It is true that our Government does not settle often, but they do settle.
I, like many others former students, ran into an overwhelming amount of financial difficulty when "life" hit hard. For me, the problem was targeted with the onset of an illness of my spouse, and from there, rejection of my eligibility to receive OSAP, due to the bank's decision to default me while still attending schools "for reason to believe I would eventually default", due to our credit scores. I went from a family of several vehicles and the potential for two $100k+ incomes to nothing.
The knowledge that I can share, is my success in attaining a reasonable settlement came from two realities. 1) I needed the settlement, and then still needed it 10 years later; and 2) I was able to assert my rights, and demonstrate my need through an in depth financial disclosure and projection of my future income. It took me 10.5 years, and then proof that I would be in this same position for another 10 before I was taken seriously.
I was in default before school ended, so I never repaid the banks - it went straight to the Governments of Ontario and Canada. I was not able to finish school as a result. I had no success with my pleas with either collection agency, until my CSL were transferred over to HRSDC for collections (which happened, as I ended up with an EI overpayment that went to collection, and the Gov't Canada places all debts with a single collector). I was then able to propose my settlement, and I was handed off to an auditor on file to determine my need. Once the Government of Canada agreed to settle, the Government of Ontario followed suit. But I still had to go through the Ontario collection agents who were nasty, rude, and required me to have them directed by the Government of Ontario to communicate with me in writing.
You have to remember, that our Government bodies are not interested in seeing any of us suffer, and there is always a way through. The Government of Canada makes their decisions based on their standards of living for a family of your size, meaning, you should ask for those expectations, and see to it that you live within those limits. For example, at the time I was in this situation, food was considered "normal" if you were $200 for the first adult, $100 for additional adults, and then $50 for each child. If you food budget met that that range, it was acceptable. So when making your applications, make sure you are reporting the actual costs of your expenses, don't estimate, but track it - and live to what is considered the acceptable range. Following the government's set guidelines makes it impossible for them to decline your inquiry for non-payment assessments.
The real key to success with any disagreement where you are looking to succeed is documentation.
My suggestion, would be to never give your banking information, ALWAYS respond to them, in writing, via traceable means, (I used both fax, and then would register mail a copy of my fax to them). Request they communicate to you in writing, and until you are in the phase of actual discussions with the officer who makes the decision, only respond to written inquiries from them. Ask them to not call your home, and only send you written requests. Ignore the phone calls, and each time you get a letter, responds to it immediately (7-10 days), always directing them to write you back, and always ask something of them they need to respond too. Make sure they always have your primary address on file.
It doesn't take long before the collection agents have allowed you to set yourself up to demonstrate how keenly interested you are in resolving this matter, and how blantenly they have ignored you. If you demonstrate your constant interest in responding to their requests, and your desire to pay - when you eventually have the means, then you are in a far better bargaining position. I always paid them each month, as well, even sent in years of cheques for $1.75 each month during the times I really had no money. They cannot refuse your payment, even though many of them say they cannot accept your payments less than a certain amount.
I was able to find success in my challenge and request to reduce my debt, only because I:
- kept all my documentation in an order I was able to reference
- I keenly expressed my interest in paying, and demonstrated why I was unable to pay, by adhering to budgets set by our federal government, and submitting my documentation to prove it.
- I kept the communication open, even with hostile collectors, only in writing
- I went over the collectors "heads" every time was necessary, and 9/10 times that went no where
- I paid them, even small amounts, and more if I had more
- And most of all, I researched and protected my rights whenever I could.
In the end, when I made the proposal, all that really mattered, was my ability to demonstrate my honest efforts to attempt to resolve the situation over the previous 10 years. I believe that my documentation showed how unfairly targeted I was. And my honestly and transparency is what led the agent to trust I really was in the position I was in. I also calcualted my average annual income during the years past, and my expected average annual income going forward.
Many of us who end up here are legitimately here - but few people I have met hold up their end of their responsibilities when being harassed.
I hope something I post here, helps someone else through...I know how horrible it feels, and how hopeless it can feel too.