Florida Collection Laws

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

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Bill's Answer: Answered by Mark Cappel

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.

Wise Advice In 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
Wise Advice Collection 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.

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

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Comments (115)


Daniel G.
Miami, FL  |  April 16, 2014
I took several courses at Johnson and Wales under a scholarship I was given (I have a copy of the award). It's been 10 years now and they refuse to give me my transcript saying I owe $3800.00; they say they will not give me my papers since they have no evidence of the scholarship. What recommendation do you have for me.
Bills.com
April 17, 2014
Have you considered sharing a copy of the scholarship information you have with the school? Send the school a letter describing the scholarship, and include copies of your scholarship paperwork.
Yvette L.
Oakland Park, FL  |  April 03, 2014
For over 18 months, I was making monthly payments to a debt consolidation agency to negotiate payments with my creditors; however, I got laid off (for 2 months) and of course, I was not able to could to make payments. I called the debt consolidation agency to let them know my situation and they put my account "on-hold." I got another job, but it has not been easy to catch up, and my account is still on an on-hold basis. I just got served with a summons to appear in court next week for a pre-trial/mediation. This is for a credit card -- I owe $1,500. I immediately contacted the debt consolidation agency that was handling my payments. I was told because I have not been making any payments they cannot get involved. What are the legal ramifications if I don't appear in court? Should I contact a lawyer? Should I reach out again to the debt consolidation staff and ask them to assist me? I'm terrified!
Bills.com
April 03, 2014
Consult with a lawyer immediately. If you cannot afford a lawyer and reside in Florida, contact Florida Legal Services or another Florida pro bono program to get no-cost legal advice.

If you take no action you will lose by default.
Carla B.
Crawfordville, FL  |  March 03, 2014
I have a civil judgement against me filed by the Discover Credit Card attorney firm. I have a piece of property in Florida, not homestead, that I want to sell. The title company will not issue a clear title with the judgement in place claiming it's a lien. They are claiming it is an automatic lien against my real property that my sister and I inherited and own outright. I have called everyone I can think of and am waiting on yet another call from an atty to answer my question. Does this judgement for a non secured credit card balance automatically become a lien against all of my real and personal property as stated by the title company????
Bills.com
March 10, 2014
In some states, yes, a judgment against a person becomes a lien against that person's real property. In some states, this is a manual process the judgment-creditor must do by filing forms with the county. In other states, the process is automatic. In Florida, recording a certified copy of a judgment creates a lien on real property (see F.S. § 55.10 and Franklin Financial v. White, 932 So. 2d 434 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006).

Consult with a Florida lawyer who has consumer law experience to learn more.
Stephen A.
Beggs, OK  |  February 27, 2014
I had gotten a traffic ticket in 1995, in miami-dade county, which at the time i believe it was paid, for the reasons they had suspended my license, and I had to go pay money to get it re-instated. After about a year, I got pulled over again, and the police said my license was suspended, even though I paid money to get it back, they took me to jail for 3 days, after the 3 days were over I saw a judge that ruled time served, and the case was closed. Now even though it was closed I had to pay again to have my license re-instated again. Now after 18 years I get a collection agency saying I owe money for the original ticket, how can it be possible when I had to pay to have a license UN-suspended 3 times? I don't even live or have lived in Florida in over 18 years, any assistance would be appreciated.
Bills.com
March 10, 2014
Consult with a Florida lawyer who specializes in traffic law violations. Share the proof of your payments with your lawyer, and he or she has the option to file a motion with the court to ask for a declaration your fines were paid.
Knichol S.
Santa Monica, CA  |  December 11, 2013
I paid a company $300 to advertise my timeshare, but the woman took an extra $800 from my account. What do I do? Unauthorized payment? What statute does this violate?
Bills.com
December 11, 2013
Go to your bank or credit union branch immediately and report the error or fraudulent withdrawal amount. Then contact the company and ask if the $800 withdrawal was in error. If it was, then ask them to reverse the transaction.
If the company refuses to reverse its error, then contact your state attorney general and the FTC, and file complaints with both agencies.
Dan R.
Cape Coral, FL  |  November 04, 2013
Had a payment plan to pay toll fines with Clerk of Court. Then after a few months, I recieved a letter from a collection agency for non payment. I had paid close to half the fine already. Went to C of Courts, and was told I was late with a payment 3 months ago, and that cancelled my payment plan, and sent it to collections. Now they want the entire amount of fine plus penalites and fees. None of my monthly payments were applied to the fine, they said they were, but it was offset due to collection fees. Again, I asked, show me the math. They couldn't, and when I asked why they kept cashing my monthly checks, they said they continue to do so if mailed in. Great system. With no real option, and seeing I was losing my cool and didn't want to get in more trouble, I decided to pay the full amount. Another big reason for that, was I just found out my licence had been suspended for the past 3 months, for non payment. I didn't even know, "Oh, thats Talahassee's problem, they are supposed to tell you." Wow, I wish I could pass the buck like that at my job. So, I thought an original creditor could not take payments if an account is sent to collections. Or because this is the government, the FDCPA doesn't apply, and I basically paid them $300 for their office xmas party? Do I have any way of getting back some of the money I sent in after they cancelled my payment plan and sent me to collections? Thanks for reading the ramble.
Bills.com
November 05, 2013
What you described is unjust and unreasonable. Consult with a Florida lawyer who has consumer law experience.
Maurice J.
Delray Beach, FL  |  October 29, 2013
Let's say I am upside-down on a house that I own — I owe $140,000 and it's worth $80,000 — and I buy a $250,000 home for cash. Supposing my finances and job situation decline and I cannot afford to pay for the upside-down home, can they come after my Florida -homesteaded, paid-off $250,000 home?
Bills.com
October 29, 2013
Florida has a consumer-friendly homestead exemption, which prevents a judgment-creditor from attaching a levy or lien to the debtor’s primary residence regardless of its market value. There is one limit to the exemption, however. If the property is within a municipality, the exemption is limited to lots 1/2 acre or smaller. Thus, 1/2-acre-plus properties inside a city or town may be subject to partition and levy.

If your $250,000 primary residence is out in the country, then your lot can be of any size to be exempt from attachment. If your $250,000 primary residence is within a municipality, then your lot can be no larger than 1/2 acre in size. If it's in a municipality and your lot is larger than 1/2 acre in size, then it's open for attachment.
Kandace S.
Lehigh Acres, FL  |  September 17, 2013
I am trying to validate a debt from a past creditor in 2007. He informed me that in order to validate the debt I have to pay him $175 to get the information because it is in storage. Is this legal and true?
Bills.com
September 17, 2013
A collection agent may not charge a fee for providing information required in the mandatory debt validation notice. It is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act § 808(1) to collect a fee not allowed by the original contract the consumer signed or allowed by law. It is very unlikely the creditor or collection agent will be able to produce a contract you signed that states you must pay a $175 fee for a debt validation. This rule is articulated in Sandlin v. Shapiro & Fishman, 919 F.Supp. 1564 (M.D.Fla. 1996).

We have to give this original creditor or collection agent bonus points for cleverness and boldness.
Sarah M.
Port Charlotte, FL  |  March 09, 2013
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,
Bills.com
March 11, 2013
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.
Frank P.
Saint Augustine, FL  |  February 11, 2013
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.
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