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Nevada expands collection agency licensing requirements

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On June 16, the Nevada governor signed SB 276 (the “Act”) to revise certain provisions relating to debt collection agencies and make amendments to the state’s collection agency licensing law. While existing law requires collection agencies to be licensed, the amendments expand the type of activities that trigger collection agency licensure. Notably, the Act now requires any “debt buyer” to hold a license, which is defined as “a person who is regularly engaged in the business of purchasing claims that have been charged off for the purpose of collecting such claims, including, without limitation, by personally collecting claims, hiring a third party to collect claims or hiring an attorney to engage in litigation for the purpose of collecting claims.” Mortgage servicers, however, are now exempt unless the “mortgage servicer is attempting to collect a claim that was assigned when the relevant loan was in default.” The amendments also repeal provisions governing foreign collection agencies and now require that such agencies be licensed in the same fashion as domestic collection agencies.

In addition to licensed mortgage servicers the amendments also exclude others from the definition of the term “collection agency,” including an expanded list of certain financial institutions (as well as their employees), persons collecting claims that they originated on their own behalf or originated and sold, and other persons not deemed to be debt collectors under federal law. The term “collection agent” has also been refined to exempt persons who do not act on behalf of a collection agency from requirements governing collection agents.

The Act revises requirements relating to “compliance managers” (formerly referred to as “collection managers”) – including an avenue to request a waiver from the Nevada compliance manager examination requirement if certain experiential requirements are met – and makes changes to certain record retention and application requirements, including amendments to the frequency with which the commissioner reviews a licensee’s required bond amount (annually instead of semiannually). A provision requiring applicants to pursue branch licenses for second or remote locations is also repealed. Instead, collection agencies must simply notify the commissioner of the location of the branch office. Further, collection agencies are now required to display license numbers and certificate identification numbers of compliance managers on any website maintained by the collection agency.

Additionally, the Act now authorizes collection agents to work remotely provided the agents meet certain criteria, including: (i) signing a written agreement prepared by the collection agency that requires the agent to maintain agency-appropriate security measures to ensure the confidentiality of customer information; (ii) refraining from disclosing details about the remote location to a debtor; (iii) refraining from conducting collection activity-related work with a debtor or customer in person at the remote location; (iv) allowing work conducted from the remote location to be monitored; and (v) completing various compliance and privacy training programs. Remote collection agents must adhere to certain practices requirements and restrictions set forth by both the Act and the FDCPA. Collection agencies must also maintain records of remote collection agents, provide oversight and monitoring of collection agents that work remotely, develop and implement a written security policy governing remote collection agents, and establish procedures to ensure collection agents working remotely are not acting in an illegal, unethical, or unsafe manner.

Finally, the Act imposes new prohibitions against collection agencies and their agents and employees. Among other things, a collection agency (and its compliance manager, agents, or employees) is banned from suing to collect a debt when it knows or should have known that the applicable statute of limitations has expired. The amendments further clarify that the applicable limitation period is not revived upon “payment made on a debt or certain other activity relating to the debt after the time period for filing an action based on a debt has expired.” Certain notice must also be given to a medical debtor notifying that such a payment does not revive the applicable statute of limitations. A collection agency may also not sell “an interest in a resolved claim or any personal or financial information related to the resolved claim.”

The Act becomes effective immediately for the purpose of adopting any regulations and performing any preparatory administrative tasks that are necessary to carry out the provisions of the Act and on October 1, 2023 for all other purposes. “Debt buyers” have until January 1, 2024 to submit a collection agency license application pursuant to the new provisions.