Debt Collection and Credit Reporting for Apartment Leases: Ford v. I.Q. Data International

The case of Noah Ford v. I.Q. Data International Inc. et al. addresses allegations against I.Q. Data International Inc. (“I.Q. Data”) and Kris Graafstra for their debt collection practices, specifically under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).


The lawsuit stemmed from a debt owed by Noah Ford, arising from a purported breach of an apartment lease with Tanjent Multifamily Vertical L.P., managed by Shea Properties Management Company Inc. The debt was initially assigned to I.Q. Data for collection. I.Q. Data’s attempts to collect included sending demand letters, reporting the debt to credit reporting agencies (CRAs), and updating the debt amount as adjustments were made by Shea Properties.

Key Issues and Court’s Decisions:

FDCPA Claim:

  • Withdrawn Motion: I.Q. Data withdrew its motion for summary judgment regarding claims that it demanded more from Ford than owed, acknowledging the absence of evidence for a “bona fide error defense.”
  • Granted Motions: The court granted I.Q. Data’s motion for summary judgment on Ford’s claim related to the December 16, 2021, phone call, determining that communications directed solely to a debtor’s attorney do not violate the FDCPA. It also granted the motion concerning the alleged failure to report the debt as disputed, noting that I.Q. Data had reported the debt’s disputed status on the same day it was disputed.

FCRA Claim:

  • Denied Motion for Summary Judgment: The court found that I.Q. Data reported inaccurate debt amounts to CRAs and failed to conduct reasonable investigations into disputes filed by Ford. Since I.Q. Data acknowledged inaccuracies in its reports, a prima facie case of inaccuracy was established. The court determined that there were material issues of fact regarding the reasonableness of I.Q. Data’s investigations, thereby denying the motion for summary judgment on the FCRA claim.

Court’s Reasoning and Analysis:

  • FDCPA: The court relied on precedents indicating that communications with a debtor’s attorney are not actionable under the FDCPA and that the immediate reporting of a debt as disputed satisfies requirements under 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(8).
  • FCRA: The court’s analysis focused on whether I.Q. Data’s investigations of disputes were reasonable, considering the repeated inaccuracies in its reports to CRAs. The court referenced standards from prior cases, such as Gross v. CitiMortgage Inc., highlighting the need for non-cursory investigations by furnishers of credit information.

This is another example of a court relying on Gross v. CitiMortgage Inc. to guide its evaluation of the reasonableness of I.Q. Data’s investigations into disputes filed by Noah Ford under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This reference is pivotal for several reasons:

  1. Framework for Reasonableness: Gross v. CitiMortgage Inc. provides a judicially recognized framework for assessing what constitutes a reasonable investigation by a furnisher of information to credit reporting agencies (CRAs). This framework is essential for FCRA claims, which often hinge on whether a furnisher conducted an investigation with due diligence upon notification of a dispute.
  2. Criteria for Evaluation: The Gross decision outlines specific criteria and considerations that a court may use to determine the reasonableness of an investigation. These criteria include the relationship of the furnisher to the debt and the consumer, the level of detail in the CRA’s notice of dispute, the feasibility of investigatory procedures, and the need for training staff on these procedures.
  3. Nature and Scope of Furnisher’s Activities: The reasonableness of an investigation under the FCRA depends on the nature, size, complexity, and scope of the furnisher’s activities. Gross v. CitiMortgage Inc. underscores that furnishers with a closer relationship to the debt and consumer might have more extensive and thorough investigatory obligations, including addressing both factual and legal aspects of the dispute.
  4. Case-Specific Application: In the context of Noah Ford’s case, the court found that I.Q. Data’s repeated inaccuracies in reporting to CRAs raised questions about the thoroughness of its investigations. Citing Gross, the court noted that a reasonable investigation must be more than cursory and tailored to the specific circumstances of the dispute and the information furnished.
  5. Guidance on Summary Judgment: Gross v. CitiMortgage Inc. also assists courts in determining whether the question of investigation reasonableness can be resolved at the summary judgment stage. It suggests that unless only one conclusion about the investigation’s reasonableness is possible, the matter is generally more suitable for determination at trial.

By relying on Gross v. CitiMortgage Inc., the court leveraged a well-established legal precedent to scrutinize I.Q. Data’s conduct under the FCRA, emphasizing the importance of a substantive and context-specific approach to investigating credit information disputes. This precedent supports a comprehensive judicial review process that balances the interests of consumers and furnishers in the credit reporting ecosystem.

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