Why the Creditor’s Intent Matters in Usury Cases in Florida
Usury is that act of charging interest rates above the legal limit. In Florida the rate is set at 18% for loans up to $500,000 and 25% for loans above $500,000. Usury is no light matter. Even the Old Testament had laws against usury. But in Florida, charging interest at rate of 25-45% is a misdemeanor with penalty of up to 60 days in prison and/or $500 fine. And if you charge over 45% it’s a 3rd degree felony. If a loan is deemed usurious, it could be unenforceable in whole or in part, and all the interest is forfeited by the lender.
Under Florida law, usury is primarily decided based on intent. This means that in any case of usury, it is the intent of the lender that usually determines the outcome of the case. Interestingly, it is not necessarily about the amount of money charged or the rate that the creditor went over the legal limit (though this matters too). What matter more is if there was corrupt intent in the lenders mind to charge above the legal limit.
To analyze the intent of a lender, Florida courts look at the basis of good faith. For instance, other loan agreements from the lender are examined and usury seems to be a common practice, then the good faith of the lender is put into question. If, on the other hand it appears to be an inadvertent error, then the lender may not face such heavy charges.
With intent as the main piece of evidence on trial, a court examines the lender’s subjective state of mind. Again, corrupt intent isn’t about charging usurious amounts, it is determined by whether or not there was a corrupt purpose in the lender’s mind to charge over the legal interest rate. The key word in the language of the law is the term “willful.” Attorneys will primarily argue what willful meant to the lender.
If you have been victim to usurious rates, consult with experienced debt defense attorneys today. You may be entitled to damages double the amount of interest charged, your attorney fees paid for, as well as all interest forfeited by the lender. It’s all about the intent of your creditor. We can fight for your rights and argue for the intent of a usurious loan.
You don’t need to be afraid of the big, bad creditors anymore!