Debt Collection Statute of Limitations

July 20, 2009

debt collection statute of limitationsIf you fail to repay a debt in full, it doesn’t just disappear. It’s usually sold to a collection agency, who may hound you about it for years. If that agency doesn’t collect payment, they may pass it on to another, and that agency may pass it on to another. And you may still get calls and letters about the debt years later.

Surprisingly few consumers know that debts are subject to a statute of limitations. This means that creditors and debt collectors have a certain time limit to collect the debt or sue. If this time limit lapses, they no longer have a case against the debtor. They can attempt to collect or even file suit, but if you use the statute of limitations as a defense, they will not prevail.

How Long Is the Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations varies according to the type of debt and the state. It may be as short as two years or as long as fifteen. Most states have different statutes for oral agreements, written contracts, promissory notes and open accounts.

Auto and installment loans are considered written contracts. Credit card debt most often falls under the open accounts category. But in certain instances, such as when the credit card was secured with a written agreement, it is considered a written contract. This is often a matter for the court to decide if there is any doubt.

When Does the Statute of Limitations Begin?

When the statute of limitations begins is a matter of some debate. Some say that it begins on the date of your first delinquency. Others claim that it begins when the creditor sends a demand letter, when the last payment was made or when the debt was written off.

In general, the statute of limitations begins when the creditor has a cause of action. This means different things according to the credit agreement. In some instances, this occurs when the creditor demands payment in full. In others, it occurs when you become delinquent on a debt. If you’re unsure, a consumer rights attorney can help you determine when the statute of limitation starts.

It’s important to note that the statute of limitations can be restarted under certain circumstances. This may occur if you use the account again. It may also occur if you make a partial payment or agree to a payment arrangement. If a creditor contacts you, you can protect yourself by refusing to acknowledge that you owe the debt or make any kind of payment or agreement. Simply state that the statute of limitations has expired. They will probably either leave you alone or take you to court, where you can defend yourself in the same manner.

The fact that a debt still appears on your credit report doesn’t change the fact that the statute of limitations may be up. Knowing the law in your state could save you from paying a debt that cannot be collected. For more information, contact a consumer rights lawyer.

Tags: , ,

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Delicious
  • Reddit
  • Stumble
  • Design Float
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace
Subscribe   Share/Bookmark

  • Jason

    Interesting info!

  • Good suff, can i subscribe to your site or should I just bookmark and come back every so often?

    • admin

      You can subscribe to my RSS feed if you like.