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California Imposes SOL Notice Requirement on Debt Collectors; Bans Legal Action on ‘Time-Barred’ Debt

On Aug. 22, the California legislature passed Assembly Bill 1526, relating to the collection of debt that is beyond the statute of limitations for bringing legal action.

Since 2014, debt buyers collecting from California residents have been required by Cal Civ Code § 1788.52(d)(2) to provide one of two notices, as applicable, when a debt is “time-barred.”

The new legislation creates the same requirement for debt collectors, making it a violation for a debt collector to send a collection letter to a consumer on a time-barred debt without providing the debtor with one of the following written notices, depending on the age of the debt:

“The law limits how long you can be sued on a debt. Because of the age of your debt, we will not sue you for it. If you do not pay the debt, [insert name of debt collector] may [continue to] report it to the credit reporting agencies as unpaid for as long as the law permits this reporting.”;

Or,

“The law limits how long you can be sued on a debt. Because of the age of your debt, we will not sue you for it, and we will not report it to any credit reporting agency.”

The applicable notice must be included in the first written communication sent to the consumer after the debt becomes time-barred.

The new law also amends Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 337, pertaining to the statute of limitations for written contracts and book accounts, by prohibiting the initiation of a legal action on time-barred debt, rather than requiring a consumer to raise it as an affirmative defense.  A similar prohibition currently exists for debt buyers under Cal Civ Code § 1788.56.

Pending approval by the governor, the new law will become effective Jan. 1, 2019.

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Eric Rosenkoetter is based in Maurice Wutscher’s Austin office. For many years, he has focused his practice on various aspects of financial services law. As a litigation attorney, he has conducted every aspect of the litigation process, including countless depositions, motion proceedings, bench and jury trials, and appeals in various courts. In addition, he has significant experience as a compliance and transactional attorney, providing strategic, business growth, legislative, compliance and regulatory advice to national corporations and trade associations. For example, he has drafted consumer contracts and disclosures designed to state-specific statutory requirements, and developed “Best Practices” guides and state-by-state compliance grids, for national financial services companies. He also conducted research and crafted a metrics report for a national trade association with analysis designed to counter the claims of advocacy groups. Eric’s experience also includes working for a national corporation as Executive Counsel, Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer, and Director of Legislative Affairs, and as a federal lobbyist and Director of Government and Public Affairs for a national financial services trade association. In the government sector, Eric presided over approximately 6,000 state administrative hearings, served as a staff attorney for the Missouri Senate, and handled litigation in 33 counties as a regional managing attorney. Eric frequently speaks to audiences on topics relevant to the financial services industry and related advocacy initiatives.

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