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Here are the top 10 consumer complaints and how to resolve these problems

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HOUSTON – The year 2020 was a real dumpster fire of a year. Many people just want to forget it. But the folks at the Consumer Federation of America has compiled consumer complaints from 34 agencies in 18 states and discovered the top 10 areas consumers complained about. Without further ado, they are:

1. Auto: Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, deceptive financing practices, defective vehicles, faulty repairs, car leasing and rentals, towing disputes.

2. Home Improvement/Construction: Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job, failure to have required licensing or registration.

3. Landlord/Tenant: Unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promised amenities, deposit and rent disputes, illegal eviction tactics.

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4. Credit/Debt: Billing and fee disputes, mortgage problems, credit repair and debt relief services, predatory lending, illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.

5. Services: Misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licensing or registration, nonperformance.

6. Utilities: Complaints about gas, electric, water and cable billing and service.

7. Retail Sales: False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, failure to deliver.

8. Travel: Misrepresentations about cost, amenities or other aspects of travel packages, failure to provide promised services, disputes about refunds.

9. (Tie) Health Products/Services: Misleading claims, unlicensed practitioners, failure to deliver, billing issues; Internet Sales: Misrepresentations or other deceptive practices, failure to deliver online purchases.

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10. (Tie) Pandemic: price gouging, refunds for canceled events and travel, financial issues, problems getting repairs and other services, “self-help” evictions, scams, and other complaints stemming from the pandemic; Fraud: Bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, grant offers, fake check scams, imposter scams and other common frauds; Household Goods: Misrepresentations, failure to deliver, repair issues in connection with furniture and major appliances.


Help with the most common consumer issues

The Consumer Federation of America doesn’t leave us hanging though. They have provided some good resources for consumer with complaints in the top three areas.

How to get help with auto complaints

The International Association of Lemon Law Administrators provides information about how to reach the government agency that oversees the new car lemon law in your state. It also offers tips for consumers on issues such as how to prepare for lemon law arbitration hearings.

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Purchasing a car “as is” doesn’t always mean that you’re out of luck if something goes wrong. You may be able to hold the dealer responsible. But the best way to protect yourself is to have the car checked out by a mechanic you trust before buying it to look for problems that might not be obvious to you. Buying a used car long-distance is especially risky since you may not be able to test drive it or have a mechanic examine it before you pay, and shipping it back if it’s not satisfactory could be expensive.

New car defects can be more than inconvenient -they can be dangerous. Contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at www.nhtsa.gov or by calling 800-424-9153 to get information about auto recalls, check for complaints from other individuals about the same problem, and report safety defects. If there are problems with your new car that substantially affect your ability to use it, ask your state or local consumer agency about your lemon law rights.

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File a complaint with the Houston Better Business Bureau.

File a complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

Help for home improvement or construction issues

Get estimates from a few contractors and ask for referrals to previous customers so you can check on their reliability and the quality of their work. You may also find useful information about contractors from the Better Business Bureau and other sources by searching online.

Pay only a small deposit when you contract for home improvement work. Get a written contract that sets out the work and payment schedule. Payments should be proportionate to the work done and the supplies that have been ordered.

Be sure the home improvement contract specifies the date that the work will begin. While there may be legitimate reasons for delays, such as problems obtaining materials or other jobs taking longer than expected, the contractor should let you know and provide you with a new starting date.

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Take pictures to document shoddy workmanship and any damage it has caused, and ask your local or state consumer agency for assistance if you can’t resolve the problem with the contractor.

In Texas, construction workers and handyman-type professionals are not licensed.

If you hired a licensed professional, like a plumber, electrician or HVAC person, you can file a complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation here.

You can also complain to the BBB and the Texas AG.

How to get help with landlord or tenant issues

You may be entitled to a certain amount of notice before your landlord can unilaterally end your tenancy. If you’re unsure whether your landlord is treating you fairly, don’t suffer in silence. Ask your state or local consumer agency for information about your rights and how to enforce them.

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Tenants are generally only responsible for damage or other problems they and their guests cause. If your security deposit has been wrongly withheld or isn’t returned to you in a timely manner, contact the Texas Attorney General.

Many states require landlords to ensure that their rental property meets certain safety and health standards. But tenants are generally responsible to treat the property respectfully and avoid causing damage. Your state or local consumer agency can give you information about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant and help to mediate disputes with the landlord.

If you contact your landlord about health or safety problems with the property, you may want to follow up with a letter and keep a copy so you’ll have a record. The time limits for landlords to make repairs may depend on the seriousness of the problems. You may be able to break the lease if the house or apartment becomes uninhabitable because of the issues. This would require you to take the landlord to small claims court.

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The Houston Apartment Association offers a free renter’s line for questions about renter rights, leases, and rental applications. The hotline is temporarily extended to be available Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The phone number to call is (713) 595-0300, or for assistance in Spanish call (713) 595-0300 x 309.

You can read more on your rights as a renter from the Texas Attorney General here.

Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances

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Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit

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Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.

 

 

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