Debt collection laws in Florida

Here are your rights in Florida if debt collectors come knocking

Author pictureAuthor picture
Author picture
Written by
Author picture
Edited by

Could your debt be reduced or forgiven? Take our financial relief quiz.

man working on computations at his desk

If you live in the state of Florida and have debt in collections, you should know which rights and protections are afforded to you at both the state and federal levels.

Fortunately, various consumer protections ensure you have rights when it comes to limiting communication from debt collectors or stopping them altogether. These consumer protection laws can also help you avoid being victimized by unscrupulous bill collectors who might otherwise use threats and harassment in their efforts to collect payment.

Key insights

  • Florida residents benefit from federal consumer protections under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) when it comes to unpaid debts.
  • The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) includes additional protections at the state level.
  • Both laws prevent debt collectors from using threats or harassment to collect on a debt and from misrepresenting themselves.
  • If you are struggling with debt in Florida, knowing your legal rights can help you gain peace of mind.

Federal debt collection laws

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that affords all Americans certain rights when their unpaid debts have made them subject to collection activities.

The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from using deceptive or abusive debt collection practices, such as contacting you at odd hours, calling you repeatedly or making false threats regarding legal actions they plan to take. Debt collectors are also barred from revealing the existence of unpaid debts to other parties, both on social media and through direct forms of communication.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), if you have legal representation, debt collectors must contact your attorney instead of reaching out to you personally.

The FDCPA also lets you stop all contact with debt collectors by informing them in writing that you do not want to receive communications any longer. If the debt collector continues its communications, you can sue them under the FDCPA and get your legal fees paid, plus damages.

» MORE: How to handle bill collectors

Florida debt collection laws

According to Howard Li, a Florida attorney with extensive experience in debt collection laws and practices, Florida's primary debt collection law is the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA).

"It complements the federal FDCPA but offers additional protections to Florida residents," he said.

Not only that, but the FCCPA applies to both debt collectors and creditors in the state.

Debt collection practices

While some of the protections in the FDCPA and the FCCPA overlap, Florida statutes dictate that Florida debt collectors are barred from the following acts:

  • Pretending to be from law enforcement or part of any government agency
  • Threatening force or violence to collect a debt
  • Telling you that they will disclose information to impact your reputation or creditworthiness
  • Communicating or threatening to communicate with your employer about your debt without permission in writing
  • Disclosing your debts to another person or your family without your knowledge or consent
  • Disclosing information concerning a debt known to be reasonably disputed by you without disclosing that fact
  • Overcommunicating with you or your family member in a way that feels like harassment or abuse
  • Using profanity or obscene or vulgar language to collect on a debt
  • Claiming, attempting or threatening to try to collect a debt when the debt is not legitimate
  • Claiming legal rights that do not exist to collect a debt
  • Communicating in a way that simulates the appearance of being part of the legal or judicial process
  • Pretending to be an attorney through written communication or other forms or instruments
  • Pretending to be an attorney through oral communication
  • Advertising or threatening to advertise the sale of a debt except under a court order
  • Publishing or threatening to publish lists of debtors or information on their debts
  • Not identifying oneself while trying to collect on a debt
  • Communicating by mail with you with a postcard or other type of mail that lists personal details on the outside of the card or envelope
  • Attempting to communicate with you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. without prior consent (based on your local time)
  • Communicating with you about your debt when you are represented by an attorney and the debt collector knows this information (exceptions apply)
  • Causing you to be charged for communication (i.e., collect telephone calls) without disclosing the reason for the call

Statute of limitations

In the state of Florida, Li said that the statute of limitations for debt collection varies based on the type of debt involved. For example, written contracts, promissory notes and credit card debt have a five-year statute of limitations, whereas the limit for oral agreements and verbal contracts is four years.

Once the timeline has passed for each type of debt, creditors and debt collectors can no longer file a lawsuit against you for the purpose of collecting on the debt.

Licensing and registration

Debt collectors in Florida must be licensed and bonded, and are required to adhere to both state and federal laws when collecting debts.

"This includes providing validation of the debt, refraining from harassing or threatening behavior and respecting the rights of the debtor," said Li.

Required notices to debtors

Debt collectors in Florida are legally required to send a written notice within five days after you are first contacted about a debt that informs you of the amount you owe. The notice must also outline the name of the creditor who was originally owed before the debt moved to collections, and the actions they can take if they believe they do not owe the debt.

Consumer rights

If a Florida resident believes they do not owe a debt being collected, they can write to the collection agency about the debt within 30 days of initial contact. This communication should explain that you do not owe the money, at which point the collection agency cannot contact you anymore other than sending available proof of the debt. For example, the collection agency can legally send you a copy of the original bill you owed as proof the debt is legitimate.

Florida residents also have the right to tell bill collectors to cease contact with them altogether, which should be done in writing. Once the debt collection agency receives the communication, they have to stop reaching out other than to say that contact will stop or that the creditor is planning specific actions regarding the collection of the debt.

Enforcement and penalties

According to Li, debt collectors who violate the FCCPA can face civil penalties.

"Debtors can sue collectors for actual damages, statutory damages up to $1,000 and attorney fees and court costs," he said. "In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded."

And remember, you can sue debt collectors for violating federal protections under the FDCPA as well.

» MORE: How to get out of debt

Examples of debt collection violations in Florida

According to Florida-based law firm Jimerson Birr, common violations of the FCCPA that lead to litigation in the state include:

  • Harassment or abuse
  • Misrepresentation
  • Unfair practices like trying to collect fake fees
  • Disclosure of sensitive information to unauthorized third parties
  • Failure to validate a debt

Consumers who feel their legal rights have been violated can file a complaint with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, the CFPB or both. Civil remedies for violating FCCPA rules can include cash damages, statutory damages up to $1,000, attorney fees and court costs.

Could your debt be reduced or forgiven? Take our financial relief quiz.


    What debt collection laws protect consumers in Florida?

    Florida residents have protection with both federal and state laws when it comes to debt collection practices. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects consumers on the federal level, while the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) includes additional protections on the state level.

    How long before a debt is uncollectible in Florida?

    The statute of limitations for the majority of debts in Florida is five years, whereas the limit for oral agreements and verbal contracts is four years.

    Can you be sued by a debt collector in Florida?

    You can be sued based on unpaid debts in Florida and in any other state. If you wind up with a judgment against you based on debts that remain unpaid, the creditor or debt collector may be able to garnish your wages, place a lien against property you own or freeze money in your bank account.

    Bottom line

    Florida residents are protected by both federal and state debt protection laws, which means they have legal rights to avoid threatening behavior and nonstop calls from bill collectors. Consumers even have the right to tell debt collectors to stop contacting them altogether, thanks to protections afforded under the FDCPA.

    That said, getting debt collectors to stop calling won't make the debt go away, nor will it prevent being sued for repayment or damage to your credit score. If you're feeling overwhelmed by your unpaid debts in the state of Florida, facing the problem head-on with the help of an attorney or nonprofit credit counselor may be your best bet.

    Article sources
    ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
    1. Federal Trade Commission, "Fair Debt Collection Practices Act." Accessed Nov. 7, 2023.
    2. Federal Trade Commission, "Fair Debt Collection Practices Act." Accessed Nov. 7, 2023.
    3. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "How do I get a debt collector to stop calling or contacting me?" Accessed Nov. 8, 2023.
    4. NOLO, "Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act." Accessed Nov. 8, 2023.
    5. Online Sunshine, "The 2023 Florida Statutes." Accessed Nov. 9, 2023.
    6. Loan Lawyers, "What Is the Statute of Limitations on Debt in Florida?" Accessed Nov. 9, 2023.
    7. Surety Solutions, "How to get a Florida Collection Agency License." Accessed Nov. 9, 2023.
    8. Office of Attorney General State of Florida, "How to Protect Yourself: Debt Collections." Accessed Nov. 9, 2023.
    9. Online Sunshine, "The 2023 Florida Statutes." Accessed Nov. 9, 2023.
    10. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "What should I do if I’m sued by a debt collector or creditor?" Accessed Nov. 8, 2023.
    11. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "1006.34 Notice for validation of debts." Accessed Nov. 8, 2023.
    Did you find this article helpful? |
    Share this article