In a recent infographic released by the National Consumer Law Center, Florida ranked number one for the highest amount of debt collection complaints in the nation. This study was based on data compiled by the Federal Trade Commission. It found that for every 100,000 people, 476 Florida Consumers complained about debt collection methods. In other words, Florida’s complaints are almost 4 times higher than the national average (125). This is very concerning because Florida ranked 13th in the nation for the number of individuals with debt in the collection. This was 39% based on 2016 credit bureau records. Similarly, the median is 30%.
If you are being harassed or have a debt collection complaint, hire an attorney
Oftentimes, I take these cases on a contingency basis. If you think that a debt collector is trying to illegally collect a debt from you that you do not owe or are misrepresenting the amount of that debt, hiring an experienced consumer protection attorney can dramatically increase your odds of being treated fairly by these debt collectors.
If you need are interested in a consultation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. You can do this three ways: (1) call 813.502.6768, (2) e-mail me, or (3) set up a time online.
We’ve been receiving a lot of calls from consumers that are seeing Collins Asset Group, LLC on documents that have been sent to them or their credit report
As part of my mission to help consumers, I try to spot the recent trends and help folks make sense of what they may be seeing on their credit report, in the mail, or are being given by process servers. Recently, we’ve seen a huge uptick in debt collection attempts by an outfit named Collins Asset Group, LLC. We’ve seen a few different scenarios popping up regarding this entity.
Served in a Lawsuit by Collins Asset Group, LLC
Starting with what is generally the most obvious attempt to collect a debt from Collins Asset Group, you may be served with a law suit. This seems to be pretty typical, with the entity buying notes and taking over final judgments of foreclosure (possibly to pursue deficiency judgments). Generally, you have 20 days to answer the complaint – this is a pivotal step in the case. By purchasing Notes, Collins Asset Group will have to prove their standing to sue – if they don’t, it can be a disaster for them. The hard part though, is that proper defenses must be raised in that answer. If you leave something out, you can potentially waive that defense (e.g., never borrowing money from them, the statute of limitations, etc.).
Receiving collection letters from Collins Asset Group, LLC
We’ve been seeing an increase in debt collection letters from Collins Asset Group too. A lot of times, Collins Asset Group is indicating that they have just purchased the right to collect the debt. These letters can be a gold mine for potential issues. What we are seeing are various debt collection violations – things that seem innocuous unless the reader knows the law and what they are trying to do. Sometimes they do not disclose their ability to collect. At times, they may not even tell you that the debt may be time barred. If you know what you are looking for, you may find violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or the Florida Consumer Collections Practices Act. I’ve dedicated a large part of my career to spotting these issues. If they exist, you may have the ability to countersue or attempt to have them correct these issues.
If you are receiving letters from Collins Asset Group, and would like them reviewed for these issues, meeting with an attorney should be done very quickly. These statutes generally have very short time periods available to bring your claims. Once you miss them, they are generally gone. Generally, most folks wait until months after receiving notices to speak to an attorney, by the time we discover this information, the time to do something about it has passed. If you’d like to know what, if any, potential statute violations are in materials you receive, feel free to either call my office or book with me online to speak with me.
(Note: Edited to address recent inquiries about lawyer suspension, sudden lawyer sickness, and lack of communication – original published on 04/23/2015)
Some recent lawyer suspension reports have been adding an influx of calls lately, and I wrote this a few years ago to help.
This has been helpful for some folks who have found themselves in a similar situation. While I certainly hope that no one is ever in this position, having some direction on what to do can be a life saver. My first recommendation is to contact the Florida Bar – if there are pending complaints, they should be able to tell you. You never know, there may be others in a similar situation. They may also be able to tell you if your lawyer has closed up the practice or other news.
Every individual’s biggest fear in active litigation is that their attorney suddenly does not fit their needs.
For some, they will simply stop representing them. For others, they cannot reach their attorney or there is no response from attorney’s firm. Believe it or not, this is one of the most common complaints between lawyer and client.
Then there are those instances that even an attorney shudders when the hear it – the law firm has closed its doors (seemingly over night), the lawyer has been disciplined by the Florida Bar or even that the attorney is now suspended or disbarred.
A lot of these situations can be avoided; however, here, I will try to give you pointed advice on what to do if you find yourself in the worst position for a party to a lawsuit to imagine – your lawyer’s offices closed, he or she has stopped responding to your emails and phone calls, your calls don’t go through to their firm, you have found way too many complaints against your lawyer, or even if he was sent to jail. The bottom line – time is of the essence so you can minimize the impact to your case.
<h4>If your attorney was recently suspended, and you need a new one, or you are finding that you do not trust them to handle your legal issues – we offer three very easy ways to reach us: call (813) 502-6768, e-mail us, or schedule with me online. </h4>
First, try not to panic!
I know that is easier said than done. If you cannot contact your attorney or there is no response from an attorney – don’t start by posting things on social media asking or making complaints. If someone from the other side of the law suit sees you doing this, it may give them ideas on how to aggressively litigate your case while you may be dealing with this.
After – that’s fine. But you need to make a plan on how to get your case healthy before that process starts.
Second, do you recall your last conversation with your attorney?
Do you remember anything about the conversation? Did they say they may be in court a lot during the week you are trying to contact them? Are you able to reach anyone at that lawyer’s office? Can you physically visit the office and walk in? What was the last status update you received from them or their staff? How about pleadings/motions?
Did you recently talk about a recent hearing? If so, you can check the docket online (usually) and see the outcome. A huge red flag is a lawyer missing hearings. If you haven’t received anything, are getting orders from hearings that were not attended, or don’t know how to answer these questions, please, get a free consultation from an attorney. If no one will talk with you, I will.
Next, gather the important documents!
I am trying very hard to not scare you, but this part will. Gather everything and bring it to the consultation with your attorney. Insist on an in person consultation. If you think you have enough information – you may not. If you walk in empty handed, bring a note pad. It is very important, going forward, to get as much information about your case. You may find that you were represented very poorly and that what you were told does not match reality. This is sadly the case in many situations. The goal here is to get information and be in a position to react to it.
Be Honest with Your Goals.
If your case has been ongoing for years, you may be facing a hostile judiciary, an a bank or opposing party that has simply lost its patience with you and your case. If you know what your goal is, it is time to move towards it – whether through counsel or independently. If you cannot reach your attorney, or if your attorney does not respond to you, you have to have an ability to direct your new attorney as to what your end game is – in some cases it may be litigating for a day in court and in some other situations it may simply be a soft landing (loan modification or other form of settlement.) Only you know what your goal is, and it is your attorneys job to counsel you on what is achievable and what is not.
Loan Modification and Bank Issues Still Plague Consumers
I read a recent article in the New York Post where a homeowner is seeking to fight back using glitches in a banks loan modification system. This news left me unsurprised that someone had this happen to them. Many of my clients have had prior attorneys in their foreclosure cases that did not offer loss mitigation services (loan modifications and short sales). They hadn’t seen what this consumer and my office see everyday – loss mitigation errors in processing by the banks. In this article, it appears Wells Fargo admitted to a glitch which triggered a denial of a loan modification affecting roughly 600 people and a homeowner is trying to claim that they were part of that group. It didn’t have to take that long, but for so many consumers they are simply unaware of the errors in the first place.
Avoid Loss Mitigation Errors by keeping a paper trial of your communications with the bank in foreclosure
If you are trying to navigate the loan modification or short sale waters alone – do so with caution. An attorney that does this everyday is highly advisable. This is because various rules and regulations are out there that are designed to keep the bank honest in working on your loss mitigation application. This is meant to help avoid loss mitigation errors if you know what you are looking for.
If you are submitting a loss mitigation package, or have done so in the past, take a few moments to create a timeline. Itemize when you started the process. Detail what you sent and in what method. If you received something in the mail from the bank or servicer – write that down too. Do you think there was an error in handling the loss mitigation application (e.g., you never heard back after you uploaded it, they requested the same documents you had sent, etc.)
If you can’t seem to get a decision from the Bank – bring the information you’ve gathered to an attorney. They may see patterns and practices that are clearly wrong – such as a potential denial letter for “not enough income” shown on the application when there truly is a large income shown in it. It’s important to read everything coming in from the bank.
In some instances, you can even give the bank notice of their loss mitigation errors and get them to admit that they made a mistake. If that happens, they are likely to begin to correct that error and reattempt to find a program for the consumer. This is commonly done in our office by using the Notice of Error, Qualified Written Requests, and Requests for Information made available to consumers by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Having Loss Mitigation Problems – maybe we should talk?
If you are a homeowner that is tired of dealing with the run around from the banks or loss mitigation errors and not sure how to make them aware of their mistakes – let’s set up a time to talk. Meeting with an attorney can be very helpful to you. I pride myself on being easy to get to. You can reach me 3 ways: (1) call my office at 813.502.6768, (2) e-mail me at my firm – we’ll get you set up for a time to speak to me; or (3) schedule a consultation by using my online platform.
Did you just find out what the payment on your Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loan will be?
Haven’t heard of a PACE loan? Me either. I recently read a National Consumer Law Center response that has me very afraid for my clients and the increase of PACE Loans. I wanted to take a few moments to educate and try to help those that are only know learning about this loan type:
Do you have a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loan? Are you finding out what your payment is now going to be? You’re not alone – hundreds (if not thousands) of homeowners have been in the same position you are. This is a newly forming, and potentially disastrous new form of lending which is currently the fastest growing lending and investment program throughout the nation. This form of lending has been compared to the type of sub-prime loans that caused the economic downturn and the foreclosures that still haunt our state to this day.
What is a PACE loan?
A PACE loan, at its core, is a loan program that offered loans for energy-efficient home improvements (solar panels, HVAC systems, and energy-efficient windows). A contractor typically offers this loan and secures it by a property tax lien. The local tax collector (property taxes) then collects the outstanding amount through annual tax assessments. The state of Florida and your local government authorizes these programs, but they are generally run by private corporations with no oversight.
How does a PACE loan work?
Generally, a homeowner will be approached by a contractor or other private individual citing issues with the property. In fact, the PACE program is designed to use a home improvement contractor as the salesperson for the loan product. Even if you are not approached directly door-to-door, it is becoming increasingly more common for a contractor to try to “up-sell” repairs needed to the home (i. e., a new toilet becomes the need for a set of solar panels and water heater). Typically, homeowners are being told that the savings on energy will offset the cost of, or even pay for, the new upgrade to the home.
There are minimal criteria for receiving this form of financing: (1) improvements must not exceed 15% of the property’s value, (2) the combined mortgage related debt and amount of the PACE loan cannot equal more than 100% of the property’s value, and (3) the total annual property tax and assessments must not exceed a percentage of the property’s market value.
What are the risks?
As you can imagine, this is fraught with issues. Gone are the days when the world could be trusted – especially door-to-door salespeople. While the complaints associated with this type of lending are numerous, I’ve gathered a few to help you conceptualize and envision just how scary this type of loan can be:
First of all, imagine you were convinced to take a PACE loan on your property. You probably know you are going to have a new tax assessment. You know you have the ability to pay it. Imagine the repair starts to show signs of not being done properly (those new solar panels? The roof leaks during the first rain!) The contractor has probably been paid for the work – and now you have to track them down;
Homeowners are told they can get a tax refund. Generally, there is only a non-refundable tax credit available for this type of loan. Most importantly, consult your CPA and ask about 26 USC 25C/25D;
The sales person knows the maximum your home can qualify for! It’s pretty easy math that leads to exploitation – they shoot for 15% of the market value of the property. Your $200,000 home can be a $30,000 payday for the contractor;
This loan isn’t like a mortgage – it is applied as a tax lien. Generally, these loans will take priority over your mortgage – which may put you in default;
Escrowed Mortgage Payment (where you pay insurance and taxes through your mortgage payment)? Expect an increase in your mortgage payment months after the work has been done. This can be devastating to homeowners on a fixed income. Often times, your escrow payment is calculated around mid year. This means that if you put the solar panels on 6 months ago, it’ll take time to catch up with you;
Trying to refinance or sell your home? This loan can cause issues with that. Homeowners are being told that if they sell the property, the tax assessment will go on to the new owner. This may be a deal breaker for some buyers. If the buyer finds out about it post contract (and you did not disclose the loan) you can be looking at a lot of headaches in your transaction; AND
Finally, there is no meaningful review of an ability to pay. This loan is tied to your property’s value – not your income. Consequently, it’s incredibly difficult for homeowners that are living paycheck to paycheck to budget for.
I have a PACE loan and didn’t know all of this – we need to talk!
Most importantly, if you have recently gotten a PACE loan – or have a contractor that is asking you to get one – meeting with an attorney can be very helpful to you. I pride myself on being easy to get to. You can reach me 3 ways: (1) call my office at 813.502.6768, (2) e-mail me at my firm – we’ll get you set up for a time to speak to me; or (3) schedule a consultation by using my online platform.
I was in court this week, and a situation that I had become jaded with was unfolding in front of my eyes. At the defense table was an elderly man, flanked by a translator and a bailiff within reach, standing while being addressed by the judge. This man was literally shaking. He looked at the judge and simply said – I can’t pay them anything. The judge, who likely hears this more often than he can count, said to the man “We don’t send people to jail for not having enough money. Not in this country.” With that, the shaking stopped and the man looked very relieved. It was clear – his big fear was that some debt arrest warrant could be issued if judgment was entered. So I wanted to take a moment and tell everyone about the dreaded debt arrest warrant.
It’s lost on consumers what can happen to them if they can’t repay their debts
As a consumer attorney, I very frequently consult with individuals seeking to negotiate their debts, consolidate them through bankruptcy, or fight a lawsuit that has been filed against them by a debt buyer. Oftentimes, this initial consultation will yield some of the most distressing forms of debt collection – the fake debt arrest warrant. A simple google search for “debt collector arrest warrant” shows over 1.6 million results.
I remember the first time I encountered this. It was with a consumer who was at their wit’s end. I asked them what was so troubling, hadn’t they told them that they could not afford to pay them anything? the consumer told them that exact same thing, but the debt collector responded by sending them something via e-mail. I was then shown an arrest warrant – it bore the seal of a court in New York – apparently signed by an attorney working for the prosecutor’s office. I now understood exactly why this individual was so troubled – it looked real.
If you cannot pay your debts, a few different things can happen.
Typically, a debt arrest warrant is not issued. In fact, you generally cannot go to jail for your debts. You may see the delinquent debt being reported negatively on your credit. You may have a credit union terminate your relationship with them. You may see an increase in phone calls and written correspondence from the creditor or a debt collector acting on their behalf. The debt may be sold to a debt buyer or a third-party for pennies on the dollar to try to make some profit for that company. You may be served in a breach of contract type lawsuit where the debt collector or creditor will seek a money judgment against you.
These are just a few of the common examples of *what could happen to you*. But, going to jail is not typically not going to be on that list*.
What can you do?
First, ask for a copy of the warrant. Then, consult with an attorney immediately. At this point, despite catching on to the debt collectors game, you may be able to find things out about the debt that can aid your defense tremendously. It may even help put you on the offensive against the debt collector.
Second, take good notes. Are they calling you? Detail the call, number it came from, and the contents. Ask them to stop calling (if you want). Are they swearing at you over the phone? Make sure you note that. Ask that they communicate with you in writing.
Third, research your debt. Is it legitimate in the first place? After the breaches over at the credit reporting companies, your personal information may have been compromised.
Keep checking in with your attorney. Each communication may be a potential step for you into leveraging your position with this debt collector that is using illegal tactics.
Believe it or not, if a debt collector or creditor gets a judgment against you, and you are ordered to fill out a fact information sheet and you fail to do so, the court can hold you in contempt for violating its order. If the judge is so inclined, this can include a bench warrant for your arrest or a writ of bodily attachment.
If someone is threatening you with an arrest warrant for owing money, call an attorney immediately. My office is available to help! Simply call at 813.502.6768, e-mail, or set up a consultation now!
In a world where more and more consumers are incredibly mindful about their credit history and credit score, a leading credit reporting agency, Equifax, has announced that over 100m individuals are the victims of a cyber breach which has lead to a leak of their personal information. To determine if you are a victim, Equifax has set up a checking tool which can tell you whether your information has been compromised. Find it at https://trustedidpremier.com/eligibility/eligibility.html.
What this means for consumers.
Obviously, it’s disheartening. This is a credit reporting agency that insurance companies, credit card companies, and background checks look to for verifiable information regarding a individual. There is a large amount of trust that is put into this company by the public and they report information which can impact many things, and the impact of a data breach like this can then span decades.
For starters, a common piece of information that credit reporting agencies use is your social security number. Generally, identity theft is an insufficient ground to get a replacement social security number – in fact, the burden will be on you to prove someone else is using your number. Even if you are able to change the numbers, it does not automatically fix your credit report either – something that is generally done at the discretion, after a formal inquiry, if the credit reporting agency.
In addition to the social security number issue, other information can now potentially be in the public sphere – your address, date of birth, maiden name, former addresses, etc. this information is generally used by lenders to verify that you are you (especially if you have a common name).
What can you do?
As of now, there have been over 30 lawsuits filed against Equifax for this data breach. Our office focuses not only on bringing suit, but trying to help you recover from the damage caused by this data breach. If you have been affected by this breach, please feel free to give me a call at the office: 813.502.6768. Our services can include securing your credit, suing Equifax on your behalf, or potentially a class action.
Junk debt buyers like Midland Funding, Portfolio Recovery Associates, Cavalry SPV, CACH, LLC continue to sue Florida consumers for debts they did not originate every day. For many consumers, their credit card lawsuit goes undefended.
In a recent study by the Federal Trade Commission junk debt buyers are paying, on average, 4 cents on the dollar for this debt. Florida consumers are being targeted by a credit card lawsuit that seeks to collect this debt. These companies – Midland Funding, Portfolio Recovery Associates, Cach LLC and others – may be buying these debts in agreements that encompass hundreds, if not thousands, of accounts at a huge discount and then trying to collect the full face value of that debt. These companies are stating in the documents that they are filing that they are owned the debt – often ambiguously. The problem is that most, if not all, consumers did not take out a loan or credit card with these companies.
Midland Funding, Portfolio Recovery Associates, Cach, LLC, and Cavalry SPV I bring a credit card lawsuit (or an account stated lawsuit) after they have purchased these debts. They give basic information – a purchase and sale agreement or affidavit – and seek to get a judgment against consumers in court. Generally, these lawsuits are for damages that are less than $15,000 – which puts them in county court.
Can you defend a credit card lawsuit?
The simple answer is that generally, most of these cases are defensible. The problem for Midland, Portfolio Recovery Associations, or CACH LLC is that they have a hard time explaining how they are entitled to enforce the debt. Generally they need agreements that they do not want publicly disclose. This is where actually putting up a defense is key. Most of the time, these lawsuits go undefended and end up with default judgments followed by garnishment and years of debt collection. After they get their judgment it is very difficult to get a judge to change his mid. Oftentimes this leads to bankruptcy.
Getting an attorney involved early in the process is key. The earlier from when you are served allows an attorney the most time to try to litigate real issues in your case and do discovery. This allows for them to depose corporate representatives to understand just what will be faced at trial.
How are we different
We focus not only on standing and evidentiary issues, but also consumer collection violations that may give your case some added strength. Generally, for defense of these suits, we take reasonable flat fee type of charges to save you and your family money while having the benefit of an attorney. If we discover an FDCPA or FCCPA lawsuit, we generally take these cases for only the costs of filing and we will not get paid unless you win!
If you would like to speak to me regarding defending your suit, time is of the essence. In some instances a court date may already be set (if the case is for less than $5,000). Call me today at 813.502.6768 for a no obligation consultation.
National Collegiate Student Loan Trust lawsuits are continuing to hamper consumers in Florida. Many ask, is there any relief?
One incredible result of the ‘great recession’ was a raise in student loan debt and an inability of consumers to pay. This leaves them in the perilous position of having student loans with a specialized degree or even “the minimum” to locate a job and being either under employed or not employed at all. This left student loan borrowers with a hard choice – eat or default. After many chose the latter, and student loan default became a more common occurrence. Private student loan companies then sold of massive amounts of student loan debt. This also impacted investment portfolios as student loan debt, and the difficulty in getting them forgiven, was seen as a ‘safe’ investment. A large number of these debts were held by National Collegiate Student Loan Trust (NCSLT). Many student loans were then gathered into trusts and sold to various investors.
The thought was, from an investment standpoint, after an increasing number of student loan borrowers defaulted, individuals would then face lawsuits on the non-payment of these loans to try to turn these loans into collectible judgments. Many student loan borrowers, like those in foreclosure, often do not think there is any defense to these suits. They may be surprised to learn that there are a few defenses out there for these student loan lawsuits.
Are there Defenses to National Collegiate Student Loan Trust lawsuits?
That answer may startle you – yes! One big issue for them seems to be the ability to prove they have a right to sue. Like many cases where debts have transferred, proving it can be difficult. They will have to overcome evidentiary rules. They may have to overcome statute of frauds issues relating to paying debt. Having an attorney that understands these rules is very important.
Another issue the student loan debt collector may have is the statute of limitations. This is a bar to the collection of your debt through a lawsuit. This may not stop the ability to collect. It’s important to note, this can be waived. Understanding how to maintain this defense could be helpful in defending your case.
If you are involved in active litigation with National Collegiate Student Loan Trust, an experienced defense attorney may be able to help!
If you would like a review of your student loan case – whether with Sallie Mae, Navient, or National Collegiate Student Loan Trust, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 813.502.6768.
A recent Florida court decision cast a shadow on the lis pendens. Now, the 4th DCA has tried to fix its past decision.
In its recent decision in Ober v. Town of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, the Florida appellate court is trying to correct an issue that came out of a previous decision in the same case (Ober 1) which held that a lis pendens was extinguished with the entry of a final judgment.
In Ober 1, the 4th District ruled that where a final judgment had been entered in a foreclosure case, which occurs after a lis pendens is filed, and a subsequent lien arises before the sale resulting from the final judgment, that lien will not be extinguished. That case looked at a code enforcement lien entered by the city after judgment. It was a long process, but a foreclosure sale finally occurred four years after judgment. This case represented a huge deviation from existing case law as to the lis pendens statute.
In its first decision, the final judgment extinguished the lis pendens and the city’s lien was valid. It’s decision on rehearing reversed that decision.
What is a Lis Pendens
A lis pendens is a legal notice. It’s defined by Florida Statute (48.23). Basically once it’s recorded it gives people constructive notice of issues such as a lawsuit related to the property. This is vital for prospective purchasers or lenders that may be interested in the property. For those that have an interest in property that is not of record, once a lis pendens is recorded they must assert their rights.
How did they correct it
Basically, on rehearing,the 4th DCA went back to a strict interpretation of the lis pendens statute and a standard understanding of a foreclosure lawsuit. A foreclosure doesn’t end at judgment. It’s an interim period before a sale.
Attorney Bryant Dunivan's offices are centrally located in Tampa, FL and Valrico, FL. From these locations, Mr. Dunivan represents clients facing Foreclosure, Chapter 7 and 13 Bankruptcy, Consumer Protection, and Real Estate Law. This includes the entire state of Florida - including Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Osceola, Seminole, Orange, Lee, and Collier counties. Mr. Dunivan represents clients throughout the state of Florida.
Tampa, FL Office 615 W. De Leon St. Tampa,
Valrico, FL Office 1815 East State Road 60 Suite 202 Valrico,
A consultation with me or my firm may result in seeking relief under Title 11 of the US Code (Bankruptcy). We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.