Young, Dumb, and Broke: My Name, My Responsibilty


        Hey All, today I have a special guest feature from AshCham. As a part of my blog, I host a segment called the Bounce Back. The point is to show that we all make mistakes that hurt us financially but instead of giving up or accepting it as is, you can take action and Bounce Back!

        AshCham is a young adult fantasy and horror writer. She has published several books on Amazon and is currently querying out her latest novel. I want to thank her for being so gracious to share her "Bounce Back" story with us. Hopefully, you are able to learn from her misstep and become more mindful of the recupressions that decisions you make when you’re younger can have on your future. If you are interested in following AshCham’s journey on getting her latest project published be sure to follow her on Instagram @authorashleycham or on Twitter @AshCham88.

So you’re still thinking of me, just like I know you should.

        Ain’t that the truth. Not a day goes by that I’m not reminded of how a lapse in judgement or better yet a lack of understanding the possible legal ramifications involved in allowing someone to use your name on a lease (or any contract for that matter) cost me greatly. How greatly? $14,000 to be exact. Yea, that stings, unfortunately I had to learn the hard way but I’m hoping others can use my situation as a cautionary tale to avoid making the same mistake. 

So what exactly happened?

        I was about nineteen or twenty at the time living with one of my older cousins. Our lease was coming to an end and we were looking to move. My cousin found a nice townhouse for rent but feared that her current credit history would cause us to be turned down. She suggested that since I was younger and currently had no negative marks on my credit history it would be best for me (and regrettably only me) to sign for the lease. This probably should have been a red flag but refer back to the title (lol) I was naive and honestly I didn’t think much of it. So I signed the lease.

        After agreeing upon how much each of us would pay towards rent and utilities it was ultimately decided that she would be in charge of actually paying the bills. Not only was she older but she paid the bills at our last residence, so I again I didn’t think too much of it not taking into consideration that it was my name and ultimately my credit on the line this time (big mistake).

Note: Even though landlords generally don’t report unpaid rent to credit agencies they will send your account to collections agencies in an attempt to receive any unpaid funds. The collection agency, however, will likely report this to the credit bureaus.

        Anyway life went on, I got a new job that kept me away from home a lot; I mostly only stayed at home on the weekends and to be honest spent most of that time in my room. You see the number of people in the household grew from three to six plus a dog in about two years. It became apparent that we would need a bigger place and decided it was time to move. It wasn’t until we were moving that I realized how much damage had been done to the house. I mean there were holes in the walls, stains on the carpet, and the dog had made the wooden cabinets his personal chew toy. On top of that, we decided not to take anything that we didn’t want; leaving trash and junk behind to be someone else’s problem (yea there’s no excuse for that, we weren’t being very thoughtful). Or so I thought, I would learn eventually that even though I wasn’t the person to have to clean or repair the townhouse I would be the person paying for it.

 

I’m so high at the moment, I’m so caught up in this.

        Fast forward a few years, I’m in my late twenties and no longer living with my cousin. As her family grew, it made sense for me to move out; so I got a place with a couple of friends. Life was pretty normal until one day I checked my banking app and discovered that all of my money was gone! Well not actually gone but there was a hold on my account. WTF?!! There must be some mistake so I rushed to the bank to find out what was going on.

        Guys, I kid you not, when the bank told me someone had froze my money because I owed them I cried. For those that don’t know, I’m not a crier but I cried in front of that bank teller. It was so awkward because she didn’t know what to do and neither did I. Even after I left the bank I sat on the steps and cried some more. I now had no money but still had bills to pay. It was the first time anything like this has ever happened to me and at the moment I was just confused as to why.  

        Sure I knew I had some medical bills I hadn’t paid and I knew I was behind on paying my cell phone bill but I never thought I owed someone so much money they could put a hold on my account. It took a few weeks but eventually, my cousin informed me that I had received a letter in the mail stating that I owed money to the property company that owned the townhouses that we used to live in. Apparently, there had been multiple letters and even court dates that I knew nothing about.

My name, my responsibility


        Even though at the time my cousin assured me that she would help pay the debt, acknowledging that her and her family were responsible for the property damage, in the end it was in my name on the lease. Meaning that I was responsible for the missed court dates and I was the one whose paycheck the collection company put a garnishment on. It turns out that I owed $14,000 in back rent and damages for the property (yea, I had no idea the rent wasn’t being paid either). The collection company was allowed to take 10% out of my paycheck every two weeks.

What is a wage garnishment? 

        Wage garnishment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, is a legal procedure in which a person's earnings are required by court order to be withheld by an employer for the payment of a debt such as child support, alimony, student loans, and consumer debt to name a few. Based on a report by the Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners nearly 9.5 million Americans have their wages garnished by their employer. How much of your wages that can be garnished varies but NerdWallet lays out an overview of the federal limits on how much of your disposable income a creditor can take. It is also important to note that wage garnishments can stay on your credit report for up to seven years, affecting your credit score.

 

Yea, we’re just young, dumb, and broke but we still got love to give

        Needless to say that I’m still paying off that debt. My cousin never gave me a single cent towards it; I was young, dumb, and now broker than ever but holding onto anger or wallowing in self-pity wasn’t going to make this debt go away. So I decided I needed to take action. I ended up getting a second job to help ensure the garnishment wouldn’t completely ruin me.

Lessons Learned

Despite none of this being an ideal situation, I did learn the following lessons:

  • Never put your name on a lease if you are not going to be actively involved in handling the bills.
  • If your name is on the lease then it is ultimately your responsibility.
  • Not adhering to your leasing agreement and/or not paying rent can lead to a wage garnishment.
  • To be more mindful of who you live with because their financial habits will affect you.
  • Just because someone is family, it does not mean they have your best interest at heart.

        It’s been about four years and I am really close to paying off the debt. I learned a lot going through this ordeal but I came out on the other side. Hopefully my situation will help keep you from going through the same misfortune.


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Comments

  1. Wow I'm so sorry you had to go through that! I think it's great that you're sharing your experience to help others avoid this mistake as well.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment! Sharing our experiences are important because it helps others learn from our mistakes and hopefully not repeat them.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your story! It's such an important lesson. I'm sorry you learned it the hard way. We trust family, but financial abuse is committed more often by a relative than a stranger.

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  3. Replies
    1. Ain't that the truth! Thanks for the comment!

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  4. It’s rough working in a bank and seeing people go through this. People can make a seemingly small decision that can ruin them financially. It’s crazy how easy it is to get yourself caught up in the craziness

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    1. Yes! That's why I'm so glad that AshCham could share her story. A seemingly small decision ended up costing her big time. Thanks for the comment! :-)

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  5. Wow! I'm so sorry this happened to you. Thanks for sharing for the benefit of others.

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    1. Thanks for the comment and yes I am thankful for AshCham willing to share her story so we all could learn from it.

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