Debt is a growing problem for millions of Americans. Large percentages of individuals’ budgets are consumed with paying off personal debt, usually from over-charging their credit cards, or paying off the mortgage on the house. While individuals in debt (aka, debtors) are required to pay off the money they owe, they are nonetheless afforded protection in federal and state statutes. A federal bill known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) provides a number of important protections for debtors from debt collection agencies. Unlike many other states, Louisiana’s regulations on debt collection do adhere to FDCPA in certain instances.
Debt Collection in Louisiana
In the state of Florida, the Office of the Attorney General of Florida is charged with enforcing the laws and statutes related to the regulation of debt collection practices. In the state of Florida, a debt collector is defined as simply any person involved in regularly attempting to collect debts owed by consumers. The laws regarding debt collection in the state of Florida mirror those regulated by the Federal Trade Commission in most cases.
Louisiana Statute of Limitations
Debt collection statute of limitations laws in Louisiana reflect the period of time that a debt collector has a legally enforceable right to collect on a given debt. For all legal purposes, once a statute of limitations period has expired, debt collectors no longer have a legally enforceable claim to pursue in the courts, if they wish to collect a judgment award. Some of the relevant statutes of limitations in Louisiana include:
- Contracts have a statute of limitations period of ten (10) years
- Lawsuits, which are not pursued in the courts, expire after three (3) years following last legal action taken by either party
- Judgments from lawsuits have a statute of limitations period of ten (10) years
- The statute of limitations period in Louisiana for open accounts stands at three (3) years
Collections Practices and Rules for Louisiana
The state of Louisiana’s laws regarding debt collection practices and prohibited practices can be found in the civil statutes of Louisiana’s legal code, section 9:3562. These laws, which generally outline prohibited collections actions in sub-section ten (10), inform consumers of their rights when dealing with debt collection agents.
Legal Collections Actions
- Legal actions taken by debt collection agents may include contacting others regarding the whereabouts of a given individual debtor, but cannot designate that the information is pertaining to a debt collection action
- If a consumer consents, debt collectors may act outside of the legal boundaries set forth by the state and federal statutes, however, explicit consent from the debtor must be obtained first
- Debt collection companies may pursue legal action, including liens, asset seizure, and wage garnishment, through civil judgments concerning an outstanding debt obligation
Illegal Collections Actions
- Collection actions involving other persons besides the individual debtor, except in reasonable instances used to contact that debtor, are illegal. This can include advertisement or disclosure of outstanding debt obligations to other parties besides the individual debtor without the debtor’s consent
- Collection actions involving harassing, abusive, or threatening language are prohibited
- Collection actions under implied or insinuated false legal capacities, including that of being an attorney, representing an attorney, representing the government, or any other agency besides a debt collection company, are illegal
Laws for Debt Harassment in Louisiana
Harassment by debt collectors in the state of Louisiana is prohibited. Violations of anti-harassment laws may result in both federal and state court cases being filed by consumers against debt collection agencies. For instance, if a debt collector contacts a debtor, the latter may tell the former to stop contacting them. In such an instance, the creditor or their representative may only contact the debtor once per month, reminding them of their debt obligation. Furthermore, when the initial contact is made by the debt collecting agent, it must be between the hours of 8:00am-9:00pm, local time. In addition, if the agent knows the debtor’s employer does not allow personal phone calls, he/she may not call the debtor during business hours.
Any other forms of harassment, such as abusive language, illegal publishing of a debt, or other prohibited actions should be reviewed by an attorney on behalf of an individual debtor to see if legal action is possible.
Louisiana Debt Negotiation and Settlement Rules
Debt negotiation and settlement is more open ended than the actual collections process. However, there are still legal intricacies that an attorney can assist debtors with in light of the rules and regulations of the FDCPA. Other times, Louisiana’s regulations differ somewhat from FDCPA. For example, the creditor, or the debt collection agency representing him/her may contact certain persons without the debtor’s consent:
- If the goal is to discern the debtor’s credit history or personal character;
- To discern the whereabouts of the debtor if the creditor believes he/she has moved to a different address or changed jobs.
Furthermore, Louisiana law stipulates that if the creditor or the debt collection agent violates any part therein, the debtor may in fact be entitled to a full refund, attorney’s fees, and possibly up to three times his/her debt.
Help from a Louisiana Debt Collection Attorney
These laws are in place to protect citizens from fraud and abuse that often is associated—fairly and unfairly—with debt collections. However, they are complex, and oftentimes, debt collection agencies can use illegal intimidation methods to try to get the creditor’s money back. The law forbids such practices, and an experienced attorney who specializes in debt collection issues to protect their clients. In addition, once an attorney takes an alleged debtor’s case, the creditor or the debt collection agent must cease and desist from contacting the debtor. Finally, the attorney will give their client peace of mind, and help them to negotiate a monthly payment plan that they can afford, and will satisfy the creditor.