend of mine, and is is going to get worse since Bush signed the new backruptcy bill today. Do yourself a favor and read up on it before your house is auctioned off on the court house steps.



Not any more. The Supreme Court made it harder for these cases to go to arbitrations.

EDIT TO ABOVE: The link was removed to allow posing of this edit. However, the statement appears outdated and from a 2009 case. More recent Supreme Court decisions have held arbitration clauses enforceable.
Thanks for the feedback!

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