Debt Collection Statute of Limitations

Debt Collection Statute of limitations

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)
Alabama 6 6 6 3
Alaska 6 6 6 6
Arizona 3 6 5 3
Arkansas 3 5 6 3
California 2 4 4 4
Colorado 6 6 6 6
Connecticut 3 6 6 6
Delaware 3 3 6 3
District of Columbia 3 3 3 3
Florida 4 5 5 4
Georgia 4 6 6 4
Hawaii 6 6 6 6
Idaho 4 5 10 4
Illinois 5 10 6 5
Indiana 6 10 10 6
Iowa 5 10 5 5
Kansas 3 5 5 3
Kentucky 5 15 15 5
Louisiana 10 10 10 3
Maine 6 6 6 6
Maryland 3 3 6 3
Massachusetts 6 6 6 6
Michigan 6 6 6 6
Minnesota 6 6 6 6
Mississippi 3 3 3 3
Missouri 5 10 10 5
Montana 5 8 8 5
Nebraska 4 5 6 4
Nevada 4 6 3 4
New Hampshire 3 3 6 3
New Jersey 6 6 6 6
New Mexico 4 6 6 4
New York 6 6 6 6
North Carolina 3 3 5 3
North Dakota 6 6 6 6
Ohio 6 15 15 ?
Oklahoma 3 5 5 3
Oregon 6 6 6 6
Pennsylvania 4 6 4 6
Rhode Island 15 15 10 10
South Carolina 10 10 3 3
South Dakota 6 6 6 6
Tennessee 6 6 6 6
Texas 4 4 4 4
Utah 4 6 6 4
Vermont 6 6 5 6
Virginia 3 5 6 3
Virgin Islands 3333
Washington 3 6 6 3
West Virginia 5 10 6 5
Wisconsin 6 6 10 6
Wyoming 8 10 10 8

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.

About Damon Day

As a Debt Coach and a Financial Advocate, I have saved my clients Millions of Dollars by exposing the debt relief scams that other consumers fall victim to. I work directly for my clients to create custom debt relief strategies based on their own unique circumstances. Consumers who speak with me first, come out far ahead of those who don't, every single time. Guaranteed. +Damon Day

8 Responses to “Debt Collection Statute of Limitations”

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  1. Henderson Nevada (1 comments) says:

    The public at large has no idea what this means. I am surprised the oral contracts are as long as they are as they would be the most difficult to prove. I think you are spot on in your assessment that people believe the SOL and their credit histories are the same. it’s interesting the SOL is set at the State Level.

    .-= Henderson Nevada´s last blog ..Henderson NV Residental Telephone Service for Cheap! =-.

  2. Jonathan (14 comments) says:

    Your article is an excellent reference point. I live in the UK so our laws are different however I do agree with your main point that it is important to be aware of debt legislation if you are struggling to meet repayments, because my experience is that debt organisations will try and tie you up in red tape so that you comply with their requests. Even a little knowledge can help you stay in control and ensure that things are done appropriately.

  3. Jordan (3 comments) says:

    Sadly, many debtors unknowingly make the mistake of agreeing to a repayment term, sometimes years after the SOL has expired, thus opening the door for unscrupulous debt collectors to restart the clock.

    It would be great if legislators tried to implement more laws that protected the consumer and not the lender. i.e., once the SOL passes, nothing should reactivate the new SOL. IF they did this, perhaps the nasty debt collectors would go out of business – once and for all.

    • Damon Day (116 comments) says:

      Hello Jordan,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment on the site. I agree that having a very clear statute of limitations would really help consumers that are not informed about these things.

      The laws periodically change though, so only time will tell. For now, the best defense for consumers is education. It makes it harder for an unscrupulous debt buyer to intimidate a consumer that already knows the debt collection statute of limitations has ran on an older debt.

  4. trynono (1 comments) says:

    It seems that when the consumers don’t educate themselves about the law and the limitations placed on debt collectors, they end up caving in, and paying the debt, even though statute of limitations expired on that debt obligation. Ignorance is expensive.

  5. Tracy (2 comments) says:

    I was wondering what I should do if I have a debt that was charged of about ten years ago and must have been sold to someone down the line. Long story short it just showed up on my credit report and it is well past the statute of limiitations. I have been getting a few calls/messages from the company trying to collect this but I have not responded to these as I didn’t want to mess something up and start the clock on this old debt again. I am in WA state…what should I do to clear this?

    • Damon Day (116 comments) says:

      Hello Tracy,

      I would send a cease communication letter to the debt collector and then I would dispute the entry on your credit report with the credit reporting agency that has it listed (experian, transunion, equifax)

  6. Lucy (1 comments) says:

    I believe the SOL for IL promissory notes is incorrect. It should be 10 years.