- State Updates: Washington, New Mexico, Indiana, New York
- RMAI COVID-19 Resources
State Updates: Debt Collection Status and Reopening Guidance
Proclamation by the Governor – Debt Collection Prohibition Extended through June 17, 2020
On May 29, 2020, the Governor of Washington issued an Order extending the restrictions placed on garnishment proceedings. The purpose of the Order is to protect CARES Act stimulus payments, as well as state and federal unemployment payments, from bank account garnishments to collect judgments based on consumer debt.
Washington state’s definition of consumer debt was amended as recently as July 28, 2019, and provides:
any obligation or alleged obligation of a consumer to pay money arising out of a transaction in which the money, property, insurance, or services which are the subject of the transaction are primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. Consumer debt includes medical debt.
This definition of consumer debt and the restrictions placed on garnishment proceedings apply to many of the expected traditional debts such as credit cards, dental bills, automobile loans, home loans, etc. However, since the Governor’s Order is specifically limited to consumer debt, it would seem the Order does not apply to non-consumer debt.
The extension is in effect through June 17, 2020, or the termination of the COVID-19 State of Emergency, whichever occurs first.
So, what does this mean? Members must continue to abide by the various state restrictions on the collection of debt and Washington state is no exception. Violators of this order may be subject to criminal penalties pursuant to RCW 43.06.220(5). It appears other collection actions, not specifically delineated in the Governor’s May 29 Order, are now permissible. Members who collect consumer debt in Washington state should consult with independent legal counsel for more specific advice pertaining to their accounts.
Supreme Court of New Mexico Stays New Writs of Garnishment and Writs of Execution in Consumer Debt Collection Cases
On June 5, 2020, the Supreme Court of the State of New Mexico issued an order prohibiting courts from issuing new writs of garnishment and writs of execution in connection with the collection of judgments on consumer debt. Like other orders of its kind, the purpose is to protect the garnishment of funds on consumer debt during the COVID-19 state of emergency. The Order will remain in effect until it is otherwise amended or terminated by the Supreme Court of New Mexico.
According to the Order, New Mexico courts may continue to issue new writs of garnishment and writs of execution in cases other than consumer debt collection matters.
Writs of garnishment and writs of execution issued prior to June 8, 2020, shall remain unaffected by the terms of the Order.
So, what does this mean? When seeking a new writ of garnishment or writ of execution for any non-consumer debt judgment, the judgment creditor will have to certify the application is not based on a judgment issued in a consumer debt collection case. If the judgment creditor cannot certify the application is not based on a judgment issued in a consumer debt collection case, the judge presiding over the case shall issue a stay of the proceedings and the time for collecting on the judgment shall be tolled while the stay is in effect.
Until this Order is lifted, members who sell or collect non-consumer debt judgments in the state of New Mexico should be prepared to address the issue of certification in their purchase and sale agreements. Ideally, the seller of a non-consumer debt judgment should include a certificate of “non-consumer debt” in the documents associated with the transaction.
Indiana Supreme Court Authorizes Emergency Tolling of Laws, Rules and Procedures Setting Time Limits on Trial Court Proceedings
On May 29, 2020, the Indiana Supreme Court issued an Order tolling laws, rules and procedures setting time limits on a variety of trial court proceedings. The Court did so to address an ever-mounting backlog of cases accumulated during the COVID-19 state of emergency and to give the trial courts authority to toll some cases while advancing others for trial. The Court’s Order authorizes:
the tolling through August 14, 2020 for speedy trials in criminal and juvenile proceedings; public health and mental health matters; all judgments, support, and other orders; and in all other civil and criminal matters before Indiana trial courts. Further, no interest shall be due or charged during this tolled period.
The Court’s Order also makes clear, unless further extended by order of this Court, the prohibition on issuing or serving writs of attachment, civil bench warrants, or body attachments pursuant to Trial Rule 64 shall expire at 12:01 a.m. on August 15, 2020.
So, what does this mean? Members are well advised to review the Indiana Supreme Court’s Order to determine its impact on particular proceedings. The Order grants the trial courts broad authority to basically move cases as they see fit. Many court clerks who find debt collection cases to be overly burdensome on the system may be inclined to push our matters to the bottom of their priority list. In order to ensure your trial court matters are handled as expeditiously as possible, a call to the Clerk of Courts may be a good next step. Attorneys who specialize in litigation know firsthand how important it is to develop positive relationships with court personnel. Any gesture on your part to recognize the challenges they face in this COVID-19 environment will go a long way.
New York City Reopens Under Phase I
On June 10, 2020, RMAI received a number of updates from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) about the steps being taken to reopen the city. The updates address a variety of business and consumer issues. The following updates are most relevant to members of RMAI who do business in the city of New York:
New York City DCA:
NYC Means Business: Reopen & Stay Safe at Work: Beginning Monday, June 8, 2020, as part of Phase 1, certain businesses can reopen in New York City. Learn more about important guidelines and requirements here.
License extensions and renewals: A COVID-19 Relief Package, signed into law by the Mayor, extends the license expiration dates and renewal application deadlines covered by Emergency Executive Orders (EEO) 107 and 110. In general, the extension applies to licenses with expiration dates on or after March 12, 2020, when the Mayor first declared a state of emergency.
NEW Renewal Application Deadlines are calculated from when EEO 110 expires. Learn more.
Workplace Laws: NYC Workplace laws are still in effect. Learn more about employee rights and employer responsibilities here.
NYC Financial Empowerment Centers: For the health and safety of our providers and clients, all Financial Counseling sessions will be conducted over the phone. Our counselors can help New Yorkers manage their bills amidst the coronavirus crisis, understand student loans, and more. Book an appointment at www.nyc.gov/talkmoney
Have a Student Loan?: Important information about payments and resources can be found at nyc.gov/studentloans
Expecting an Economic Impact Payment from the IRS?: Check out everything you need to know here.
Debt Collection: A joint letter template that consumers can fill out and mail (required by federal law) so debt collectors can’t contact them until the State of Emergency in New York City has ended. More information found here.
NYC Small Business Services:
Resources and Tools: Small Business Services (SBS) has compiled a list of COVID-19 related resources for businesses, including legal and financial assistance that can be found on their website. SBS has also launched a small business hotline to answer the most pressing questions of small business owners as they prepare to re-open.To learn more, please visit: www.nyc.gov/sbs
Office of Administrative Trials and Hearing:
The Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) Hearing Centers are currently closed until the state’s “stay-at-home” order has been lifted and government agencies are allowed to reopen. Until further notice, hearings are being conducted by phone or online. To schedule your Hearing by Phone or learn about Online Hearing options, please visit: www.nyc.gov/oath
RMAI COVID-19 Resources
RMAI provides timely and informative updates to members through Member Alerts (like this one) and webinars. RMAI members have complimentary access to all recorded webinars.
RMAI’s Commitment to Consumers and FAQs. The communication is posted in the Resources for Businesses, Employers and Consumers section of the COVID-19 resource page as well as on the Consumers page of the RMAI website.This alert is intended for members of the Receivables Management Association International and is for informational purposes only and is in no way intended to provide legal advice. Members are encouraged to consult with an attorney of their choice for legal advice concerning this matter.