Posting Debtor Lists to Collect Delinquent Assessments

The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act Prohibits Associations From Posting Delinquency Lists and Taking Other Actions to Collect Assessments and Maintenance Fees.

There have been a number of newspaper articles explaining actions taken by community association boards and managers to collect delinquent assessments.  The Miami Herald reported that some associations post lists of the names of the owners behind on their fees and others deny security access devices to tenants of delinquent owners.   The Wall Street Journal reported that some associations were taking control of the unoccupied units and renting them on a short term basis until the bank foreclosed.  

While we are all familiar with the idiom “drastic times call for drastic measures”,  community leaders and property managers should understand that Florida law prohibits unfair or abusive tactics with regard to debt collection, including the collection of assessments.   Although the prohibitions in the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act do not apply to the person or entity owed the debt (the ‘creditor’, which in this case is the Association), both community associations and their managing agents are responsible for compliance with the Florida Laws.

Among other practices, Section 559.72, Florida Statutes, prohibits the following:

  • Use of profane, obscene, vulgar, or willfully abusive language in communicating with a debtor or any member of his or her family;
     
  • Communication with a debtor under the guise of an attorney by using the stationary of an attorney or forms or instruments which only attorneys are authorized to prepare;
     
  • Orally communicating with a debtor in such a manner as to give the false impression or appearance that such person is associated with an attorney;
     
  • Publishing or posting, threatening to publish or post, or causing to be published or posted before the general public individual names or any list of names of debtors, commonly know as a deadbeat list, for the purpose of enforcing or attempting to enforce collection of consumer debts;
     
  • Mailing any communication to a debtor in an envelope or postcard with words typed, written, or printed n the outside of the envelope or postcard calculated to embarrass the debtor. An example of this would be an envelope addressed to “Deadbeat, Jane Doe” or “Deadbeat, John Doe”;
     
  • Communicating with the debtor between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. without the prior written consent of the debtor.

While every association must be diligent with its collection efforts, those efforts must be in compliance with legal and ethical standards.

On the other hand, the Florida Courts are cognizant of the problem and have allowed Associations to have receivers appointed for the purposes of collecting rent from tenants when the owners of those units are facing foreclosure as a result of non-payment of assessments.  Remember to check this site in the future for more information about proactive methods to collect assessments.

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