A Florida resident who is overwhelmed with credit card debt needs to be aware that he can be sued by the credit card companies. If his creditors win their lawsuit, they have several ways of collecting the debt. However, the debtor also has rights that are protected under Florida law. These include the right to have a creditor lawsuit dismissed if the debt is no longer covered under the statute of limitations, and restrictions on how the creditor can contact him about paying the judgment. Both his wages and his property also can be exempt from seizure under certain circumstances.
Collecting a Judgement
Credit card companies who win a judgment against a debtor in Florida are entitled to seize that debtor's bank accounts and personal property and garnish the debtor's wages. Personal property is defined as movable things like cars, boats, furniture and jewelry. However, Florida allows several exemptions. A person's home is exempt from seizure by a creditor along with one vehicle worth $1000 or less and one additional personal property item worth $1,000 or less. The property will be sold at a public auction to the highest bidder for cash. You are allowed to bid on your own property.
Statute of Limitations
The Florida statute of limitations on collecting a judgment is 20 years. The Florida statute of limitations on obtaining a judgment to collect credit card debt can be either four years, if there is no written agreement between card issuer and credit card holder, or five years, if a written contract existed. If a creditor tries to obtain a judgment against a debtor after the statute of limitations has expired, the debtor can ask the judge to dismiss the suit.
Debtors in Florida are protected from abusive collection practices by both Federal fair debt collection laws as well as Florida statutes that govern consumer collection practices. Under Florida law, creditors cannot threaten or harass debtors and may only call a debtor on the telephone between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Debt collectors are also prohibited from communicating with an employer before they have a final judgement against you. However, they can inform you that your employer will be contacted if they obtain a final judgement which would allow them to garnish your wages. The exceptions to this prohibition are if you give the creditor permission to contact your employer or if you acknowledge the existence of the debt in writing, after it’s been sent to collections.
Florida law offers special protections to a "head of household" who is facing wage garnishment because of a judgment. If an adult family member is responsible for at least one-half of the support for a dependent (a spouse, child or elderly parent) who is living in the same house, her wages cannot be garnished unless she gives written permission for the garnishment. Even then, her wages have to be at least $500 per week. A head of household needs to file an affidavit in court claiming that she is the head of household in order to be protected by this law.
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