In the game of Debt Collection, Knowledge is King. The more educated you are about your legal rights and what your creditors can and can not do if you are unable to pay them, the better off you will be. If you are dealing with older debt, it is very important to know the Debt Collection Statute of Limitations in your state.
The Statute of Limitations (SOL) is the amount of time that a creditor or debt collector has to seek a court enforced judgment against you on an unpaid debt. Essentially once the SOL time limit is up, your creditors are SOL and are unable to use the court system to force you to pay.
The Debt Collection Statute of Limitations is commonly confused with the time limit for which a derogatory entry can remain on your credit report. These are two separate things and have nothing to do with one another. Typically a derogatory entry on your credit report, such as a charged off account can remain on your credit report for up to 7 years.
The SOL only has to do with the time in which a creditor has to file a lawsuit and attempt to collect an unpaid debt through the court system. Knowing your state’s SOL is important because many times debt collectors will attempt to collect debts from people that the SOL has already expired on. They do this because they know many consumers may still pay, not knowing that the debt collector no longer has any legal remedy to force you to pay.
When you are trying to calculate the Statute of Limitations of a specific account, it is important to take note that the actual amount of time is subject to interpretation. For instance, you may believe that the SOL clock begins when you are first delinquent on an account, (which is generally true) however a creditor may argue that the SOL didn’t start until actual charge off. Also, if you make any attempt to make a payment at any time or agree to make a payment that will reset the SOL. For example, you make a 200 payment to a debt collector on an account that was charged off 2 years ago. When you make that payment, it will reset the SOL to zero and start it over again.
So locate your state in the chart below and look at the number of years allowed for Open accounts. Remember that these numbers could change as laws change, so always make sure you are relying on the most current information available. Don’t let debt collectors bully and intimidate you into paying a debt if you know the Debt Collection Statute of Limitations has already ran out.
|State||Oral Agreements|| Written Contracts
(including auto loans
and installment type loans)
|Promissory Notes|| Open Accounts
(includes credit cards)
|District of Columbia||3||3||3||3|
NOTE: I am not an attorney and cannot offer you legal advice. Although these laws don’t change frequently, the laws could have changed since this post was written, so it is best to double check.