Debt negotiation, commonly referred to as debt settlement or debt relief, is considered a specialty service mostly offered to people who "fall out" of a debt consolidation program, can't make the minimum payment of a debt consolidation program, or have large outstanding debts on which they haven't paid in the past 3 months. The main benefit of a debt negotiation service is that clients usually only pay around 50% of the amount they owe to their creditors.
Once you sign up for a debt negotiation program you stop making payments to your creditors (if you were making payments). No payments are made to your creditors during your participation in the program. The debt negotiation company then either takes monthly payments from you, which it stores up in a holding account, or it has you store up the money in your own account. During this process of accumulation, the debt negotiation company is handling your creditor calls and negotiating with your creditors for a lower payoff amount.
Debt settlement or negotiation can severely damage your credit. Many creditors will immediately forward your account to their legal department for collections and clients may find themselves faced with judgments, liens, and even garnishments. Even though it is rare, if the creditor never agrees to settle, you end up with bad credit and in worse shape than where you were before. To offset the bad credit problem, there are some settlement companies who include a credit repair service for a fee that will remove the negative items which were caused by the program.
Like bankruptcy, debt settlement may have a lasting impact on your credit report which will affect your ability to get credit at favorable interest rates. Fees for this service vary significantly from company to company so do your homework. Also it is a good idea to consider credit repair as often this affects the interest rates you are paying.
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Disclaimer: This site provides general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be taken to be, legal, financial or other professional advice for your situation. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.