The Tennessee Legislature is considering three new laws for 2020 that impact debtor-creditor lawyers and that you should know about. Here’s a quick recap:
Increased homestead exemptions. This is at Senate Bill 2235 and House Bill 2682. This bill increases the individual Tennessee homestead exemption to $35,000, increases the joint exemption to $52,500, and eliminates the enhanced exemptions based on age and parental status.
My thoughts? Current law provides for a $5,000 exemption for individuals and a joint $7,500 exemption for married couples. While a jump to $35,000 seems pretty steep, keep in mind that the homebuilder lobby is asking for an increase that ranges from “unlimited” to one million dollars to $250,000. Based on my conversations with the Tennessee Bar Association and Tennessee Bankers Association, the $35,000 is designed to both acknowledge that Tennessee currently has one of the lowest exemptions and to head off a greater increase.
This amount is going up, so why not participate in that process and have it go up to an amount everybody dislikes (but not enough to try to get it higher)?
Decrease in number of days to appeal a Detainer Judgment. This is Senate Bill 2563/House Bill 2372. Current law provides a tenant ten days to appeal an eviction judgment, which means that they have ten days to remain the property before the property owner can file a writ of possession to have them removed. This bill reduces that time period from ten days to two.
My thoughts? I don’t support this. This is too creditor friendly. The ten day appeal period gives a tenant time to either prepare an appeal (and the associated possessory bond) and also time to voluntarily move out. The current time period, frankly, feels like a reasonable amount of time. Two days feels inadequate and onerous.
I mean, if the guy who writes Creditor Rights 101 says something is too creditor-friendly…yikes.
The “Medical Debt Protection Act.” This is Senate Bill 2700/House Bill 2346. This proposed law proposes a number of protections onto the medical bill debtor, and it imposes a number of pre-lawsuit and filing requirements onto the medical bill collection agency/attorney, including a shortened statute of limitations. Further, once a judgment is entered, there are limitations on collection, limits on adverse credit reporting, and restrictions on post-judgment interest.
My thoughts? This is clearly in response to the crisis in our country’s healthcare system that impacts the poorest people, and we’ve seen this in Memphis over the past year. While I don’t agree with all the details of this proposed legislation, I see that it’s coming from a legitimate place. We need to do something.
But, according to insiders at the Capitol, it’s a moot issue. I’ve been told that this bill was taken off notice by Rep. John Ray Clemmons after the Tennessee Hospitals Association promised to create a task force to address this issue (and after the Tennessee Bar Association had already expressed concern with this bill).