COVID-19 Collections Restriction Efforts: Ohio, Maryland, and Massachusetts

Consumer Finance Litigation

On March 25, 2020, State Rep. Thomas West of Ohio introduced legislation, HB 596, which would halt all in-state debt collections until Ohio’s state of emergency expired. In its proposed form, the legislation would prohibit institutions from making harassing phone calls; disconnecting electricity and other utilities; charging higher interest or penalty fees; and initiating lawsuits to collect debts, evictions, garnishments, and other efforts to collect on debts. Currently, the bill has been introduced to the Ohio House of Representatives but has not yet been voted on.

On April 3, 2020, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland issued an emergency order directly providing instruction to mortgage lenders and financial institutions. The order temporarily prohibits mortgage lenders from initiating the foreclosure process. During this period, no late fees may be charged, and no negative reporting to credit bureaus may occur. However, Maryland residents must contact their lender to make use of this relief. This emergency order also prohibits the repossession of cars, trucks, and mobile homes, as well as commercial and industrial evictions.

On April 3, 2020, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office issued new guidance in the form of FAQs addressing its recent regulations codified at 940 CMR 35.00 (“Unfair and Deceptive Debt Collection Practices During the State of Emergency Caused by COVID-19”). The March 26, 2020 regulation limits collections practices during the COVID-19 crisis, including by prohibiting creditors and debt collectors from engaging in methods of debt collection that can require people to leave their homes or have in-person contact. These prohibited practices include: initiating, filing, or threatening to file any new collection lawsuits, visiting consumers at their homes or places of work, repossessing vehicles, making unsolicited debt collections calls, or garnishing wages, among other protections.

For more information on collections restriction efforts nationwide, please see our complete COVID-19 Collections Impact Bulletin, available here.

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