Collectors Barred From Contacting Debtors Under New Legislation in Washington, D.C.

The Council for the District of Columbia approved an emergency relief bill yesterday aimed at helping its residents deal with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, and implemented a number of prohibitions and restrictions related to debt collection in the process.

A copy of the legislation, which is expected to be signed by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, can be accessed by clicking here. The legislation would be in effect for a period of 90 days from when it becomes law.

Among the collection-related provisions of the legislation are:

  • Prohibiting the initiation, filing, or threatening to file a new collection lawsuit
  • Prohibiting the initiation, threatening to initiate, or acting upon any statutory remedy for the garnishment, seizure, attachment, or withholding of wages, earnings, property, or funds for the payment of a debt to a creditor
  • Collectors are not allowed to visit or threaten to visit the household of a debtor or the debtor’s place of employment or confront or communicate in person with a debtor regarding the collection of a debt
  • Debt collectors are not allowed to initiate any communication with any debtor via any written or electronic communication, including email or text message, or telephone, provided that a debt collector shall not be deemed to have initiated a communication with a debtor if the communication by the debt collector is in response to a request made by the debtor for said communication

The anti-communication provisions do not apply to communications initiated solely for the purpose of informing a debtor of a rescheduled court appearance date or discussing a mutually convenient date for a rescheduled court appearance. It also does not apply to original creditors collecting or attempting to collect their own debt, nor does it apply to collecting or attempting to collect a debt which is secured by a mortgage or real property.

Karl Racine, the Attorney General of Washington, D.C., vowed to “immediately begin enforcing these new protections to keep residents safe.”

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