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Substitute Senate Bill No. 934

Public Act No. 03-262

AN ACT CONCERNING USE OF CONSUMER COLLECTION AGENCIES FOR MUNICIPAL PROPERTY TAX COLLECTION AND THE PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT LISTS FOR THE 2002 ASSESSMENT YEAR IN THE TOWNS OF WARREN AND HARTLAND.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 36a-800 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective from passage):

As used in sections 36a-800 to 36a-810, inclusive, unless the context otherwise requires:

(1) "Consumer collection agency" means any person engaged in the business of collecting or receiving for payment for others of any account, bill or other indebtedness from a consumer debtor or engaged in the business of collecting [, without receiving,] or receiving for payment property tax from a property tax debtor on behalf of a municipality, including any person who, by any device, subterfuge or pretense, makes a pretended purchase or takes a pretended assignment of accounts from any other person or municipality of such indebtedness for the purpose of evading the provisions of sections 36a-800 to 36a-810, inclusive. It includes persons who furnish collection systems carrying a name which simulates the name of a consumer collection agency and who supply forms or form letters to be used by the creditor, even though such forms direct the consumer debtor or property tax debtor to make payments directly to the creditor rather than to such fictitious agency. "Consumer collection agency" further includes any person who, in attempting to collect or in collecting such person's own accounts or claims from a consumer debtor, uses a fictitious name or any name other than such person's own name which would indicate to the consumer debtor that a third person is collecting or attempting to collect such account or claim. "Consumer collection agency" does not include (A) an individual employed on the staff of a licensed consumer collection agency, or by a creditor who is exempt from licensing, when attempting to collect on behalf of such consumer collection agency, (B) persons not primarily engaged in the collection of debts from consumer debtors who receive funds in escrow for subsequent distribution to others, including, but not limited to, real estate brokers and lenders holding funds of borrowers for payment of taxes or insurance, (C) any public officer or a person acting under the order of any court, (D) any member of the bar of this state, and (E) a person who services loans or accounts for the owners thereof when the arrangement includes, in addition to requesting payment from delinquent consumer debtors, the providing of other services such as receipt of payment, accounting, record-keeping, data processing services and remitting, for loans or accounts which are current as well as those which are delinquent. Any person not included in the definition contained in this subsection is, for purposes of sections 36a-645 to 36a-647, inclusive, a "creditor", as defined in subdivision (3) of section 36a-645;

(2) "Consumer debtor" means any natural person, not an organization, who has incurred indebtedness or owes a debt for personal, family or household purposes, including current or past due child support, or who has incurred indebtedness or owes a debt to a municipality due to a levy by such municipality of a personal property tax;

(3) "Creditor" means a person, including a municipality, who retains, hires, or engages the services of a consumer collection agency;

(4) "Municipality" means any town, city or borough, consolidated town and city, consolidated town and borough, district as defined in section 7-324 or municipal special services district established under chapter 105a;

(5) "Organization" means a corporation, partnership, association, trust or any other legal entity or an individual operating under a trade name or a name having appended to it a commercial, occupational or professional designation;

(6) "Property tax" has the meaning given to the term in section 7-560;

(7) "Property tax debtor" means any natural person or organization who has incurred indebtedness or owes a debt to a municipality due to a levy by such municipality of a property tax.

Sec. 2. Section 36a-802 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective from passage):

No such license and no renewal thereof shall be granted unless the applicant has filed with the commissioner a bond to the people of the state in the penal sum of five thousand dollars, approved by the Attorney General as to form and by the commissioner as to sufficiency of the security thereof. Such bond shall be conditioned that such licensee shall well, [and] truly and faithfully account for all funds entrusted to the licensee and collected and received by the licensee in the licensee's capacity as a consumer collection agency. Any person who may be damaged by the wrongful conversion of any creditor, consumer debtor or property tax debtor funds [held] received by such consumer collection agency may proceed on such bond against the principal or surety thereon, or both, to recover damages. The commissioner may proceed on such bond against the principal or surety thereon, or both, to collect any civil penalty imposed upon the licensee pursuant to subsection (a) of section 36a-50. The proceeds of the bond, even if commingled with other assets of the licensee, shall be deemed by operation of law to be held in trust for the benefit of such claimants against the licensee in the event of bankruptcy of the licensee and shall be immune from attachment by creditors and judgment creditors. The bond shall run concurrently with the period of the license granted to the applicant, and the aggregate liability under the bond shall not exceed the penal sum of the bond.

Sec. 3. Subsection (c) of section 36a-805 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective from passage):

(c) (1) No consumer collection agency shall receive any property tax on behalf of a creditor that is a municipality, unless the consumer collection agency has procured from an insurer authorized to transact business in this state an insurance policy providing coverage against loss of money, securities or other property, including loss arising from any fraudulent or dishonest act of any employee, officer or director of the consumer collection agency, with limits of at least two million dollars. It shall be the obligation of the municipality to ensure compliance with the requirements of this subdivision.

(2) A municipality that enters into an agreement with a consumer collection agency to collect and receive for payment property tax on behalf of the municipality may also require such consumer collection agency to file a bond with the municipality in an amount not exceeding the total amount of the property tax to be collected on behalf of the municipality. Such bond, the form of which shall be approved by the municipality, shall be written by a surety authorized to write bonds in this state and shall contain a provision requiring the surety to provide the municipality with written notice of cancellation of such bond. Such notice shall be sent by certified mail to the municipality at least thirty days prior to the date of cancellation. The bond shall be conditioned that such consumer collection agency shall well, truly and faithfully account for all funds collected and received by the consumer collection agency for the municipality pursuant to such agreement. If the municipality is damaged by the wrongful conversion of any property tax debtor funds received by the consumer collection agency, the municipality may proceed on such bond against the principal or surety on the bond, or both, to recover damages. The proceeds of the bond, even if commingled with the other assets of the consumer collection agency, shall be deemed by operation of law to be held in trust for the benefit of the municipality in the event of bankruptcy of the consumer collection agency and shall be immune from attachment by creditors and judgment creditors.

Sec. 4. (Effective from passage) (a) Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 12-55, 12-62, 12-117 and 12-110 to 12-112, inclusive, of the general statutes, the assessment lists and the abstracts thereof compiled for the assessment year commencing October 1, 2002, and the actions of the assessors and the boards of assessment appeals of the towns of Warren and Hartland with respect to such assessment lists and abstracts thereof for the assessment year commencing October 1, 2002, which assessment lists and abstracts were not signed by an assessor certified in accordance with section 12-40a of the general statutes and filed by the assessors in said towns within the time period required in accordance with sections 12-55, 12-62 and 12-117 of the general statutes, and in relation to which hearings were not held by the boards of assessment appeals in said towns within the time period required in accordance with sections 12-110 to 12-112, inclusive, of the general statutes shall not, because of such omissions, be adjudged void or defective. Said assessment lists and abstracts and determinations of the boards of assessment appeals are hereby validated and made binding upon said towns and any taxes which are imposed with respect to said assessment lists and abstracts may be levied and collected, provided said assessment lists and abstracts shall be completed and filed, and said determinations of the boards of assessment appeals shall be completed, not later than June 30, 2003.

(b) A certification of compliance filed pursuant to regulations adopted under section 12-62i of the general statutes for the assessment year commencing October 1, 2002, shall be valid notwithstanding the fact that such certification was not signed by an assessor certified in accordance with section 12-40a of the general statutes, provided all other requirements of said regulations are met.

Approved July 9, 2003