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Florida Debt Collection Laws: Stop Collection Harassment

When falling behind on your payments and coping with the stress of mounting debt, creditors may become more than a mere nuisance. As your debts start accumulating, you may also have the added stress of dealing with debt collectors. Fortunately, Florida debt collection laws protect debtors from unfair and deceptive collection practices. 

If a consumer has outstanding debt, a collection agency will likely contact them to try to collect what the consumer owe. In this situation, understanding your rights is crucial to prevent or stop creditor harassment. Therefore, in this article, we will discuss what the debt collection laws in Florida are, how they can protect consumer, and how bankruptcy can help you end creditor harassment.

Debt Collection Laws in Florida

A 2017 National Consumer Law Center report estimated that 70 million Americans had or were contacted about debt collection. The same report revealed that collection agencies estimate contacting consumers more than a billion times per year

When a consumer can no longer pay their creditors back, debt collectors are allowed to contact them to collect the debt. However, state and federal laws are in place to ensure that these collection agencies are not using deceptive methods or unfair practices in the process.

These laws are contained in the: 

  • Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA)
  • Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

Although Florida requires the consumer to use state bankruptcy exemptions, in relation to debt collection laws, state and federal laws work together to protect consumers. If there are any inconsistencies between these Acts, the provision that offers the consumer the most protection will take effect. 

According to Florida Statute §559.72, some illegal practices that debt collectors are prohibited from using include, but are not limited to: 

  • Use (or threaten to use) violence.
  • Call you at unreasonable hours (between 9:00 pm and 8:00 am). 
  • Use profane or abusive language when communicating with debtors or their families. 
  • Contact or threaten to contact a debtor’s employer without having a final judgment. 
  • Contact the debtor or his family with such frequency that it can be considered harassment. 
  • Pretend to be an attorney, law enforcement, or representative of any governmental agency.
  • Publish or threaten to publish a list of debtors. 
  • Disclose unnecessary or false information that can affect the debtor’s reputation.
  • Lie to the debtor to make him think he is facing a legal or judicial process. 

Can you sue a debt collector? – Fair Debt Collection Practices Act & Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act

If a debt collection agency violates section 559.72 or the federal provisions under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debtors can sue them and claim damages. If your claim is successful and you can prove that you were a victim of creditor harassment, the Court may grant you:

  • Up to $1,000 in statutory damages. 
  • Actual damages. 
  • Court costs and attorney’s fees. 

For instance, in Target National Bank v. Welch, Donna Ward opened a credit card account and allowed Target to call her on her cell phone and at home. However, Donna gave her husband’s cell phone number when providing her information. 

As Ms. Ward fell behind on her debt payments, Target started contacting her on her home and Mr. Ward’s number. Because the account was under Donna’s name and he did not consent to be called, Mr Ward asked Target to stop contacting him.

However, Target pursued its collection actions and would call the Wards up to 6 times in a single day. Debt collectors were contacting the Wards with such frequency that the Court considered it harassment, which is a violation of the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act

Because of this, the Court granted $36,000 in damages to the Ward’s Chapter 7 trustee, along with reasonable attorney’s fees and the costs of the civil action. 

Federal and state laws do not take creditor harassment lightly. In fact, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau received 121,700 debt collection complaints in 2021. If you or your family are facing creditor harassment, a bankruptcy lawyer in Florida can help you explore your options. 

Florida Statute of limitations on debt collection

In addition to complying with debt collection laws, debt collectors also have a limited amount of time to try to collect your debts. This is what is called a statute of limitations on debt collection. 

Simply put, a debt collection agency can no longer contact a consumer for a debt after a certain amount of time. For example, medical debts in Florida have a statute of limitation of five years. Within this time, debt collectors can contact you or pursue any legal actions to collect the debt. 

However, if a consumer did not pay the debt and the five years have passed without them having filed a lawsuit, they are no longer allowed to contact them for this matter. If you have questions about Florida statute limitations on debt, a bankruptcy attorney near you may be able to help you. 

How Bankruptcy Can Help You with Past Debts in Florida

If you are facing financial difficulties and you are no longer able to repay your debts, filing for bankruptcy in Florida can be a suitable alternative to deal with your indebtedness while stopping creditors from pursuing any collection actions. 

Whether you are filing under Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13, the Court will grant you an automatic stay once your petition has been filed. This is a type of injunction that prevents your creditors from contacting you or taking any collection action against you or your property. With the automatic stay provision in place, debtors have time to deal with their case. 

Although bankruptcy is often perceived as a negative and harmful process, it is an effective debt relief option. Filing bankruptcy in Florida allows debtors to discharge or reduce most of their outstanding debts, such as:

  • Credit card debt
  • Medical bills
  • Personal loans
  • Payday checks 
  • Certain taxes
  • Unpaid utility bills

The automatic stay also protects the consumer’s property from foreclosure or repossession for a certain amount of time. If you are concerned about losing your assets when filing bankruptcy, Florida exemptions can help you keep your assets while reducing or wiping out your debt. 

Debt collection laws in Florida protect the consumer from creditor harassment. Filing for bankruptcy stops collectors from contacting you while giving you time to get your financial life back on track and manage your debt.

Stop Debt Collectors & Get the Debt Relief You Need – Serving Florida Middle District

Dealing with overwhelming debt and constant calls from creditors can be annoying and stressful, especially if you are struggling to make ends meet. Understanding debt collection laws in Florida can help you protect your rights. If you’re being contacted by a debt collector or you want to explore bankruptcy as a way to deal with your debt and live in the Greater Orlando area, get in touch with a bankruptcy attorney at Z. Hernandez Law. 

We limit the number of cases we take in order to prioritize quality work and ensure that each client receives the time and attention their case deserves.

Legal information reviewed by:
Zarina Hernandez | Founder & Attorney

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