New Bill in Fla. Legislature Could Impact Collection Suits

A pair of attorneys from Troutman Sanders have written about the potential implications of a bill that has been introduced in the Florida legislature that would require collectors and other assignees to require an individual receive written notice within a specified timeframe before bringing any legal action against the individual.

The proposed legislation — Senate Bill 1034 — if enacted, could overturn rulings in four different state Appeals courts, the attorneys warned.

An Appeals Court in Florida has ruled that notice of an assignment is not a condition required before filing a lawsuit, and other Appeals Courts in The Sunshine State have followed suit. This proposed legislation could undo those rulings. In Brindise v. U.S. Bank National Association, the Appeals Court noted that the “the Legislature declined to be more specific” when enacting the law.

“The bill might introduce the kind of ‘specific’ language Brindise and other courts have found was lacking,” wrote Alexander King and David Anthony. “If so, failure to provide the notice at least 30 days before a lawsuit could serve as an affirmative defense to an assignee’s efforts to collect the debt. Additionally, bringing a suit without providing the proper notice could violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Florida Consumer Collections Protection Act.”

However, one potential piece of good news for the credit and collection industry is that the bill would make it clear that the 30-day notice requirement “only applies to the bringing of a legal action, as opposed to ‘any action to collect the debt,’ ” the lawyers wrote. “This could benefit debt collectors, as debtors have attempted to use § 559.715’s notice requirement to argue that an assignee cannot take any action to collect the debt — such as sending a dunning letter — until 30 days after providing a § 559.715 notice.”

If enacted, the bill would go into effect on July 1, 2019.

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