Florida Collection Laws

What can you tell me about Florida's statute of limitations rules for credit cards, and Florida's collections law?

I am confused about Florida Title 8, Chapter 95, which covers Florida's statute of limitations. What is the statute of limitations for credit cards? What can you tell me about Florida's collection laws?

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  • The Florida collection laws allow for wage and bank levies.
  • A creditor cannot seize a Florida resident's home.
  • Foreclosure takes five to six months in Florida.

A collection agent or law firm that owns a collection account is a creditor. A creditor has several legal means of collecting a debt. But before the creditor can start, the creditor must go to court to receive a judgment. See the Bills.com resource Served Summons and Complaint to learn more about this process.

The court may decide to grant a judgment to the creditor. A judgment is a declaration by a court that the creditor has the legal right to demand a wage garnishment, a levy on the debtor’s bank accounts, and a lien on the debtor’s property. A creditor that is granted a judgment is called a "judgment-creditor." Which of these tools the creditor will use depends on the circumstances. We discuss each of these remedies below.

Wage Garnishment

The most common method used by judgment-creditors to enforce judgments is wage garnishment, in which a judgment creditor would contact the debtor's employer and require the employer to deduct a certain portion of the debtor’s wages each pay period and send the money to the creditor.

n most states, creditors may garnish between 10% and 25% of your wages, with the percentage allowed determined by state law. Garnishment of Social Security benefits or pensions for consumer debt is not allowed under federal law, but may be allowed for child support. See the Bills.com Wage Garnishment article to learn more.

Florida’s Garnishment rules are found in Title VI, Chapter 77. In general, Florida follows the federal rules for the amount of a garnishment, which allows up to 25% of a worker’s wages to be garnished. For exemptions, Florida Title XV, Chapter 222 defines earnings and what is considered exempt. See the Dept. of Labor's Employment Law Guide - Wage Garnishment and the Dept. of the Treasury’s Answers About Garnishments. Municipal and state employees may be garnished.

Generally speaking, 401(K) or other retirement funds are exempt from garnishment. It is advisable to have those funds deposited into a separate bank account if you are concerned about garnishment on those payments.

Levy Bank Accounts

A levy means that the creditor has the right to take whatever money in a debtor’s account and apply the funds to the balance of the judgment. Again, the procedure for levying bank accounts, as well as what amount, if any, a debtor can claim as exempt from the levy, is governed by state law. Many states exempt certain amounts and certain types of funds from bank levies, so a debtor should review his or her state’s laws to find if a bank account can be levied. In some states levy is called attachment or account garnishment. The names may vary but the concept is the same.

In Florida, a levy (called attachment) is allowed under Title XXXIX, Chapter 679.2031. Levy is allowed if the plaintiff possesses a a writ commanding the sheriff to seize and sell as much of a debtor’s property as is necessary to satisfy a creditor’s claim.

If you reside in another state, see the Bills.com Account Levy resource to learn more about the general rules for this remedy.

Lien

A lien is an encumbrance — a claim — on a property. For example, if the debtor owns a home, a creditor with a judgment has the right to place a lien on the home, meaning that if the debtor sells or refinance the home, the debtor will be required to pay the judgment out of the proceeds of the sale or refinance. If the amount of the judgment is more than the amount of equity in your home, then the lien may prevent the debtor from selling or refinancing until the debtor can pay off the judgment.

Florida allows a lien for a money judgment. Under Title XL, Chapter 713, mechanics and contractors (and similar laborers and professionals) a have the right to place a lien on a property. This also includes creditors for unsecured debt (credit cards, auto loans, etc.), see Florida law Title XI, Chapter 55.10.

A judgment-creditor may not seize a judgment-debtor’s residence under Florida law.

If you reside in another state, see the Bills.com Liens & How to Resolve Them article to learn more.

Florida Statutes of Limitations

The statute of limitations is governed by Florida Title VIII Limitations, Chapter 95.11. The statute of limitations on consumer issues are as follows:

  • Open account (i.e., credit card): 4 years (Florida 95.1(p))
  • Written contracts: 5 years
  • Real property actions: 7 years
  • Foreclosure: 5 years
  • Foreign judgments: 5 years
  • Domestic judgments: 20 years

ollection agents violate the FDCPA if they file a debt collection lawsuit against a consumer after the statute of limitation expired (Kimber v. Federal Financial Corp. 668 F.Supp. 1480 (1987) and Basile v. Blatt, Hasenmiller, Liebsker & Moore LLC, 632 F. Supp. 2d 842, 845 (2009)). Unscrupulous collection agents sue in hopes the consumer will not know this rule.

Florida Foreclosure

Florida foreclosure laws are found Title XL, Chapter 702 to learn more about the rules surrounding foreclosure in this state, including deficiency balances (Chapter 702.06). To learn how to prevent foreclosure in Florida, see the Bills.com resource Florida Mortgage Foreclosure & Short Sale.

Florida Usury Law

See the Bills.com resource Florida Usury Law to learn the maximum interest rate that can be charged a consumer in Florida.

Florida Payday Loan Collection

See the Bills.com resource Payday Loan and the FDCPA to learn how Florida law protects consumers of payday loans.

Florida Collection Agency Law

The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) mirrors the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and adds two elements not found in the FDCPA:

  • Original creditors must follow the FCCPA's rules when collecting a delinquent debt.
  • Collection agents, but not original creditors, must be registered with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation

Violation of the FCCPA is not a crime, but opens a collection agent or original creditor to a civil action (a lawsuit). Consult with a lawyer to discuss filing a civil lawsuit if you have been victimized by a collection agency. Some lawyers take these cases on a contingency basis, which means no out-of-pocket costs to you. Also, file a complaint with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation and the federal Fair Trade Commission.

See Florida § 559.55 to 559.785 to learn more about the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act.

Florida Spouse's Debt Liability

When it comes to family law, Florida is a common law state. Generally, the property acquired by each spouse during marriage is presumed to be separate property. The exception is for property purchased jointly, which is considered jointly owned property. Each spouse's separate debt is their own, and creditors cannot pursue the other spouse for payment. Exceptions to that rule apply.

The Florida Supreme Court abolished the doctrine of necessaries in 1995 (Connor v. Southwest Florida Regional Medical Center, Inc., 668 So. 2d 175 (Fla. 1995)). This means spouses do not have liability for the expenses incurred by the other spouse for their necessary care, such a medical debts.

Recommendation

Consult with a Florida attorney experienced in civil litigation to get precise answers to your questions about liens, levies, and garnishment in Florida.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

99 Comments

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  • SM
    Mar, 2013
    Sarah
    My fiancé and I retired and moved to Florida in August, 2011. Ex-wife has a Judgment dated '06 granting her one half of two pensions and a significant portion of another. Fiancé was in law enforcement. None of the pensions would recognize a QDRO. The house is held in my name only and all vehicles are in my name only. She has filed an Order to Show cause in Missouri and he was served yesterday. Hearing date is May 6, 2013. Obviously we do not intend to attend. I feel we need the advice of an experienced asset protection attorney. Is this an area you practice in? My fear is that she will register her Judgment here and try to incarcerate him for contempt. Please let me know if this is something you could advise us on and if so, your rates. Thanking you in advance,
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Mar, 2013
      Bill
      Bills.com offers general information, and none of the staff are licensed to practice law in Florida or Missouri, so we are incompetent to represent you or your spouse.

      We urge you to consult with a Missouri lawyer who has family law experience immediately. If your fiance fails to appear or be represented at the hearing, the court will have no choice but to issue a default judgment in favor of of the other party, which is not in your fiance's best interest. Obviously, we know very little about your situation, but it is possible the Missouri court has no personal jurisdiction over your fiance. If so, a Missouri lawyer may be able to argue for a dismissal of the case.
      0 Votes

  • FP
    Feb, 2013
    Frank
    Please read this. My husband had to be life-flighted because of an accident. Our $500 a month insurance covered $5,000 of the bill, and the remaining $18,000 is ours. Find out where your nearest trauma center is located. If you aren't close to it and you have an accident and are coherent, demand that you're taken by ground ambulance.
    1 Votes

  • BP
    Oct, 2012
    B
    I went back to take some courses at a Florida university about 12 years ago and took 4 or 5 courses in a spring semester. I recall paying for it (obviously you'd have to pay before they'd let you attend) but something happened and they sent me invoices for payment the following year which if I remember correctly I send them a copy of my cancelled check. 12 years later, yesterday, I get a call from a collection agent that I'm in collection as they just got my account. I don't keep cancelled checks for 10 years of more so I don't have that check plus the bank I used to bank with 12 years ago is long gone and out of business. Question, isn't there a statute that makes something like this noncollectable just if for no other reason the time which has elapsed? I'd love to find the Florida statute and send it to this collection agency. Thanks.
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Nov, 2012
      Bill
      First, validate the debt. Act quickly because there is a time-limit for doing so. If the collection agent cannot validate the debt, then it may not collect it.

      Second, if the collection agent can validate the debt, consider consulting with a lawyer who has consumer law experience. Discuss the idea of filing a motion with a local court asking for a declaration the debt is void based on the circumstances you described.
      0 Votes

  • PN
    Oct, 2012
    Pay
    I am a resident in the state of Florida who had a foreclosure in 2008 and a mound of credit card debt that have not had any payments/activity since 2008. I want to rebuild my life and want to know when and how to remove these debts from credit report other than repayment as I have been unemployed and want to wait out the time instead of paying it back. Bankruptcy is not an option. Also, Will I need to contact the 3 credit bureau s once the statute of limitations expires or do the debts drop off reports automatically by a certain time?
    1 Votes

    • BA
      Oct, 2012
      Bill
      Derogatory accounts appear on a consumer's credit report for up to 7½ years after the date of first delinquency. Get a copy of one of your credit reports to see the date of first delinquency for each of the accounts in question. See the Bills.com article Fair Credit Reporting Act to learn more about what can appear in your credit report. See also How to Read a Credit Report to learn more about credit reports.

      You mentioned your state's statute of limitations and how it impacts your credit report. The two are separate and independent of each other. Your state's statutes of limitation are set by your state legislature and governor. The FCRA and its rules for what and how long something can appear on your credit report are federal laws.

      There is a tiny amount of cross-over between credit reports and a state statute of limitations, and that pertains to how long judgments may appear on a credit report. You did not mention a judgment so your state's statute of limitations has no bearing on your credit report.

      Just because a debt does not appear on a credit report does not mean the debt is forgiven, resolved, or otherwise invalid. Also, in all but two states, the passing of a state statute of limitations does not mean the debt is no longer collectable. Read the Bills.com statute of limitations resource to learn more.
      0 Votes

  • JK
    Oct, 2012
    Julie
    I am having issues with my student loans. I graduated in May 2007 and have accrued over $150K in student loan debt. I currently pay a huge chunk a month to my federal loans, perkins loans, and one private lender. I do however have an issue with NCT ( a private lender). I tried to be reasonable with them years ago to come up with a payment that fit my budget but they wouldn't work with me. I then lost my job and was unemployed for awhile so they defaulted. Now I'm back on my feet and somehow, I haven't heard anything from them in years, and now they've tracked me to my new employer. We are not suppose to receive calls at work, so this is most aggrevating. My concern is since I defaulted on them, can they garnish my wages without me knowing it first? Or can they take me to court? I owe NCT roughly $35k but broken into about 5 different loans stretching back from 2000-2004 when I was a resident of Pennsylvania. I currently live in FL for the past 5 years. I tried bankruptcy but I was told I couldn't do it for my student loans. Like I said, it is hard enough to pay my current student loans along with normal rent and utilites...
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Oct, 2012
      Bill
      Reread the original article above to get a general overview of your rights and liabilities as a Florida resident.

      The Dept. of Education (and other federal agencies) have the right to an administrative wage garnishment of your wages. Private student lenders must file a lawsuit against you. If you mount no defense, or an ineffective defense, the court will give the creditor a judgment. As discussed above, with a judgment in hand, the judgment-creditor can ask for a wage garnishment, account levy, and property lien. Read the Bills.com article Stop a Wage Garnishment Related to Student Loans to learn more.
      0 Votes